In February 2001, while set up as a concessionaire at the Post Exchange at Fort Rucker, Alabama, autographing one of my previous books, my wife Pia and I were fortunate enough to meet Chief Warrant Officer Curtis McVey, US Army (retired). Chief McVey, and CWO Robert C. Lane, (for whom Lane Army Heliport at An Son was named), were best friends and flew on a regular basis in Vietnam together. The McVey/Lane team flew their CH-54 Sky Crane to the top of Hon Cong Mountain, delivering a 15,000 pound payload - the massive 1st Cavalry Division insignia made of a gigantic roll of rubberized plastic matting. Once installed, the insignia could be seen from miles away, and was the symbol of Camp Radcliff throughout most of the war. Chief McVey was a legend at Fort Rucker as a helicopter instructor for many, many years. Many seasoned helicopter pilots who served in Vietnam have told the story of their first flight on their first day of helicopter flight school. Of course, a Huey helicopter is incapable of inverted flight, but Curtis McVey would do it anyway. With students in the chopper, he'd perform a hard steep banking movement and when the chopper was nearly upside down, believe it or not, he'd cut the engine, creating a "hammer head stall" and let the aircraft drop. When the belly of the craft was pointed straight up in the air, he'd turn the engine back on and complete his three-sixty. Curtis called this incredible feat the "Dilly-Whiffer", while some students came away calling it the "Whilly-Differ". As you can well imagine, after experiencing the phenomenal maneuver some new students came away confused! Because of the intense training the student/pilots received at Rucker from Chief McVey, many lives were saved in Vietnam. "I had a big responsibility to train them the best I could, before they were sent off to war," he once told me. I'm still in touch with Curtis and proud to call him my friend. As for IN HONOR AND MEMORY, he contacted me last week saying, "I wanted to call you to tell you how much I appreciate you writing this book. Absolutely every place I flew a Sky Crane to, in Vietnam, is mentioned. " Curtis apparently forgot how significant his contribution to the manuscript was. He still lives near Fort Rucker, but spends most of his time at home now. He'll be 84 years old on the 4th of April. He doesn't do the internet, but if anyone wishes to comment, I'll make sure your words and thoughts are shared with him.
The Chief was my Grandfather and some of my fondest memories as a kid was when he would take me up in one of his helicopters @ the military base near his home. Sadly he passed away yesterday morning.
It is with great regret that we learned of the passing of CWO Curtis McVey through this sincere message from his granddaughter, Elizabeth. In my thirty years of research of the VietnamWar, I have written about some incredible helicopter pilots. Without a doubt, CWO Curtis AllenMcvey, Sr., was not only of the greatest helicopter pilots of the war, but also one of the greatest contributors to army aviation in its history. Our deep respect and condolences go out to each and every member of his family.
Having an old friend come over is so nice. I had no idea that you will be here all day, and it was such a nice surprise. I am happy that I am able to do whatever it is that I can because believe me, I have missed being with you. I hope that we can make this project just as good as our previous ones. I really wish that we can do this more often from now on, too.
My dad was Robert C. Lane he flew the sky crane. Died in it in 1966
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Master Sergeant Ray Bows, US Army (ret.) spent twenty years on active duty including overseas assignments in Korea, France, Vietnam, Germany, and Belgium, with TDY to Crete and Italy.