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CIMOLI'S COPTER DIARIES

Chief Warrant Officer Gordon Cimoli served 10 months in Iraq flying a Black Hawk helicopter. And, as you can imagine, he has stack of stories that illustrate the incredible strain that these pilots undergo. Here are a couple of excerpts from his diaries...Crew in Objective Rams, Iraq Day 4_jpg.jpg

We were descended for landing and we found that we couldn't see anything at all. We could not see where the ground ended and the sky began. Fred slowed down and started a descent but we found that we were not really descending as we intended to. Instead we lingered at 100 to 120 feet at almost zero forward airspeed. We finally made our descent to the ground and at about 25 feet we had a dust cloud surrounding the aircraft. Remember, this is all under NVG's [night vision goggles] with zero illumination from the moon. We basically landed with no visual reference to the ground below us. It was certainly scary but what we have come to expectThis type of flying goes against all we were taught throughout our flying career-when you can't see the ground and/or the horizon, you are flying under IMC (instrument meteorological conditions), but instead, we fly just as we are VMC (visual meteorological conditions) even though we cannot see the ground or anything in front of us. It is definitely challenging and at the end of every flight, Fred and I look at each other and ask, why are we doing this?***Shawn came in to the tent at 12:30am and told me about a Chinook crew that just went inadvertent IMC (flew into the clouds on accident). They recovered here to Udairi with no problem. As it turned out, 2 more aircraft when into the clouds also. These were Alpha company birds. One aircraft came back and the other aircraft did not. No one has had radio contact with this aircraft since they entered the clouds. Hope they come back.I was talking to Fred about it and it would be very easy to fly right into a cloud without realizing it at night. When we fly NVG flights, it is nearly impossible to see the ground and even more difficult to see what is coming up in front of you. I can foresee this happening to more crews if the weather were worse. The only thing we have going for us is that the weather is typically not cloudy like it is in Germany. However, today, we had so much rain that it is now evaporating and forming low clouds.While I was writing a letter to Stef, the commander walked into the tent to wake up the 1SG Not a good sign Sam just came in and stood next to me. He did not look good. I could tell that the worst had happened and asked him, "Are they not coming back?" He said no. They found the aircraft not far from here. Sam walked back out with the Commander and the 1SG. More information to follow. About an hour later, [the Commander] officially told us the facts as they knew them at the time: 2 CH-47's went IIMC, they recovered. 2 UH-60's went IIMC and only one recovered. CPT Gibbons and 1SG Webb left in a Humvee and came upon the burning wreckage. There were no survivors.
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