Thursday, February 15, 2007

Perspective: Flying in a helicopter over Iraq, images of an ambush can be hard to shake

AP Military Writer Robert Burns rode along on several Black Hawk helicopter flights during his latest trip to Iraq. Whether the landscape below was quiet farmland or an urban neighborhood, even a routine passage carried with it a sense of danger.

OVER CENTRAL IRAQ (AP) — Barely a minute into flight, after a smooth liftoff from a landing zone outside Baghdad, our Black Hawk helicopter suddenly dropped like a rock — briefly — and so did my stomach.

Our pilot was not evading a missile or dodging ground fire. He was ducking a formation of white birds.

The dangers of helicopter flight can be mundane or dramatic, routine or random. Either way, it's a high-risk business for U.S. aviators who fly combat and support missions daily across Iraq. Over the past month at least six U.S. helicopters have gone down, and five of the crashes are blamed on hostile ground fire. The deadliest was a Black Hawk hit by small arms fire on Jan. 20, killing all 12 soldiers aboard.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune