My Helmet as a Talking Point

To promote my books, I’ve signed up for a series of book fairs set up by Texas Authors as well as association and industry events. In terms of book sales, ome have better results than others. So, to make my booth more interesting and provide something to attract them besides the covers of the books, a big sign that says book signing, I’ve started bringing my helo helmet.

It was issued to me in the summer of 1969 and I wore it throughout my Navy helicopter flying career. The first time I brought to an event was the Lone Star Book Festival in Dallas and the first time someone asked about it, I realized it was a little over 48 years old.

It’s showing its age. Inside, the foam insulation around the ear pieces has long since crumbled and the sound deadening material that protected my hearing has long since died. I do not plan to have it “refurbished.” It is all original and I intend to keep it that way.

The good news is it still fits, the buckles still work and I’m sure if I plugged the mike into the avionics system they would work, assuming it was compatible. The unscratched dark and clear visors slide up and down easily and the reflective tape on the helmet still does its thing.

And yes, it did start several conversations. And, yes, it got me thinking. The last time I wore it was during Desert Storm in 1991, only twenty-six years ago. That thought didn’t make me feel any younger.

The bulges around the ears the helmets worn by U.S. military helicopter pilots are distinctive. I vaguely remember the reason was that it allowed the  helmet shell to be separated from the noise suppression “system” in the helmet. I do remember when I wore it for the first time in a helicopter, it was a lot quieter.

The gratifying thing was no one asked me if it was a motorcycle helmet! I got several questions about the reflective tape and why. The answer is simple. If you were floating in the water, sunlight bouncing off the tape can be seen for miles. At night, the same thing. Even moonlight is enough to cause it to shine.

Someone opined that the tape would give away your position on the ground. And, yes, it would. However, as a pilot, my goal was not to be walking around on the ground because that meant we were either shot down or had a major mechanical malfunction that caused us to land someplace other than our planned destination. However, for the record, we had an olive drab bag we could pull over the helmet if needed.

So did it work? The jury is still out. The Lone Star event didn’t draw the anticipated crowds. However, people who came to my table, asked about it. I’m at another event this weekend and its doing its job. So, in my mind, the jury is still out.

Marc Liebman

October 2017

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