Mountainside Helicopter Pickup in Vietnam

My “day job” as an archaeologist is working for the Joint Prisoner of War Missing in Action Command (JPAC). One of my favorite parts about our assignments are the places we get to go and often how we get there (it’s the journey, right?!)

Due to the inaccessible nature of many of the places we’re interested in, we often fly in and out of our sites (the other times we drive, hitch onto logging trucks, boats, hike for miles over mountains, whatever). One of these days I swear we’re gonna ride water buffalos.

Anyway, this clip is from the end of an operation where we were up on a mountainside in Vietnam. We’d been dropped off by helicopter early in the day in order to bring in a few older folks in who had memories of where things were during the war and could show us around as part of a survey.

They dropped us off on a minimal landing pad quite literally carved out of the side of the mountain. The pilots didn’t want to set down fully so they dumped us and told us to radio for pickup at the end of the day.

This is the Mi-17 helicopter coming back in to pick us up. The rotor wash (wind being pushed outward by the rotors) off these things is pretty powerful once they get close. I had to shield my face (proving an IQ of at least 65) but subjected the GoPro to it, keeping it rolling as we loaded up to head out.

You really come to appreciate great piloting in situations like this. They never let us down (too quickly) and always got us where we need to go – for that I am much obliged!

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