Friday, July 18, 2008

Flight school: Day two

Yesterday, we got rained out (apparently a rare occurrence at Kona Airport, which is shielded by one of the volcano's peaks). Lee, my instructor, says we can fly in the rain, but it takes me twenty minutes outside the helicopter to get through the pre-flight checklist, and we would have been soaked and cold.

The checklist is a detailed safety inspection of the helicopter's surface and systems, including structural elements, fuel and oil lines, rotor and tail blade condition, and so on.

Anyway, this is what I've done so far today:
-Ate breakfast on deck overlooking coffee grove
-Drove around barefoot in jeep with top down
-Swam in bay with wild dolphins (close enough to touch)
-Ate lunch of authentic Hawaiian food
-Flew helicopter

Not even Richard Branson lives this good.

I am so glad I studied ahead of time. Without it, ground school would be overwhelming, a double-whammy on top of flight school, which by itself is one of the most intense experiences of my life.

The book knowledge doesn't help flight school much, any more than reading mechanic's manuals would help you drive your car. Flight school is a physical endeavor that involves little if any intellectual thought. It's basically just learning to feel the helicopter as an extension of yourself, and then to balance it, like you would a bike or anything else. And similar to riding a bike, it's much easier when you're moving forward. Hovering is a bitch.

Today I hovered for ten seconds before the thing veered off at a crazed angle and Lee, patient as ever, caught it. He said he's seen much worse, but whoever that was, I'm glad I wasn't in the helicopter.

Below is a picture I took near the airport. Hawaii is a relatively young island; its edges are raw black lava, frozen forever in the smooth humps and ripples of a flowing liquid.

1 comment:

Claire said...

I love the Big Island! I love Hawaii! I was there last summer for 3 weeks and I can just picture you there... ahh.
Really enjoying the blog!
Love,
Your fifth reader,
Claire Hally Smith