Saturday, August 29, 2009

My first chopper ride


The Bell 407 in which I took my first ever helicopter ride (photo courtesy of Bruce Liebowitz)

Even though I've been a private pilot for 15 years, I'd never been in a helicopter before last Monday, when I got a ride in a Bell 407 from Ontonagon, Michigan, to Wausau, Wisconsin.

For an old fixed-wing jockey, there's a distinct difference in the experience of flight. A little old Cessna 150 slices through butter-smooth morning air, while a chopper actually chops away at the elements in a high-speed vibration that rattles the fillings in one's teeth. The landing flare -- the maneuver in which an aircraft transitions from forward to vertical flight -- is so much more pronounced in a helicopter that for a moment I thought we were stalling, falling out of the air.

But going low (2000 feet above ground) across forested Michigan and Wisconsin gave the same sense of soaring over the beautiful greensward that one gets in a small two-seater.

The Bell 407, a mid-1990s design, is a speedy (140 knots) little seven-place utility beast that has become popular with all sorts of helicopter operations: sightseeing, the cops, news, corporate transport and medical evacuation to hospitals.

The 407 I flew in is a medevac chopper for the Aspirus network of hospitals. And I was the patient.

To keep a long story short, I suffered a heart attack Monday morning in downtown Ontonagon, drove myself (two blocks) to the hospital, and within the hour was stabilized and on my way to Wausau Aspirus. Wednesday I had a triple bypass, and now here I am on the mend and telling you about the experience.

Not the best way to get in one's first helicopter ride, but it was sweet all the same.

16 comments:

  1. Henry,

    So sorry to hear about your medical troubles but thankful that you are now recovering. Very best wishes from across the pond.

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  2. Henry - I heard about your medical situation yesterday from some folks up at the Porkie's Music Fest.I am very happy to see an update from you this morning!

    It takes a true observer to spend your time in a med-flight helicopter noting the flying characteristics of the chopper instead of the damaged heart beating in your chest.

    I wish you all the best and a speedy recovery!

    Steve S

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  3. Henry -- I think you buried the lead. Here's to a speedy recovery! --Marshall

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  4. Yeesh. Here's hoping you get to enjoy more helicopter rides in the future, solely for personal pleasure!

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  5. Henry - best to you for a speedy recovery. Hope you are back writing / photographing / flying / etc. soon. Did this give you more ideas for use by Sheriff Martinez? Medical care in the outback....
    Take care of yourself.

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  6. Hi Henry, You and Ted Kennedy travel through adversity with courage and a sense of humor. Believe me it will serve you well when you reach 90+. Because as your Uncle Bill will testify it gets really weird and you do crazy things like publishing unedited books

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  7. Henry, Jeez, you don't have to be THAT authentic about medical airlifts to include it in a chapter. Can't believe you wrote this blog entry without mentioning your heart attack until the end, and just in passing. Get Well Soon!

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  8. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart as well as elsewhere (Vicodin puts one into Suppository Land, dammit). I am feeling stronger every day and pretty soon will have an opinion about something other than myself and can put up a new blogpost.

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  9. No more flying, I guess, Henry?

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  10. Glad you're feeling better. Are you in Ontonagon? Enjoy what little bit of summer we have left!

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  11. Glad to hear that you are OK. Also, what a way to take advantage of a scary situation. Stick to fixed-wing. No fling-wings.

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  12. I'll be back in Evanston this weekend. It makes sense to start rehab in a place where there is a choice among a passel of ambulance companies. Ontonagon County has only one, and it is based in the south of the county.

    As for flying, I'll cross that runway when I come to it. Possibly I'll go the Light Sport route, where the medical requirements are not strenuous.

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  13. Hurry up and get well! I miss your blogposts.

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  14. The bill for the ride, sent to Medicare, was $27,000 and change. Wonder how much of that Medicare will pay.

    Worth every penny, though.

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  15. Leave it to you to go on a $27,000 ride in the air. :)

    Glad your ticker is working again-- this means we'll need to schedule lunch!

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