I recently had my first helicopter experience when I went on a flying tour of New York City. After signing a liability form with multiple lines of “don’t sue our company, please” fine print, the flight instructor guided my friend and I down the tarmac where the helicopter was kept. While we walked, I took the opportunity to ask the pilot a very important question. “So how many years have you been flying?” “Two.” “Did you say two years?” “Yes, two years.” Oh boy, what did we get ourselves into?! Somehow the liability release form coupled with the novice helicopter pilot didn’t instill a warm and fuzzy sense of security in my nervous heart. Was it too late to back out??
The helicopter pilot then ushers us into a tiny blue dragonfly looking contraption that was the length of 1.5 Geremys. I thought that it would be a very cool toy for my brother to play with, but then our pilot said “this is the helicopter that we will be flying in today.” Wait…this blue insect thing is a helicopter?!? At this point, the “don’t sue us” form, coupled with the beginner helicopter pilot and the 9 ft long dragonfly did not give a sense of security to my palpitating heart. Was it too late to back out??
Pilot man explained the rules of the dragonfly: 1) don’t walk behind the fly 2) don’t walk around the fly if its wings are flapping 3) don’t step on the fly, and 4) don’t try to leave the fly while the fly is in motion. This seemed easy enough. As extra incentive, he explained that breaking these rules could lead to injuries, which probably include decapitation and/or loss of limbs. Now I realized why the release form was necessary.
We climbed into the fly’s belly and fastened our seat belts to ensure that we don’t fall out. I assumed that the pilot was going to prepare for the flight by wearing some helicopter-piloting gear, like maybe some sort of life vest and perhaps a helmet, but I was horribly mistaken. His helicopter flying outfit consisted of a t-shirt that had three planes free-falling out of the sky.
Next, he turned on the helicopter (which sounded a lot like my dad’s Craftsman weedwacker) and he whisked us into the air. When we were about 20 feet above the ground, I noticed that he had no front door and could easily jump out of the helicopter and abandon the flight if he wanted to. Uh oh..
After we were in the sky, the fly went surprisingly smooth and the views of everything was simply amazing. It was great to see the entire city of New York from a completely different vantage point. I was eye-to-eye with skyscrapers and I felt like King Kong. I continuously snapped photos of everything I saw because I did not want to forget the amazing view. As we reached the end of Manhattan, the pilot turned the fly around and showed us one of my favorite New Jersey cities—Hoboken. He pointed out a few things that were only visible from the sky, such as rooftop pools and gardens, but then I realized that he was steering the entire helicopter with one hand as he spoke. I wanted to mention that I didn’t feel that he was experienced enough to attempt the one-hand-flying routine, but since he didn’t have a door I didn’t want him to get offended and jump into the Hudson River.
We passed by the Statue of Liberty then we crossed over Newark Airport before landing in the same spot where we started. As I exited the dragonfly, I wished the the flight was just a bit longer because it was truly a great experience with great sights. Although I signed all of my rights away on a waiver form, and I flew in a helicopter that was smaller than the glove compartment in a Mini Cooper, and I put my life in the hands of a relatively new pilot, and I risked decapitation, it was a very enjoyable experience that I would partake in again if I was given the opportunity.
Coincidentally, two days later I received an email from the company’s mailing list which stated that flights were postponed indefinitely due to mechanical issues. I don’t know if this was due to the pilot or the dragonfly or the lack of a front door, or the risk of decapitation, or the weedwacker engine, but I am happy that it didn’t happen on my flight so I could live to tell this story about the time that I was eye-to-eye with the sky.