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.