From the Hac's Seat

HAC stands for Helicopter Aircraft Commander.  In the Navy, the HAC is responsible for the overall conduct of the mission.  Since both Josh Haman  (the main character Cherubs 2, Big Mother 40, Render Harmless, Forgotten, Inner Look, Moscow Airlift and The Simushir Island Incident) and Derek Almer (Flight of the Pawnee and the follow-on books in this series) are both helicopter pilots, I thought some my recollections of flying H-2s and H-3s might be interesting. This portion of the web site has material  that is probably not in books on flying or about those helicopters you’d buy and should give you more insight into the world that Josh Haman and Derek Almer lived in.

My Navy logbooks show that I have about almost 1,900 hours of rotary wing flight time in a variety of Navy helicopters.  About 100 of the total is divided between the TH-57A and the UH-1D that I flew as a Student Naval Aviator in the Training Command on my way to getting my wings.  The rest is split between about 900 in the H-2 series and 800 hours in H-3s.  This doesn’t include the other three thousand plus pilot-in-command hours in a variety of fixed wing aircraft.

My Navy flight time includes many hours of night, over water operations; flights over different types of terrain as well as flying in all sorts of ugly weather as both a co-pilot and as a HAC. Looking back through my log books, they are a blur of hand written entries of the:

  • Official Navy three digit number/letter flight purpose codes that describes the official purpose of the flight;
  • Total flight time and how much was in night and instrument conditions;
  • Number and type of approaches and landings; and
  • Last name of the other guy sitting next to you in the cockpit.

That’s it. In the front of every Navy log book, there are four pages of different flight purpose codes and instructions on how to assign them to a particular flight.  One – 4R8 the flight purpose code for a night instrument rescue of personal in or out of a hostile fire area – does nothing to convey what happens in the cockpit much less in the back during a combat rescue.  There’s no place for notes or brief narrative of what happened in one’s official Navy log book.  All the details are supposedly kept in separate reports, none of which I kept because they were often classified or buried in messages containing statistics, maintenance information, parts orders, etc.

The information, including the flight purpose code, fills the pages in three colors of ink – black or dark blue for daytime sorties; red for night frights, err flights; and green for combat missions.  This data is great for generating statistics but doesn’t begin to describe my experiences.  Nor can the raw numbers relate to the many hours I spent scaring the hell out of myself and crew learning how to descend to a stable, steady hover 40 feet at night above water that you can’t see and knowing that if one of the engines burps or you have any significant mechanical problem, you are going to get wet and maybe drown.

And yes, the Navy still records flight time in log books.  My son who got his Navy wings in 2002 has a log book that has the same dark blue cover and gold ink that fades over time.  It looks just like mine, even with the embossed plastic strip with your last name, first initial and Social Security number stuck to the spine.

The logbooks did serve one purpose. When the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola announced that it was restoring an H-2, I looked up the bureau number. Lo and behold, I flew that helicopter as an UH-2C for 124.4 hours.

So what will follow in this section are some of my many memories of flying these helicopters, jogged by what is in my log books and by flipping back through the NATOPS (Naval Air Training and Operations Procedures Standardization) manuals that I kept over the years.  The comments that follow are mine and mine alone.  If you want me to answer specific questions about any of these helicopters, please e-mail and I’ll add stuff to this section or cover it in the blog.

The Ultimate Confined Area

By Marc Liebman | October 3, 2022 |

If you read much about helicopters, whether in the military or the civilian world, you’ll find references to landing in confined areas. These could be a small helipad with buildings,…

First CQ

By Marc Liebman | April 3, 2022 |

Now, here’s the fun part that they tell students about in ground school, but you don’t see or understand until you see it through the front of the canopy. The ship is moving away from you AND the landing area is at 100  angle to the direction of travel of the ship. Theoretically, the captain of the ship has adjusted his course so the wind is down the angle. The reality is that as one rolls out behind the ship, one flies in a slip to keep the airplane aligned with the center of the landing area and to compensate for the forward motion of the ship.

The Threat No One Wants to Discuss

By Marc Liebman | January 17, 2022 |

The MANPADS threat is real. MANPADS are available on the black market and are cheap. Depending on the age of the weapon and its condition, some public sources say they can be bought for less than $10,000. The reality is that no government or airline wants to state publicly that MANPADs are a serious threat to civil aviation. They are afraid the danger will scare away potential passengers.

Most Dangerous Evolution in Naval Aviation – the Fly Off

By Marc Liebman | January 3, 2022 |

At the end of a cruise, Naval Aviators take chances they would never take in normal operations, or even in combat. The desire to get home overcomes common aviation sense.

The Myths of Autorotations

By Marc Liebman | December 20, 2020 |

To pilots of the fixed wing community and to many civilians, they think if a helicopter has a serious mechanical problem, the pilot can autorotate to a safe landing. The…

The Unseen Enemy Hunting Helicopters Hovering Over Water

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

When one watches a helicopter hovering over the water, the spray churned up by the rotor wash looks spectacular. However, if you are the pilot of the helicopter, dangers are…

Joys of Drooping

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

In a helicopter, drooping is a term that refers to a slowing of rotor rpm below what is considered normal. In the Navy, we used percents, but in some helicopters,…

Humidity, High Temperatures, Altitude and Helicopters Are a Bad Mix

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

Let’s start with the basics. Helicopters are designed to be operated close to the ground that is at or near sea level. If you don’t believe me, go spend a…

HIFR Decisions

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

One of the joys of flying helicopters over the ocean is that one’s flight time can be extended indefinitely. Well not indefinitely becasue at some point one has to land,…

The Bravest People in the World

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

The majority of my Naval Aviation career was spent flying search and rescue missions of all types. I’ve picked up people stranded on mountain sides, lifted flood victims off stranded…