Still on renderer code this morning, all going according to plan, just lots of typing.
Then filled up the car with the remaining garage stored fuel. Then drove up to Cheltenham….actually it was Staverton airport. Nice little place, lots of hangers with vintage planes, lots of geeks hanging about watching them. I was here for a purpose though. It was time for me to learn to fly a helicopter….
So it was into ‘Rise Helicopters’, where I met Captain James. He showed me the Robinson R22, it looked like it was made out of Meccano and held together with cheese. We climbed aboard, it was somewhat compact. I switched it on (well I pressed some buttons I was told to do), then he fired it up. It vibrated a lot. But soon the rotor was up to speed and we lifted off gently down the car park to the helipad. We got tower clearance then we were up and away. I took a few photos as we were climbing. He went through all the controls now we were in the air and then moved the cyclic (that’s the stick thing) over to me. I was somewhat nervous. We were 1500 feet in the air and I was in control. It’s surprisingly twitchy and you have to be very gentle on the controls. The art was to keep the compass box on the windscreen level with the horizon while keeping the air speed up. I oddly got the knack of this very quickly. So I then spent the next ten minutes just flying about, changing air speed and turning. I then asked about the ‘auto-rotation’ which is what happens when the engine stops. He said in 22 years he’s never heard of an engine failure on an R22. He then proceeded to drop the engine RPM so it disengaged the rotor. We were now pretty much in free fall, except not a great deal happened. He picked a field and got it to land beautifully with no engine power. He then told me to lift up on the collective (another stick) and we took off again. All too soon it was time to go back to the airfield, I flew it all the way back to the boundary. We then had a go at hovering, trying to keep it stable on the spot. That is very very hard, I only had a few minutes at it but was getting the hang of it. And then we went back to the car park.
It’s easily the most fun you can have without lubricant. It’s also somewhat surprisingly cheaper than karting used to be. We had a chat and I’m going to go back a do some more lessons, even if I don’t complete the whole course it’s still great fun.
I’m now a ‘chopperholic!’.