Francis Meyrick

Learning to Fly Helicopters (7B) “The Dark Side of the Sun “

Posted on October 18, 2015

Note: “Alternative version” – I just could NOT get it down right. I went round and round the houses, struggling to say something. I just could NOT get it down the way I wanted on paper. So… in the end, here are BOTH versions of Chapter 7. Maybe the kind reader, between the two versions I so laboriously wrestled with, can figure out what the heck I was trying to say.

Learning to Fly Helicopters

Part 7 – The Dark Side of the Sun (alternative version)

I could stop here.

I could have left it right there. And written just these six chapters. Kind of light hearted, kind of mischievous. An amused look back at my introduction to another branch of Aviation. The fun stuff. How to get sucked in. Addicted. Worse than crack. All about learning, enjoying, making mistakes, recognizing them. Exploring. Steadily becoming a better, more knowledgeable helicopter pilot. Steadily becoming more in tune with my machines. Soaking up the strange, discordant harmony. Feeling the air moving around my blades. Recognizing different types of vibrations. Knowing when shuddering is good, as when you accelerate through effective translational lift. Becoming alert, immediately, when something tells you all is not well. That circumstances were beginning to take a set against you. Conspiring. To set you up. For a nasty surprise. Or, worse.

It would be easy to stop here. Maybe even comforting.

But somehow, that would not be honest. It would be almost cowardly. For there is a Dark Side of the Sun. And we tiny Mortal Ones, we Seekers, we Moths who inexorably are drawn into the Lighted Candle, do well to pause, and ponder that dark Side. We do well to take a step back, a deep breath, and ask ourselves even the uncomfortable questions.

Even those questions we would prefer to ignore.

For as we gaze into the Mirror of our Lives, as we gaze into the uncertain reflection of our image, who are we? We can stretch out a trembling hand, but we cannot touch that person. We can climb mountains, to where we find, at last, in the early morning light, the clear, crystal lake of Tranquility. Where, utterly alone, we recognize the absurdity of lying to ourselves. We are what we see in the unwavering reflection in that cold, pure mountain mirror.

A small creature, pitiful in our innocence. Touching, in our deepest dreams. Surrounded by tall mountains, and bewildering vastness.

What do we know? What do we really understand?

Within a few years of the events I have respectfully submitted for your gentle consideration, I heard terrible news on the grapevine. There are many helicopter pilots on this tiny planet, but as many as there are, the brotherhood stays small and close. Bad news travels fast. And even slips quickly around the globe, skipping time zones, and darting effortlessly across the continental divide. If I was to fire up accidentally with a blade tied down, and do incalculable damage in a matter of seconds, they would know tomorrow in Africa. In Papua New Guinea. In Scotland. And down at the Alligator Bar, in Knockmedown, Northern Australia. Pilots fly fast. News flies faster. Bad news goes supersonic.

In this way, although I was an Ocean away, I heard that my first helicopter instructor, my buddy, the man with the two hundred flight hours, who took me under his wing as his first student, had been killed. During a training flight. Along with his student. I tried to call my old school, only to discover that the phone number was unlisted. Further enquiries revealed that they had gone out of business. I sighed, and shook my head. I made a note that one day, one special day, I would maybe write about my old vegetarian friend. The soft spoken one. The thoughtful, kind one. I continued to fly, helicopters and airplanes, with yet another quiet memory to add to all those many others. The growing rows of silent shadows, that I could hear no more, but often sense, gesticulating, or shaking their heads, noiselessly laughing, when I goofed up, or forgot to perform some essential cockpit duty. Or when I opened my mouth, honestly but without tact, when silence would have been golden.

I was rapidly building flight time and experience, and I was now a dual rated Flight Instructor, Airplane and Helicopter. Not a great one. Just one who tried, and who deeply loved his occupation. Time went by. More terrible news. Old Floyd, the Chief Helicopter Instructor, whose first solo pantomime I described earlier, and whose unusual Private Pilot Check ride I passed, he too had died in a helicopter crash. I was eventually able to find out more, and even talk to a witness, a fellow pilot. It appeared Floyd had been fire fighting, and was last seen entering a smoke cloud, low and heavy, preparing for a water drop. He never came out.

And always, the same question would hover on the edge of my consciousness. Whenever I heard terrible news. A small voice would cry out in the wilderness. Awake me at night. Plunge me into silent introspection.

Francis… what do you think YOU know, that he did not? With all his experience?

I would try and push that voice away. I would try and rationalize. Find causes. Find fault. I caught myself a few times deliberately making comforting assumptions, to the effect that HE must have F#@KED UP, and I (the great, exalted one) would NEVER DO THAT. (I was that good)


(Oh, I know…)
So how is it that some pilots die old and ancient? And others young and daring? Or at the peak of their knowledge?
Is it pure Lady Luck? Dancing the Terminal Tango with that mercurial lady? The one with the blue eyes, and the eternal gaze? Drawing in young men and women, the world over?

Is it Skill? Wisdom? Training? Fate? What!?

If I may venture an opinion.
(Well, dammit, you know I’m going to, right?)

I honestly think Fate and Luck have very little to do with it. To be sure, in a small minority of accidents, (way?) less than one per cent, there was nothing, nothing the pilot could have done. He or she was just destined that day to see their main rotor transmission catastrophically depart their aircraft. Or the hawk to come smashing though the windscreen at 500 feet, causing chaos with pieces of Perspex flying through the cockpit, and the sudden explosive wind blast disorientating the highly skilled crew. In the seconds available to react, what aviator would claim to be able to instantly recognize the fact that the hawk had slammed both throttles back to flight idle? A Million-to-one chance? I don’t think the greatest pilot on earth could have salvaged that particular Tango.

So, yes, you can encounter the impossible odds.

I am a keen motorcyclist. I have been riding for decades. I’ve even blogged about it. I like to think I can see situations coming. One day, Lady luck reminded me how some Tango mis-steps… are impossible to recover from. I was a mere three miles from home, on the main road, approaching a junction. I had the right of way. With fifty yards to go, a small car erupted out of the side road, straight through the STOP sign, at about sixty miles per hour. Straight across the junction ahead of me, right to left, never slowing. Four black youths on board. There was nothing, repeat nothing, I could have done, if Lady Luck had shuffled the dice a few seconds the other way. MY number would have been up.

So, yes, you can encounter the impossible odds. Stacked against you.

But those instances are, comfortingly, extremely rare. If you’re like me, not very bright, simple even, and infernally curious, maybe you just want to:

1. drink the cup dry
2. get your ticket’s worth (Ticket-to-ride, Ticket-to-think. Ticket-to-dream)
3. act in your own play (“strut and fret your hour upon the stage”)
4. star in your own movie (even if nobody comes to watch it) (too bad)
And, above all,
5. slide sideways into the grave, in a tire screeching, banshee defying blur of crazy, with a big, silly grin all over your face, shouting:


Maybe you just want to try (believe me, you will fail) to never hurt anybody. In any sense. Physical, emotional, spiritual.

Maybe you just want to try, to tread softly though this world, and bow your head reverently before those mysteries that you know you have no definite answers for. Hints, maybe. Inner stirrings. The voice in the wilderness. The beacon light in the vast darkness.

The sigh of the soul.

If you are just a little like that, you will magnificently enjoy flying helicopters. Or even, just sitting in an arm chair, taking a break from your everyday non-aviation office existence, and simply READING about flying helicopters. Because if you have gotten this far in my scribbles, then we are brothers, you and I. I may look down on you, from my office in the sky, and you may look UP at me, from yours on the seventeenth floor, but in our tiny, searching minds…

We are similar. Speaking

Yes, there is a Dark Side of the Sun. Yes, we should tread wisely. But the Light, brother, the Light… is awesome.
In the following stories, below, I would like to tell you a yarn or two. Ninety-nine per cent true. Except the one about the poor elephant. Okay, I made that one up. The little Indian didn’t really whop him in the n…. But I had to bring that one in, to introduce the interesting Indian concept of the lower societal castes. So bad, so low, so impolite, you can’t even touch them. The Untouchables. So I thought my (two) regular readers might be known as… Moggy’s Untouchables?

I would like to take you back a few generations in my family. I know there were story tellers there. It’s in our genes, I’m sure. And I’m sure they sat outside their cottages, after work, in Ireland and Scotland, and in Northern England. Even earlier, they sat outside their simple homes in Scandinavia. I see them, smoking perhaps, drinking, laughing, and bantering. Scolding the mischievous young ones, and worrying about the harvest, the weather, and the taxes. Secretly lusting after Brunhilda.

(Damn, here she comes, don’t look now) (Mama!… would you take in those jiggly knockers…!) (Down, Rover!) Fly

Nothing changes. Much. They were feeling, human, just like you and I.
And before the age of the Internet, and computers, and Wi-Fi, and Mass Media Manipulation, and Global Politics, and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Gurus, and Tele-PROMPTERS, these more honest folk, probably more feeling and cultured in many ways, engaged in “fireside story telling”. I imagine it was a favorite part of their day. The story tellers, their faces lit up in their light of the fire, eyes shining with passion, regaled their audiences with tales of Monsters and Heroes, Devils and Saviors, Good and Bad, Truth and Falsity. Spooks and Leprechauns.
And I imagine (no, I’m sure) they did it for no monetary reward at all, just for the pleasure of being surrounded by kin, and eager listeners. The pleasure of exploring the world, in the mind, in the heart, in the soul. Savor the simple reward.

The reward of being enjoyed…

And that is what I would like to do. Not for gain, or accolades, or vain motives of self promotion, but just for the sheer joy of spinning a yarn. Continuing an age old family tradition. After all, who am I? Sum’thin special? You want my autograph? Are you kidding? Heck, no. I’m just another expat Mischief Maker. With a mucky laugh. And laughter in his eyes.

I invite you into my tiny mind, to sit by the warm fire. I know, it’s a bit cramped in here. But relax, chill out, and gaze into the flames.

Here you go. A full glass in your hand. Cheers.
Aye, your good health, kind Sir, and lovely Missus.

Can I tell you guys a story? You don’t mind? That’s good of you. Just humor an Old Pilot. And listen, while he boldly rambles on. Contentedly. Slightly tipsy.
No charge. No fee. Keep yer f@#k’n money… It has no value here.

We are amongst friends. Present, and absent.


Scribbling Moggy

Return to Index? (ChopperStories.COM)?

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on November 16, 2015, 4:57 pm

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