The Story Behind the story……….
Last March I answered the phone and a voice said “This is M/Sgt Dan Allsup, Airman Magazine, Kelley AFB, and I’ll be in California in May interviewing Gen. Doolittle, Yeager and Chuck Rutan for the September issue of “Airman”. While there, I would like to interview you, too, for the 40th Anniversary issue commemorating the Air Force being a separate service….I said, “You’ve got the wrong Charlie Weir for the above mentioned crowd and he said “If you are the helicopter pilot then you are the one”. What could I do but to say “Sure”. Well, he came out here, spent three and one half hours with me and roared away back to Texas. So in a case or two, some items in the article are or were enhanced by him a wee bit, writers freedom I guess but there is some truth behind every story he wrote. At any rate, maybe the Sept issue is still available at your nearest Recruiting Station, as they get lots of them. It’s all interviews from people who were “AirForcers” from the Big War, the next one, then Korea and the Nam thing. A real interesting issue to be sure.. Can’t get over them including a lowly helicopter pilot!! But it makes me realize the AF has finally included them into the ranks.
Taken from Airman Magazine --
Chopper Pilot, Story Teller
Back in the early 1940’s, the story goes, a group of soldiers gathered to watch the peculiar antics of an early version of the helicopter.
One man, seeing the odd craft rise vertically, said, “That’s the biggest lie I ever saw!”
Another bemused spectator added, “You know it ain’t possible, but wouldn’t it be nice if a machine could really fly like that?”
Teller of that tale is one of the first Air Corps helicopter pilots: story-teller extraordinaire and retired Air Force Major Charles Weir. Though he’s been retired for more years that he was on Active duty, (1942-1963), Major Weir can still entertain visitors for hours with his tales of the early days of helicoptering.
In early 1945, he was among the second group of rated pilots to graduate from helicopter school. Assigned the 10th Rescue Boat Squadron at Elmendorf Army Air Field, Alaska, then – 1st Lt. Weir arrived to find his helicopter – the only chopper on base – still in a crate. He had to put it together himself.
“There was a lot of confusion on the flight line in those days because there weren’t any regulations covering helicopter flight”, he said.
“One day I called the tower folks and told them I’d be hovering around the ramp for a while. They called back and asked if I had filed a flight plan. I explained I didn’t need a flight plan to hover two feet off the ground but the Operations Officer demanded to see this thing called a helicopter.
“On the way, I passed a group of guys swabbing down some B-29’s. When they saw me coming at them – two feet off the ground in a swirl of dust and making all that noise – one guy fell off the wing of the B-29 and another fell from a tug and broke his arm. What a mess.”
Reservations about the ungainly flying machines aside, officials soon recognized the helicopter’s adaptability to perform rescue chores. But flying night missions in Alaska in aircraft never intended to fly in the dark or in cold weather posed unique problems.
Too many times to remember, Major Weir resorted to reading his instruments by the light of a flickering cigarette lighter.
“Things were pretty primitive then,” he said, “but we couldn’t convince the manufacturers we needed lights. They didn’t believe we flew at night simply because helicopters weren’t designed to.”
Nor were they designed for cold weather flying.
“Once, I had to spend the night at a rescue site,” Major Weir recalled. “There was no self-support gear then, and I knew the engine wouldn’t start in the morning if the battery was too cold. So, I improvised.
“To keep the battery warm, I took it out of the chopper and put it in my sleeping bag with me. Every few hours, I went out to the helicopter, plugged in the battery and ran the engine for a few minutes before taking it back to the sleeping bag with me. That’s the only way I got out of there in the morning.”
The Major can churn up one anecdote after another about his two assignments to Alaska, and subsequent combat tour in Korea, and the remainder of his time in the Air Force. Now, after 15 years of civilian helicopter piloting, he plans to put his stories in writing.
Like how he was instrumental in having helicopter manufacturers install Stokes liters on helicopters to carry the wounded..and the part he played in convincing inventor Igor Sikorsky to come up with a ‘copter suitable for arctic flying..and how, returning from a night mission, he had to radio ahead and ask friends to gather their automobiles in a circle on the ramp with their lights on so he could see to land.
And then there was that time in Korea when……..
--MSgt. Dan Allsup