YES...YOU WILL BECOME A PILOT!
Just another example of how
can be not only utterly stupid, but deadly
In 1964, the Republic of Vietnam was sending candidates
to Ft Wolters, Texas to learn how to fly our helicopters.
One of my Instructors, Mr. Anderson, told me of his attempt to train one
such Vietnamese pilot prospect named Tanh. The
problem, according to Mr. Anderson, was that they arrived without any advance
training or any clue about the technical components of helicopter instruments
and controls. For instance, they
didn't know what a "tachometer" was or what function it served.
So, Mr. Anderson resorted to telling Tanh to just keep the
"tack" needle in the color green.
Never let it go to red (which overspeeds the engine) and never go into
yellow (low revving and stalling the engine).
When Anderson would take Tanh up on training flights and
Tanh was having difficulty, he would turn to Anderson and say, "No
sweat...you got it". Tanh would
take his hands off the controls and just sit.
Anderson would regain control of the aircraft and fly it.
It generally took helo flight trainees between 9 to 12
hours before a solo. In my case, it
was 13 hours. Meanwhile, Tanh was
ready at 54 hours...or so Mr. Anderson
thought! (Despite the triple-length time required take this step, the Vietnamese
pilots could not be "washed out" of pilot training.
They would lose face and the command policy was to make them pilots!)
The big solo day arrives.
Tanh took off and came around the 1st time to land.
Problem was...he was lined up for the control tower as a point
of reference instead of the landing strip. Mr. Anderson recalled telling
him he could not get lost; just aim for the tower on the turn-around and he
would find the airstrip.
The Control Tower called out, "Helicopter 64, go
left". The Tower operator kept
repeating this command, "Go left!". Tanh did not respond.
At this point, Mr. Anderson grabbed the mike and yelled, "TANH...GO
The next thing they hear is, "No sweat...you got
it". The helicopter crashed and
exploded. I guess, technically, Tanh
didn't wash out. It was much worse
Fast forward to Vietnam, 1968.
After a combat assault, we had helo pick up. I ran up to the slick and
sitting in the pilot seats was two TANHs! "NO
WAY", I said to myself. I immediately ran under the nose of the next
helicopter. Some of the guys started
yelling, "Lt, where are you going?"
(What the heck; I knew where I was going...I was looking for US ARMY
We finally landed and I was asked why I was running around to
different slicks. I related the story of Tanh and his pilot training back at Ft
Wolters. The very next extraction after a combat assault, everyone was
running around checking out the pilots. However,
we later learned that our earlier assault pickup was the first and last joint US/Vietnamese
pick up. The brass was told that the
combat troops would not fly with the Vietnamese pilots due to lack of
proficiency and the hard landings. Other
US pilots related how they could not fly "in trail" properly (assault
line formations) to a hot landing zone. They
would change airspeed and risk the pilot behind them having a mid-air collision.
They would also hover too close to the re-fueling dumps instead of
landing first. Overall, the pilot
stateside training was NOT producing qualified helo pilots.
Like I said, "I'm not a pilot...but neither were
Lt Don Keith