Can A Helicopter Be A Submarine?
I send my four children a letter each month which includes a personal story from my days in the military. This is one of those stories.
I have flown a helicopter below sea level. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s how it happened.
My aviation unit was deployed to Fort Irwin, California to participate in a desert training exercise for our division. We had flown our helicopters out to Fort Irwin a few days before our infantry units arrived in order to get familiarized with the area and to make sure our helicopters were ready from a maintenance standpoint. After a few days, we’d gotten everything done we’d needed to accomplish. We still had a couple of days before our infantry units arrived, so our commander let us do some pilot training (which basically meant letting us fly around checking the area out). Now Fort Irwin, California is in the desert, and there just isn’t much around to see. So, some of our pilots talked our commander into letting us fly over to Death Valley which happens to be the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. Before long, two of our helicopters were headed towards Death Valley from our airfield at Fort Irwin. A couple of hours later and after a refuel stop, we found ourselves circling above the Death Valley monument. I don’t know how it is now, but back in the 1980s, there were no roads leading to the monument. It was just a stone monument out in the middle of the desert. So we decided to land near the monument to take some pictures. As we made our final approach, I watched our altimeter (it measures height above sea level) go below zero. When our skids finally touched down, we were over 200 feet below sea level according to our altimeter. So, while a helicopter isn’t a submarine, it can go below sea level.
Moral of the Story – Hmm. That’s a tough one. I guess the moral of the story is that if you give soldiers time off with nothing constructive to do, they’re going to find things to do, so you’d better keep them busy.