10 May 2009


Every aviator secretly fears being stuck in the "Black Hawk Down" scenario. This is a reference to the 2003 movie (and the book by Mark Bowden which inspired it) during which two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in the middle of Mogadishu in broad daylight. Each of the two aircraft (the second aircraft in particular) landed in the middle of a hostile crowd, who rushed to the scene, armed with AK-47s, and using women as human shields.

In the days of the Cold War, aviators used to be issued a Beretta 9-millimeter pistol in the event they were shot down, but the experience of Somalia--plus the advent of two additional wars in th Middle East--have led Army aviators to carry both their 9-mm plus an M-4 carbine.

Before every flight--much like on your civilian passenger flights--the crew sits down and discusses what to do in case of an emergency. On one flight, I heard one of my fellow pilots say, "If we crash, I have a bag in the back of the aircraft. It has several hundred rounds of ammunition--if you grab no other bag, make sure you grab that one, because we're gonna need it"

Ever the cynic, I chimed in, "I, on the other hand, strapped all of my ammunition to my survival vest. Because I know if I crashed a burning aircraft into the middle of a hostile crowd, I'm not sticking around to dig through the cabin for a backpack. We'll all be too busy running and shooting for our lives."

"Eh, good point"

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