One of the most ignorant anti-Trump Stories yet
A lot of commentators are slamming President Trump for not attending a commemoration ceremony in France for the end of World War 1 at the American cemetery at Aisne-Marnes. There’s a lot snark, typified by this from James Fallows of The Atlantic:
What I do know is that one hypothesis that has shown up in many stories about his no-show—that Marine One, the presidential helicopter, “can’t fly” in the rain—doesn’t make sense.
As you’re looking for explanations, you can dismiss this one. Helicopters can fly just fine in the rain, and in conditions way worse than prevailed in Paris on November 10.
Jim Fallows, whom I like and respect, and many others reporting on this story, are totally wrong.
Marine One airborne (in clear weather over DC) US Navy photo
As a Naval Aviator, Marine Pilot I have ejected from an exploding Navy Jet at 500 feet and after walking out of the ground fire continued to fly two days later.
Later in my flying career I was medically evacuated from combat after bombing Khmer Rouge with a diagnosis of Hepatitis and an eye infection that actually cost me my vision in one eye while returning to base. I still have significant medical issues. Sadly for me, my contribution to the war was extremely trivial compared to all other combat aviators.
In 1973 I was at Chelsea Naval Hospital, Boston waiting for a Med Board to retire me from the Marines, I fought the board and won but decided that it ruined my career, because I could get sick again, and I resigned my regular commission to join the USMCR.
Because at that time I was not allowed to fly single seat jets until the medical Board was resolved, I took the opportunity to fly co-pilot in UH-1E "Hueys" at NAS South Weymouth with reserve Helicopter Squadron HML-771.
Those Marine "Helo-Bubbas" were some of the most courageous Marine officers I ever served with. The informal "price of admission" to that Squadron was numerous Air Medals, many Purple Hearts, unlike fast movers where a single Purple Heart was usually posthumously awarded, and many had Distinguished Flying Crosses and a few Silver Stars. To a man they were incredibly modest and just loved flying Marine Helicopters.
In late November I was in a UH-1E flying over Boston Harbor when a cold rain storm moved in. The pilot in command was a Vietnam combat legend, he had all of the above, a Purple Heart, many Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Silver Star.
He was fearless, in fact after taking fire and almost being shot down in Vietnam he expended his 2.75 rockets in that engagement and then returned to base to personally loaded by hand his 2.75 rocket pod in order to go back. At that moment he felt that the VC had made it very personal against him so he went back and killed them.
Our flight, in unexpected cold rain that November day, was one of the nastiest and most dangerous moments in my military flying career, I have over 3000 hours in Fighters and attack aircraft in addition to my modest 200 hours in the UH-1E.
One "tell" that we would immediately crash was to look at a very thin "guy wire" for ice accumulation. If it had an ice buildup we were going swimming without a survival suit. Since we were over water other bad weather issue was not of concern since we had taken off with Visual Flight Rules and went unexpectedly IFR, we had a bad weather brief at take off. But at least we did not have what we called “cumulio-granet” clouds i.e mountains to contend with, just freezing water. I could not agree more with his comment: “We really shouldn’t be here”.
So to quote the immortal Chuck Yeager:
So If the Marines in HMX-1 take a weather abort, especially with the safety of the most important person in the world and perhaps his family as precious cargo, believe and trust them. There is always a very good reason if they chose not to fly and anyone who challenges their integrity judgment is just flat out wrong and insulting.