Welcome back for Day 6 of the Countdown to the True Heroes Military Romance series.
Today, we’re going to talk about crashing helicopters.
Yesterday, I pointed you to the blog post about my technical advisor and friend Bill Leroy. If you read that post, you know that Bill was instrumental (get it – instrumental) in helping me write the scene in which our Colonel crashes his Black Hawk. I could have researched for a year and not gotten the scene right. Leave it to the guy who actually flew the PJs in and out of danger. What a hero our Cowboy Bill is. (Could be why the call sign of that helo is Leroy08 – just sayin’)
Over coffee we wrote and then tweaked that scene until it was just right.
But before our Colonel crashes his helo, let’s see how he feels about watching another commander crash his. The prologue of True Courage has our heroes watching as this event unfold on their television.
The first commandment of aviation: Thou shalt maintain thy airspeed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee.
Lieutenant Colonel Rick McIntyre’s PJs often attributed a sinister motivation to the mountain. Sometimes they even kept score—Yosemite, 3, Humans, 0.
But he’d never really bought into it. Now, as he watched the Black Hawk tumble down Mount Hood, he was beginning to reconsider.
Retirement—fishing to be exact—was looking pretty good right about now.
He didn’t know who the pilot was, but he felt for him.
Rick had been in midsentence, leaning over the map-strewn table that took up over half of David Quillen’s office. He still wore his coat, not having gotten warm yet from the walk inside. If he wanted to be this cold, he’d live in Colorado or go home to Minnesota.
It was the tone of the voice, rather than the words, that reached in from the outer room and silenced him. Made him listen.
“Sirs, get out here,” someone hollered again.
On cue, both David and Rick moved. Fast.
Not ten minutes earlier, Rick had passed the dayroom, saying hello to members of Bravo Element who lounged around the room, eating a late lunch and watching Fox News. Their lack of movement when he passed by made him smile. Yet, he fervently hoped—not for the first time—that had a general walked in, the boys would have shown a bit more respect.
It had taken him years to instill their casual disregard for his rank, and when it came right down to it, they never balked when he gave an order.
Now, as he entered the dayroom, there was no lounging. Nic D’Onofrio and Eric Cruz sat forward on the couch. Chris Gabriel stood behind them. Joey Amonte and Will Pitkin flanked the television in raggedy, mismatched recliners, fully engaged with the drama playing out on the nineteen-inch screen.
“The chopper was hovering when it just seemed to dip its nose into the mountain and then it just dropped and rolled,” said the stunned commentator. “This Air Force rescue helicopter is part of the 304th Rescue Squadron based in Portland…”
“Holy shit,” Quillen whispered in a most un-Quillen-like way.
Rick’s stomach clenched as the ten-ton Jolly Green nosed into the snow and pitched obscenely—almost in slow motion—down the side of Mt. Hood. Its rotors splintered as it tumbled, and about the third time they showed it, he could make out one of the crew members being ejected before the chopper rolled over him.
Every commander’s nightmare—endangering the lives of your guys. Every pilot’s nightmare—getting your crew, your patient or yourself killed. At least, the crew had the foresight to release the hoist cable to the Stokes litter that held the patient, dropping him to safety before the tumble.
Never mind the high-dollar frown on the faces of the pencil pushers.
And, in this case, never mind the complete humiliation of crashing your bird as the cameras rolled.
For the next few weeks, every time he flew, that image played in his head. God only knew how the crew, several of which having been rolled over by the helo on its slow descent, lived. The others, initially enmeshed in the wreckage, miraculously made it as well.
Lucky bastards. It wasn’t their day to die.
I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 5. We’ll talk about a true-life hero.
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