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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Time Has Come

James T. McKenna

TWO MONTHS AGO, WE EXTENDED an invitation to all of you, our readers. Suspecting that some of you enjoyed the sight of your aircraft (and you in and around them) captured on film or digitally, we asked for your favorites.

You confirmed our suspicions and responded enthusiastically. We heard from readers in Germany and Iraq, the Sinai and the U.S. Southwest, Chile and Canada. You e-mailed and snail-mailed us old photos and new ones of military aircraft, law enforcement helos, and commercial birds. One reader took the opportunity to showcase the good ol’ days of U.S. Army aviation at Fort Sill, Okla. in the early 1950s. Another, creative sort ginned up a computer-enhanced image of his Cobra in action.

The time has come for you to tell us of aircrews that you consider deserving of R&W’s Helicopter Heroism Award. For more than 40 years, this award has honored helicopter crews who have gone to extraordinary lengths with their aircraft and their skills to save lives.

You can see a collection of the images in the Readers’ Gallery on our Web site, www.rotorandwing.com. Starting next month, we’ll feature a reader-submitted shot or two in the pages of the magazine’s Rotorcraft Report section. This will give you a chance to see what the staff at Rotor & Wing find to be the most intriguing or curious of the submitted shots. We may even ask you which of the readers’ picks are your choices to run in the magazine. The shots that we run on our print pages will also serve as a reminder for you to keep sending in your latest favorites for the electronic gallery.

Right now, we’ve got another important request to make of you. Yes, the time has come for you to tell us of aircrews that you consider deserving of R&W’s Helicopter Heroism Award. For more than 40 years, this award has honored helicopter crews who have gone to extraordinary lengths with their aircraft and their skills to save lives. The award-winning crews of the past have represented the best of the best that rotorcraft can contribute to public safety.

The report in our April 2007 issue on the successful efforts of Hong Kong’s Government Flying Service to pull 91 people from raging seas in August 2006 is just one of the latest examples of what helicopter crews are willing to risk to help those in distress. The award not only honors such crewmembers and the recipients who preceded them. It highlights for those unfamiliar with or forgetful of the destructive potential of disasters — natural or man-made — and of the critical role that helicopters play in bringing victims to safety and preventing harm to others.

This is a noteworthy year for the Helicopter Heroism Award, for a couple of reasons. It is a year in which a past winner of the award also became the recipient the United States’ highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. President Bush in February presented that medal to retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall in recognition of his actions at Landing Zone X-Ray during the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam. Along with then-Capt. Ed Freeman, Crandall (who was a major at the time) flew 14 missions, risking intense enemy fire, to bring much-needed aid to 1st Cavalry Div. ground troops and carry more than 70 casualties to safety, even after the landing zone had been closed. Crandall won the Helicopter Heroism Award in 1966 for other battlefield rescues. (Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor in July 2001.)

Another significant reason is that after this year, we may have to change the name to the Rotorcraft Heroism Award. If all goes well, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Bell Helicopter/Boeing MV-22B will be in action come this September, eventually flying the types of missions that earned our award for Crandall and other military pilots.

But the Osprey crews aren’t eligible for the next award, which will cover missions flown between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2006. We’re looking for crews who overcame exceptional challenges to their airmanship and rescue skills to save lives in any arena — public service, civilian, or military. Send us a brief description — by post or e-mail — of what you consider to be the award-worthy mission. Include contact information for yourself and for all of the crewmembers nominated. If you have it, send us supporting information as well, such as official reports and commendations, print and broadcast news reports on the missions, and official and amateur pictures and video of the event.

The deadline for your submissions is Sept. 1 of this year. We’ll name the winner of the 2006 Helicopter Heroism Award in our November 2007 issue. We anticipate your enthusiastic response.

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