“You’re going to go out with a guy called Dave and do some bombing runs”

Woke up this morning bright and early so sent James a message (I already knew Ben wasn’t in as it was his birthday the day before), he gave me a call and booked me in for 4PM after some negotiations. He said, ‘You’ll be going out with a guy called Dave, he’s ex. military fighter pilot, he’ll have you doing some low-level bombing runs’. Sounded exciting. I drank coffee, evolved a shit load of pidgies. Took Sasha out for a walk. Made some lunch into a box and headed out. Picked up some crickets, headed into town. Looked at a lot of shoes again and failed to buy any. Ate lunch in the car and headed to Staverton. Did a bit of a hot swap in the chopper and met Dave. Oddly we were due to go out in hotel-tango but it promptly broke down with the clutch failing to engage, so we ended up going out in alpha-tango which has the power of a slightly limp lettuce. I kept on abusing the power limits trying to get some kind of acceleration out of it. Dave was a lovely guy. He had a very similar temperament to Ben. I could easily be taught by him all day, he gave perfect demonstrations and encouragement and once again showed me a few new things which is always good. We did a few auto’s. My first was a complete shambles. You are meant to maintain 60kts, I managed to drop to thirty, he sat there with folded arms and said, ‘What are you going to do about that?’. I pushed that cyclic so far forward it almost hit the glass, got it back to 60 and flared at the end. We did a confined area which was fine and then went back to the airfield and did some quick stops which I’m notoriously crap at. I’m still notoriously crap at. My first one started at forty feet and we ended up at two hundred feet, to which I got the response, ‘Well, we stopped, but we are somewhat a little high don’t you feel?’. I liked this guy. We did a few more until we were pretty good. Standard flying stuff was all fine and dandy, it was really nice to get back into the air again after over two months. It is a bit like riding a bike, I was a little scared that I’d lift up into the hover (the most difficult thing a helicopter pilot can do) and be all over the place, but no, it was absolutely fine. It was a nice fifty odd minutes, I must do it more often.

To be clear, the most difficult thing a helicopter pilot has to do is within the first six seconds. In a plane you taxi along the runway, get it up to power and slowly rotate and it takes off, not that taxing. In a helicopter you have to get the balance and power points absolutely spot before you lift off into the hover, that is the most difficult thing in the world. When James checks out pilots, if they can pick up and taxi to x-ray then they are good to go. It’s been compared to doing complex algebra while balancing a beachball on the end of a pencil. I can do that. See I’m a clever shit.

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