A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

Sheehan, Neil

Random House, 1988

p. 123

John Paul Vann was killed in a helicopter crash. The copter was being flown by a twenty-six-year-old aviator who was capable and daring but maybe lacked good judgment. “The aviator may have suddenly found himself in a patch of blinding weather and instead of instantly switching to his instruments for guidance, attempted to continue to fly visually. When a pilot does this he is overcome by vertigo. He may think he is flying level, when actually he is turning and descending steeply in what airmen call ‘the graveyard spiral.’” He’s likely (as Doughtie did) to fly into a stand of trees at a 45 degree angle.