A Unique Experience 

The Silver Eagles practiced its routines whenever and wherever possible.  And we always video-taped our practices so we could later critique ourselves.  Seeing yourself messing up a maneuver, and having your team mates watching it with you, gave us powerful incentive to work harder to get it right the next time. 

Sometimes we got the opportunity to have a practice show at a show site with no crowd watching.  One such occasion happened at Lancaster (Dallas), TX on July 3, 1975.  

One of the maneuvers in the show was a vertical wedge takeoff.  Six helicopters in a wedge formation, one in front, then two, and finally three, took off vertically as a formation, climbed about 200 feet, and then moved forward.  Controlling the heading of the helicopters was very difficult during the vertical climb because of the turbulence from the combined rotor wash.  

On this day the other team members decided to play a practical joke on me.  When I, in my lead position, started the vertical climb, they remained on the ground.  When I started to move forward they took off and moved into position for the next maneuver.  They expected that I would be angry or embarrassed when we reviewed the tape.  

So, there we were, in a meeting room at the Lancaster Airport, large-screen TV on and tape running.  As we ended the maneuver that preceded the vertical takeoff, I sensed the pilots leaning forward, elbowing each other, in anticipation of having a good laugh at my expense.  

As the picture zoomed in on the wedge, I stopped the tape.  I faced the pilots and said, “Gentlemen, what you are about to see is an unique occurrence, unique meaning that is only happens once.” 

I restarted the tape, and, sure enough, my helicopter rose, smoothly and majestically, straight up for 200 feet, then started forward.  Then the other helicopters scrambled into the air and moved into their positions for the next maneuver.  

Nothing more was said about what happened, but the pilots never again tried to pull a practical joke on me.  And, I never told them how I knew what they did.  They still don’t know, but our narrator, Ron Cox, and I know!