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Ambulance Trips and Travails

Ambulance helicopters were, of course, used to rescue the critically ill or injured.

In theory, anyway.

One of the best stories to come out of the flood airlift was the tale of a USAF Colonel who “borrowed” an ambulance helicopter to go elephant hunting, along with a Sergeant armed with a .303 rifle.  The pilot was dubious but the colonel insisted, off they went into the bush in the chopper, and when they found a solitary bull, they set the poor sergeant down with the gun and took off and guided him from the air (it was in elephant grass, which is often above head height.)  It was a complicated tale of the sergeant and the elephant chasing each other around in grass which was higher than the sergeant's head. At one point the sergeant rounded a corner, encountered the elephant face to face, hurled the gun in one direction and himself in the other direction, while the elephant, by now thoroughly infuriated, trumpeted and charged in yet a third direction.

But eventually the trembling sergeant managed to retrieve the gun and shoot the elephant, which obligingly collapsed in a clearing.

So the chopper landed, the colonel got out, and he posed brandishing the rifle with one foot on the elephant’s head, while the sergeant photographed the fearless hunter. 

At this point the elephant, which was in fact only stunned and wounded, stood up and charged the helicopter, sending the colonel, the sergeant and the camera flying.  The pilot managed to get off the ground in time and eventually retrieved the other two, but it caused a huge furore.  The Somali game rangers had to go after the poor old elephant, track it and shoot it, and the government made an official protest to the US about why their military personnel had been poaching Somali wildlife, and from a relief aircraft at that.

Such is the life of an ambulance helicopter pilot....