By: Ed Creamer
Recently, Semper Fidelis reported the passing of LtCol Robert P. Guay (RPG) last summer. I served with him at Naval Air Systems Command the last of 1968 to mid 1970. He was the class desk officer on the H-53. Maj. “Red” Edwards had the H-46, LtCol. Cliff Reese had the H-1, Maj. “Buckey” Germagian had Support Equipment and LtCol Wyman U. Blakeman had Logistic Support. I was the Avionics System Projects Officer for each of their programs. They were all in either the old temporary World War One, Main Navy or Munitions buildings, next to the Reflecting Pool on Constitution Ave in D.C. Buildings that no longer exist. Col Henry Hart was our Program Manager (PMA-265).
RPG, like each of the other aviators there, lived and breathed his program. When they weren’t trying to get their miniskirted secretary Lollie to climb up the bookshelf to get some important papers, they could be found sweet talking their way past an Admiral’s secretary into his office. They always had a nose for which Admirla had a few loose coins and nowhere to spend them. Seems Marines never have that problem. Regardless, there wasn’t an Admiral’s secretary that would refuse to let them in to see the “man” when they asked.
However, in time, RPG wanted something more. He wanted to loop and roll a CH-53. I would have given anything to have been at HQMC when he went over to see the Generals to request permission to do it. “Excuse Sir. I was just wondering if I could borrow a CH-53 to loop and rollnext Sunday. No sir. It hasn’t been done before. Yes sir. I do understand at some point the rotor blades will be under the aircraft. No sir. I won’t break it. Scouts honor.” As I heard it, the results were always the same. Something like, “it’s never been done before and until someone does it, you can’t”. Lord only knows what Sikorsky management thought of the idea.
Somehow, after many hours spent with the engineers and many flights up to the point of actually looping or rolling the helicopter, RPG and his Sikorsky test pilot Byron Graham agreed it was time. “Be sure and wear clean skivvies tomorrow” was the Plan of The Day opening statement for that fateful day. If memory serves me correctly it was the summer of 1969 when the two of them looped and rolled a bailed CH-53A. I wonder what NATOPS tells us about the engagement of the Automatic Flight Control System when fully inverted.
After the unofficial flight was over, that small requirement was now out of the way. RPG returned to HQMC. This time, permission was granted to do it officially. With cameras in hand, chase plane along side and film rolling, RPG and Graham repeated the loops and rolls. Now, it was on film for the world to see.
Don’t know about you, but I think this is one better than the old “why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft” story.