Of Helicopters and Humans (27) “Serious as a Heart Attack “

Posted on April 26, 2014

Of Helicopters and Humans

(Part 27) “Serious as a Heart Attack”

So there we were, moseying along.
Six on board. Quiet flight deck. We had been chatting earlier, but now we had fallen silent. Just in the cruise, calm flight, grey overcast, good visibility, mild sea state. Peace. All is good. The steady beat of blades through salt laden air. The comforting whine of machinery, hot gases and busy fluids doing exactly as the designers intended. No more, no less. Peace.
Steady, throbbing, living, harmony.

My tiny mind was in tune with the flight, but just ticking over. Monitoring. All is good. Very good. The rest of my mind was far away, thinking over the horizon. Distant thoughts, that tumble, and twist. Soar, and stagnate. The currents of the psyche. The unspoken longings of a tiny, searching, questioning spirit. A limited mind, seeking earnestly to expand its view, whilst recognizing the futility of the task. I was vaguely pondering Original Mind, and what mine was maybe like before it became manipulated, molded, squashed and prejudiced by Man’s so-called Modernity. Our strange and futile quest to create solid rock strata of Permanence, when we should embrace more the realization of the fluidity and inevitability of Change. Illusions, so it seems, haunt us. Was my original Mind maybe more kind, more gentle? Less defensive? Was I once more compassionate? Now, the hard bitten cynic, capable of withering repartee, was I actually failing somehow? It was hard to figure out… The Red distracting Dust of daily toil and trubble was a huge thorn in the side of my timid soul. Maybe I over reacted to compensate. Maybe I…



In the fascinating world of helicopters, we are never more than seconds away from sudden rapid events, escalating by the split second, that change everything. Routine normality, hours and hours and hours’ worth, of just beating along, can always suddenly be totally up-ended. A helicopter pilot who simply loves his craft, as opposed to those who merely seek a pay check, accepts this not as a vexatious irritant, but as the price you pay for the privilege of flying. We simple ones, who can’t get enough of flying, immediately feel pity for “our baby”, and we rush to tend to her needs.
Except that in this case…

It was I who was in trouble. Deep trouble.

The sudden pressure on my chest was wholly unexpected. It erupted from nowhere. It was an expanding force, and already I could feel it affecting my lung volume and my breathing. I took a calming breath. The pressure increased steadily. Now it was really affecting my breathing….

Unbelievably, I was having a heart attack…

* * * * *

It didn’t make sense. I’d just passed my annual EKG. My blood pressure was excellent, typically 117 or 120 over 75 to 80. I was barely a couple of pounds over ideal weight. My body mass was normal for my size. I didn’t smoke, and I drank very little. I felt fine. So where did all that come from? It didn’t make sense. But it was happening, anyway…

* * * * *

Remarkably calmly, I looked through the chin bubble. Good. A Platform. I was already looking at my GPS. Okay, I know exactly where I’m at. Immediate Autorotation or stable descent?

I can’t believe this. Well, believe it… keep your cool. We’ll work through this…

The pressure was surprising. It was still increasing. I took a firm grip on the cyclic and collective. More pressure. It seemed to be all over my chest and back. Weird. I needed to land, immediately. I turned, and smoothly started lowering collective. I needed to make a call. Was I going to black out? Panic outliers were waiting to pounce, but I held them at bay.
Steady now… Steady…

Something BLUE was coming into my lower field of view. I glanced down, casually. Blue. Lots of blue. Bubbling up. Everywhere. Blue Blood? Royalty? No. BLUE RUBBER. Sum-bitch…
My life jacket is inflating!!
Man! What the HECK!!??
I watched it inflate, and I felt the pressure expand everywhere. So now I knew. Exactly. How the Michelin Man felt.

This is STUPID! The accidental inflation was completed, and my priority was flying the helicopter. Could I control the cyclic? Yes, no problem. Could I manipulate the collective? Yes, no problem. So, can I fly this puppy? Sure, no problem.
There is ONE problem left, how-ever. It’s called:

“Explaining this one to the passengers”.

Errr… I thought hard. Hmmm… This was going to be awkward to pass off as routine normality. Maybe I could tell them it was a test? A practice event, sort of thing? Or maybe nobody had noticed. The front seat passenger seemed asleep, last time I looked. If he hadn’t noticed, maybe nobody in the back had noticed, and then maybe I could cover the whole thing up, and then maybe…

Slowly, cautiously, all the immediate priorities taken care of, I swiveled my gaze to the passenger beside me. With luck, he was asleep. Maybe I could carry it off until we got to our destination…

No such luck.

Our gazes locked, and I found myself looking straight into laughter filled eyes. You know, that sort of look of mirth. The arms-folded, eyebrow raised, foot tapping look that says:
“… what in HELL’S NAME do you think you’re doing…?”
For once, I was speechless. Mark the calendar. I didn’t quite know WHAT to say. I was trying to evolve the situation, and I think I was working on some polite platitude, when the gentleman forestalled me.
Softly, (witheringly), he asked:

“Captain, is there anything you’re NOT telling us…?”

…and then he burst out laughing.

* * * * *

They say… that increasing technology will inevitably bring more surveillance to the pilot’s cockpit. Not just voice recorders. But cameras. Cameras prying into everything you do. The view out through the windscreen. The weather. I shall be retired and fishing, scribbling two-fingered Wars and Pieces, and running for Mayor as a Libertarian, by the time that becomes the norm. I kind of wonder if it’s all a good idea. If you really take away the peace of a pilot’s cockpit, and put him on a permanent floodlit stage, with unknown eyes peering out of the Darkness into his every nose pick, are you really going to help safety? I think you will reduce the joy of flying, and the traditional calm of the cockpit, that’s for sure. Change the culture. Heap the pressure on. Safety? Not so much.

And you really want to see everything? I’m not sure you do. Do you really want to be able to tune a video link in, at random, and watch your Captain, breathless, (life jacket inflated) (obviously about to ditch) (MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY) and his front seat passenger rolling around in a fit of hysterics? Giggling like school girls? Tears of laughter pouring down their faces? HUH!??? What are you gonna think? I think you’re gonna have a cardiac caniption. A fit. I KNOW you would…

And do you really want to hear the guy in the back, with the intercom headset, asking:
“What the hell is going on up there…? Oh, Francis, what DID YOU JUST DO?”
Followed by the guys in the back, including the Field Foreman, laughing their asses off?
No, you don’t want to see or hear any of that, I’m sure.

(Oh, gawd…)

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 17, 2014, 4:25 am

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