Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hook 'Em Up

On Tuesday, I was scheduled to fly my "UTIL" flight. It's a flight to practice flying with a load of cargo suspended underneath the aircraft. One of the things Navy helicopters do is "vertical replenishment" (VERTREP). When the ship needs to be re-supplied, and they don't want to pull into port, a Supply ship will pull up close and the helicopter(s) will go back and forth carrying pallets of whatever from ship to ship until everything is where it needs to be.

So when I came into work, I was ready to get in the air and move an 800lb barrel of concrete around the airfield. But I wasn't expecting to also do this...
 There were 3 of us flying the same event with the same instructor, but since only one of us could actually fly at once, the instructor had the other two take turns learning how to be the "hookup man."
This job consists of:
  • waiting until the ~19,000lb comes into a 10' hover over the load
  • running through the downwash from the rotor to stand directly underneath the helicopter
  • hooking the load to the cargo hook on the belly of the bird
  • checking that the cable is securely connected to load
  • then running back out from under the helicopter
  • don't forget to keep an eye on the helo in case it starts falling on you.
Definitely a little nerve-wracking the first time you're standing looking up at a hovering helicopter (being controlled by someone with no more flight experience than you). Not to mention everyone (2 pilots, one crewman, one LSE, and one hovering aircraft) are waiting on you to attach a rubber loop at the end of a 8' pole onto a 2" wide moving target. No pressure.

I definitely love my job. But getting to do something else for a day, with the added bonus of a little adrenaline rush, was pretty cool.


  1. Scary, scary, scary. I much prefer my retired, scholarly life, thank you very much. I think that you were Errol Flynn in a past life...

  2. very neat, Luke! thanks for sharing!