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Bob Askew piloting a Sioux helicopter from 161 Recce Flight

'Possum' 1st Tour

A Bell Sioux Helicopter piloted by 2nd Lt Bob Askew (inset) of 161 Reconnaissance Flight is seen here touching down on a narrow rocky outcrop during Operation Queanbeyan where the battalion was engaged in clearing a Viet Cong strong-hold from the Nui Thi Vai Mountains. The battalion had wounded and the Bell was the only aircraft that could possibly fly into such a tight space. Captain Bob O'Neill, author of the book 'Vietnam Task' describes the event depicted by the photograph thus:

   
 "The Sioux aircraft which was directly supporting our operations came overhead within minutes of the trees falling and began an attempt at landing. Lieutenant Bob Askew, the pilot, made a few preliminary passes over the rock to estimate the difficulties of the approach. It was an acid test of his judgment because once he was committed to landing it was not possible to pull out at the last moment without grave risk of crashing, but we knew that Askew's judgment was to be relied upon. After loading the wounded, the helicopter lifted a few inches off the rock and began to reverse outwards taking great care not to back the tail into one of the trees which were close behind. This feat was delicately accomplished." 

The pilot flew back onto that ledge later that day to extract the body of Cpl Norm Womal who had been KIA. The pilots of 161 Recce Flight performed outstanding feats of flying in support of our operations.

 

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