Landing number…who knows, how many with many more to come. My passengers are delighted by their short rides and although its the same circuit and the same comments “Ad nauseam”, I smile and tell my disembarking passengers that they are welcome and I am happy that they enjoyed the flight.
I am happy; for them, and I remind myself that this is most likely the first helicopter ride for most of my passengers. I hope they leave with a good memory.
I look over and see that my loader is walking the little Mom and her gentle giant of a man/boy towards the helicopter. Her boy is starting to hop a little as he approaches the helicopter and I give my loader the head lower signal. There is no moving his size 22 neck any lower but the hand on the top of his head restrains his exuberance. Mom jumps in like she has been climbing in helicopters her whole life and smiles at me as I help her with the seat belt.
I have frictioned the controls and reach across Mom to extend my hand to the big guy who is having trouble getting in. A huge hand grabs my wrist and with my arm at its socket limit he pulls himself into the seat and forgets to let go of my arm. Mom says something to him which I can’t hear over the engine noise. He smiles a shy smile my way and lets go as he turns his attention to the loader struggling to get the belt around a waist that has the shape and softness of an oak cask. Looking at Mom who barely comes up to my shoulder I wonder how big her son might have been at birth. But that is a question for another time and place.
I add an extra 100 r.p.m. for what I expect will be, and is, a maximum manifold pressure departure. We are just approaching the shudder of translation, I drop a little collective and put cyclic pressure forward as something flashes into my peripheral vision from the left. My head snaps back to the firewall as that big hand tags me square on the schnoz!
In a perfect example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion my headset goes the opposite direction and I feel it bounce off my knee to the floor. The rapid cyclic flare is arrested and I roll some throttle back in, as I recover some r.p.m. and my vision. Mom is apologizing as I put my headset back on going through 200 feet. My previously broken nose has that same numb tingly feel it had that last night I picked myself up off the canvas at the Police Club boxing ring.
Mom has two hands clasped around juniors big mitt and I smile at her telling her not to worry about it. “I have been hit harder than that” I say. Her boy sits with his big sweet smile enjoying the extended flight.
I have slid as far to the left as possible in my seat as we make a very gradual approach to land. I don’t want to startle the big guy and I am sure that three hands smacking the side of my head won’t impress the crowd with my landing anymore than my takeoff did.
Mom apologizes again when we are on the ground and I concede that it could have been worse through my teary smile. My next passengers load and stare at my face. I know what it looks like and I say the same thing to them that I once said to my old boxing coach. “Well, at least I can take a punch.”