I took my first helicopter ride this weekend, which then turned into my first time flying a helicopter. Freaky and cool.
Before Christmas I had found a coupon online for a helicopter lesson and bought a voucher to give my husband as a gift. He's been looking for things to do and collecting experiences as opposed to things.
Flying a helicopter seemed likely to be a memorable experience.
The lesson was Saturday and, as it turns out, instead of just riding along, I was also given the opportunity to fly if I wanted.
Did I want to? Honestly, I'm not sure, but when else would an opportunity like that arise? So, I said yes.
When we arrived, the instructor introduced himself, asked us to sign our lives away (that was literally the wording he used), and jumped into the workings of helicopters.
Using a model on his desk and a whiteboard sketch of the controls, he showed us the different parts of the aircraft and what they do. There were three controls we would need to know: the collective lever, foot pedals, and the cyclic.
The collective is next to the seat, similar to the emergency brake in a car. (Mind you, yanking up on the collective will not bring the helicopter to a halt and is, generally, not a good idea.) The collective controls altitude, so if you lift up (gently) you go up. If you push down, you go down.
The foot pedals control the tail rotor and work in conjunction with the collective. If you lift the collective, you push the left pedal. If you reduce the collective, you push the right pedal.
The cyclic is the control that sits in front of you between your legs. (You know, the control you most often see in movies.) It controls which way the nose is pointed. Forward=down, back=up, left=left, right=right. Again, small movements only.
At the end of this discussion, the instructor looked at us and asked if we had any questions.
Me: "What was your name again?"
Bad, I know. My husband broke out laughing and, fortunately, the instructor laughed, too. (His name is Kevin, by the way.)
It's just that I'm bad with names. I've tried correcting this. I even usually repeat it right after meeting someone; something like, "Nice to meet you, Kevin." Yet, a few minutes later I still forget.
And after that lesson of all things seemingly life or death related, I'd forgotten Kevin's name and I really didn't want to go up in a helicopter with "anonymous."
Anyhow, at that point we went out to the helicopter and tried all of the controls out on the ground before starting up.
Kevin flew us around in a small circle, then let me take over the controls. Fortunately for everyone involved he doesn't hand over all the controls at the same time. First, I worked the collective lever and the pedals, then he took those back and gave me a turn working the cyclic.
Before landing he gave me an opportunity to try hovering (using the cyclic only) at about tree top level (but in a field clear of trees, of course).
Then Kevin landed expertly and I switched places while my husband took his turn manning the controls.
It was a ton of fun. Certainly an experience I'm not likely to forget soon. (Unlike Kevin's name.)