Sunday, April 09, 2006

One Chopper Short

They needed six choppers. They sent eight. Six arrived. One broke down after landing. That left them with five at the Desert One site to carry the commandoes to Tehran to assault the embassy and free the hostages held by the Iranians. Mark Bowden lays out the details in an interesting article, "The Desert One Debacle," in the April edition of the Atlantic magazine.

The dust did them in. First, it was the haboobs, vast dust storms through which the helicopters flew. Dust got into every bit of the choppers, their engines, and rotor assemblies. Second, it was the ankle deep dust, like talcum powder, on the landing site which blew everywhere when the choppers hovered above.

One chopper was hovering behind a C-130, enclosed in a bowl of dust. The pilot could only see the airman on the ground in front of him, who began walking backwards away from the dust blown in his face by the rotor blades. The pilot, attempting to hold his hover with few references, followed the airman, unaware he was moving. He walked them right into a collision with the C-130, which was carrying a large rubber bladder fuel of fuel.


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