THIS STORY COURTESY OF OTTO KROGER
THE LITTLE HELICOPTER THAT COULD
This is the story of a helicopter rescue of a civilian that took place at Edward AFB.CA. in the 60’s. It was while we were test an H-13K Bell helicopter with a turbo charged engine and a larger rotor-system for high altitude flight.
A call came into Edwards asking if we had a helicopter that could help in getting hiker in trouble off Mount Whitney summit hiking trail at 14,000 ft elevation, Mount Whitney summit is at 14,505 ft. Edwards said yes to the request. We sent a fuel truck and the H-13K helicopter to the base of the mountain outside of the town of Lone Pine, CA. At the same time we sent a T-28 aircraft to check out the area and contact the forest rangers in the area. We also had the T-28 drop a wind sock kit to set for wind direction at the site.
The test pilot start planning flight data to have max lift available for takeoff with fuel to complete the flight back to the Lone Pine Hospital. Time was a factor in the mission. A first light take off got them to the rescue site which was at 13,500 ft. elevation in time for the doctor to check the hiker’s condition for a flight back to the hospital in time for an operation on his appendix. They made it in time to save the hiker’s life.
It was only because the little helicopter had the power with the turbo charged engine and the pilot’s skill with the helicopter at altitude because of the data required in testing. After delivering the hiker to the hospital they went back and got the doctor. It completed one of the first high altitude rescues at that time.
The crew involved in this rescue was test pilot Captain P. Balffe, a base doctor, and Tech. Sgt. Otto Kroger, the helicopter crew chief.
A well done was award by the base commander