Mission detailed in an O Group,
I grab my helmet, pistol, flight suit,
Whilst mentally rehearsing all of what was said.
Check my mechanic’s service chart,
Gas and ‘ammo’, before we start,
And quickly brief my crew what’s up ahead.
Aviation fuel is burning,
And all rotor blades start turning,
Power slowly gaining as our engine roared.
A ‘dash’ of dials on display,
Co-pilot signals: “All OK!”
Seven ‘grunts’ with all their gear are now on board.
In the ‘Jesus Nut’ I’m trusting,
Stick and pedals I’m adjusting,
As both skids begin lifting gently off the ground.
Tilted forward, climbing higher,
I’m a tree-top ‘chopper’ flyer,
I love that cutting phutt-phutt, chopping sound.
Amongst my total crew of four,
There’s a gunner on each door,
And my ‘Co-ie’ who’s navigating by my side.
A twist of throttle arm increases,
Such awesome power it releases,
And all the Diggers bloody grateful for the ride.
Just headphone communication,
No normal conversation,
It’s far too noisy to decipher any talk.
Yet there’s smiles on each ‘grunt’s’ face,
Whether heading to or from their base,
Thankful this time that they don’t have to walk.
When I chance a look back there,
Cooling winds blowing back their hair,
Some with both legs dangling out each open door,
You can almost read their minds,
As each one of them unwinds,
Fantasising they won’t have to go back any more.
At 90 cruising through the air,
There’s nothing else that can compare,
To flying ‘choppers’ in this war zone overseas.
As adrenalin is pumping,
You can hear your heart-beat thumping,
Skimming tops of those plantation rubber trees.
As a tree-top ‘chopper’ flyer,
I’ve discovered going higher,
Provides a target for a sniper far below.
The muffling canopy can disguise,
Approach confused to prying eyes,
Better to keep this ‘insect’ flying way down low.
Out over open ground however,
Or in raining monsoon weather,
Or in order to detect a landing zone,
With inaccurate old French maps,
More height ’tis preferable perhaps,
Especially over places never flown.
And if we ever take a hit,
Then we all know that that is it,
Because a ‘chopper’ has no wings to let it glide.
So if we should ever crash,
’Twill be a spinning fiery flash,
Little chance for crew or passengers inside.
I hate hovering in one spot,
During insertions that are ‘hot’,
Some protection from the steel-plate as a floor.
Our both M.60s spray around,
Neutralising hostile ground,
As the ‘grunts’ disgorge to go and fight this war.
With RPGs and tracers flying,
There’s a damn good chance of dying,
Yet a better buzz in all my life I’ve never had.
Although, as a tree-top ‘chopper’ flyer,
I just love to see that wire,
And set this war machine back down upon its pad.
Gunships in action. - (Courtesy RAAF Museum - modified )
This poem is a tribute to the crews of the helicopters (‘choppers’). For tribute poems to the machines themselves see poems Insects in the Sky and also Flashbacks.
NB. The term 'Jesus Nut' refers to the large nut that secures the rotor blades to the main drive shaft overhead on each 'chopper'.
A ‘hot’ landing zone lay up ahead,
Where tracers green returned with red,
All ‘grunts’ prepare themselves, to jump ‘out there’.
‘Chopper’ hovers just off the ground,
Co-pilot quickly turns around,
And signals: “Go Now!”, his thumb stuck in the air.
- from the poem Insects in the Sky (author), 2004.