A Near Miss Over Baghdad
Getting ready for my second night flight in a row, I found myself going through the same ritual as before: mentally coaching myself on what to do if something were to happen, while tending to the details of prepping the aircraft, my body armor and my sidearms. I slid the metal magazine of rounds into each weapon until I heard and felt the metallic clicking of the spring loaded catches and thought about possible situations where I would have to use the bullets.
I flew with a different crew, and before long we were checking the radios of the aircraft and pulling pitch to begin the flight. We were over Baghdad looking down at what seemed to be a fire fight marked by the swarm of tracer rounds, when all of a sudden the aircraft in front of me climbed in altitude so fast that I couldn't keep it in my field of view.
I looked for the reason for the sudden manoeuver, and saw to my left a silhouette of an Apache, blacked out, but at the same altitude and only meters away. I instinctively broke right and the crew chief on the left side would later inform us that the Apache almost clipped our tail.
As I broke right I was boxed in by an aerostat balloon, causing me to have to break back left, at which time the pilot in command started to doubt what I was doing until he saw the balloon. Caught between a rock and a hard place, my heart pounded along with the rest of the crew's. Once we knew we were in the clear I could feel the sweat start to soak my t-shirt and for the rest of the flight we were glued to the airspace, no longer worried by taking fire, but rather trying to avoid other aircraft in the area.
Since I wanted to practice running the radios and navigation a little more, I relinquished the controls some during this flight, but not for very long.
-- Written 3/7/2006
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