Helicopter Flight for Alexander P. de Seversky
by Rich Blackwell
It was the early 60's. Missiles were just becoming a viable strategic weapon. The B-47 was a mainstay of the strategic bomber force and B-52s were still being selected high in the pilot training classes. This is the time that Major Alexander P. de Seversky, came to Lincoln AFB, NE to visit an Atlas missile site. Major de Seversky was famous around the world as an author of "Victory Though Air Power", aircraft designer, and former Republic Aircraft official. Transportation to the missile site was to be by H-19B helicopter. As I remember correctly, this was to be his first flight in a helicopter.
Young Lt. Royal Foster and even younger Lt. Rich Blackwell was the crew selected for this VIP flight. Royal was the AC and I was co-pilot on my first important VIP mission. Maintenance prepared the silver H-19B was for the mission. By cleaning the helicopter and touched it up with cans of spray paint. And the helicopter looked as good as an H-19 could as it waited in front of Base Operations.
The 818th Division Commander and the Strategic Missile Squadron Commander escorted Major de Seversky to the helicopter. A three-step stand was positioned at the passenger door to allow easy access for Major de Seversky. He was an old man of 67 (at least that's what we thought then) and had a wooden leg from an aircraft accident. The twenty-minute flight to the missile site was uneventful. Of course Royal did all the flying. Young co-pilots were expected to complete the paperwork, conduct the passenger briefing, stand fireguard at the remote locations, and otherwise stay out of the way. The passengers deplaned at the heli-pad and entered the site for the tour.
As we waited, I looked at the height of the passenger door. The cabin floor was nearly three feet off the ground. We had assisted Major de Seversky out of the aircraft without incident, but how could we get him back in. The fancy three-step stand was neatly stored away back at Base Operations. All we had onboard was an aluminum equipment box and a set
of chocks. By placing the chocks under the equipment box, there was one step roughly one-half the way to the cabin. Since there was a strap centered at the top of the cabin door, this problem was solved. Right!
The passengers returned after about an hour. All worked well as we assisted Major de Seversky onto the equipment box. He grabbed the strap and lifted his good leg. Planting his foot in the cabin, he lifted his wooden leg to swing himself up. At that point, I noticed his good leg quivering and could tell he was unable to pull himself into the cabin. I placed my hands firmly on his waist and pushed. His wooden leg swung into the cabin and he fortunately maintained his balance. He turned, looked at me, and said "thank you". The other passengers loaded and we returned to Lincoln.
Inter-phone discussions on the return trip were not about missiles, but about the B-47s flying the traffic patterns with their drogue chutes trailing behind. The bombers intrigued Major de Seversky. Landing back at Base Operations, the little step stand was put in place and everyone deplaned without incident. I have flown on innumerable VIP flights since that time. I have not had to push any of my other VIP passengers to get them in the helicopter. Of course maybe that's because I seldom flew any of them more than once.
I next saw Major de Seversky at Squadron Officers School about three years later, where I believe he spoke to nearly every class in the first half of the 60s.
An interesting sidelight was comments quoted by the UPI article covering the missile site visit. He criticized the limited war concept. He said limited wars are self-defeating and can only be fought if both sides co-operate and no advantage, military or political, can be gained. He listed the Korean conflict as an example of a series of limited battles, which end precisely where they start.