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Location:Texas, USA Naturalized US Citizen of Irish extract -   Fixed Wing and Helo trucker.Interests: "The Absurdity of Man". I am a proud supporter of Blarney, Nonsense, and Hooey. I enjoy being a chopper jockey, and trying to figure the world, people and belief systems out. I'm just not very good at it, so it keeps me real busy. I scribble, blog, run this website, mess with rental houses, ride motorbikes, and read as much as I can. I went solo 44 years ago, and I like to say I'm gonna get me a real job one day. When I grow up. ("but not just yet, Lord, not just yet") For my aviation scribbles see www.chopperstories.com.... enjoy! I wish you Peace in your Life. May you always walk with the sun on your face, and a breeze ruffling your hair. And may you cherish a quiet wonder for our awesome Universe. Life isn't always good. But it is always fascinating. Never quit.
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Cops & Robbers (8A) "Spotlights and Bullets"


Spotlights and bullets




       I'm probably a little bit of an adrenaline junkie.
No, make that a big bit. It's all genetics. Maybe. The bottom line is that I would have made a lousy librarian. I just know I would have messed up any book shelf. I just like to feel I'm alive. I respect risk, I measure risk, and I don't take unnecessary chances. It's not healthy.  Of course, there is always the small matter of my Irish genes. The 'fighting Irish' genes. That little lot have gotten me in trouble plenty of times...

       It all started one night, when the home phone rang, my pager went off, and my cell phone rang. You always know it's going to be something interesting. I was in the midst of a deep slumber. First thought as you roll over in bed is

"what the f...k time is it?"

       01.30 am...


Okay... I answered the call. A slightly breathless Sheriff's Office Dispatcher told me there was an armed robbery in progress, and that they were requesting the helicopter.

Cool... ACTION…   

       I legged it into my uniform, tripping around the bedroom like an out-of-control drunk on a pogo stick, trying to do three things at the same time, with only half a brain cell. My wife, much more alert at crazy times of the night, provided the requisite garments as I fumbled around. But for her, I'd have been running out the door minus my pants. The Sheriff's Office might have an issue with that.

      Fifteen minutes later, I was pulling up beside the Sheriff's hangar.   Here I was to discover that there was no observer waiting. That was a disappointment.  It meant I would be operating all the systems, including the radios and the spotlight, on my own. It's nice when the work load can be shared. What was worse, was that the scene location was now coming in:

The Hualapai Mountain Road...

      That was going to be a tough one. It was a winding, steep mountain road, with mountains rising up sharply on both sides. There were also some nasty tall aerials.  With a cloudy sky, limited moonlight, limited ground illumination… I was worried. As I raced across the dark terrain below, I wondered where exactly the scene was located. Hopefully, it was down the road towards Kingman, and not higher up the mountain, where the valley was narrow and extremely dangerous. For a helicopter. At night.

       Dispatch had told me that the bad guys did not know they were being quietly surrounded. Kingman P.D. were backing up the Sheriff's Office deputies.

Sounds like a big operation...

       I had also been asked not to switch on the helicopter spot light until instructed to do so. They didn't want to alert the bad guys just yet...  
I flew on, quietly reflecting on the tall transmitters I knew lay ahead for me. I knew the area reasonably well by daylight, but night flying was an altogether different matter.  I knew I would be orbiting, and having to divide my attention between the probing search beam, the radios, and the hidden obstacles all around me.

       The radio was strangely silent.  Occasionally, a short, whispered command was heard. The very fact that the officers were whispering, told legions.  The boys were moving in on the unsuspecting bad guys. Setting up the perimeter...

"Air One, Sam Six…!"

They were calling me. I replied, curtly.
"Sam Six, go ahead!"

"Francis, we can see you coming. Slow it down, and just keep coming right up the Hualapai Mountain Road. Keep the light off. We'll tell you when to switch it on. Watch for three flashes from my flash light. Copy that?"

I acknowledged the instructions, whilst groaning inwardly.  Not good. The scene was right up the road, where the high mountains closed in ominously on the twisting road.
Where the aerials stood, tall, haughty, impregnable, waiting...

     I wished they had sent me an observer. Now I could really have done with help. One man to operate the light and the radios, whilst the pilot flew the blessed helicopter...

       Onwards I flew, the rotors circling endlessly overhead, the soft glow from the instruments, the rush of wind, the song of the turbine, and the ongoing smack of rotor tips hitting disturbed air from the previous blade.
I banked slightly to follow the road, and wondered again how far up the road they were. I could see the lights on the aerials above me now, insignificant pin pricks of warning amongst a rolling sea of darkness and death.

Concentrate, lad, concentrate...

I glanced down at the controls for the "Star Burst" spot light. I had been practicing with it, and I could do fairly well, flying the helicopter at night AND aiming the powerful beam. But I had only flown over open urban areas. Plenty of ground illumination, and excellent ground reference points. Never like this, totally alone, up in the mountains, on a truly dark night, with a serious situation on the ground.  

Concentrate, lad, concentrate... this is serious flying...

The radio crackled again:
"Air One! Lincoln Nine...!"

It was the lootenant. Somewhere. Good guy. Very pro helicopter, but also very pro safety.
"Air One, you know about the aerials up there, right?"

      He knew I knew. But it was his way of looking out for you. I appreciated it. And suddenly the cockpit wasn't so lonely anymore.

       The whisperer was back on.  He was giving me range and bearing. I was now approaching the scene rapidly.  More whisperers were joining in.  I was straining to see the three light flashes.
It was hard to hear what they were saying, so quietly.
"Air One! Look for my signal...! We will want your light two hundred yards to the West, on a metal building…"
I peered in to the darkness below. Nothing. Nothing...
Then...

Flash! Flash! Flash!

         Bingo, I had them. I banked hard, simultaneously straining to see both the metal building, and the surrounding mountain sides rearing up.  I hit the spot light switch, and noted with satisfaction the soft glow, growing rapidly, rapidly, into a white fire. Now I just had to aim it...

And then all hell broke loose…

"SHOTS FIRED! SHOTS FIRED! SHOTS FIRED!"

Sixteen voices were transmitting simultaneously. Despite the gravity of the situation, I had to quietly smirk to myself. No more whispering...
  
The bad guys were shooting at the light...

Now it was getting personal...


(to be continued...CLICK HERE)


Francis Meyrick
      (c)





Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 6, 2015, 4:46 am
We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
 
Kevin Healy

I once stood and watched as mortars were fired at a helicopter. It probably feels different when you're sitting inside it, not quite as exciting (in an age before computer games, when everybody hopes the helicopter will be hit for the cyber-thrill - not that verybody in my hometown hoped it wouldn't be hit that day). Great intro, Francis, it really sets the scene for a fantastic aerial joy-ride.


Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 16:44:46

 
Kevin Healy

I should clarify that, I once stood and watched "from a distance" with everybody else in my South Armagh hometown (I wasn't with the ones holding the mortar lol).


Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 16:46:42

 
Francis Meyrick

You know, that brings back a memory.
I had a very similar experience to yours.

I'll make a note and put it on the list to write up...

Smile


We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 18:57:16

 
Kevin Healy

I hope you weren't piloting the one I was watching with bated breath.


Posted on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 03:34:47

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