A friend of mine is in love with Chinooks. Whenever I see him he talks about them. Where other men have photographs of wives, children and/or lovers in their pockets, John has photographs of Chinooks. He has even persuaded the RAF to land the odd Chinook on his hill - and today was such the occasion for such a visit.
I went along. I've been before. It helps me 'get inside' articles about the theatre of war - Iraq, Afghanistan etc.. The sheer power of a Chinook helicopter is almost unimaginable. The visit happens like this.
First there is a drumming sound, which gets gradually louder. Then the ground starts to shake. And then this great ugly grey beast comes into sight, hugging the ground, hedgehopping, looking for all the world to be moving along on giant rails. The Chinook lands 40 yards in front of us - and the pilot gets out and gives us awestruck onlookers a casual wave. This elephantine beast then rises a few feet into the air and eases off some 100 yards to the West. And then the driver (or whatever) puts his foot on the gas and comes back about 50 feet directly above our heads. The sound is deafening. The sheer power is frightening. I can imagine a Vietcong soldier in the jungle dying of fright. I feel like throwing myself to the ground. Its just a little demonstration but it helps me understand how absolutely bloody hellish war must be. A Chinook is truly awesome - and its an educational aid as well.