So yesterday started with coffee and cereal. Read the papers, Jamie went off to work, I drove up to Staverton. Captain James was already out with someone else, I was feeling somewhat nervous for some reason, actually I know the reason, I was actually genuinely scared that I was going to kill myself just before Christmas. James announced that the conditions were perfect and I was going to do almost an hour by myself in my final supervised solo. I prepared the aircraft, fixed up the camera and went through the checklist. I’m now allowed to start up the aircraft by myself after completing my first solo, so I did. I was then joined by James. We taxied straight over to heli-north and the first circuit was over and done with in a matter of a few minutes. The only odd thing I had to contend with was a jet ranger sprayed in red which was pretending to be Santa’s sleigh. I then fired out about five circuits, they were all generally okay, some a bit quick, some a bit steep. My take-ups and landings were ‘variable’ to say the least, I probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind for these. It’s a bit odd though. There you are floating in the air at about 700 feet, it’s almost silent when the radio isn’t on (I’m wearing 800 quids worth of Bose noise cancelling headphones, which I think is absolutely essential). The R22 is the smallest aircraft you can get unless you are into microlights or jetpacks. It’s tiny. It’s very nimble. It’s primary purpose is to kill you. Now here’s the fun thing, I read all these accident reports on R22’s and it has an horrendous record on safety, put it this way, you have more chance of dying in an R22 which has it’s engine off parked on the tarmac than you have doing blindfolded frogger on the M4. But, here’s what I’ve found. Treat it with respect, and it will look after you. It’s quarter of a million pounds worth of high precision engineering. It may look like it’s made out of cheese and Lego, but really a hell of a lot of thought has gone into the design. It’s actually very forgiving. Some of my pickups and landings have been on the verge of very piss poor. I’ve hit the ground hard, I’ve lifted off at some very bizarre angles and rotations, yet it’s just ‘got on with it’ and hasn’t killed me yet. As captain James keeps telling me, it’s good that you are paranoid about certain things, this means you are thinking about them, the more you think about them, the less likely you are to have a problem. He keeps telling me that I’m actually quite a competent pilot, that my circuits are at about 90% level, which is fine. By the end of the course they will be at 97%. To get that last three percent will take about another 10,000 hours. So there you are at 700 feet, moving in three dimensions, which is a really bizarre concept in itself. You are as it’s said, ‘free as a bird’. It is a unique feeling, you are free. The R22 is fucking uncomfortable, when solo the centre of gravity is shifted, it really does your wrist in, the seat is bolt upright, this ain’t no Rolls Royce. So why am I doing it? Well it keeps my mind of work. When you are doing a precision approach to a disc which is no more than one meter across from half a mile away you are not thinking about grass or rendering. I’m looking forward to taking people up to experience the whole thing, my mother will be first. What will be her reaction? Well, she’ll not be too bothered by the whole flying thing, she’s a hundred and forty years old, the next major floating event she’ll be taking part in is to see God. No, she’ll be immensely proud, that something she fired out her vagina, even though she’s never been too bothered by it and always thought it was a bit of an inconvenience is a helicopter pilot. Now here’s by beef. It’s bullshit. I’m a firm believer that anyone with an ounce of sense and twenty grand to throw away could be a helicopter pilot. Why? Well it requires no artistic talent. If I wanted to I could be a brick layer, of God forbid and English teacher, but I don’t think either one requires anything more than training. I could never be a hair dresser, or a painter, that requires artistic talent, that I do not possess. Saying that I’be had great fun recently in doing music remixes, I have a little bit of a flare for that. After an hour of pissing about, I do come out grinning. Anyway, at the end of the less, I did a pickup, then slammed down the collective and we hit the deck like a sack of shit. James asked if everything was alright, after he had a minor interview with God about entering the gates of heaven. I said I thought I could feel a rotation. He said, no, there was nothing there. And looking back at the video footage there wasn’t. There was a bit of yawing to the left, but that’s perfectly harmless. You could make a helicopter light on the skids then jam the left peddle on fully, to will drill itself into the ground, but it won’t kill you. He warned me of ‘chasing ghosts’ and inventing situations that could get me into trouble that don’t actually exist. We have a bit of a break for a month now. I think that will be good, I can refocus and get back on it. I have no doubt that I probably need to close to another twenty circuits before they are completely nailed. But when you are flying by yourself, there really is nothing quite like it.
Drove back and walked the dogs. Loaded the fuel cans, drove to Toolstation and picked up some bits, then to B&Q and finally got fuel. Came back and started tidying up. Picked up Lisa and Andy. What happened next was the usual drunken debauchery, which involved Andy drinking his own bodyweight in white (although his own bodyweight isn’t actually that much) and Lisa downing a bottle of red. I stuck to the lager. I made a curry. Now I only make one dish really well, and that’s it. I could have put the bowls and dishes back in the cupboard afterwards as there wasn’t a trace of anything left on them. My food was seriously appreciated, which was nice. Anyway, the subject came round to new years eve. The most depressing night of the year for me. Lisa invited us over to her place, as she had her kids. I said I didn’t want to travel. So now what we’ve ended up with is Lisa, Andy, multiple children and now some of our Cuban friends descending on us for new years eve. This isn’t a problem, but I’ve only got two weeks notice. I did organise an entire wedding in three months so it should be possible. How is Sasha going to deal with children? Will I have to use the cage? Is it cruel to put someone else’s children in it? I’m sure it will be fine and a lot of fun. There will be Cuban food, this will be good. There will be Karaoke, this may not be so good. There will no doubt, be some serious sock dancing.
Anyway, today. Coffee, followed by more skimming and filling. I didn’t get as much done as planned as the skim and filler hasn’t completely hardened, so had to abandon it for the time being. It’s all pretty good though, so a session during the week I think will finish it off.