Thursday, October 2, 2014

Phrog on Fire: A SEAL's Tale

The helicopter featured in my debut novel, HOVER, is the H-46 Sea Knight, known colloquially as the "Phrog." It was my primary aircraft during my time in the navy and a real treat to fly. John Czajkowski, my Naval Academy classmate and former Navy SEAL, writes this guest post about one of his more memorable flights in the H-46. Thank you, John!

I have a funny story about helo pilots for you starring Denise Shorey [our Naval Academy classmate] and yours truly. She and a senior female pilot were to fly my squad out about 20 NM past Point Loma and drop us and a CRRC [Combat Rubber Raiding Craft] boat out using the "limp duck" drop just after sunset on a beautiful, clear fall evening in the early 90s. Well, this was the first time we had ever flown with female pilots, so some of the guys were a little anxious about it.

So, as luck would have it, as we got about half of the way to the DZ [Drop Zone], sparks and smoke started billowing out of the APU [Auxiliary Power Unit] area. As the bird did a very hard 180 back to NAS [Naval Air Station], I said to Denise over the net that it did appear they would not be dropping us off, and she replied that we might be very useful. She wasn't kidding as the thing was totally on fire now. They dropped down to a very low altitude in case we had to ditch.

I had been in one autorotation/crash with army MH-60s a year prior and would also survive a midair rotor hit while flying with TF160 several years later. Helos . . .WTF is up with them?

Anyway, my squad and I were pleased to look into the cockpit and see the girls flipping a hundred switches/minute and scrambling to try to keep us aloft. Suffice to say, it was exciting to watch the crash trucks following us as we came screaming over NAS NI [Naval Air Station North Island - San Diego] runway. So, there was a box of good tequila delivered to the squadron the next morning.

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