Every day flying the H-37 “Deuce” was not without some sort of adventure for the Flight Crew of this particular series helicopter. Some of the events that transpired were planned and some were not.
I recall one incident that happened on the way flying back from, I think it was Florida from a place then known in the Aviation Field as PAR (Periodic Aircraft Rebuild) I think that was what it stood for, except we used to call it (Paint And Return) because that’s about all they did at that time. Anyway, when we received the Aircraft at NAS Jacksonville it had all the windows and hatches installed. Just like it came out of the factory.
Well, that was all good except we were used to flying with all the windows, doors and hatches removed. So we were used to the A/C being open and breezy, and of course noisy. Our intent was to remove and store the hatch covers etc., in our storage back at the base when we got there so there was no problem accepting the A/C with these items installed. The pilots signed for the Aircraft after our acceptance inspection and we were airborne shortly after a short test flight over the field. The pilot called the tower and informed them that we were leaving their area and the short Test Flight was complete. We started heading North to New River, N.C. and climbed out to about 1500 feet.
We were not far up the coast when we heard a loud “BANG” from near the tail section in the Aircraft. Both of us ran back to the area of the Cargo Door and the Port side Hatch which was just forward of the APU Location. We both put our hands on the inside frame of the port side hatch and leaned out to see if we had any damage to the aft portion of the aircraft or what sort of a problem we were faced with. Neither of us realized at the time that the Port side hatch blew out of the Aircraft and hit the aft Fuselage section causing the loud “BANG”. We reported what had happened to the Pilot and there was no response for a couple of seconds and then he and the Co-Pilot started laughing. The flight continued on to New River, N.C. without incident. Our only thought about this unplanned event was that we were THANKFUL that hatch did not make contact with the Tail Rotor assembly. Trying to fly without a tail rotor could really spoil an otherwise really good day.
I’m going to fill you in on one of the most stupid things that I saw being performed by some of the more daring of the younger Crew Members while I was with this unit and that was called “riding the trolley”. The interior of the Aircraft was equipped with a monorail track. It ran down the center of ceiling in the cabin section and made a sweeping turn out the starboard side cargo door and extended about 4 or 5 feet past the fuselage. There was a winch that was attached to this track and ran almost the length of the cabin section. Well, I just don’t have to go much further here to tell you what the troops were doing. Yup! They’d ride this winch while in flight and swing out the door way and back in when the winch hit the rubber stoppers. Another unplanned event! We’ll see ya next Month!