Since childhood, I’ve dreamed of piloting a helicopter. I imagined hovering over distant lands to assist in medical transport, exploring snow capped mountains and uncharted territory, and discovering new adventures from a bird’s-eye view. Ok, time to wake up, right? Not exactly. Star Helicopters, in Hawthorne, CA offers a wide range of training options and aircrafts to suit any student’s needs. Their unique Intro Flight provides you with the truly amazing opportunity to experience firsthand the remarkable capabilities of helicopters. On Saturday, December 17th, I became part of the sky by piloting my first helicopter flight. As I walked into the waiting area, I felt a lump in my throat; I was living my dreams!
Inside the office, there were two pilots, the owner, and a receptionist (the Director of Operations). Each employee welcomed Darren and I to a friendly, relaxed environment. The Director of Operations, Jeannette Reed, noticed my pregnant belly and showed an instant interest in me and my life. The Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Star Helicopters, Keith Harter, offered us a comfortable seat and directed us to the paper-work required for our flights. They were so welcoming and receptive that I felt like I was chatting with family.
My Intro Flight was flown using the Robinson R22 – Beta II and included 30 minutes of ground instruction, 30 minutes of flight instruction, and SFAR 73 endorsement – R22. Star Helicopter’s flight training centers around one-on-one instruction with the emphasis on the student’s needs and time. My instructor, Monica Reich, approached me with a smile and ease that encouraged my enthusiasm. I was about to embark on the most exciting, fulfilling hour of my life.
The 30 minutes of ground school was conducted at the helicopter. Monica explained how the helicopter flies, what each control does, how to read the gauges, what to look for in conducting the pre-flight inspection, and how to make sure the helicopter is safe to fly. I received an SFAR 73 Endorsement, which allowed me to control and fly the helicopter during my flight. Monica’s demeanor and instructions instilled a confidence in me that I didn’t know existed. I felt prepared to take control and experience a new form of flying.
After ground instruction was complete, we took to the air on a 30 minute flight lesson. I felt the blades lift us gentle up into the air and glide smoothly over the city. I took the controls, with the help of my flight instructor, to see what it is like to pilot the helicopter. The flight was conducted at Hawthorne Airport and over the local coast line. I got the chance to experience most flight conditions, including straight and level flight, climbs, turns, and descents, but the most memorable experience was hovering. I gained a new respect for a helicopter pilot’s abilities when I tried to hover over the landing strip. What Monica made appear graceful, controlled, and easy was actually one of the most difficult challenges of being a pilot. My husband described his pilot as a Jedi with powers beyond belief. Although I may not have compared a pilot to a Jedi, my understanding of their abilities was similar. I may have had little skill when it came to hovering, but I wanted the lesson to last a lifetime. Never before in my experience with flying did I feel so responsible for the actual flight.
I’ve lived an adventurous life in the sky to this point. After sky-diving, bungee jumping, paragliding, base-jumping, airplane flying, para-sailing, cliff jumping, and sky-jumping, I thought my limits had been maxed and my dreams of soaring through the sky had been met, but piloting a helicopter was the most memorable flying experience yet.
“The helicopter is evidence of how man’s imagination can be given physical form.” ~Wheeler, Howard A.
The joys of soaring like an eagle through the endless skies are within my reach so live your dreams because anything is possible.