Titles Low Level Hell:The Hughes 500 story
Low Level Hell:The Hughes 500 story
This is the story of a remarkable helicopter simply known as the 500.
It is also the story of the courageous Scout pilots and crew who flew the OH6A or Loach in Vietnam, the predecessor of todays 500. These brave men wrote the first chapters in the 500 story. Archival footage from Vietnam as well as interviews with Scout pilots document the incredible achievements of this amazing helicopter in what can only be described as low level hell.
Wayne Mutza - Author of "Loach"
Lt. Col. ( Rtd ) Hugh L. Mils-Author of " Low Level Hell"
Kiwi Flyer-DVD Review
Photo credit- Terry Houck
Being a rotorcraft enthusiast, the arrival of South Coast Production’s Low Level Hell DVD for review was keenly anticipated, and to skip straight to the conclusion, I wasn’t disappointed.
Predominantly about the conception and use of the Hughes “500” (or 369 or OH6A or Loach, depending on your preference) in Vietnam, the DVD warms up with some New Zealand mountain flying and deer recovery footage. The point is made that few people these days understand the origin of the aircraft or the incredible achievements of it and its pilots in the Vietnam War.
And so to the War. In 1959 the US Army initiated the search for a new light observation helicopter to replace the Cessna 01, Hiller OH23 and Bell OH13. It had to be turbine powered, carry a 400lb payload, cruise at 110kts and fly for 300 hours between servicing, when it should be maintainable by one mechanic with hand tools. In short, an aerial jeep. The legendary Howard Hughes won the tender and so the Hughes OH6A was created.
Low Level Hell describes the military use and evolution of the aircraft during the Vietnam War, via actual footage of wartime operations (including radio chatter and period music) and interviews with the pilots who flew them. There are many stories and anecdotes told. One of the pilots interviewed speaks of being shot down three times in one day. Each time he was given a new helicopter (there were football fields full of them) to take back into battle. In total there were 1842 OH6A’s destroyed during the war and in 1969 not one helicopter made it to its 300 hour service. Pilots speak of spending 15 hours in the cockpit without leaving their seat and of logging 190 hours of flight time (often in close quarters battle) in 30 days. Another talks about getting hit every day for days on end and there is much evidence given of what an incredibly tough aircraft this was. A flight school instructor speaks of schools training 500 pilots a month.
This is a documentary DVD and not a war movie, but those with a preference to the latter won’t be disappointed with the footage that South Coast Productions have sourced for this project. A thought worth lingering on while watching is of course that it is all real.
Footage obtained isn’t limited to the OH6A either. There is also video of Cobras, Chinooks, Hueys and B52 bombing runs, as well as flying amongst flares dropped by Hueys at night.
I watched it and then watched it again. Thanks to the deer recovery era, the 500 has a special place in the hearts of many New Zealanders and this DVD is a fitting addition to any aviation enthusiasts collection.