Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Faith the Aviatrix (Part Two)

Recently, I posted the first part of my helicopter adventure but there was just too much adventure for one measly post, so naturally I had to expand upon it so ya'll could share in all my helicoptery goodness. 

Booking the slightly longer flight meant that we got to fly up and see NYC. Luckily for me I work in Lower Manhattan and live in Brooklyn so they were all familiar sights. Only this time I was getting to see them from a brand new, exciting perspective. 

Here we are flying over the Staten Island Ferry, about a thousand feet above New York harbor. In the picture below you can see Governor's Island, a cool spot that's a summer tradition for us. 

One fun fact about helicopter headphones; you can hear your own voice! It's great feedback for practicing your female voice. Actually being able to hear myself let me really nail my girl voice pretty well. One of these days I need to rig up a system or find an app that lets me do that some more. 

We came in low over Manhattan, way lower than I thought we would. We flew right over Battery Park City and next to One World Trade. Here's a lovely view of South End Avenue in Battery Park City. You can just make out the Empire State Building on the horizon. 

Remember how I said that there were no doors on the helicopter? Well, once we reached about Pier 40, we turned around over the Hudson River to head south. Here's a thing you might not know about helicopters. They bank when they turn. And we did a tight 180 turn, which meant the helicopter banked pretty sharply. That's what you're seeing in this picture below.

Notice something about the helicopter in question? Like how it's basically on its side? Notice how that helicopter has doors? Okay. My helicopter did not have doors. That meant that I was sitting sideways with nothing below me except a thousand feet of air and then some water below that. Yeah, centripetal force will keep you inside, but looking down in that situation is not recommended. Especially for those with a fear of heights. 

Looking totally calm. Trying to be totally calm. Look how totally calm I am. I wasn't even trying to look nervous. This was actually me attempting a happy smile just after we righted from the bank. That was seriously the scariest part. 

Heading south we went back down toward the harbor, flying low over the Statue of Liberty (aka Liberty Enlightening the World). 

Yes that is the State of Liberty from above. Not only have I been inside her head, I've also seen her from directly above. How cool is that?

Once we got south of the Statue of Liberty, I actually got to to take the controls of the helicopter. Remember how I said that banking sideways was the scariest part? I was wrong. Taking the controls turns out to be the scariest part by far.

You might imagine the control stick (or "cyclic" as we pilots call it) being something like a video game joy stick, right? You take it and move it and then it moves the helicopter. Okay it's sort of like that except that the cyclic is moving around, shaking like crazy. It's jumping all over the place chaotically because that's what the wind is doing to the helicopter. In your introductory training, they explain that the slightest movement of the cyclic will produce a huge movement in the helicopter. Nudge it a millimeter forward and you'll dramatically tilt forward and accelerate. They didn't mention that it'd be shaking all over the place.

So I tentatively took the controls, grasping the seizing cyclic in my own sweaty, shaking hand. I could barely keep it still because I was afraid to be too firm with it or move it too much or too quickly. The instructor kept giving me instructions to pull right but I was afraid to push it too far to the right. After about eight seconds or so I relinquished the controls.

Thankfully there was enough time that I got to try again. This time I was prepared for the cyclic and managed to keep it still enough for a couple of seconds. First I tried to move the helicopter to the left and holy crap we moved left! Then I moved us back right and then I realized that, holy crap, I was actually controlling a helicopter! I was actually controlling the helicopter that I was riding in - the helicopter that was keeping me in the air and keeping me alive. A little voice in the back of my head, actually a big voice, shouted "Your life is in your own hands now! What the hell are you doing moving a helicopter around in the sky!" I gave back the controls after about twenty five seconds. I did a little better than my partner, who only managed about five seconds before having a similar freak out. Poe Dameron I am not. Not yet at least.

One thing I hadn't mentioned before, that I just wanted to get out of the way, was how cool everyone at Core Helicopters was. I mean, yeah, they were friendly and courteous, but I was flying trans and they were still super cool and courteous. I'd even registered under my guy name but then I asked if they could put my girl name on the certificate for me. They were totally cool about it. Didn't so much as bat an eye. It was great. Honestly, I just felt like a girl the whole time. The only comment my Gender Rebel T-shirt got was when girl who we passed in the parking lot saw it and was like "I love your shirt." It made me really happy. 

If you're in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, I definitely recommend checking them out for your own flight. It is expensive but it's unforgettable and amazing. It's an adventure you just have to experience.

And I couldn't be happier experiencing it as a girl!

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