A helicopter lesson for my birthday
‘I think I’d like to take a helicopter flying lesson‘ one careless, throwaway comment to my husband and here I am months later staring at a voucher for a flying lesson. ‘Oh shit‘, is my first response. Didn’t he realise that was just a dumbass comment that I never actually expected to become reality?
After all, it’s not as though I can afford an helicopter! Not unless it’s one of the matchbox variety anyway. I love flying in helicopters, and have some awesome memories of flights over NYC, Las Vegas, and Toronto, glaciers in New Zealand, and the Keys in Florida. But, flying one myself? Has Jason forgot what happened on our snowmobile outing?
Heaven or hell?
I’m seriously touched that he remembered, but the enormity of being in charge of a flying object, has me both excited and terrified at the same time. As the big day approaches, I become more nervous but there’s no need to worry. I’m instantly put at ease with the friendly greeting we receive from Matt, his wife Helen, their HUGE dog, and gorgeous five month old baby Tabatha. A cute baby is a cunning plan to distract nervous first timers!
Matt starts briefing me on the controls and I’m trying desperately to take it all in, wondering whether I will remember what the cyclic is supposed to do (let’s call it a steering wheel for ease), the collective (hand brake?) or the foot pedals (clutch?). Nevertheless, I feel a tinkle of excitement as we walk out to the hangar, clamber into the tiny bubble cockpit and I strap myself in.
How many instruments?
So much for my theory that there’d be an auto-pilot button! I’m bewildered by the vast array of instruments and dials, and listening to Matt talk to the tower is like earwigging on a conversation in a foreign language. I try to zip it while he talks to air traffic control, but it is difficult. I have too many damn questions!
We taxi (yes, taxi) out to the runway. That really means we effortlessly lift into the air, and hovering just a few metres above the ground, slowly make our way out to the runway while Matt chatters in gobbledegook to the tower. It’s surprisingly quiet and much smoother than I anticipated.
Then we are off, we have clearance and swoop down the runway with me chewing Matt’s ear off with a million questions about dials and flying. Matt provides intriguing snippets of information about the area, the Cold War and the uses of the airport, as I start to relax and enjoy the views out towards the Humber. Who would have guessed that this tiny little airport was once one of airports able to accept emergency NASA shuttle landings? Or that Cold War, rocket 🚀 type spy stuff was going on behind the drab beige walls of the hangars?
My turn to fly
Before long Matt asks me if I want to take control. Hell yes! I’ve been itching to get my hands on those controls and see how they handle. He warns me about manhandling the cyclic, and reminds me to rest my hand on my knee and keep pushing it forwards. I can feel myself gradually start to relax, as I start to feel how the aircraft responds to the pressure. Pull back and whoops up we go! Push forward and we level off.
Of course, I have to try whooshing to the left which leaves my stomach somewhere in the opposite side of the cockpit as an involuntary squeal escapes. I focus on this one simple motion, leaving Matt to control everything else. At one point, I realise he has let go of the controls and I am flying. Hoorah! It’s exhilarating and mildly terrifying, but I could get used to this.
It takes 45 hours to get your helicopter flying licence, so that sure isn’t travelling the globe for less, but who knows, maybe if I had my own helicopter I could save a fortune on my travel expenses!
Matt regales me with tales of weather patterns and his prior flying and before you know it, we are lining up to return to the airfield. The only problem with this outing is that once is not going to be enough! I still haven’t done a loop the loop after all and I really want to try to get to grips with the other controls.
If you want to try something different, a truly exhilarating way to see your local area, you really need to head down to Doncaster Sheffield airport and go for a lesson with Matt. He will soon put you at ease and you even get a celebration certificate to mark the occasion.
Your chance to win
if you don’t fancy paying to fly in a helicopter, here’s another way to jump in the cockpit with Matt. Book tickets to our ‘Black Tie and Tiaras Charity Ball‘ and try your hand on the fun casino table. We will be making available two prizes for our top male and female hustler, and one of those lucky winners will WIN a flight experience. You will also be helping out Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and are sure to have an awesome evening.
Have your say
Have you ever flown a helicopter? How did you find the experience? How long was it before it became totally not scary? I would love to hear from you.