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Royal Canadian Armoured Corps


Flying a helicopter in the low level reconnaissance role over the rural countryside of Germany may have many attractions to the pilots but it turns out that the aircraft itself is also an attraction to children and cows. Since the helicopters are constantly landing in farmers fields or any suitable open spaces when they are flying in support of the army the crews soon learn that, no matter if they land near a farm or village or in a isolated field, that they may be met by a disciplined group of German children or a herd of curious cows.

These are not, of course, limiting factors to the operations of the helicopters and sometimes there are interesting additional aspects of this phenomenon. Here are two of them.

One example involving children was when I was looking for a refueling spot for a section of Hiller CH112’s on an exercise and spotted an ideal enclosed field in the corner of a large estate surrounded by a hedge some distance from a large imposing castle like country house. Right on, I thought, no possibility of kids or cows so we landed and shut down.

Within a minute a little girl shot out of the hedge and ran over to the helicopter, which itself was unusual as the normal action of any children was to stand well clear of the aircraft, and said, “Hey Mister can I see your helicopter?” How come you’re speaking English we asked, “I’m from Toronto she replied and I’m visiting my grandfather who lives over there,” pointing to the castle.

At this point a rather well dressed gentleman appeared and said that that he hoped his granddaughter was not bothering us. We assured him that she was welcome and after he expressed a keen interest in the technical details of the aircraft, Brian Caldwell strapped him into his helicopter while he described the details of the machine. Brian then looked over to me and made an upward motion. Carrying civilians in our helicopters was not really an approved practice but I felt that a little flight would be appropriate under these circumstances so after I nodded Brian started up and gave him a quick aerial tour of his estate.

On returning to Fort Chambly at the end of the exercise I thought about a speech that our Commanding Officer and fellow pilot, Major DA (Nick) Nicholson, had made when we joined the Fort Garry Horse. He said that he had complete confidence in us to do our jobs as pilots but that if we did anything stupid, tell him first so he could explain it to the Brigade Commander. I’m not sure if our actions in flying a civilian under these circumstances could be considered stupid but it was something he should know about. His response at the time was cryptically non committal.

A few weeks later Major Nick was called aside by the Brigade Commander where Brigadier Dare related a conversation he had with the GOC 1 British Corps during a recent conference. The General had mentioned how much his friend the Count had appreciated the helicopter tour of his estate in a Canadian helicopter a few weeks ago. Fortunately the Squadron Commander was in position to assure the Brigadier that the occasion was considered to be appropriate under the circumstances and nothing more was said about this little excursion into German/Canadian relationships.

The first time that I found that cows are attracted to helicopters was after I shared a field occupied by a herd of cows. They had moved away after I landed but, after checking my map with the rotor still turning , I looked up to see a circle of soft brown eyes surrounding the helicopter just outside the rotor arc. After I shut down they moved right up to bubble, to the extent that I could hardly open the door, and started to lick the bubble and the grease of the tail rotor bearings. On start up, with my observer watching the tail rotor, they slowly moved off and we took off and kept this hazard about curious cows in mind for future operations.

A more dramatic cattle hazard encountered by the Troop was when a pilot, after checking a field for the usual hazards and the absence of cows, landed his Hiller and shut it down to speak to the scout car crews. At this point a farmer released a large bull into the field. The bull took objection to this strange object in his field and proceeded to demolish the bubble of the helicopter. The appropriate staff work was completed when the pilot altered the spelling of the first word in a Bird Strike report from “ird” to “ull” in order to explain the damaged bubble.