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War Stories

Cobra Wingover

Bruce W. Sikkema

Bruce Sikkema was a Centaur Cobra pilot in 1969 - 1971 and recalls a Cobra wingover recorded for posterity by CPT Larry Simpson.   See Bruce's story and the sequence photos below.

CPT Larry Simpson was flying wing in his Cobra. He had bought a new Minolta camera that had a feature that allowed the operator to take pictures as fast as you could depress the take picture button.  He had heard I did a pretty good wingover so when we were assigned the same mission, he asked me to do a wingover on the way back to base so he could try out that feature on his camera. We were about 15 klicks north of Cu Chi on that day when we set up for him to try the camera. We were about 2000 above ground level. He was off my left wing and just a little lower than me. I did a ready-set-go so he could get ready and then did the wingover.

Now, I had done a few before, but knowing I was being filmed, I wanted it to be good. I rolled over almost completely upside down and then pulled out doing what would be called a modified split S in a fixed wing aircraft. I  don't know if there is a name for it in a rotory wing other than OMG.  I used 35 - 40 pounds of torgue to maintain a positive g force during the maneuver as I pulled the nose in an "up" direrction.  "Up" being a relative term as you go upside down, but it's like pulling the nose up between your feet as you come around to straight and level again.

Captain Simpson did a good job with the camera and got 5 really great shots of the maneuver.
Being an entrepreneur as well as a good pilot, Captain Simpson had the pictures developed as a series of glossy 8 X 10 pictures. He had 25 sets made up and sold them in a very short time for $25.00 (?) a set. I did a few more wingovers, but never one quite this good. I don't remember who was in my front seat but it may have been CW2 Ray Stanton. I say that because he introduced me to his wife at the reunion in 2008 as "the guy who tried to kill me!" Yeah, that may have been him in the front seat! After Stanton got out, he became an aviation safety instructor.  He used the wingover photos as an example of what not to do with a helicopter.

I was with D Troop and then F Troop the whole time except for the last month. The last month I flew under the "Playboy" call sign and did some long range flights into Cambodia covering ARVN's...memories foggy as I don't recall the unit I was assigned to that last month...then again that whole last month was wierd. We were flying so  deep we could only stay on station for 5 minutes before getting relieved by a second gun team that was 5 minutes behind us. F Troop was getting ready for a big move and I was down to my last month so I got hooked up with this group for 30 days...might have been the 334th AHC?

Guess we were all 10' tall and bullet proof in those days but... Looking back, it wasn't the smartest thing to do but we made it and now we tell stories about it.