Beating the air into submission by pummeling it with $100 bills
Flying a helicopter is really quite amazing. It’s not natural, of course, and can seem nearly impossible to the uninitiated.
People ask me all the time “is it hard?” The best way to answer that is by comparing it to learning to ride a bicycle. Remember the moment before you were successful? When it seemed so impossible? You’d fall over even though the technique had been explained ad nauseam. Then all the sudden you got it. A bit wobbly, to be sure, but you could stay up. Hovering a helicopter is like that.
My instructor’s job, by his own admission, was keeping us alive until I got it. Sure enough, about the third lesson, it happened. He called it “finding the hover button.” One minute I was wobbling around like a drunken sailor and the next moment I just sat there, hovering. “cool!” After that it seemed easy; more fun, too. Much like PPG—once you get that launch down it’s the berries.
It was 1998 that I decided to try helicopter flying. I’d always been intrigued but never really thought it would be useful. Of course I was right there, it’s not useful in any sense of the word but I could now afford to check it out. So I went for it. Plus, this would be my opportunity to fly low and slow.
Just a discovery flight, mind you, I wasn’t gonna get my license or anything.
9 months later I had both a new license and a helicopter. Oh boy. The 1969 Enstrom F28A that I bought isn’t nearly as expensive as most people think. At least not the first time you buy it. That’s a story for another time.
It was only a year later that I discovered paragliding and powered paragliding which, as this website shows, consumed me. Still, there have been, and continue to be, many fun little adventures aboard the shake ship “Ellie Foo Foo.” So I decided, against all logic, to write about some of them here. As if I needed something else to do. It’s not like I’ve got another book edition to write or anything.
More Helicopter Fun
The Sights I’ve Seen
2007-11-08 Some sights I’d really rather not see. Last week was one of them.
After prepping for a local flight, we got strapped in, I finished the checklist and I hit the start button. RRRrrrrRRRrrrrGrrrrriiiiiind. Uh oh. That doesn’t sound good.
The starter had come apart internally and lost all interest in turning over the motor. There would be no flying today.
The starter on an Enstrom is buried behind the squirrel cage and a under some structure, behind more structure and above the exhaust system. A lot has to come off just to get to it. This wasn’t to be a quick fix.
A call to my helicopter maintainer confirmed it when he told me that, not only would it be a major operation, but the machine had to come back to his shop. Mind you, if the starter doesn’t work, it wasn’t flying there. You don’t “hand prop” a helicopter—you trailer it.
Daryl Oliver is wonderful to work with. He’s an Enstrom guy—that’s all he works on so he knows the machine inside and out. He’s meticulous, too—hospitals could do surgery on his hangar floor. Accoutrements are well placed and functional. The only decoration is a rotor blade with his business name on it. That was, in fact, one of my former rotor blades—but that’s yet another story.
He brought his trailer down and started right away. He and a helper carefully removed all three blades to their padded cell. Getting her up on the trailer wasn’t so easy and the electric winch groaned mightily during the steepest parts. In probably an hour they had her secured and on the way. His shop, in Gilberts, IL, is about an hour’s drive northwest.
What was really impressive was when I asked when he would have her ready. “This afternoon” he said. Cool.
It wasn’t a sight I ever want to see again—Ellie driving down the street in front of my house with her rotors tucked into a box below.
If only every service was this good and reliable. Sure enough, that afternoon he finished up and I flew her home. Thanks to Tim for enduring horrendous traffic to get me up there. Normally I fly the PPG there but it’s November. I don’t do cold.
Hopefully the only Ellie related sights I enjoy now are through her windows.
2017 Buying A Car
Since updating this page Tim & I have moved to FL which included flying Ellie down. She’s been to many places around Central and South FL but the coolest was to first test drive then eventually buy a new car. Thankfully I’ve already written about it here. Enjoy!