Friday, October 10, 2008

The Kite Runner & Helicopters

Flying back into Kabul, as the sunset, it was not the brilliant glow of fading golden light in the mountains that held my attention. But the sheer number of brightly colored kites that ducked and dived under the windows of the helicopter.

If you have seen the opening scene from the movie “The Kite Runner” where kites fill the frame from above and below, you will know what I mean. As we came into the city at about 500ft it seemed that the kite runners below were intent on attacking the MI 17 helicopter that we were in filming a story on the newly formed Afghan Air Force.

The MI 17 is no sleek looking Darth Vader designed weapon of death but ha been the stable workhorse of the eastern block for years, it has an elder brother which is a merchant of death the MI 35. But for Afghanistan’s newly formed Air Force the 17 is there workhorse, ideally suited for the altitude and terrain here.

It is bare bones, comfort and electronic sophistication not included. Our US pilot working as a mentor for the training team also mentioned that the rotors go the other way, just like water down a sink in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus if the rotors go the other way all the controls are the other way.

But in the cockpit along with our US mentor was the leading Afghan Pilot who managed to take flying at low levels to a complete new low. The other week in a US Blackhawk in the Eastern Mountains it felt like you could safely touch the ground. In the Afghan version we at one time were crossing mountain passes with five feet to spare. Watching out of the opened portholes yes opened portholes. I felt my date with destiny was rapidly approaching and over the intercom the US pilot was insisting we go higher whilst the Afghan said “No No all is OK”.

I have had enough of helicopters for a long time.

There is a post note to the day and it was when after the first leg we came back from lunch at the base we were visiting. There was a delay in taking off, the crew on inspection found kite string wrapped in the main engine and in the tail rotor and for ten minutes the crew was seen pulling lengths of string from the engines.

No doubt The Kite Runner had run away.


21stCenturyMom said...

Whoa! That is frightening - the lack of distance from solid objects and the string. As always, I'm glad you made it out alive!

Anonymous said...

Informative and very interesting. You men are doing a great job. You are appreciated more than your responses show. Thanks for what you are doing. Thoughts are with you.