Monday, April 25, 2011

Up, Up and Away

The weather was perfect yesterday. At least perfect when it needed to be. Had it been bad, then I would have had to postpone the days biggest event: learning to fly a helicopter.

Well, I didn't really learn to fly a helicopter. I did get to fly a helicopter though. Seriously. I know it might seem like I'd need to do the former prior to the latter, but it's not really the case. I went to a private company that doesn't just take you up for a scenic tour, but actually gives you the controls for 20 minutes. 

After some brief ground training, tips and guidelines, the heli was gassed up and checked for safety. We hopped in, went through the checklist and the blades began to spin. Next thing I knew, she was lifting off.

Now, I am really afraid of heights. Ask me to go up on top of the Empire State building and look out over the city and I'll tell you to go **** yourself.  Ask me to go to Six Flags and ride the Nitro coaster with you and I'm all over it! Apparently, if you ask me to fly a helicopter at 1,500 feet, I'll do that too without fear.

After taking the controls for myself, I was amazed at the sensitivity of the cyclic (control stick). It was really a game of millimeters up there. Move the cyclic 2 millimeters forward and the nose dips and you're speeding up. Watching the blades chop parallel to the horizon line became like focusing on the sprites in a video game. Mid-flight, I relinquished controls briefly so the instructor could show me a simulated engine failure. He cut power to the engine and guided the helicopter down about 300 feet.  He restarted the engine, put me back on the cyclic and we were buzzing along again.  In the last 5 minutes, the instructor took over to bring us in for our landing.  It was truly a surreal experience that I'll never forget!

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