Bob's 60th Birthday, July 2003

Here's how I spent my birthday. It started with an instrument lesson at 9:00 a.m. The last picture shows me under the "hood" (vision limiting device) descending to 2000' on the VOR 26 approach to South Jersey Regional.

Then later on in late afternoon, I was back at the airport, this time to do something I've always wanted to do -- to fly a helicopter. Some time ago a south Jersey newspaper had contacted me about doing a profile on me. When I told the reporter about my birthday plans, she arranged for a photographer to come and get pictures for the forthcoming article (the actual interview is a week later).

In any case, these pictures show me getting my picture taken by the photographer, the aircraft getting fueled up by Art (a lineman here, who is also a pilot), then the flight school owner showing me around the cockpit, and finally, the takeoff. What a hoot this was! I first had instruction in the four primary flight controls: the cyclic (looks like a stick in an airplane, controls nose pitch and aircraft roll -- the difference is that the more you push the cyclic forward, the faster the helo goes -- pull it back and the helo goes backwards), the foot pedals (these control the pitch of the tail rotor, and generally require constant pressure on the left pedal to counter the torque of the rotor -- pushing harder makes the helo pivot to the left -- letting up makes it turn to the right), the collective (looks a little like the parking brake in a sports car -- pull up, the bird goes up, push down, it goes down), and the throttle, which is a twist grip at the end of the collective.

Next, Doug had me learning to hover -- which I found quite difficult (later I found out that it typically takes 5-10 hours to learn it). The we went flying. Once he had the helo stable, Doug handed off to me. I was surprised that the handling was in some ways similar to an airplane, and I had no trouble doing coordinated turns (this is apparantly difficult for non-pilot students to learn just as it is in an airplane). After flying around for a while we headed back and did an autorotation down to runway 8 (autorotation is used in the even of an engine failure and lets you do a soft landing). Then some more hover practice and that was the end of the lesson.

All I can say is that this was a fun birthday!