Tag Archives: helicopter ride

Taking to the skies with my son at the helm. Awesome.

May 24th, 2019

It’s my first time in a helicopter.  I’ve been in small aircraft before, as a passenger though and never even made it as a guest in the cockpit.  So how awesome to have my first helicopter flight with my son at the controls…

I suppose it should not really have come as a surprise.  Even as a child he was inseparable from Flight Simulator games, landing and crash-landing all kinds of jets and aeroplanes in far flung, exotic locations, albeit in the safety of our living room.  Growing up he joined the Air Cadets and found his wings gliding over the Oxfordshire countryside.  He dreamed of joining the Royal Air Force and cleaving the skies in the whirlwind of Typhoon and Tornedo fighter jets, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who served in the RAF during World War II.  Instead, whilst still at university, my son became hooked on skydiving, his hobby for the last 10 years with well over 1000 jumps and an instructor badge to his name… I suppose it takes only one small step and a lot of courage to move from being in charge of a plane to jumping from its bowels into the surrounding nothingness.  Still, destiny finally caught up with him and this March he gained his PPL: Private Pilot Licence… A helicopter pilot!! 

And as a parent, it is quite rewarding to be able to reap the benefits of his exploits.  A tandem skydive over Stonehenge and the Wiltshire countryside in August 2013, filmed by my son and photographed by one of his friends,

and just a couple of weeks ago, a bird’s eye view of the East Midlands, UK. 

One hazy and sunny morning in late May, my son and I set off to the helicopter centre.   As only the second person he has taken as a passenger on one of his solo trips – girlfriend of course taking priority – I feel quite privileged. The weather looks promising: not too windy, not too cloudy and definitely no rain on the horizon.  Perfect meteorological conditions as a matter of fact!  No choppy adventures in the chopper for me…

I have been given the broad outline of our flight plan and am happy to leave the minutiae up to my son. Finalising the flight plan actually takes quite some time, involves quite a bit of mathematics and calculator wizardry, and definitely some map-reading and geographically expertise… I sit back and marvel. Stumping up for many years of educating the brood has clearly paid off.

Wearing bright yellow high-viz jackets, we cross the tarmac to the dragonfly look-alike helicopter. It seems barely big enough to take the two of us up into the wild grey-cloud yonder…

And whilst I attend to the only task I have been entrusted with – holding the flight map – my son takes care of all the pre-flight checks. It is very reassuring to see that no corners are cut where safety is concerned… There is a lot of pressing buttons, pushing levers, swiping iPad screens, and eventually talking to the control tower in a language completely alien to the uninitiated. Anything involving sequences of numbers and letters would have me lost in an instance. Not so my son who clearly has a knack for retaining such random information…

And off we go… slowly hovering over the airfield before gaining some momentum and height whilst ‘England’s Green and Pleasant Land’ slowly unfolds beneath us: endless verdant pastures flecked with brown stubble fields; garlands of trees and clusters of woodland; rivers lazily meandering; sprawling towns; and ancient castles standing proud on hillocks overlooking the surrounding vales.

Belvoir Castle

Although much of Blake’s England has stood the test of time, other parts have succumbed to the inevitable tide of change… Rather than being enveloped by the Victorian smog and fumes of the ‘Satanic Mills’, we glide over sun-seeking solar farms and lines of powerful wind turbines. We watch Matchbox cars on tarmacked roads below us rather than farmers with their carts and horses on muddy tracks. Towns have kept on expanding. In the midst of a large woodland in Staffordshire, we spy Alton Towers, the UK’s largest theme park full of thrill-filled rides. And of course, the very fact that we are able to glory in it all from a bird’s eye perspective was nothing but a dream in Blake’s England.

Alton Towers

All in all, a two-hour long fantastic experience. Hopefully one that can be repeated in the future to scan different parts of England. Time will tell. Maybe by then I will have figured out how to reduce the reflections in the photographs… A cloudy day perhaps??