From the Cockpit Part 37: OH-6 Cayuse

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 37 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Heading out to Ferguson Airport in Pensacola for an interview with a local news station, Rankin finds himself with the rare opportunity to fly an OH-6 Cayuse helicopter, thanks to Ross Ansell of Ansell & Brown Aviation. Eager to get more whirlybird experience under his belt, Rankin hops in the cockpit and straps in.

One of the most iconic helicopters ever made, the OH-6 was introduced in 1963 and first saw military service with the US Army in 1966, the same year it set 23 world records for speed, endurance and speed of climb. Nimble, versatile, reliable and with the ability to deliver troops in and out of small areas, the OH-6 became a mainstay in the Vietnam War, and variants continue to serve. A favorite in special ops, if one sees a bunch of bad looking dudes holding serious firepower and dangling off the skids of a helicopter, it’s probably an OH-6, says Rankin. An OH-6 variant, the MH-6, also offered crucial support during the Battle of Mogadishu, the inspiration behind the book and film, Black Hawk Down.

Ansell’s OH-6 saw combat in Vietnam, surviving three tours before making it back stateside. Rankin’s flown a lot of WWII-era aircraft, including planes that saw combat, but he admits there’s something a little different about this one. “The history is different and I appreciate that,” he says, talking not only in terms of recency, but knowing that many soldiers were drafted and many uncertain about the conflict. “It was a different war, a different vibe and it had a different feel to it.”

Flying with Ansell, Rankin performs basic maneuvers and handles himself well, but the crowning moment comes in a 30-40 second hover—what he considers his first “real” hover. “Up until this moment, I had transient moments of hovering,” he says. But this time Rankin conquered the minute movements required, and, in the video, one can see his feet working ever so slightly to manage the tail rudders. “The helicopter is much more finesse, much more a ‘feel’ thing,” he says. Would flying barefoot help? “Honestly,” he says, “I wouldn’t doubt it.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ross Ansell's OH-6 Cayuse. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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