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You decide to have some fun and do a running takeoff.

You lock the tail wheel, pull power and keep the nose down while holding the aircraft still with the brakes. Once power is up, you release the brakes and keep the aircraft aligned with the centerline. There is a 10 knot breeze from the right and it takes some work to keep the aircraft aligned. You hit takeoff airspeed let the aircraft fly and slip a bit to compensate for the crosswind. The aircraft starts feeling good at about 50 knots and you trim it up, continue a climb to 1000 feet, contact departure control and head toward your training area.

Your copilot is busy checking the route while you have a bit of time to look around with the PNVS. The two of you talk over the mission, pass on scuttlebutt, and crosscheck the instruments. You finish managing the fuel, the tanks look level and you turn off the transfer pump.

Now you have an aircraft ready to do whatever it’s called upon to do.

Arriving at the training area, the two of you practice NOE flight into various hover holes, then you work on targeting, acquiring targets quickly. You practice firing on a lone tractor in a field 6000 yards away. A couple of hours under the system and both of you are whipped and decide to head for home. You come off the system and let him fly home.

Mission complete.

It’s 0200 hours, the world is saved from another John Deere, and you’re still wondering if you paid that damn cable bill.

If it seems like any other job, that’s because it is, with a few exceptions, and most pilots live for those exceptions. I for one, miss the days when my second vehicle was a 20 million dollar strap on carnival ride. It’s a job I’d recommend to anyone.

Q: That was great, really gives a sense of what it was all about. I’d love a second job like that, but I’m probably a little too old to join the Army. I’m not too old to fire up a helicopter sim though, and after listening to your flying experiences, I can’t wait. Thanks Gene, for all of your time, your thoughts, and for helping us understand a little of what it’s like flying the AH-64.

A: You’re very welcome.

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Photo Legend

After nearly 30 years of service, this and five other UH-1 Huey helicopters of the Colorado Army National Guard are being flown to Temple, Texas, where they will be retired. This Huey has just departed Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Blackhawks will replace these Vietnam-era workhorses. Photo taken by Darin Overstreet on December 15, 2004, is available here and a courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Cpl. Robert M. Skinner, crew chief for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 taxis in an AH-1W Cobra helicopter from Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 on an airstrip at Camp Fugi. Both squadrons visited Camp Fugi as part of a weeklong exercise to Atsugi Naval Air Facility for training purposes. Photo taken by Cpl. Ryan D. Libbert and is available here and a courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Soldiers perform maintenance on an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on Forward Operating Base Speicher in Iraq. The aviation crew members are assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo taken by Sgt. Tom Pullin on April 26, 2004, is available here and a courtesy of the U.S. Army.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship prepares to land at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The aviators and their helicopter are part of the 1st Battalion, 130th Attack Helicopter Regiment. The Apache is used to provide armed security escort for helicopter movements and close air support for ground troops engaged in combat operations. Photo taken by SFC Joe Belcher on February 2, 2004, is available here and a courtesy of the U.S. Army.

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