A couple of weeks ago, one of my buddies loaned me his flight gear, which includes not just the aviator helmet and vest, but also the monkey’s tail. This consists of a couple of long straps which connect together and to the back of the vest. The other end can be clipped to one of many metal rings inside the aircraft. A Crew Chief who’s ‘monkey-tailed’ to the helicopter doesn’t have to be belted into a seat. This permits the aviator to move around inside the vehicle without fear of falling to his death.
At times, though, the monkey tail is long enough that if the person were to fall out of the aircraft, he’d be dangling from the monkey tail.
That part doesn’t appeal so much to me, I’ve got to admit.
Recently I was able to go flying one evening when it was really hot (for Kosovo) and muggy. The pilots and crew decided they were going to fly with the doors open because the weather was so warm. I asked whether I could sit in the back compartment, next to the open door. The only other time I’d done something like that was when I was flying on the Commanding General’s helicopter one evening in Iraq.
One of the Crew Chiefs suggested I should monkey tail myself in.
I didn't have that much confidence in myself (or the gear, evidently), so while I did use the monkey tail, I also buckled the lap belt (but not the shoulder harness).
I'm sure my friend Saffar, who died a few years ago would have something rude to say about this.
That being said, however, the views were great and the ride was a lot of fun!
Little by little, I'm overcoming the fear of heights and of being on those aircraft.
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ