Thursday, May 22, 2014

Helicopters, novels, and the real world.

If you read my books, then you know my main character, Donovan Nash, who is a high-time jet pilot, doesn't think much of helicopters.  Don't get me wrong, he'll get in them when he has to, and often times it's necessary for him to strap in and go, but he's never thrilled with the process, maybe even a bit uneasy.  Arriving at this particular character trait for Nash was simple--it's exactly how this high-time jet pilot/author feels about the subject.

So, I can't really explain what happened.  With a simple swipe of my credit card, my son and I were ushered out to a Bell 206, and within minutes, the rotor blades were spinning and everything I know and trust about aviation was swept away in the rotor wash.

I last flew in a helicopter in 1982, and not much has changed.  The damned things takeoff straight up!  A serious violation of aerodynamics to a fixed-wing pilot.  From that point on, all of the senses I accumulated in 30 years of flying airplanes become null and void.  The sounds are different, the feel in the seat of the pants is different.  The whole machine vibrates and shakes.  I remember clearly why Donovan is always a reluctant passenger. What was I thinking...and then we climbed above the trees and banked toward the snow capped mountains of Glacier National Park.  

We climbed to 9,000 feet and danced with the mountaintops, pivoted over glaciers, raced through valleys hugging rocky spires that soared above us into the perfect blue sky.  Waterfalls, lakes, even an eagle passed beneath us as we flew through the park.  Long before I wanted it to end, we lightly touched down on the helipad, spent, happy, humbled by the aerial sights I'd been privileged enough to witness.  What an amazing flight.

Donovan Nash may still have his reservations, but I'm well on my way to changing mine.

Oh, and one more thing.  In real life, as in my novels, helicopter pilots have mad skills.

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