Free Air Show on Summit

Yesterday Liz and I activated W4C/WM-011, Huckleberry Knob, in North Carolina. It was a nice winter day, not too cold, with sunny skies and calm winds. We trekked through six to twelve inches of snow to get to the summit, but had no problems getting set up and making contacts. If you don’t know the summit, it is a bald with beautiful views.

Liz had worked 60, 40, and 20 SSB, and I had worked 60, 40, and 30 CW. I was looking for a frequency on 20 CW and heard a helicopter overhead. I looked up and saw a U.S. Army Blackhawk. The pilot circled the summit twice then to our surprise came in for a landing on the peak! They were apparently on a training exercise as they landed, lifted up a short distance, dropped a cable to the ground, retrieved the cable, and landed again. This they repeated several times over the next forty five minutes. We were only about 150 yards from them and was it ever LOUD!

We watched them for 45 minutes but it was approaching 4:00 local, the sun was getting low, and it was getting colder. We had a mile hike back to the truck and could hear them almost all the way back down so we are not sure how long they actually stayed up there.

Even though our activation was interrupted, we got a free air show that will probably never happen again to us as long as we live. :hiking_boot:

Ron and Liz


Glad I got the S2S with you. Hate that I missed Liz on 60m. She had already changed bands when I saw her spot. Glad you both had fun. We got over-run by cows on W4C/EM-058…yes, cows. Got in the diopole wire and snapped the fishing pole mast.

73 Gary W5GDW

Hey Liz and Ron,
Thanks for the CW points on 40mtrs. I tried 60m,
but could not hear you!
Yes that picture of the helicopter sure brings back memories!
I was in the Marines in 1966 to 1969 and did a tour in Viet Nam 1968 to 69. Had 2 birthdays there Hi HI, Spent many hours in a CH-53 picking up wounded and pushing out supplies while rounds
came through the side!! So I sure know about the
loud sounds,that’s why I only operate CW with
headphones! Many more stories I could tell!!
I hope some day I could get Liz in my log I know
she works CW. I have heard her chase sota from
home QTH. Hi ! Hi !
Just showed my wife your picture and story, hard
to believe you got snow!
Let me go there are six ten pointers on today got
one already!
Best of LUCK and Health to you Beautiful people!
73 CUL Gary

Very cool ! That certainly ranks right up there for the Most Thrilling SOTA award :grinning: 73

Ah, but did they wind down a guy to ask you what you were doing…

GM/SS-002 August 2007.


Impressive pictures! No, the soldiers I saw did not exit the aircraft. It looks like we both have something to talk about at family gatherings for a while. :hiking_boot:

Ron, KI4TN

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Im sorry I missed you guys on summit but it looks like you had quite an experience!

Sorry I missed you guys. I had to go get some car repairs
and get tires rotated and balanced. Missed the chance to
QSO. Another day.
Glad you enjoyed the snow walk. Did you use shoes?
I bet that was a real hike.
Could not imagine doing Elk Knob in the snow for sure.
Quite an experience.
73/88 de JP AB4PP

Sometimes these exercises can go rather badly wrong! On GW/NW-019 they cleared the wreckage but the grass needs a few years yet to grow back.

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Sort of had a similar thing in the 90s.

The Stornoway Coastguard S61 dropped their winchman by my tent in the remote hinterland north of Loch Monar. They were inquiring if I’d seen a missing walker on my travels. Turns out I had and I made some suggestions based on where I had seen him the day before.

I found out three days later (when I emerged back into normal life) that the missing chap had been found safe and well at a bothy after making a pretty big navigation error.

In my case, I was activating GM/SS-002 when they flew by and did many passes then came in looking to land but there was excessive rotor wash as they had to be quite close, the summit is not massive. They then lowered down a guy who came for a chat. It turns out they were out practising and they saw a man with a radio and aerial. Thinking there may be a hill race that nobody at informed them about they were doing some forward planing… if they stayed practicing they may be called out when in the area but low on fuel. So they wanted to know if there was a race and if there was they would return and refuel. As there wasn’t they were happy to continue having fun. The guy said “We’ll go and play somewhere else so our rotor wash and noise doesn’t spoil your fun.” I had to stop and think for a moment that you don’t get picked at random to that job because they showed considerable situational awareness so they didn’t get caught out or spoil some guys fun. Respect guys.


The GW/NW-019 accident turned out to be a surprise. Those of us in helicopter litigation had to wait almost two years for the UK version of an NTSB report. I was betting on ground resonance, and I was way off the mark. “Failure of main rotor gearbox support from uncertain causes.” It burned to the ground, complicating analysis a bit. No injuries.

Elliott, K6EL

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It caused quite a stir… with responses from several emergency services, including the local volunteer MR team. Fortunately it was rapidly confirmed that after a hard landing everyone had got out before it went on fire and virtually burnt to the ground