Photos of the dramatic October 3 rescue of Polish Ambassador Edward Pietrzyk show just how risky the maneuver was for the skilled Blackwater helicopter pilot.
It's no small thing to land a helicopter with its spinning rotor blades into a city street. Apart from possible terrorists and insurgents, the real dangers to the crew were the many lightposts and telephone and electrical lines that bordered the landing area.
In the top photo, the Blackwater "Little Bird" is shown landing, with high lamp posts on the right and what appear to be telephone or electrical poles on the left. Down the street, fire engines spray water on the burning wreck of Ambassador Pietrzyk's armored vehicle.
The middle photo shows Blackwater gunners on either side of the helicopter after stepping off the skids and onto the street. The fire engines are behind the one on the right. (The same guard can be seen standing in the skid in the top photo.)
The lower photo shows the helicopter near the fire engines, with phone or electrical wires stretching across the street. The slightest pilot error, shift in weight or unexpected wind could have caused havoc with the helicopter and with the people on the ground. The mission, however, was a complete success.