To see things in a new way, we must rise above the fray.
Approaching the Hughes 269C helicopter, the first thing I notice are the doors—there aren’t any. “Nope, no doors,” explains Chris, my helicopter flight instructor. “Gets too hot in there.” It’s amazing how much more closely you pay attention to the seat belt instructions when the aircraft you’re about to go up in has no doors. After completing a thorough pre-flight checklist of some 60 items, including a review of the helicopter’s nose area, cabin, engine, main rotor system, tail boom, and tail rotor, we slip into the only two seats in the helicopter. Chris walks us through another review, this one being the 64 items on the pre-takeoff checklist and we’re ready to go.
As we elevate into the clear blue sky, I’m immediately struck by how different things look from this vantage point, even though we’re only about 500 feet up. I see patterns of traffic on the roads and the outlines of towns bumping up against one another. I see features of buildings I’ve not seen from this perspective. I see homes on 10- and 20-acre parcels of land, too secluded to see from the ground. Now, I see it all.
Then Chris says, “Ok, your turn to fly this thing.” He reminds me how the cyclic stick—used to tilt the main rotor disc by changing the pitch angle of the rotor blades on top of the chopper—should be treated like a martini. Any big, jerky moves of the martini glass and your drink will spill. It’s the same concept with the ...