The history of the hush-hush helicopter

The Hughes 500P was about as surreptitious as a chopper could be, and in December 1972, it flew a CIA wiretapping mission into North Vietnam.

The Hughes 500, aka the OH-6 Cayuse. Defense Dept.

Helicopters are noisy beasts; it's just in their nature. But for one mission at the tail end of the Vietnam War, a combination of ARPA funds and hard work by the aircraft division of Hughes Tool led to the development of a chopper known as the Quiet One. The Hughes 500P wasn't totally silent, but it was about as surreptitious as a helicopter could be, and in December 1972, it flew in a CIA mission to wiretap a key communications line for North Vietnamese forces. Helicopter historian James R. Chiles (The God Machine) tells the full story of the machine, the men, and the mission.

Read it in Air & Space magazine: "Air America's Black Helicopter"

About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.

 

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