Saturday, May 9, 2009

Robinson R22 Helicopter Ride

I got a call from one of my storm chasing buddies to go up with him in his helicopter. He's asked me to go a couple of times before, but I could never do it. I knew that if I said no this time, the chances of him continuing to ask me would drop. It was 12:30 pm and he was already at Long Beach Airport. He gave directions, I drank a protein drink and I was off. He was waiting, so I really wanted to get a move on. Of course, my gas tank was empty, so I would be few more minutes late. What's a few minutes...well long enough to wonder what I was doing leaving work at the last minute to go up in a two seat helicopter. As I was driving through a little traffic on the 405, I couldn't help but remember a friend of a friend who died 16 years ago in a similar helicopter. I also remembered my old statistic teacher believing that more could go wrong in a helicopter than a plane. But, on the other side of the coin, my friend is an experienced commercial helicopter pilot. He's currently studying to become an instructor. And he owns the aircraft. How many opportunities does one get to see Orange County from a helicopter?? I decided to take the plunge...even though I had already committed. I arrived and Long Beach Airport and Jeff had already completed the pre-flight and we were ready to take off. We got clearance from the tower and we took off with more forward speed than I expected. Very quickly, we were well over 1000 feet over Long Beach headed to the ocean. Once there we headed South passing over Belmont Shore, Surfside, Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach. We then headed north through Laguna Canyon towards my house. It didn't take long before we were over the boys' elementary school. (They both said they saw us.) We then headed literally over my house. (see picture above.)The forward speed is deceptively fast. I was way behind telling him where to go. I snapped a couple of photos and then headed to Anaheim hills. As we approached the ridge of the 2008 Anaheim Hills fire, we could see the total randomness from the fires. We witnessed one or two homes lost in between many that were still standing. Then more of the same. It was very random...sometime two homes standing and two missing. All that was left was hardscaping and the foundations, with many empty pools in the backyard. It was really sad to see the loss of property. We then headed back West towards Long Beach. We travelled along the Santa Ana River for a while seeing Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm out in the distance. We then approached the airport for a fun landing. I'm so glad I took the time off for this flight. It was a blast! See Landing:

See More R22 Helicopter Pictures:

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