• Surprised at Being Alive

  • An Accidental Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam and Beyond
  • By: Robert F. Curtis
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (68 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

Sometimes you do everything right, but it just isn't your day. A part fails and your helicopter comes apart in flight, or, another aircraft runs into you and the pieces of both fall to the ground below, or the enemy gunner pulls the trigger at just the right moment and his rounds find your aircraft in exactly the right spot to take it out of the sky. Whichever way it happens, it wasn't your day.   

Which is why, after 24 years and over 5,000 flight hours with four armed services, Major Robert Curtis was so surprised at being alive when he passed his retirement physical. Starting with enlisting in the Army to fly helicopters during Vietnam, and continuing on through service with the National Guard, Marine Corps, and Royal Navy, he flew eight different helicopters - from the wooden-bladed OH-13E, through the Chinook, SeaKnight, and SeaKing, in war and peace around the world. During that time over 50 of his friends died in crashes, both in combat and in accidents, but somehow his skill, and not an inconsiderable amount of luck and superstition, saw him through.

©2014 Robert F. Curtis (P)2019 Tantor

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What listeners say about Surprised at Being Alive

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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An Exciting Vietnam war history book it is not.

I listen to a lot of military history wish this was not recommended in my suggestions. A rather dull story with a small stint in Vietnam flying freight told in a monotone voice. Since audible thinks exchanging 5 books out of 45 Purchases is excessive I would have to call and explain if I wanted to return this one so I suffered through it mostly while napping durning my vacation. If you'd like a good book to fall asleep to I highly recommend.

4 people found this helpful

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best book about flying I have read

I love aviation and I have read many biographies and war stories about aviators from world war two to desert Storm. None were more informative, interesting and candid than this one. I highly recommend you read this book

1 person found this helpful

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excellent narrative and superb delivery

I found this story to be very entertaining, told at a relaxed pace with just the right touch of wry humor and seriousness to truly convey the author's experiences. The voice actor was well above average in his delivery of the narrative.

1 person found this helpful

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Well Done. Bravo Zulu. Luck and superstition

This is a memoir of an aviator who served a career flying mostly helicopters in the Army, National Guard and USMC. It does not attempt to be the definitive history of the Viet Nam war. It captures the time and career path of one of my contemporaries and brings a vivid insight into the nuances and difficulties of a career in the cockpit of military flying both under fire and in the post conflict peacetime.

In a career which exacts a dear price for any shortcoming, the author cheated death time and again, by what he concludes was blind luck and superstition, which I would instead attribute to God’s good grace. Either way, it was a great read. Now that he has successfully run the course and has the luxury of hindsight I must conclude that it was more than blind luck and superstition that got him over the finish line. Well done! While so many others flew with and along side him only to become casualties to war, weather, maintenance or pilot error, he finished the course by the narrowest of margins, and the story he has to share is well worth the heeding.

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Thoroughly entertained!

The book is a series of notable stories that sample various points in time along the author's career as an aircraft pilot. Being a fixed wing and aspiring rotary pilot I found the stories entertaining and the anecdotes useful and sometimes quite funny. This is one I will likely listen to again.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-12-20

A great listen!

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this at first but it wasn’t long before I was really enjoying it! A really good biography of an interesting career across four military services.

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  • S. W. Cheshire
  • 11-07-19

Excellent biography

An excellent account of a helicopter pilots flying career. Brilliant narrator as well. A great read that was thoroughly enjoyed