Merry xmas to me.

I want one.  An R-22 helicopter and a supertech jet fighter helmet.

The world shall be mine.

badass helmet
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A dream coming true.

Sure, it’s cliche, but damn it’s the truth.

I’m a commercial helicopter pilot.  Passed my checkride yesterday. 

It’s actually kinda hard to believe.

I’ve achieved the greater part of something I’ve been wanting since I lived in Springfield, MO with my friends Jay and Pattie, almost eight years ago.  That was when I had a chat with my dad about my future and how I should go about making sure I could be happy and satisfied with my life.  Y’know, that whole thing of “you’re 24 now, so what’re gonna do with your life?” 

 There were two things he said then that stuck really hard.  One was while I was talking about how I wasn’t all that worried about income.  Any time I wanted I could find a job in a warehouse and be a manager there in no time.  And he said, “Yeah, true.  So are you gonna be happy as a warehouse manager when you’re forty years old?”  Okay, then.  The second thing he said was something to the effect of, “You wanna be happy in twenty years?  Find something you love to do, and figure out how to get paid for it.  I don’t care what it is, just figure it out.”  

Right.  Gotcha.  Umm… 

Gee, I’d love to get paid to fly a helicopter. 

And there it was.  I’d never been in a helicopter, but I’d flown several times and always, always took the window seat.  And helicopters were just so cool.  The research began.  I found out there are no quality flight schools anywhere in the midwest.  I’d have to move away???   Fuck.  I found out how expensive the training was to become a commercial helicopter pilot.  Fuuuck!  Hello, Coast Guard?  My eyes aren’t good enough, no surprise. 

So, five years go by.  I moved back to KC to work at my old job at, you got it, a warehouse.  The whole time thinking how cool it would be to be a pilot, and not doing much about it because just getting the education seemed such a daunting task.  

   

Then I meet this girl.     

 

I tell her about wanting to be a pilot, but it’s so expensive, I’d have to move, excuse, rationalize, justify, etc….

Our first christmas together she tracked down a local pilot and bought me a helicopter ride.  Good lord.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here’s this woman saying,  “Screw the excuses. This is your dream, and you haven’t done anything about it.  Now I’m here to love you and help you finally get to that dream.  So let’s do this.” 

Is it any surprise I married this girl? 

And here we are.  We uprooted our life and left family and friends and familiarity behind, and moved halfway across the country to pursue a goal I didn’t think was within my grasp.  This is something I’d never have the courage to do alone. 

I am a very lucky man.  If there’s any doubt, read this.

Thank you, baby.

Mrs. Dodo can fly

 Yup, took my wife up for a flight a couple weeks ago.  Her first helicopter ride.  By her own account, she loved it.  I was a little worried about how she’d do.  Thought she might be really tense and anxious about, one, having no control and putting her life entirely in my hands, and two, just being a nervous flyer in such a tiny little aircraft.  She did great, though.  Said the only time she tightened up was on takeoff, because we had about a forty-yard run, nose forward about three feet up, till we hit about 50mph for takeoff.  It’s a pretty fun moment for me now that I’m used to it, but I’ll admit it was certainly a stomach-lurcher the first few times I experienced it.  She took some video of that takeoff but, uh, accidentally deleted it later on.  We went out again last Sunday so she took some takeoff video again, though it’s not quite as exciting as the other takeoff cause I didn’t have as much room for a normal ground-run takeoff.  I spliced it up a bit because I spent a long time hovering there waiting to see what this inbound life-flight helicopter was gonna do. 

Here ya go.

Photo Frenzy!!!

Thursday afternoon, Andy and I had a four-hour block to do whatever I wanted.  So we flew to Astoria.  It’s the northwesternmost (big word) point in Oregon, where the Columbia River opens into the Pacific.  Lady J and I visited the town when we were first up here almost a year ago to check things out. 

She was a wee bit jealous that I was flying there and commanded me to take lots of pictures.  

So I did.  It was a thouroughly gray and overcast day, crappy for pics, but I did the best I could.

East of Astoria, flying westbound over the Columbia River.

There’s this tower outside of town that I believe depicts the exploration of the Columbia and the settling of Astoria…

…it’s pretty stinkin’ tall.

Astoria Municipal Airport.

This plane was parked near the fueling station, I have no idea what it is.  I just know it’s old and cool. 

…so old and cool that they had to duck tape the nose.

Coast Guard Station Astoria, right next to the airport.

And now….the coast.

Like I said, overcast.  There were times where I couldn’t even spot the horizon because the ocean and sky looked so similar.  There are jobs in the Gulf of Mexico that involve flying crews out to the oil rigs down there.  Imagine flying for an hour with this view.  Doesn’t sound too enjoyable to me.  (try to ignore the reflections in the window)

Approaching Seaside, OR.   I believe this is where Goonies was filmed.

Coming up on Cannon Beach, with Haystack Rock.  This also made an appearance in Goonies.

Now on the way to Tillamook, where we turn east and head inland.

We saw this weird wiggly line moving away from the beach.  It looked like a big crack in the ocean floor, like a faultline or something.

Then when we got closer and over it, it looked like a raised cliff, or a reef, I dunno.  If anyone has ideas on what this might be, please let me know, I’m really curious about it.

One of Andy’s other students is the guy named Sam, he lives with his parents in Tillamook.  They have a lot of land out there, and his uncle owns an R44 helicopter.  Basically just a four-person version of what I’m flying.  “It’s a hobby,” he says. 

They were just landing in the backyard (y’know, know big deal) when we were in Tillamook, so we asked if we could set down.  We hung out with Sam’s dad and uncle for awhile, chatting about school and flying.  And I’m thinking, “yup, I’m jealous.  This would be friggin awesome.”

Then we started heading back home over Hwy 6.  Along the way we spotted a CH-46 Chinook from Columbia Helicopters doing some logging work.  Y’know those giant army helicopters with two rotor systems that can lift houses and carry trucks in the back?  That’s what this is, with a prettier paintjob.  It’s insane how much power these things have.

Some city flyin’

 This week I got to fly into PDX (Portland International Airport) airspace and land on one of the runways and fly a pattern a few times.  It’s a really busy airport, a lot bigger than Kansas City’s.  Andy handled all the calls cuz you really need to be on top of it to fly into Class C airspace like this.  There’s a lot of stuff going on that I just never had to deal with before.  We just landed at the end of the cross runway that wasn’t in use and flew some patterns from there while 737’s were landing right in front of us on that big runway. 

Fun stuff. 

 

Then we flew down the river to the Downtown Heliport.  This is where the news choppers hang out when there’s nothing happening.  I didn’t get a picture of this place, I was too busy landing.  There’s not much to it, it’s a few landing pads on top a five story parking garage.  But still, it’s really cool to get to land on top of a building!  

I did get a few pics of the general downtown area of Portland, though. 

Tillamook.

It’s a fun word to say, isn’t it?  Tilla-mook.  Home of Tillamook Cheese, a big-ass Air Museum, and a shit-ton-o’-cows.  Smells like it too.  It’s left of Portland, on the coast, about 15 miles north of Pacific City where the Lady J and I visit our favorite beach. 

Today, I got to fly there.  Beautiful.  It’s about an hour drive along a river that flows through the Coastal Mountain Range.  It’s a pretty drive, an even prettier flight.  We stayed mainly over the river and road except for parts where the road does a big switchback, then we just flew over the mountain the road was going around, heehee. 

There was a low, solid fog bank wrapped around the town except for the hills we came out of.  It’s a cool sight to see from the air but this pic doesn’t really do it justice, naturally.

 

We had the time, so we hopped over to the coastline real quick.

 

And now….the grand finale!

By the way..

Some of you might remember my bafflement regarding the use of “knots” as a unit of measuring airspeed (and waterspeed).  Well, my old friend Tom from the workplace back in KC sent me this explanation.  And I believe him because A) he’s just the kind of guy who would know this kind of trivia, and B) he’s a huge Patrick O’Brien fan.  Remember that Russell Crowe movie Master and Commander?  Napoleonic maritime warfare stuff?  O’Brien’s the guy that wrote that book.  He knows his shite. 

In the old sailing days they would have a wheel attached to the ship and a rope knotted every so far tied to a board of a certain length, then they would throw the board overboard and time it for so many seconds using a small hour glass.  When the time was up they would stop the wheel, pull the rope in and count the knots.  It was approximately the same set up on each ship, an approximate measurement of speed across the water.  This could vary, depending upon how clean the hull of the boat was, how many sails were down, how hard the wind was blowing, if you wet the sails slightly they catch just a little more wind and the ship would go a little faster.  So twenty knots in sailing days was a very relative term, until the advent of modern clocks and taking precise measurements of where the ship is and figuring an average of how far it went over a particular period of time the knot has really firmed up as a nautical measurement over time.

Pretty cool, eh?  Tom’s full of stuff like this. Because of him I also know the basis for the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.”

Yup.

Mr. Wizard ain’t got nothin on this guy.