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Thread: helicopter pilot losses in vietnam war

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    helicopter pilot losses in vietnam war

    How is it possible that 2202 US helicopter pilots died during vietnam war while during the same war there were 5086 helicopters lost?

    I understand that not every helicopter loss has to result in pilot death, but are we talking about losses or helicopters written off? Because such large discrepancy in numbers can best be explained, in my opinion, if most "lost" helicopters were damaged in action or simply worn out to the point where they could fly safely enough for pilots to be brougt home, but were labeled as unworthy of repair.

    Actual losses in action should probably then be much closer to 2202 killed pilots, certainly under 3000 units.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by totoro View Post
    How is it possible that 2202 US helicopter pilots died during vietnam war while during the same war there were 5086 helicopters lost?
    Easily enough.

    Any chopper that develops a problem over the line is lost - as the amount of effort and risk required to recover it is not worth it...

    So while the crew/passengers will be lifted by another chopper, the broken one will typically be destroyed by the US forces.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Where you wish you were.
    I can believe it. Lost means written off and a lot of losses (combat and otherwise) were at low altitude and low speed..very survivable.

    I had a friend who had 2 or three helicopters shot out from under him.
    One as a Cobra and while it was being recovered by a Chinook with a sling, it started swaying so was jettisoned.
    He still kept a part of that ship, a survival knife.
    There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    When a helicopter becomes unflyable, it rarely does so in a catastrophic sense, IE it rarely transforms from a controllable flying machine into a brick in one single moment.

    When a helicopter loses power or its tail rotor, often a relatively controlled crash landing can be made, in a manouvre known as autorotation. If you have about a hundred feet to go, and not all that much forward momentum going, a helicopter with a shot engine or tail rotor can be quite survivable.

    in this vid : I think well over 50% of the crew involved walked away from the prang.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    is there a way to know how many of 5086 lost helicopters were flyable but written off and how many actually crashed, be it even a light crash where the crew walked out alive?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Surviving tree level crashes is usually more easier than plummeting to ground from high altitude.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Also, don't forget to count the birds that made it to the fleet at the evacuation of Saigon and where then thrown overboard to make space...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
    between the mountains and the desert
    I've seen an account by a flier who was aboard one of the carriers, as well as a good close-up of the famous movie shot of the UH-1s being dumped over the side.

    They both confirm that almost all of the dumped aircraft (both helicopter & F-5A/A-37s) were VNAF birds, not USAF/USA/USN/USMC.

    Of course then you have the famous photo of the UH-1 hovering at the roof of the embassy in Cambodia with people climbing in and lined up on the stairs. The bird is painted white with no national markings... because it was CIA-owned.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Course it goes the other way around too: dead pilots don't mean broke chopper...

    The grunts weren't even making it to the trees. They had leapt out, screaming murderously, but now they dropped all around us, dying and dead. The lead ship's rotors still turned, but the men inside did not answer.


    I looked down at the two ships sitting quietly on the ground. Their rotors were turning lazily as their turbines idled. The machines didn't care, only the delicate protoplasm inside them cared. Bodies littered the clearing, but some of the thirty grunts we had brought in were still alive. They had made it to cover at the edge of the clearing.


    Somebody finally shut down Yellow One's turbine when we left. Nobody in the crew could. They were all patiently waiting to be put into body bags for the trip home.
    -- Robert Mason, 'Chickenhawk'.
    Last edited by Rii; 31st October 2012 at 17:53.

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