Hummel 7

(translated by Juergen Matthes)

At most airports the police is present with a helicopter-squadron, this was also the case at our location. The police “resides” in Hangar 8, the LTU hangar, at the eastern edge of the airport. All helicopters carry the callsign “Hummel” (Bumble-Bee), followed by a number.

Since missions of the Bumble-Bees were not foreseeable, cooperation with us had to be somewhat special, as it was the case. We, the personnel of the tower, especially liked their canteen. Actually it was quite a cozy casino with superb food at reasonable prices.

One day, during a chat with the “cops” (this is meant affectionately and respectfully) at their casino, I asked them naively if it would be possible to ride along in a Hummel. To my astonishment the answer was: “Well, sure!”

All this was quite forgotten when at a nice, sunny Sunday morning the “cops” called on the radio and asked whether I was on duty. Yes, I was, and how I was on duty! Saturday had been a party, and I wasn’t quite awake yet! Besides, the midnight-snack consisting of goulash-soup was still milling about heavily in my belly!

Over my head our tower-chief arranged with the watch-supervisor of radar-control that I should fly Hummel today. Principally great, a flight with a helicopter something different and interesting, but my stomach didn’t seem to agree, he felt somewhat unsure.

“Cleared to hover in front of the tower” some time later the radio blared. This finished the discussion with my stomach, I had to move down. Hummel 7 was an Alouette 3, quite tiny as seen from the tower cab, but as closer I got, as bigger it got, and above all, as louder! The crew, 2 guys, were quite nice.

What I absolutely didn’t realize was the reversal of the relation between controllers and pilots of the squadron. Normally we gave them orders and the guys had to follow them. Now they had one from “the other side” on board and therefore the legitimation to show him what “bigshots” they were. Besides, they knew that everyone at the tower knew that I was on board and thus they would get any clearance they would request.

So they shamelessly took advantage of this and requested a special area for “training maneuvres”. Latest then I should have suspected what was to come, but I was busy talking to my stomach during climb, so I missed that.

Very friendly the pilot asked me whether I had heard of something like “autorotation” before. I hadn’t, thank heavens, since just the thought of that would have killed my stomach.

It started …

The helicopter climbed like crazy, the guys were fiddling with their seat-belts. Then the nice pilot killed the engine!! It got silent.

First, nothing happened. Then the chopper started to rotate around its vertical axis. It was like riding a roundabout.

Then it got faster.

The centrifugal forces nailed my arms to my body at first. Then I started to move up my backrest. When I reached the ceiling, I was completely lost and immovable.

Now I realized why the two guys had fastened their seat-belts so explicitly. I was glued to the ceiling, like a dead bug, completely helpless. The only thing I could comprehend was that the ground was coming closer – fast!

Like a miracle, the engine restarted and I dropped like a sack into my seat. My stomach was history, not even there any more, and I was wide awake.

After some allowedly cynical questions about my condition, the atmosphere relaxed, apparently I had passed, and the flight continued quite pleasant. Now it was time for our assignment, to look for oil pollution on the Rhine river caused by ships. The two pilots took advantage of this assignment to have fun. They hid hovering the helicopter behind a row of poplar trees at the bank of the Rhine and waited until a ship was close. Then, with high speed, hop across the poplar trees towards the ship and hower alongside of the bridge.

Oil polluters: No joy, but the two pilots were up to another situation which amused them quite much. It was funny indeed! During the tumble of the chopper towards the ship we noticed quite a fat woman at the steering wheel. Then a door crashed open and a fat man ran onto the bridge, shoved the woman aside, took the wheel and then sounded the horn. So that was the captain. The scene indicated that the woman was without patent. Offense: Steering a ship without license.

The loudspeaker attached to the chopper proved quite handy too. The phrase working best was: “Fishing is not allowed here!” Completely stunned faces looked upwards and then dropped behind.

Around ten o’ clock the two guys mentioned: “Time for breakfast!” We flew towards Duisburg harbour and landed alongside a cafe with a terrace. Engine off, radio to max-volume, and off to breakfast!

A strange feeling aroused within me, as the other guest eyed us up. They were somehow, not provable, but without doubt, all suspicious as they looked at us! Both pilots were aware of their impression and spoke friendly to the people. Pretty soon the ban was broken, they relaxed and my assumptions all went up in smoke, no criminals, just ordinary people. What the thought of me, the sloppy-dressed civilian, remained a secret.

Shortly after our refreshment the radio blared and we ran to the chopper. No offense, we had payed already right when we had ordered. New assignment, a chase!

From now on I was unnoticed, both pilots were busy talking to different agency on 3 different radio channels.

During a short pause in communication they asked my whether I could fill in and conduct the radio communication with the crime-department of the police. Our task was to find a light-blue Porsche on the freeway and guide the forces on the ground so they could stop the Porsche and arrest the driver. The driver had been identified by a highway patrol as violent criminal and they badly wanted to nail him.

For us this meant: Max speed. After ten minutes we spotted the Porsche, he was driving on the freeway towards Düsseldorf. When he noticed us, he swerved back and forth and then even went faster.

I was busy stating position and direction of the car, it is quite difficult if you don’t have practice doing that. But after a while I got used to the slang and it started to be fun! The Porsche had left the freeway and was speeding into town, our pilot was forced to use all tricks of pilotage. We shot across the houses so low that I was afraid some TV-Antennas would bring us down!

Naturally the driver knew by now that we were after him, he disregarded all traffic regulations. I felt it might be safer to give up the chase, the risk for others seemed to me to be quite high. But the crime-department of the police insisted on continuing, the man seemed important, they wanted him by all means. So we chased on.

From the air you have quite a good overlook and you can distinguish the tactics of the police. They arranged their patrol cars in a big circle which closed in according to our position reports. The possibilities for an escape dwindled more and more. Near a factory building the trap finally snapped close, patrol cars everywhere, he didn’t have a chance.

After five and a half hours the chopper finally dropped me off in front of the tower. After such an adventure you honestly are happy to return to your work at the tower. Hard to believe, but it is so!