On a Chopper Pilot

KNBC TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles dispatched George, one of their cameramen, and Gary, a chopper pilot, to gather some footage of a brushfire near Santa Barbara to use on the evening news that day. The year was 1977, and the use of helicopters in TV news was all the rage.

The pair got the needed footage of the fire and headed back to the station. On the way, Gary checked his instruments and noticed that the fuel gauge didn’t seem accurate. Doing the quick math in his mind, he knew they should’ve used more fuel than what the gauge indicated. It was later determined that a mechanic had worked on the gauge and rendered it faulty. The chopper started heading to earth. It had run out of gas.

Even airplanes aren’t built to glide when they run out of power, but helicopters drop like a rock. Those who know about these things say that steering is almost impossible, but an experienced helicopter pilot can maneuver to some degree.

Gary spotted some grass that he aimed the doomed chopper for, thinking that it might cushion the blow of the crash, but then he saw some kids were playing there. He steered the aircraft away from the children and the softer ground and crash landed.

Gary and George both died in the wreck.

Now, this wasn’t the first time Gary had been in an aircraft that crash landed. Of course, he survived the first incident. It occurred in 1960. That’s the one you probably know about. You see, Gary had been in the military and then the CIA. He had been in a aircraft that was actually shot down. Gary was captured and kept as a prisoner for over a year. Ironically, the United States was not at war with the nation whose military shot down his aircraft.

The nation who shot Gary’s aircraft down was the USSR.

You know Gary as Francis Gary Powers.

You know his aircraft as the U2.

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