Hysterical Journey to Historic Places

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August 13th 2013
Published: August 13th 2013
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The photo shows a plastic model in 48 scale of the generic Bell UH-1B Iroquois gunship. They are commonly called by Hueys. All of us old 'Nammers will stop what we are doing or saying and turn to look for one that we hear flying by. We have a great deal of reverence for the aircraft and for the intrepid pilots who flew them.

Keith was my cousin. He went up the flume a few years back while on a classified mission for the Department of Defense. It would please his ghost to be included in the blog. Nobody on the planet was fonder of aviation than he was. Keith graduated from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, WA on a balmy Thursday afternoon in early June of 1972. He got married on Friday and drove over to Seattle on a brief but very romantic honeymoon, and returned to Spokane on Sunday. On Tuesday morning he left for the army. He had been accepted into the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program to become a helicopter pilot. At the time the Army had far more pilots than the Air Force. Most of them were intrepid old Vietnam veterans who kind of directed him as an enthusiastic youngster toward what a military pilot ought to be and Keith took to it with gusto. He loved flying and was a good pilot. It wasn’t all fun and games though, there were always ancillary duties assigned. He was a unit supply officer for a while; it was a chore that officers with more seniority studiously avoided. As his career advanced through tours at Fort Carson, through an unaccompanied tour in Korea, and on to Fort Lewis he became increasingly involved with unit safety programs. Flying a helicopter was plenty dangerous enough even when safety protocols were scrupulously adhered to. The army had been phasing out the venerable old Bell UH-1 Iroquois that Keith first took to the air in and he chose to shift over to the heavy lift capabilities of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. Mostly what Keith liked about the Chinook was that it had a copilot that he could turn over the controls to whenever he wanted to step back into the cargo bay and take a leak into a can and toss it overboard. A pilot couldn’t do that in a Huey. The Chinook also had two engines and a much more serviceable rear rotor. From a safety officer’s perspective if one engine was good in a helicopter, then two would be better. He served a tour flying Chinooks in Germany and then on to Fort Hood in Central Texas. He had about fifteen years of service by then and the Army had been facing years of budgetary constraints. They had more pilots than were needed for peacetime operations, no matter how good those pilots were. As safety officer Keith fell into contention with his commanding officer at Hood. It was bound to happen. The more conscious you become of safety the less willing you become to accept or impose risks. The CO refused to endorse Keith’s application for promotion to CWO4 because of their professional differences and as a result Keith found himself tossed onto the discard pile. He was RIFd in 1987 and went to work for the Boeing Corporation. It wasn’t a job flying, but it was a job around aircraft and that was the next best thing for him. He advanced at Boeing to become a safety administrator at Edwards AFB when the Defense Department opportunity that killed him came his way. He went up the flume in February of 2007 doing a job that he loved, and probably never would have retired from. He lived his life like a whirlwind, enjoyed it to the hilt, and the joy he took from it was infectious to those around him. Above all other things Keith loved his family. He left behind him a legacy we would all do well to aspire to.


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