Sunday, May 29, 2011

Huey story

Reflecting on the post below, when I was at Fort Riley Kansas, they taught us to rappel. First down a relatively steep cliff, then down a big board wall, then from the skid of a Huey.

The Huey was just barely hanging in the air with a full load of eight infantrymen. You could feel the airframe move whenever someone shifted their seats. If you rappelled from the aircraft, you'd rappel in pairs, one from each open door of the aircraft. Your rope was 50 feet long. So, when it was your turn, you'd get on the rope, stand on the skid and look at your buddy across the aircraft. One of you would nod, and you'd both step off the skid, fall about 10 feet, then stop your descent with your brake hand, swing under the aircraft, then on the outward swing, release your brake hand and continue toward the ground. Nothing to it, easy-peasy.

The only problem was that as the load lightened with infantrymen going to the ground, the aircraft would lift slightly as the load went away, two grunts at a time. If the pilot wasn't paying attention, the aircraft would lift slightly, and eventually, the end of your 50 foot rope would leave the ground.

I don't care how fit you might be, how quick your reflexes, how lightning-fast you can react to a situation. When you feel the end of the rope go through your brake hand, you are not fast enough to grab the end of the rope before you find yourself in free-fall. Trust me on this one. You ain't quick enough.

I never saw anyone get hurt, but I've seen lots of guys grabbing at the end of that rope, wildly trying to grasp it, before they fell that last foot, or five feet. For a bunch of twenty year old kids, that's high comedy.


Retired Spook said...

Doing cave rescue, you learn to tie a "stopper knot" (aka a figure 8) in the end of the rope BEFORE you lower it into an unknown hole, and get on it. It keeps you from rappelling 120 feet on a 100 foot rope, or, as our instructor put it "well, now you're having a bad day!"

Pawpaw said...

Our instructors solution was to tie a 4-foot piece of 2X4 lumber to the end of the rope. That was guaranteed to keep you from falling off, but the solution was worse than the problem.

Retired Spook said...

Yeah, I can see how that would REALLY suck!