There is an NYPD helicopter circling the Sumner houses a few blocks away as I write. I was going to write about something else entirely but I am easily distracted by flying things. Actually only aircraft, though sometimes a bird will be interesting enough to look up at, like the giant blue heron I saw on the banks of the Rio Grande in New Mexico or the American bald eagle I saw on a road somewhere in California last fall.
The helicopter flying overhead-actually it just flew away, they must have found the bad guy; is the civilian version of the Bell UH-1, or Huey, as it’s commonly known. I know because I used to ride them (and jump them) in my time in the army. If you’ve ever seen Apocalypse Now- that’s the one.
The first plane I was ever on was a Cessna 182, a small plane that can carry 5 people, including the pilot. I had to jump out. The second was a Cessna 206, a little bigger, but not by much when you stuff seven jumpers on to it.
Then there was the Huey on Fort Bragg, lots of them in fact. CH-47 Chinooks, C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifters, (flew to Germany in one!), two HH-53 “Jolly Green Giants” in an exercise with the Marines, and the ubiquitous C-123. Not to mention the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, which I flew in a couple of times before I got out.
There were the civilian planes also, but the most memorable was the Embarer Bombardier 400 I flew from Ireland to Scotland a couple of years ago, it vibrated so badly I thought it was going to shake apart over the Irish sea. It gave me such a headache I still remember it.
But this is about the planes I’ve seen but not been on.
I saw the B-1 Lancer fly over at a Veteran’s day parade on 5th Ave in 1991.
I saw the AV-8 Harrier twice, once when I was in the Army and we spent the night on Camp Lejeune. The Marines played a joke on us and billeted us in Quonset huts right next to their flight line, and the shriek of a Harrier doing a vertical take off 50 feet away from us provided a rude awakening the next morning. Then I saw one at a fleet week demo in the 90’s from the deck of the Intrepid.
Fleet week provides the yearly viewing of the regulars, F-14’s in the 90’s, now F/A-18’s, the HH-53’s, UH-60 Blackhawks, P-3 Orions, and once A-6 Intruders.
I went to the Jones beach 4th of July Airshow a few years ago, saw an A-10 Thunderbolt, did exercises with them in the Army too, and I forgot, I had empty brass rained down on me from an AH-64 Apache’s minigun during one exercise.
There were also a few civilian stunt planes, but the Blue Angels were there (F/A-18’s), and “Fat Albert” a C-130 that carries the Blue Angel’s crews.
One day I was in Central Park with my son and we saw a flight of three C-130’s fly over.
Another time I saw a similar flight of HH-53’s over the West Side highway and it wasn’t even close to fleet week.
At an airshow in Reading Pa I saw a P-56 Mustang, the F-117 Nighthawk, T-26 Trojans and the ever present T-6 Texans. I saw a Texan fly low over the Sunrise Highway one day on my way out to East Hampton.
I was at a picnic on Governor’s Island with my wife and another couple when I spotted an old B-17 bomber flying over the harbor. No one else noticed. One day sitting in Riverside park I saw another P-3 Orion, a Navy patrol plane fly over the Hudson. In the summer of 2009 I was at a good friend’s funeral one day in New Jersey. It was for my friend Andy, and just when we were standing over the grave and the Rabbi was saying his last words, another B-17 flew directly overhead, an inadvertent fly-over. I know Andy would have liked that.