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Hanging in the Sky Cold and Windy


 I took the picture earlier.  This is not the helicopter we used today  but I think it is the same kind.

I thought Iraq was a hot country.  Not always.  Today I flew a couple hours in a CH 46.  They have two big windows in the front for the 50 caliber machine guns.  These windows are obviously always open.  The back is open too, so you have a wind tunnel.  The irony is that in hot weather the heat from the engines makes the ordinary unpleasant heat excruciating, but in the cool weather they seem to have no effect.   Still, when I got off I made a point of lingering in the heat wash of the engines.  Usually I run through quick as I can.

Some seats are worse than other.  The seats on the front left are the worst, since they are in the vortex of several wind streams.  Usually I avoid these places, but this time both the colonel and I sat there.  We had Iraqi guests and we thought it best not to freeze them.  Technically, I suppose they would not freeze since the temperature never dropped below 32, but they looked miserable enough shivering with those checkered scarves wrapped around their heads and faces.  For them, this is about as cold as it gets; I have had worse.

Helicopter rides are not pleasant in the best of times.  Continual buffeting by strong and ever shifting winds detracts even more from the experience.  I tried to make the most of it by calibrating differences in wind speed.  For example, as the gunner makes sweeps across the terrain, the wind gets stronger and weaker.  The most wind is blocked when the gun is facing mostly straight out, but a little forward.  The ammunition box blocks some of the wind.  I would not bet that my observations are correct, but making them gave me something to do.  I also confirmed that you really cannot tell by the feel or the noise when a helicopter is landed or flying.  The machine shakes and produces cacophonous noise in both situations and a good pilot can put it down very softly.  You can, however, tell by the wind.  As you descent, you get a reprieve from the wind and a welcome (in the cold times) blast of hot exhaust. Ah the simple pleasures of life!

My flight suit is fire retardant, but does nothing to slow the wind.  In fact, I think it exacerbates the problem, allowing the wind to blow up one sleeve and literally onto the soft underbelly.  I like to complain how tough it is to be me, but the problem is actually easily solved.  I will have to get a face mask and a wind breaking coat.  The young guys aiming those 50 calibers have adapted and not only do they get their wind directly, but they also must keep on facing it.

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