Dave Redding had worked for Kelly Nielson’s father at the Sparrow Ridge Airport in Arizona and formed a relationship with Kelly before being sent to Vietnam where he flew helicopters as a MedEvac pilot. During his tour of duty he was shot down and held prisoner for 13 months. Toward the end of his captivity he had been digging graves, the last one being his own. His captors had tied his elbows behind his back and made him kneel at the edge of the grave, waiting for the revolver at the back of his head to go off, until they released him, laughing.
The isolation and torture he had endured as a POW had left deep emotional scars from which he had never really recovered, and he had not been able to fly a helicopter since the war. Afterward Dave had returned to the Sparrow Ridge Airport and reunited with Kelly. The two of them rekindled a delicate relationship, which worked because they had learned to make allowances for each other.
When Terry Andrews and his three partners took over the Sparrow Ridge Airport taking Kelly, Dave and Al hostage while they waited to hijack a charter plane to escape to Mexico, Dave’s past trauma of his time as a prisoner was revived and he remained timid and compliant when confronted by the criminals. He was unable to bring himself to fly their helicopter which would have given them a means of escape until MacGyver had a rescue plan well under way and Kelly and Al’s words of encouragement finally gave Dave the courage to fly the helicopter to help MacGyver apprehend the criminals while at the same time taking his first steps towards overcoming the emotional trauma of his past.