Of Helicopters and Humans (6) “Macho Man “
Posted on March 17, 2010
Of Helicopters and Humans (6)
Homo Helicopterus Macho Maximus ( “Macho Man “)
In the far, far future, in several thousand years’ time, (long after the Time of the Great Upheaval, the Intergalactic Phenomenon, and Madonna’s awful caterwauling), it might be interesting…. to be a fly on the wall (or a bed bug in somebody’s pyamas) and to be able to listen in on the conversations of future archeologists.
What will they think of us?
I’m sure they will be fascinated by Neanderthal Man, Peking Man, Java Man, and his descendant, Homo so-called Sapiens. If I remember my Latin, from a Time Long Gone when I was young and innocent, sapiens means ‘knowing’ or ‘wise’…
(Yes, I know, it is rather tempting to snicker contemptuously, innit?)
Modern Man…. wise? Knowing? You believe that? Oh! You’re a Democrat. Well, that explains everything, of course. Well, maybe if you believe, tearfully, in the ponderous pronunciations of the Great Oracle, Mullah Obaaaaah-ma…. then I can see how you feel you have found Wisdom in Plenty. Lucky you. It must be nice. Moving, even.
But… For the rest of us wearied cynics, I’m sorry to say your idol encapsulates in one expensive suit, behind the TV make up and the eye shadow, (and the teleprompters of course) the very essence of what we regard as mass produced, manipulative, IL-Liberal, RETRO-gressive old-style socialist bullshit. The epitomy of an intellectual lightweight, in other words. But if YOU wish to hang on to his every word, and regard him as the pinnacle of human evolution, then…. I’m awed. You belong to an increasingly rare breed. Homo Idealisticus Democratus.. Can I have your autograph?
Those future archeologists, I suspect, will lump Neanderthal Man, Peking Man, Homo Idealisticus Democratus, and Homo errr…. “Sapiens ” pretty well all together as one one and the same form of (Very) Primitive Man. A genetically challenged, remarkably dumb, greedy, selfish beast, prone to hubris and fancy speeches. Adept at covering up his ignorance, and admitting no fault.
Additionally, I sometimes have a feeling that they, those fifty third century Wise Ones, may identify a branch off our evolutionary family, that those of us alive today have scarcely recognized. If I was to hazard a guess, I’d say the Wise ones might label this sub family: Homo Helicopterus Macho Maximus.
I know that is rather a mouthful, so I’ll just call him “Macho Man “.
Macho Man will be identified, of course, by his burial place.
The cremated remains will be found, ritually molten together with pieces of aluminium, magnesium, plastic and steel. The exact manner of the ceremony will have long since been forgotten, and these future archeologists will write expansive PH.D. dissertations on the matter.
There will be many theories.
Firstly, it will be suggested that only those who had achieved high honour, were allowed to enter the sky, in remarkably primitive and flimsy contraptions, called “he-li-cop-ters “, and then smash themselves straight into the ground. This fate guaranteed that Macho Man’s soul could enter a place called, not ‘Valhalla’, or ‘Paradise’, but “You-Tube “. The future Wise Ones will of course argue also over “You-Tube “. But the consensus would hold that there, in this strange and wonderful place called “You-Tube “, the dearly departed soul could live out his final glorious act (smashing into the ground), again and again, for all eternity. Hm…
Secondly, it will be suggested, that far from reward for honour and valor, the bit about smashing into the ground was in fact, a punishment, for deeds performed in his prior life. What form those wicked deeds might have taken, the Wise Ones will not know. But they will haphazardly concoct theories to explain that Macho Man had in fact violated the Secret Rules of that Society. And therefore had to pay the price. What those rules were, again, a matter of conjecture. Clean living? Celibacy? Abstaining from strong liquor? Avoiding the wearing of tight pants? It will be hard to say. But they will try hard, those fifty third century Wise Ones, to make sense of a strange, primitive, but widely practiced cultural phenomenon.
Called ‘self cremation by he-li-cop-ter’.
* * * * *
We can be sympathetic towards the inexperienced pilot. The learner. The low-timer, trying hard, who falls victim to a situation for which he was unintentionally, inadequately prepared. Perhaps his Teachers failed him, or his more experienced comrades. Yes, we feel a warmth there, and a desire to help. Not as some kind of a Guru, but just as a fellow pilot, a brother in arms, who loves to fly, and hates to see anybody getting cremated before his proper time. Not to mention, seeing a perfectly good helicopter terminally re-cycled.
But what of the professional, the expert, the dude with plenty of hours, who reaches such a stage of exalted wisdom and knowledge, that mere Gravity and the trifling Laws of Physics, and the mathematical certainty of my patented ‘Eventual Probability Theory’, simply don’t apply to him….?
* * * * *
So there we were, standing not far from the edge of a very deep, very wide, hole in the ground. This particular hole is many miles long, and half a mile to a mile wide. Lots of little helicopters fly lots of little tourists in and out of that big hole. It’s almost a cultural tradition. Especially if you hail from Japan.
My companion, a long time Sheriff’s Office sergeant, stood there with me, and together we silently observed the goings on. We had landed there, earlier on, in the Sheriff’s Office helicopter. On other business.
There was an AStar parked there, silently awaiting its next load of happy tourists. I had inspected it earlier, and I had been surprised at the seating arrangements. The machine was equipped with what resembled long benches rather than individual seats, and I marveled as to how many passengers you could actually load into the beast. In the event, I did not have to wait long to find out. Pretty soon, the smiling pilot marched out, an Oriental gentleman at the head of an equally Oriental looking gaggle of tourists. He was laughing and joking with them, and generally giving them the royal, smiling, very happy treatment. Soon they were all piling into the machine. I thought it would take two separate loads, but no, they all got in, in a oner. It drew my attention.
The pilot, with never a walk around, then hopped into the driver’s seat, and within seconds the blades were turning. Within a very short period of time indeed, the machine arose into a hover.
What next drew my attention was the extreme coning angle of the blades. And the hefty blade slap. I have never seen an AStar cone like that. Poor little thing. I wondered what weight he was carrying. I had not counted how many folk had climbed in, but it was a lot.
At least he had the benefit of a good breeze. There was a good fifteen to eighteen knots blowing through.
I glanced at the wind sock. I was assuming an into wind departure.
The AStar performed a pedal turn, and was now pointing downwind towards the edge of the Big Hole, a hundred yards away, over some rough looking boulders, which precluded any chance of a succesful forced landing. Low over those obstacles he went, downwind, rising no more than ten feet in the air.
But it was what happened as he got to the edge of the Big Hole, that truly took my breath away.
The machine lurched over the edge, and the cyclic got slammed hard forward.
The last thing I saw of the AStar, was the tail boom, pointing vertical, and the horizontal tailplane, like a flag, like a marker in the wind. And the tail rotor disc, edge on,from ‘underneath’ as it were.
I know I sucked air in past my teeth. That quiet sound, that sharp intake, that reveals stress, horror, disquiet.
The sergeant looked at me, and murmured:
“He shouldn’t be doing that, should he? ”
I shook my head, slowly.
I asked around about him. Other pilots. They all knew of him.
“That’s his party piece. He does it for the tips… ”
“There’s kind of a chimney there… rock on three sides. He goes vertically straight down it, to give everybody a thrill… ”
Some pilots spoke of him admiringly. As if he was a hero. A magna genitalia dude. Others, the older ones, just shook their heads.
A few months later, the call came into Dispatch. Then the details emerged. Slowly. Over the next few days.
He was dead. Very dead. In fact, he had already been cremated.
His bulging ‘tips account’ was not going to be much use to him any longer.
The NTSB investigated, and it appeared he had struck his rotor tips off one side of the chimney. Not hard enough to destroy the rotor disc. But ample to destroy his pitch links. Yes, he still had a spinning disc. Providing lift and forward momentum. But he had no control over it…
They say he overflew his intended landing point, a raft in the middle of the river, at high speed, with strange noises coming from the helicopter, and that he headed straight for the opposite wall. Presumably, autonomous aerodynamic forces had changed his vertical, nose-down trajectory to a more horizontal one. But these forces couldn’t help him as he arrived, at high speed, with a full load of previously very happy passengers, at the opposite granite wall. The big, black, carbon burn mark was visible for weeks. We have no way of knowing the happiness level that existed in that cockpit in the seconds leading up to the spontaneous cremation, but we can guess.
And that was…
The Last Ride of…
One more outstanding example of Homo Helicopterus Macho Maximus…
* * * * *
I was getting ready to depart in the Sheriff’s Office Cessna 210 one day, when calls started coming into Dispatch about a rogue helicopter. The machine was reportedly coming low and fast down the hard shoulder of the Interstate Freeway, at about twenty feet. It was moving at high speed, and in the opposite direction to traffic. Not surprisingly, alarmed car drivers were swerving to avoid the sudden appearance of the helicopter, creating an additional hazard. A Sheriff’s Office patrol car was soon able to corroborate the reports, and the decision was made to launch our OH58 to intercept the low flying machine. Whilst enroute, I was listening to the reports, still coming in, from angry and frightened motorists. Even as I flew, I was trying to formulate a plan.
What should I do? Fly alongside? Attempt two way voice contact? On which channel? 121.5? Would he possibly think of answering me?
In the event I thought it would be safest to bar his way, but in such a manner that he would have plenty of time to see me, ahead of him.
However, it never got to that. The next report stated that the helicopter had crashed in flames. I winced.
It was a surreal scene. A crumpled, smashed helicopter, on the hard shoulder of the freeway, with two crumpled, smashed human beings. Husband and wife. Going home from a vacation at the Casino.
I remember staring at her legs, protruding grotesquely from underneath the engine. We all looked at each other.
There was a lot of silent head shaking going on.
He had impacted a utility line. Not a high tension wire, off a big, high pylon. No, just a local utility line. The lines ran along the freeway, for miles. He had obviously been flying happily alongside them. Happiness is good. We like happiness. But every so often, these lines cross the freeway. He had encountered one such set of lines. And failed to navigate them happily. As for the ‘500 foot’ rule…
Any thinking human being has to feel sorry for this couple, and their relatives, family and friends.
A tremendous tragedy.
But…. Dude, what were you thinking???
* * * * *
A certain businessman was well known to the Sheriff’s Office.
He owned his own helicopter, and flew it a lot. My colleagues soon filled me in. There had been innumerable complaints about him from citizens, mostly related to extreme low flying, and his insistence on landing in highly congested areas. I remember the opinion of several deputies, who had seen him fly. They all reckoned that it was just a matter of time before our hero killed himself.
They were right. In the event, I was to damn near die right along with him.
The day it happened, I was winding up the OH58. Ready for a mission. I was sitting right out in the middle of a large apron, (apron = supposedly dedicated to flying machines), on a dolley, which had been parked there earlier, roughly into wind. The wind had changed a little now, but I wasn’t worried about it. It was just a matter of picking up into a hover, turning thirty degrees right into wind, and proceeding with the take off. I was in a relaxed frame of mind. This was routine normality. I’d done it a thousand times. More. I completed the pre take-off checks, lifted up into the hover, turned thirty degrees right, eased the cyclic forward….
What the f@!!#k….!!
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something approaching. I looked, gasped, snatched at the collective…. and winced. As the SUV drove UNDER my front skids. Inches underneath. At speed.
The resultant -frantic- collective snatch propelled me weirdly upward, and the entire manoeuvre was an irregular mess. It was him. Our local Homo Helicopterus Macho Maximus. Too impatient to wait thirty seconds for me to lift off and depart, he had decided to drive at 30 mph right past the dolley, under the assumption that I was going to take off straight ahead. It was a foolhardy act to pull off, even assuming I had taken off straight ahead. No pilot is going to expect to be flying formation with a fast moving SUV in the initial seconds of his take off run. However, given my heading change to turn into wind, he had very nearly rammed my right front skid. It would almost certainly have flipped me over, upside down probably, and the resultant conflagration would have been hard to explain to the Sheriff’s office.
A few months later, I observed him doing what appeared to be steep turns. Forty five degree angle of bank, and sixty degree angle of bank. At about 1500 feet. Smack, bang, right over the middle of the town. Although we were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of wide open desert and shrub land, there he was, doing his strange repertoire. What was he doing? I watched him for twenty five minutes. I gave up in the end. What kind of judgment was that?
A few months after that, he no longer hovered amongst us. He had moved on to You-Tube. Low level along a stream into a twenty foot wire. As forecast by every cop on the force. Loss of one outstanding businessman, an employer in a town that needed employers, a husband and a father. You just kind of shake your head. And wonder…
Dude. We miss you. You were entertainment. But….err….. What were you thinking…???
* * * * *
So you see how I present my case for Homo Helicopterus Macho Maximus.
Also known as Macho Man. Undoubtedly, a subspecies of Homo Sapiens. The Knowing man. The Wise man.
A legend in his own cremation time. Spending Eternity in Valhalla. Paradise.
To be known in the fifty-third century as “You-Tube “….
Macho Man. Never to be forgotten. But let us take comfort.
Thank goodness, there’s plenty more of ’em around…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 7, 2011, 10:15 pm