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