Woot! Nine years helicopter crash-free!

On January 26, 2013, my friend John Strayer and I survived a helicopter crash, along with the pilot.  It wasn’t my first near-death experience, but it remains my most recent, a fact for which I am thankful.

When you reflect on such things, you are reminded why you are still here. I’ve lost touch with Graham Harward, the pilot whose skill in mitigating the danger of a compromised aircraft saved all our lives. I can tell you that John, whose hand was driven through shattered Plexiglas at the moment of impact while holding a loaded Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum that he had no time to re-holster, recovered with some scars on that mangled hand and went on to win more pistol matches. More important, though, he was there to do a lot of good for his many employees and the thousands of customers he served, and went on in the nine intervening years to be there for his nonagenarian mom when his dad passed a few months ago.

On my end, I’ve had nine more years to teach things to good people, and to be there for my kids when their mom passed in April of last year. Some lives and more careers saved in cases mostly won in court, and to help pick up the pieces of the few we lost. One such led to an appeal that we won, and in the second trial, we at last won acquittal and freedom for a wrongfully accused, convicted and imprisoned woman. The other one that pained me to lose in 2019, I learned just this past week was reversed on appeal, and I have every reason to believe we’ll win for the young man in question in the second trial.

 I also have an indefinitely postponed retirement, because a lot of the things you can’t do for people when you’re dead, you can’t do for them if you’re retired, either.

The blog entry I wrote the night we got home from the crash site still holds the record for the number of reader responses here.  I thank our good readers for that.

Perhaps the lesson is, when you bask in the survival euphoria of having cheated Death, it reminds you of what your purpose is in Life.


  1. I wasn’t aware of the crash. I’m so glad you survived to teach our MAG-40 class in the Sacramento area in 2020. I learned so much! And I thank you for NOT retiring. Considering what you have done for the Concealed Carry movement, we need you to keep doing it.

    Randy Kilgore

  2. I’m sure It’s been quite a good ride for you Mas. Plenty more road ahead!
    The good Lord has a plan for all of us, and hopefully, keeping retirement off the table for now, for one of the best! Cheers!

  3. So glad you’re still around. Wouldn’t be the same without you. Didn’t know about Dorothy’s passing. So sorry to you and the girls for your loss.
    Curious though, have you been on a whirlybird since that day?
    You have so much more to teach and share, I for one have been honored to have known you for the better part of forty years and expect that streak to continue for many more years to come. Happy Cheating Death Anniversary!!!

  4. Mr. Ayoob Since the 1990’s I’ve read your stuff. Now In this era your on YouTube. Your green force tactical video about the canik is my favorite due to reading your work for years and you sorta spoke what you have written for years. Thank you for Al you have done.

  5. Mas…. gotta be honest, one of the reasons I made it to my first MAG40 last year was to be able to say I was fortunate enough to be a student of yours while you’re still instructing. When the day comes that you do stop, those of us who learned from you will be all the richer for it.
    That being said, I won’t turn down the chance to attend a MAG80 in New Hampshire should it come around. God bless brother!

  6. The picture of the three survivors standing in front of the crashed helicopter makes true the old proverb: “Any landing that you can walk away from is a good one.”

    • It took years, Brian, but FAA finally tracked it to ice on the carburetor that went unnoticed in the extensive pre-flight check I had observed. It was an unseasonably cold day in Florida.

      • Carburetors and aircraft are fortunately fairly rare companions anymore. Many Alaska pilots in particular won’t get near a flying machine with a carburetor these days. A global viewing history of all the world’s heavier-than-air mishaps due to carburetor icing would be most impressive.

  7. See! Anniversaries are good! All of us are glad, and grateful, y’all made it through that! And Mas, you are a go getter, and a Man of Adventure! Why, with a fedora & a whip, you could pass for Indiana Jones! Our best, and keep your spirit!

    • Brother Geezer, I don’t own a fedora anymore and I would NEVER leave a whip around where the Evil Princess could get her hands on it.

  8. Ice can form in the carburetor venturi in cool temps but especially with high humidity and
    reduced power settings. Airplanes and copters with carburetors have carb heat controls
    that can direct exhaust heat via hoses to the carburetor to melt ice in the venturi. Aircraft
    prone to carb. icing are commonly equipped with a carb. temp gauge to monitor the situation
    so the ice can be melted while the engine is still producing power. The photo identifies the
    copter as a Hiller, back in the late 50’s to mid 70’s the Army operated as the OH23 Raven.
    Engines mostly ran within 100rpm of red-line when flying. Ice extemely rare at full power setting. A long lower power warmup is necessary to get engine and helicopter transmission gear to adequate temps. before flight and humidity probably caused the ice formation to start. Memories from Ft. Wolters Texas in 1970…you three were extremely lucky to avoid serious .injury

  9. Congratulations on your most recent anniversary Massad…

    As a survivor of life, and near death, myself I can offer that every day above ground has been a good one. Some have been better than others but the alternative could arrive at any time…expected or unexpected. I’ve spent a few decades living with motto “Don’t fear the reaper” and I choose to live each moment as if could be my last.

    May you and yours enjoy each and every moment of your life as well…!!!

    Looking forward…Chris Winkley (student)

  10. As the others have said, glad you and the others made it through that mess OK. I also remember you talking about how ingrained John’s gun handling was, in that his trigger finger never strayed onto the trigger even though his hand and the gun was thrust through the plexiglass. We should all have such automatic safe gun handling skills.

  11. Enjoyed the great detail in your books. Do you have any plans to write a third “Greatest Handguns of the World”?

  12. Did you do anything with your rotor blade trophy? I could see it mounted on a plaque above the fireplace.

  13. Mas, you might consider establishing The Massad Ayoob University of Trial Experts or some such school. We obviously could use one. Selfish of me to hate to see that you have considered retiring. But, remember that retirement is often The Beginning of the End!

    • Steve, I do a Deadly Force Instructor class every year with Marty Hayes, founder of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, which includes a significant bloc on expert witness testimony. ( A week ago today I did an hour lecture and another hour or more on a panel on the topic of ethical and effective expert testimony for the International Association of Independent Medical Evaluators.

  14. Since Vietnam, it has been my long-held theory that helicopters, like bumblebees, are not aerodynamically designed to fly. The only reason the things get off the ground is that helicopter pilots are crazy enough to believe they can fly. (I was a passenger, not a pilot.)

    Mas’s reason for not retiring is a lot more noble than mine. I don’t want to quit because, though I’m a year older, I’m having too much fun. Like when a brand-new shooter finishes firing her first shots, and says, “This is empowering.

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