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How to Land a CH-47C Chinook Inverted

(and live to crawl away from it)

By: Mike Maloy, former CWO-2

I arrived in country on December 31, 1968 and the Chinooks from

Pachyderms, A Co. 159, ASHB, 101st Airborne picked us up at Danang and

dropped us at Phu Bai at about 2350 hrs. just in time to watch the

perimeter light up like the 4th of July. I was with C Co. 159 ASHB, 101st.

Playtex. We spent the next couple of weeks building hootches and bunkers

and filling sand bags, and of course, constructing our company O Club, a

top priority, and getting AO orientation from the guys in Pachyderms and

Varsity.

The last week in January a bunch of us were sent TDY to Dong Ha and

eventually the Rockpile up by the DMZ to support the Marines in the north

end of the Ashau.

On February 10, 1969 Captain Kelly Williams was the A.C. and I was the

pilot. I believe our aircraft number was 67-18501. We had been flying

combat re-supply missions all day into LZ Erskine in the north end of the

Ashau valley in I Corps and on the last three or four approaches we were

getting mortar fire when we approached the LZ and had to break off our

approach and go around several times because of sporadic enemy fire. We

were delivering ammo and food into the LZ and taking out wounded.

At approximately 1700 hours we went back to Dong Ha to refuel and all the

Chinooks were going to head back to Phu Bai. While refueling we were

notified by Marine Division at Vandergriff (or the Rockpile---Im not sure

which it was) that they had one more load of 105mm ammo to go out to

Erskine and four Marines who needed a ride back to Erskine. Williams told

them that we would take the passengers and the load and then head for Phu

Bai from LZ Erskine. After refueling we picked up the four Marines and

then picked up the load of approximately 10,000 pounds of 105mm ammo in a

sling load and headed back to Erskine.

During the day we had problems with the beep sticking several times but it

always seemed to fix itself before it became a serious problem so we

continued to fly missions.

At approximately 1750 hours we were on final approach into Erskine with the

slingload and Marine passengers and me at the controls, when we saw a puff

of smoke and dust on the LZ and the Marine on Erskine told us to go around

because they were taking mortar fire. We circled out into the Ashau valley

and made a second approach with me at the controls in the right seat. We

still had the four Marine passengers on board.

I shot my approach to the ground with the slingload and set the load down

but didn’t get it where they wanted it and they asked us to move it.

Because of the altitude, the heat, the 10,000 pound slingload, and the fact

that we had just refueled, we were very heavy and we had to shoot the

approach to the ground rather than bringing it to a hover. At that point

Williams took the controls and said he would move the load. He told me

that with the periodic enemy fire he didn't want to stay over the LZ any

longer than necessary. We took off from the LZ with the slingload and made

a tight 360 degree pattern to come back to the LZ. I doubt that we ever

got above 60 or 70 knots during that 360 and we were never very far from LZ

Erskine and had it in sight the entire time.

As we approached Erskine the third time with the slingload, and while on

short final (about 150 yards from the perimeter of the LZ and at about 35

knots) we experienced a beep failure on No. 1. I followed through with

emergency procedures for a beep failure and Williams said he was going to

dive down the side of the mountain to try and gain airspeed and save the

load. As we dove down the side of the mountain I saw that we were losing

rotor rpm to the point that it was critical. When the rpm hit about 200 I

yelled at Williams to punch the load off, and almost immediately afterwards

I told the flight engineer to release the load and at the same time I hit

the emergency release switch. When nothing happened and we still had the

load I recycled the switch 3 or 4 times.

To this day I can recall all the way through flight school being told that

if a switch doesn't work, recycle it. Unfortunately, with the emergency

release switch, it operates on compressed air and by recycling it all I was

doing was bleeding off a little bit of air pressure each time so it never

blew the hook open. I was told some months later that the Army made an

amendment to the TM-55 Chinook operators manual advising pilots not to

recycle the emergency hook release switch for this reason.

The flight engineer was never able to reach the manual release handle on

the hook because we were bouncing around so much due to extremely low rotor

rpm.

The load never released and according to the report I saw back in 1969 when

I got out of the hospital it stated that the load finally caught in the

tree tops and pulled us into the ground nose first. My last recollection

of the rotor rpm was that it was passing through 170 and going down fast.

When I regained consciousness I was hanging upside down in my shoulder

harness and the entire cockpit was gone except for my seat and Williams in

his seat. The instrument panel, cyclic stick, pedals and center console

and overhead console were all gone. I couldn't see or talk very well

because I had a lot of blood in my eyes and all over my face and I was

choking on blood and bone in my throat. I tried to take my flight helmet

off but it took me several tries because my left jaw bone was sticking out

through my neck and the chin strap was tangled around the bone. Once I got

the helmet off I looked back through the companionway and all I could see

were flames.

I knew we had almost a full load of fuel so I yelled at Williams and told

him we had to get out immediately. I saw him undo his shoulder harness and

fall down into the jungle and then I did the same. Kelly got up and ran

and I tried to but when I got to my knees the nerves in my back were

pinched and I fell flat on my face. I tried several times to get up and

couldn’t so I started crawling away from the aircraft. I made it about 20

feet from the aircraft and then the crew chief saw me and came back and

dragged me away as the aircraft blew up.

WO-1 Gene Collings from Playtex was notified by the Marines on Erskine that

we had gone down in the jungle and he came back from somewhere near Camp

Eagle and tried to pick us up from the jungle but couldn't get to us because

of the

trees. We crashed about 300 yards down the mountain from the LZ and the

marines sent a squad down to us to provide cover from the VC. They set up

a small perimeter around us and I recall hearing them firing at the enemy

occasionally while we waited for a rescue aircraft. We were so far away

from the LZ that the Marine squad opted to stay there with us rather than

try to carry us back up the mountain to the LZ. After what seemed like a

couple of hours a Marine CH-46 was able to get in and pick us up and take

us to the hospital ship Repose.

The entire crew got out alive with me being the most seriously injured.

Unfortunately three of our four Marine passengers were killed when they

were thrown from the aircraft before impact due to violent gyrations caused

by extremely low rotor rpm. Apparently they were not strapped in.

I suffered simple fractures of the upper and lower right jaw, simple

fracture of the upper left jaw, compound fracture of the lower left jaw,

compression fractures of six vertebrae in my lower spine, loss of a tooth,

and numerous cuts, and burns. They had me in surgery all that night and

when I came to the sun was just coming up and I could see the beginnings of

daylight through the porthole in our room on the ship. Four days later I

was transferred to Danang and about 12 hours later was flown to Trippler

Army hospital in Hawaii. I was there for 30 days and then transferred to

Brooke Army Medical Center in Ft. Sam Houston where I stayed until May when

I was released for convalescent leave.

After getting out of the hospital I was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia

for two weeks at which time I called the Pentagon and requested immediate

reassignment back to Vietnam. I arrived back in Vietnam on July 4, 1969

and completed my second tour with Playtex C Company, 159th ASHB, 101

Airborne Division.

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