More Tales of Peavine   - submitted by Ralph Bush


After reading KV Hall’s newsletter, I decided to attempt to outdo him with a war story of my own. I completed training in the B-25 and because I had been a Navigator in WB-29s, I liked lots of motors and wanted to get an assignment to multi-engine aircraft.   When I got an assignment to helicopter training, I think I had only seen one or two helicopters fly. One had been an H-21 at Goodfellow which I found out later was being flown by Bob Atchley.  My B-25 instructor had just come back from a TDY trip to Randolph and he told me that seeing student pilots trying to flying the H-13 reminded him of a bear cub trying to make love to a football.  When I got into that H-13 the first time I felt like the helicopter was trying to make love to me.  My helicopter career came a little after KV’s in that I went through the next to last class at Randolph and then for some strange reason, I was assigned as an instructor at Stead.  I progressed from line instructor to Flight Commander and then eventually, was with KV in the instructor training. 


When “Mr. Helicopter” (who shall remain nameless) arrived at Stead.  KV was not the least bit interested in giving him a mountain checkout, so it ended up on my shoulders.  There was no way that a junior Captain like me could teach that senior Major anything. 


The first couple of times on Peavine, were those rare days with no wind, so attempting to get him follow the wind evaluation procedures was meaningless.  However on about the 3rd or 4th trip, we had at least a 20 knot wind with a lot of gusts.  (This was after we were required to have wind socks in the close proximately to the landing sites.)  The “Major” did not think much of our procedures for wind evaluation and did a token evaluation, but in only one direction, and never bothered to even locate one of the wind socks close to the landing site.   He nailed the wind alright, but his approach was downwind.  I asked him if he was certain that he wanted to make the approach and he looked at me like he was thinking: “You dumb SOB” so I shut up and let him go ahead.  Fortunately, it was one of those sites that had a fairly gentle slop and had mostly sage brush around, no big rocks and I knew if worse came to worse, we could always bounce off the ground a few times and get to the top. 


As all of you who flew at Stead know, the updrafts and down drafts in those last few yards before you got to the landing site could be rather severe.  Probably a couple of hundred feet short of the landing site, the collective was up around his ear and the RPM was coming down, and he had no idea of what was causing the problem. I’ll never forget the wild eyed look that came on his face followed by: “What the hell is wrong with this helicopter” and then as the RPM continued to bleed down, he said :”You got it” (a split second prior to me taking the controls). As anticipated, I dumped the collective to get the RPM back, leveled and bounced on the ground about 3 times and we were sitting on top of the hill, exactly downwind.  What I could not believe at the time is that he still had no idea of what caused the problem.  I pointed out the closest wind sock to the landing site and he suddenly realized that it was pointed straight out and the wind did not blow through the small end.  Since he had gotten us into this situation, I asked him how we were going to take off. 


That made him mad and he rolled in the throttle, jerked the collective up, and hardly got light on the struts as the RPM dropped well below the 2400 (how did I remember that figure I have no idea since it has been 44 years since I flew an H-19). After several attempts, he kept getting even more angry and I thought he was so mad, he was going to have a heart attack.  I did not exactly needle him, but did ask him more than once on how he proposed to get us off the hill.  Eventually, I asked him if I got us off the hill, would he be receptive to accepting constructive criticism on future flights and he reluctantly said “Yes”.  I cheated a little on the RPM, got it light on the struts and waited for the wind to slack off a little.  I think the first time we actually got off the ground about 3 or 4 inches, we managed to turn maybe 20 degrees, so it took a series of bounces before we finally got turned the full 180 degrees into the wind. Then, I had him take off and we went and landed on about four different sites.  As prior instructed, he did everything correct this time and even asked me about the wind direction on one of them since it was 30-40 degrees different from a site that we had just landed on.  On the way back to Stead, his words were: “You are not going to tell anyone about this are you?”  Of course I said no, and do not remember whether or not I did tell anyone at the time.  He shall remain nameless, even now, but I do not think it will take a lot of gray matter for many of you to know who I am writing about. THOSE WERE THE DAYS!


(Rest in Peace, Charlie)