Five daring helicopter crews on five very bad days.

The rugged and reliable Sikorsky HH-60 Jayhawk, here in a demonstration near Yorktown, Virginia, is the Coast Guard’s only medium-range search-and-rescue helicopter. It can loiter over a target for 45 minutes, and bring back six survivors. (USCG / Jacquelyn Zettles)
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By this time, Smith had left the safety of his hiding spot, among the roots of an overturned tree, and begun sprinting toward the penetrator. When he reached it, instead of wasting time unsnapping the seat, he clipped his ejection harness directly to the cable. “Then, all of a sudden, I felt a whoop!” he says. “The next thing I know, I’m going up to the helo!” The only person more surprised than Smith was Orrell. “When we brought the forest penetrator up through the trees, he was there!” he says. Four decades later, he is still amazed.

Later, they found bullet holes in the ro­tor blades, fuselage, and external tanks.

Preston Lerner wrote about Hollywood’s aerodynamically challenged aircraft in the Oct./Nov. 2012 issue.

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