26 Jan 91
160438, 6T9, 4.1, 361, Peewee
Long day yesterday, did some flying last night. Found an article on SatNav and it was pretty good. I like using the GPS. Someone could blow up or jam our ground nav stations, and I'd rather not rely solely on Mr Map to nav over the desert. Got a copy of the Boston Globe from a 21 Jan and there is an article talking about how our air element will be moving forward to within 40 miles of the border, but the interviewee forgot to give them the time, place and LatLong :/ All I know is that we will leave the phone tent behind, probably best.
Last night Peewee and I went out to provide Pathfinder support to a Frog medevac crew because we had a GPS. They were standing by along with some CObras in support of an arty raid that was planned along the elbow. The flying, let's see, how can I say that it was absolutely the most scared I have been while flying, and that includes boat night flying. We flew out to join up with the Frogs, but unfortunately it at night, somewhere out in the inky black desert. When we got to where they were supposed to be, it was very dark, very rainy with lightning and ground fog scattered around. So there we were, going to a spot in the desert that we'd never been to, trying to shift between NVG flying, instrument flying and looking for any visual references. Another issue was that there was supposed to be a tower near the LZ and we didn't want to run into that. The guys on the ground heard us go by a few times, so they turned on a beacon on one of their birds so we could find them. I spotted it, looking out the left side on NVGs and directed PeeWee into a turn to come around and land by them. He was entirely in instruments and we were high because of the supposed tower. We weren't expecting the bad weather, instead we had planned for a good moon and dusk landing. So we weren't rigged to fly NVGs just after sunset. And since it wasn't fun enough, the windscreen started fogging up. Our GPS was givving us good guidance, but every time we turned back towards the LZ the guys on the ground would turn off their beacon. They were concerned about running down their battery and we were afraid we were going to spot them at the last minute and land on top of them.
Scary things you should never say when things are starting to fall apart..."I have the controls." I took controls so Peewee could put his goggles down, turn off the cockpit lights to reduce glare and get a hold of the guys on the ground to ask them to leave one light on. About 15 seconds after I took controls I got vertigo, then severe vertigo. I could have sworn I was straight and level, but the instruments told a different story. Not a good feeling. Our out was to climb up, abort the mission and head back to the well lit, radar controlled airfield, but we had lots of gas so we reset and kept working our way back to the LZ trying to avoid being total IMC while not smacking into a tower or aircraft on the ground. SO I told Peewee I had vertigo and he made sure I didn't fly upside down. It took about 30 seconds for my gyro to recage but I got set up to fly a straight in instrument approach profile towards a light on the ground, and finally we saw the ground coming through about 100 feet. We continued in on a slow, flat approach and landed. Fast forward to the next morning, we discovered that there was NO tower. And it was clear and sunny.
Anyway, spent the rest of the evening on standby in the LZ, slept in the left seat of the Bell Hotel. I've done this before many times. Didn't think to bring a sleeping bag because we weren't aware of the front blowing through, and I froze. Put on extra socks, wrapped my feet in my pack cover, had on a flight jacket and desert parka, and wrapped a towel around my head. Plus had my flight gloves and covered up with my poncho. It was still cool. Finally got some sleep, woke up at sunrise, loaded up the frozen crew and said "Let's go!" Once we got airborne the heater felt great.
I like spending the night in the field, preferably as Medevac because we have stretchers. Next time I'm taking my sleeping bag, mosquito net poles and poncho liner so I can make a tent.
The poncho will keep the night moisture off, and sand can be pushed around to make nice contours.
When we got back I went to the tent and took a 5 hour catch up nap, thew was wide awake until 2230.