Francis Meyrick

Riding high in an icy sky

Posted on March 21, 2012

A Blip in the Gulf (1)

Riding high in an icy sky

January 5, 2010. Pre-dawn. Intercoastal heliport. 05.00 am.
Ffffff…..k. It’s cold.
The temperature is down in the low thirties. A heavy frost blankets everything. Our rotor blades shine a dull white.
It’s dark, quiet, save for the distant muttering coming from the passenger lounge. Here in the pilot’s room, we busy ourselves with the morning’s preparations. Sign in, check the weather, logbook, and fill out the paper work. Nobody’s in a hurry to rush out to the flight line to start the pre flight check.
Eventually, I find myself out on Alpha row, untying my blades. Despite my leather jacket, I’m shivering like an eskimo in a nudist colony. And there’s a steady Arctic wind blowing from the North. Wind chill factor minus minus minus.
Even with gloves on, my f…kn fu-fingers are fu-fu-freezing. I feel the cold hollowing into my bones. I fumble with the tie-downs, trying to hurry up. The thought of the nice warm pilot’s room is a powerful incentive.
Let’s get this DONE…
I find myself giggling to myself. I’m thinking of one of my readers, a pilot up in Canada. His handle “North of 60 ” says it all! That’s where it gets REAL cold. I wonder what he’d say to me, shivering like a lump of jelly on a trampoline.

“Jeez, Moggy… you think THAT’s cold??? You WOOSE! Try bleedin’ FIFTY below… ”

The thought of what he’d probably say amused me for a full three minutes, which was at least long enough to remove and stow the tie-downs. But by the time I was trying to take the fuel samples, I was back to feeling sorry for myself again.
Holy crrrrrrrrrap….
Never mind the pilot’s room, my nice warm bed seemed to be calling out my name. How many people were moving around at this time of the morning, outside, trying to earn a living? Maybe I should have spent more time trying to be rich. Then, what the hell, I could have retired at forty, or thirty three, and been able to stay in bed. On this frigid morning.
Instead of pre-flighting this frozen, frost covered helicopter.
I look at her. My baby. November four-niner-zero-Papa Hotel. Poor thing. The wind screens are frosted solid. I climb up and look at the blades. Thick frost. Sure as heck can’t fly with that.
I continue checking out my charge, and wonder how long it would take to clear the blades by performing an engine run.
Almost in answer to my thoughts, another bird fires up. Jim is doing a maintenance run, and he will be sitting there for a while. I make a mental note to go check out his blades when he’s finished.

A few minutes later, after a ten minute run, Jim shuts down. Meanwhile, I have finished my pre-flight check. Resisting the (strong) temptation to bolt for the warmth of the pilot’s room, I steel myself, and walk over to his now stationary beast.
I grab a ladder, and climb up and check. His blades are clear and dry. Jim knows what I’m doing, and grins.
Feeling reassured, I return to my own charge, and light the fire.
I love the smell of Jet-A in the morning…

Afterwards, I head back to the pilot’s room. A cup of coffee later, I start feeling half human again.
I still wish I was back in bed. But at least I am slowly waking up.

* * * * *

I am alone.
Heading East, back to Fourchon, at 3,000 feet.
A blip in an icy sky. With the sun coming up, pale, wintery, casting long shadows over strange white fields.
I am alone.
Just rumbling along. Is that what helicopters do? Rumble? Something like that. It’s a strangely reassuring sound.
A cacophony in symphony. Music only to a helicopter pilot’s ear. Sounds of faithful rotor blades performing their never ending ceremony. The reassuring background burble of turbine wheels meshing with hot gases. And the myriad feedback from cowlings, frames, fasteners, and rushing air.

I love it.

It reminds me so much of long motorcycle trips. Just quietly burbling along. Even the slight bounce of the instrument panel, the slight vibration of the window frame, the flicker of the blades passing above my eyes, remind me of my Honda VTX1300R. That nice twin cylinder thump. Reassuring. Solid.
I check the gauges. Everything is solid in the green. And I pass a grateful mental “thank you ” to all the mechanics, who labor so faithfully to ready our steeds for each morning. The unsung heroes of the helicopter industry. Patiently working the graveyard shift, putting up with everything from mosquitoes to freezing cold, from seriously strict bosses to whining pilots, just so we lucky ones can come in every morning, and take their charges up into the sky.

I’m giggling again.
I often find this funny. The fact that if I was rich, I would probably buy a flying machine. And go fly.
And then I would have to pay for the fuel. And the machine. And the insurance. And the maintenance. And the parts.

And here I am…

These really, really nice people, actually let me fly their toy.
They put gas in it.
They wash it, and polish it.
They fix it when it’s broken.
Heck, they even give me pocket money when I fly it.

How’s that for a helluva deal?

And not only that, but it’s actually a superb machine. In really great nick. Shiny, clean, beautifully maintained…
And they give it to me, to play with. Un-believable.

These dudes that own this helicopter are a bit nuts. Nice, but really strange.
But I’m not complaining. I’ll fly their birds, anytime.

It sure beats working for a living, that’s for sure…

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on March 21, 2012, 8:06 pm

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