Posted 6 years 253 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick
And so it came to pass that I turned up at an airfield that I had not previously been to. Innocently, full of the best intentions, I proceeded on down to land. High time fixed wing pilot, fixed wing CFII, low time helicopter student pilot. Maybe not the best combination. Shakespeare's Macbeth said it best, and that was a long time ago:
Is this a dagger, I see before me?
The handle towards my hand...?
I had, admittedly, looked up the airfield on the 'Flight Guide' beforehand. And I had noted that it had a dedicated heli-terminal, separate, and away from the fixed wingers. The plebs. It was also a "Unicom" job. No Tower, you just talk, tell the world, if anybody's listening, where you are and what you're going to do.
I arrived overhead, looked down. Yep. That's the heli-terminal. Rows and rows of shiny little helicopters, parked in neat, white circles. Down I went. Nice approach. Noticed this funny, rather high barbed wire fence all around the heli-terminal. Strict security, eh? Hey-ho. Hop over the fence. Land in a nice, big circle beside a big shiny fellow. Great! Hey-hum. Don't want to shut down just yet. Having too much fun. I'm in circle number twenty. I see. Well, let's do some practice. Hop over to circle number eighteen. Lift up, hover checks, across we go. Settle down in the hover, DOWN we settle, BINGO!
Damn, I'm good...
Alright! Now what? Okay, let's do a three sixty degree turn on the spot. Yeah! Another one the other way. Banzai! This was FUN. I was well pleased with myself. Ahead of me, there was another free space. I decided to go for it. More practice. I lifted up into a reasonable hover, stabilized (Good Boy!), and hover taxied the twenty yards across to circle number twenty-six. Good. There was now a spare space beside me. Through the rather high barbed wire fence beyond it, I could see the rows of shiny fixed wingers. Outsiders. You've got to be 'special' to be doing what I'm doing. Okay, let's go for that circle then. I was positively humming to myself with enjoyment. This was great. Applaud
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a number of chaps had stopped to look outside the offices.
Must give them a good show...
I lifted off with the greatest of care, stabilized in the hover, and moved sideways twenty yards. I settled down again, nicely. Not bad for twenty-something helicopter flight hours...? I glanced at the little group of observers, and I noticed more had come out of the offices to get a better view. They must really like helicopters, I thought to myself. I looked away from them, at the nice, shiny Hughes 500 I had parked alongside. It quite dwarfed the little Red Robinson. It looked very new and shiny. I now noticed it had
"Los Angeles Police Department"
...written all over it. Well, well, I thought to myself. A Police Helicopter. A copper chopper, in fact. Interesting. I looked back at the growing group of onlookers. Some of them were leaning against the wall, arms folded. Must really, really like helicopters, these chaps, I thought.
Well, I've given them a good little demo...
I looked around at the other helicopters. The one on my left was also a nice, shiny Hughes 500. Good condition. It had "Los Angeles Police Department" written on it as well. Oh, fancy that. Two Police choppers. Well, well. I looked across at the helicopter diagonally ahead of me. Nice Bell Jetranger. It had "Sheriff" written all over it. I see. I looked back at the group of very interested onlookers. There was something very similar about them all. Big guys. Yes, that was it. They were all wearing short sleeved white shirts. Arms folded. With badges...
And my eyes darted back to the assembled helicopters. The one ahead of me, the ones beside me, the ones over there... they were ALL Police! I looked back at the group of men. THEY were all COPS! Ohmigod!
I've landed in the Police compound! Speaking
I'm playing a juvenile game off hop-scotch and ring-around-the-roses in and around their very expensive crime busting tools... This isn't the civilian heli-terminal! That's why the big high, barbed wire fence was around it! And those BIG guys... arms folded... not happy... Guns... oh, oh...
And the brain sputtered-spurted into action: two choices! One: shut down, get out, explain, apologize!
Option TWO: VAMOOSH...
And a little red R-22 pulled in a fistful of power, and... hightailed it out of there!
* * * * *
No sooner had I made my escape, and hopped out over the (barbed wire, high security) fence, than I instantly regretted my decision. That was pretty stupid... They would doubtless know the school I was from, and they were probably even now on the landline. Miserably I flew back. I was going to be in trouble. Far better to have shut down and apologized. Clot! Would I be in serious trouble? Only one way to find out...
I arrived back at the helicopter school, crestfallen, tail between skids. Between Legs, even. Walked in. Sheepish. Guilty look. Expecting a telling off.
I had hardly stepped inside, than I was met with hoots of laughter. The owner, Floyd, was paralytic. So was Sharon, his wife. Everybody else was convinced I had made History. A classic clanger. In all the years they had been there, nobody else... etc, etc.
What could I say? I just stood there, half laughing, half thinking:
"Scotty... if you are there... Beam me up, bro'..."
Apparently the Police Officer that phoned was too cracked up with laughter to talk properly. Sharon said that, in the background, while he was trying to explain, all she could hear was his colleagues hooting it out. What seemed to have really tickled these boys was the way events unfolded...
From the cops point of view:
1) Sudden, unexpected, roaring arrival of a strange helicopter, smack in the middle of a highly secured area. Are they under attack? Is this a bad guy? What...? Momentary alarm. Drug aircraft? Cartels? Guns? People leap up, move quickly to the windows, prepare to take defensive positions...
2) Everybody recognizes the little red Robinson R-22 hopping neatly over the fence.. "It's Hiser!" Cops watch as unknown pilot does a nice landing. No bad guys jump out with guns.
3) Pilot, presumed to be a solo student, looks well pleased with himself. Lifts up, hover taxies sideways, lands again. Big grin. Cops are figuring out what's going on. "He thinks he's over at the G.A. ramp!"
4) student still well happy. Does several more practice take-offs to the hover, and landings on adjacent spots.
5) happy student helicopter pilot, diligently practicing 360 degree turns, first one way, then the other. Crowd of cops gather. Offices emptying out. "You gotta come and see this…"
6) happy student looks very happy. Grinning like a banshee. Cops watching, arms folded.
7) slight LESS happy student's head turns, and looks closely at helicopter parked beside him.
8) distinctly AGITATED student's head bobs first this way, then that, taking in ALL the rows of copper choppers.
9) chuckling from cops. They've got it all figured out. EXTREMELY agitated student helicopter pilot pulls in a fistful of collective, and HIGHTAILS it out over the fence and away!
10) Cops fall around laughing.
(Scotty? Scotty? Are you there...??) Noooo
Oh, oh. Oops. Sorry!
* * * * *
I knew the laugh was on me. What could I do, except try hard, as I always do, in my own, bumbling way, not to break the rules, and not to upset anybody. The intentions were pure as the wind driven snow. Before they spread the salt. I swear. Well, barely a week later...
I had caused even more chaos. Much more. And I wasn't doing anything. Much.
I was just flying along, building cross country flight time, over an open country area. I was just enjoying myself. Honestly. I had been told by my instructor that it would be a good idea if I gave myself a practice engine failure. Down to a low hover. He had encouraged me to do them enroute, over open country. Away from built up areas, but it didn't have to be over an airfield.
Boy, you can't do that in the UK. People would get all excited.
You're not in the UK, son, you're in America!
I concurred with that. I sure loved America. Still do. Okay, I reasoned, my "General Flight Test" was coming up soon, my final flight test to be issued with my FAA Helicopter Private Pilot's License. So I needed to practice conscientiously. So, innocently, I thought to myself:
"The first RED car I see, I'll pretend the engine has quit. I'll drop straight into autorotation, pick a spot, complete the drills, send out a Mayday, the whole bang lot. Uh-huh."
A good idea...
It was a pretty long ride. Ho-hum. No red cars. Soon, I was droning along happily, in that other world I like so much. Peaceful, alone, dreamy, and happy. Terrific views. Freedom. Thoughts that wander. Fly
No red cars. Droning along. Merrily. La-di-da...
I decided to make up some silly poetry. With a nod to Winnie-the-Pooh.
"How nice to be
A little flea
On Brigitte's b..."
And so on...
"As Pin was dreaming through the sky,
He met this madly flapping Lie
Who scorned him with a mocking eye
And said: Young Man, I do decry
Your silly habit of trying to fly.
I can tell you such,
It costs too m...."
RED CAR! WHOAH!
MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY!
Into the DRILL! A site! I need a site! Where's the wind coming from?? All hills and valleys and rocks. I have to find... Ah, there! Beyond that little ridge! Go for it! Good lookout! MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY!
Looking Good. Nobody around. Take it all the way down to ground level... three hundred feet. Over that little wood. Two hundred... coming down... down... FLARE! LEVEL! Pull in power!
Good one... Clapping
And away! Down a little valley, watch for cables, and up into the sky! Not bad...
And off I flew, happy-happy. Pure as the wind driven snow. Before the coyotes come sneaking along. (and p... in it).
There were some folk out, hiking. And they saw and heard this helicopter approach, droning steadily, flying in a straight line. And suddenly, backfiring. Doing something "very funny", before hurtling down out of the sky. Then it disappeared behind a ridge line, and was never seen again.
And of course, these well meaning hikers ran to the nearest phone. To report a helicopter CRASHING. Big panic. Search parties alerted. Volunteer Fire Departments called out. Police helicopter dispatched. Looking everywhere for a crashed red helicopter. Meanwhile, I was flying along, happy as a mouse in a granary, composing silly poetry. Wholly unaware that vast (and expensive) resources were being hastily mobilized because of my chance and flamboyant encounter with a passing RED car.
It took a couple of smart cops to figure out: "Hang on? A little RED helicopter? Doing stuff? Call Hiser! See if that dozy Irishman is still flying around!?"
And thus it came to pass... honestly, you can't make this stuff up. And thus it came to pass, that I returned from a successful solo cross country, and walked into the flying school, happy as only a newbie helicopter jockey can be. A bounce in his stride. A sparkle in his eye. All hail, the conquering hero...
Every face turned towards me. And Sharon, breathlessly, asked if I had been flying over such-and-such an area. Errr...yes? About what time? I work it out.
What? Now bloody what?
The whole place collapses. Again. Quick phone calls to inform search parties. Laughter.
"Yes, it was him again!"
Would somebody please explain to me what the hell is going on? Don't just stand their laughing your socks off??! NOW WHAT HAVE I DONE...??
(Oops!) (Sorry!) Hypocrite
A Little About Moggy - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick (www.chopperstories.com)
admits to not being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies
(more or less) totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is
rumored to have solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind
leg. “Holy Molly McBride! NOW what have I done…?” He is working
dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does, admittedly, get sent
back a lot – for another try) , and he describes himself as a ‘chopper
jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut, hanging under a nut.
(BIG nut, though). Compared to trying to attain Wisdom (he was a
Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley hand), he reckons
it beats working for a living. It ranks right up there with being a
happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy slopes. Moggy loves
spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply your enjoyment.
His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his bar stories with
verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are advised to move your
pints and other drinks safely out of his way. He is also the author of
“Moggy’s Tuna Manual”, a Tuna Helicopter safety initiative, available on