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Heli Humor

Submitted by fellow helo pilot John Phillips

In 1998 I set out to satisfy my long suppressed desire fly a helicopter. That "discovery flight" went so well that I wound signing up for and then earning my private helicopter license. Bad move. Within 6 months I was the proud owner of a 1969 Enstrom F28A (pictured right) that I flew frequently in the Chicagoland suburbs. For six months that was my answer to low and slow. Then I was turned on to Powered paragliding came in March of 1999. I'll admit that, had I discovered paramotoring first, I probably would not have bought a helicopter. Living in Chicago, however, means that one feature of the helicopter is most welcome: cabin heat.

Here are some humorous looks at helicopter flying and ownership submitted by John Phillips (with additions by others), a paramotor pilot and former helicopter occupant. He disliked them because he was either getting shot at or takeen somewhere that he was getting shot at. Hopefully someday I can take him up without being shot at.

  • Helicopter flight: A bunch of spare parts flying in close formation.

  • Anything that screws its way into the sky flies according to unnatural principals.

  • You never want to sneak up behind an old, high-time helicopter pilot and clap your hands. He will instantly dive for cover and most likely whimper...then get up and smack the crap out of you.

  • There are no old helicopters laying around airports like you see old airplanes. There is a reason for this. Come to think of it, there are not many old, high-time helicopter pilots hanging around airports either so the first issue is problematic.

  • You can always tell a helicopter pilot in anything moving: a train, an airplane, a car or a boat. They never smile, they are always listening to the machine and they always hear something they think is not right.

  • Helicopter pilots fly in a mode of intensity, actually more like "spring loaded", while waiting for pieces of their ship to fall off.

  • Flying a helicopter at any altitude over 500 feet is considered reckless and should be avoided. Flying a helicopter at any altitude or condition that precludes a landing in less than 20 seconds is considered outright foolhardy. Remember in a helicopter you have about 1 second to lower the collective in an engine failure before the craft becomes unrecoverable. Once you've failed this maneuver the machine flies about as well as a 20 case Coke machine. Even a perfectly executed autorotation only gives you a glide ratio slightly better than that of a brick.

  • While hovering, if you start to sink a bit, you pull up on the collective while twisting the throttle, push with your left foot (more torque) and move the stick left (more translating tendency) to hold your spot. If you now need to stop rising, you do the opposite in that order. Sometimes in wind you do this many times each second. Don't you think that's a strange way to fly?

  • For Helicopters: You never want to feel a sinking feeling in your gut (low "g" pushover) while flying a two bladed under slung teetering rotor system. You are about to do a snap-roll to the right and crash. For that matter, any remotely aerobatic maneuver should be avoided in a Huey. Don't push your luck. It will run out soon enough anyway. If everything is working fine on your helicopter consider yourself temporarily lucky. Something is about to break.

  • Harry Reasoner once wrote the following about helicopter pilots: "The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by an incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other. Having said all this, I must admit that flying in a helicopter is one of the most satisfying and exhilarating experiences I have ever enjoyed: skimming over the tops of trees at 100 knots is something we should all be able to do, at least once".

  • And remember the fighter pilot's prayer: "Lord I pray for the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the courage of a combat helicopter pilot."

  • Many years later, I know that it was sometimes anything but fun, but now it IS something to brag about for those of us who survived the experience.

  • If helicopters are so safe, how come there are no vintage/classic helicopter fly-ins?  (owning a helicopter gives me perspective on this one: it's too expensive to fly it there!)

A 1969 Enstrom F28 that also serves as an occasional paramotor transport for my Fly 75.


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