The joke in the United States is that while women have no problem admitting that they’re lost, men refuse to ask for directions. After a bizarre encounter involving a massive military helicopter, its male pilot, a desolate highway, and one confused truck driver, no one will be making that joke in Kazakhstan anytime soon.
The second truck in a convoy recorded the weird scene. The video begins with the $10 million Mi-8 gunship helicopter sitting in the middle of a highway. Snow covers the landscape and blows across the road. As the rotors of the helicopter slowly wind down, the lead trucker in the convoy comes on the radio and starts swearing up a storm as he wonders what the pilots are doing. With a diameter of nearly 70 feet, the truckers had no desire to go anywhere near the rotor blades. The aircraft’s rocket tubes and machine guns also caused some hesitation.
As the drivers sat in silence, a tiny figure appeared from the cockpit and sprinted to the truck at the head of the convoy. With the blizzard swirling around him, he shakes the hand of the truck driver. The pilot then proceeds to start gesturing around him wildly. His arms point in a variety of directions as he becomes more agitated. After a few moments, the pilot once again shakes the hand of the truck driver. The aviator then returns to the Mi-8, the world’s most-produced helicopter, and the rotors begin powering back to full speed. With its engine fully revved up, the aircraft soared above and out of sight.
While the helicopter took off, the lead driver, who had been talking with the pilot, came over the radio. He explained that the airman needed directions. The members of the Kazakhstan Air Force were trying to locate the city of Aktobe. With a population of nearly 400,000, it is one of only a few urban areas in the western steppe of the former Soviet Republic. One of the other drivers mocked the pilots: “How the hell can you get lost in the steppe?!”
Video footage of the incident, which happened earlier this month, generated significant attention on the internet. As a result, the Ministry of Defense for the world’s largest landlocked nation released a statement. It explained that the pilots were trainees in the middle of a visual orientation exercise. They could determine their location through a variety of ways, including “human survey.” The statement concluded by noting that the helicopter was safely back at its base following the completion of the “successful” training mission.