2013-12-16

Flying a Helicopter

I was pleasantly surprised to find the websites Adrenaline and RedBalloon, which showcase many activities such as driving a supercar, horse riding, flyboarding, flying a plane, and many more. I didn't realize that so many activities can be done around Sydney!

I went through the activities listed on the websites and noted down ones that I'd want to try. I saw there's scenic helicopter flights over the Sydney Harbour (picture from RedBalloon), which looked very cool. Then I noted that I can even fly a helicopter myself, which is even more awesome! However, both websites only had 30-min long trial flights, which seem quite short. So I searched on Google and found Bankstown Helicopters offering a 2-hour long flight discovery experience.

I booked one for Saturday morning, and started doing research online on how to fly a helicopter. This is after the lesson I had flying a plane, where I knew very little and the instructor had to explain many things to me. I read through several Wikipedia articles and webpages that explain helicopter aerodynamics, which turned out to have prepared me well for the actual flying.

Flights are usually better in the morning where winds are calmer, and the flight discovery experience ended up taking the full morning (8~12). It started off with watching a short video on introducing the three controls of a helicopter (cyclic stick, collective lever, and anti-torque pedals), which I mostly knew already from the self-study. The instructor then explained things in more detail and make sure I understand the basics of flying a helicopter, before introducing me to the real helicopter.

The helicopter is an R22 two-seater and has dual controls so that it can be controlled by either sides. The instructor did everything -- start up the helicopter, take-off, radio calls, and initial climb -- until the helicopter is flying 500ft in the air, and I just observed next to him seeing how the controls are moved. The instructor then handed over control of the three controls one-by-one so I can learn the effect of each of them and be able to fly the helicopter over where I wanted.

I saw Wet'n'Wild was close by, so of course took the opportunity to fly over it (picture from Internet). We flew for about one hour before the instructor takes the helicopter back and then did a post-briefing on the flying lesson. He then explained what we would do for the next one-hour lesson and we took off again. Overall, I enjoyed the experience very much, and look forward to fly more in the future!

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