To top off my birthday celebration, I decided to finally start something I’ve wanted to do since I was about 16. In high school, my AP Chemistry teacher took a more involved approach with the 15 of us in the double period class. She acted as our mentors and insisted we have plans for our futures. My plan was to go to space. It still is. I’ll get there. Eventually. Anyway, when I told her this, she told me I needed a backup plan. I fought this concept for a while. I didn’t need a backup. I’m going to space. But she fought back too. So I came up with my backup plan. I was going to fly helicopters for the Coast Guard. I remember telling my teacher this and getting a concerned look. Apparently flying helicopters for the military in general wasn’t a feasible backup plan. But she went with that. I’ve wanted to fly helicopters ever since. And on Saturday, I achieved that goal. Well. I started the path to get there. I FLEW A HELICOPTER!!!
This helicopter, actually! The Robinson R22 – room enough for two. And I did it in Hawaii! While the views were phenomenal and I wold have loved to take some to share, I was a little busy. FLYING!!! I’m a little jaded when it comes to flying. Between my brother having his pilot’s license before his driver’s license and going to a school where half the students can fly, it’s fun, but it’s not a HUGE deal that people can take aircraft out and give themselves aerial tours. But flying this bird all on my own today was remarkable. OK. Let me be clear. I was not alone in a helicopter for the 3rd time I’ve ever been in one. I had an instructor and everything.
When you decide to fly one of these epic creations, you can do a discovery or introductory flight. Basically, a certified flight instructor gets you into the air and then they hand the controls over to you. Daniel, my instructor for the morning, was extremely instructional (as you could only hope!!) and made the transition flawlessly. He even pretended not to be terrified as I dipped the nose a little too far when I first took the cyclic. I was pretty scared. Among many other encounters. Actually there weren’t too many crazy maneuvers happening. I think I did pretty well. Daniel kept asking me if I had ever flown before. Sure, I’ve played around a little in a Cessna and some simulators, but never anything for a helicopter. So that’s a good thing, right? I was impressed with my performance. Granted, I have nothing to compare it to, but I think it went well.
We took off from Honolulu International Airport, and pretty much as soon as we were at 900 ft, Daniel passed the controls over to me. He did some correcting as we headed west, following the H1, but mostly let me do the flying. HOW AWESOME!!! It was weird. I was so nervous! But it was amazing and wonderful at the same time. For nearly a decade I’d wanted to fly one of these things and there I was! We, well Daniel, “landed” at Kalaeloa Airport and headed out of the way to give it a go at hovering. Yeah, I was terrible at it. As Daniel said: “It’s like the Matrix; even the Chosen One doesn’t get it the first time.” No better truth! But I did manage to pretty much stay in the same spot for about ten seconds after the first six failed attempts. Ten seconds isn’t long, but it seemed like it!
We made our way back to HNL and I felt much more comfortable with the controls on the way back. I did some circles, got excited I could see my apartment, flew over my ship/office (that was super cooled and sparked the conversation of ‘How much trouble would we be in if we landed on her?’), and then landed back where we started. 0.9 hours of flying!!!! My life is AWESOME! So now my biggest problem is finding the time to learn everything I possibly can to fly the R22 all on my own. And some money. I might have to rob a bank (that’s sarcasm, IRS!!!). Why are all my hobbies expensive?! I couldn’t just like/be good at basketball or something? Oh no. Skiing, scuba diving, flying. These are the things I love to do. Of course. At any rate, I’m thankful I have these abilities and opportunities. It doesn’t get much better than this! Hakuna Matata!