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!