12 October - Flying High, Beathouse & The Iron Horse

A chopper. Who knew this is where I would find myself this week?

My friend Burkle had been asking me since early summer to go skydiving. It was something I looked into when I was in my early 20s -- pre-family and pre-responsibilities. I kindly declined, particularly after recalling a story where a wife bought her husband a skydiving excursion...and...let's just say it ended horribly. Nope, not worth the risk. Though I wondered if that fear should serve as the catalyst as to why I SHOULD do it. Uh...clarity again, please. Nope, still not worth the risk.

I contemplated what was the closest to being in the air as well as something I had not yet done. Helicopter ride. And actually take the reins. I began researching helicopter excursions that could fly my husband and I during dusk, overlooking Chicago's skyline. Between his crazy schedule and available airports to fly from, I realized I might have to go it alone. After much research, I came upon Chris Laskey from Midwestern Helicopters. Whew. Available two days from now? Perfect! Kenosha versus Schaumburg or Midway?! Even better.

The weather was gray and drizzly. I was a bit trepidatious. But flying beside a pilot with 46 years under his belt who prefers flying in this weather told me I was in good hands. When I arrived, Chris had this ease, confidence and calm about him that dispelled any fears. His disposition also allowed me to be my silly and curious self, as I had so many questions. Chris began with explaining the basics of flying..things like the difference of the wing between a plane and helicopter. The helicopter creates its own air movement, thus the ability to hover. We reviewed the terminology, different levers and parts -- two rotor systems, avoiding torque, collective pitch, trim, pedals and the cyclic. We discussed what each part is responsible for in the equation of movement. Lastly, we reviewed the commands of handing over the reins while in the air: "you have the controls"; my confirmation "I have the controls"; then his additional confirmation "you have the controls."

We then proceeded to the hangar. I was introduced to the Robinson R22...smaller than I thought. But stellar. Chris wheeled the aircraft outside. As we climbed in, we reviewed a checklist of making certain the controls and both systems worked (in case one failed while in the air.) We started the engine, put on our headsets, talked to the tower and began to ascend. We were floating. The closest to freely touching the sky was rising up into the air in this 2-seated helicopter, where a piece of glass separated me and the light drizzle. It was simply beautiful.

Leisurely. Calm. What surprising solace traveling 1500 feet above sea level at 90 miles per hour. The clouds prevented us from ascending any higher. After reviewing again the roles each lever, pedal and handle played, I was ready to have a go. The collective pitch ascended and descended the body; pedals turned the nose left or right; the cyclic tilts the rotor system which controls the direction and speed of our flight. Each movement was deliberately slow as the aircraft was extremely sensitive to the slightest nudge. I could feel I had to overcompensate a bit in the foot pedals due to the wind.

In order to become a licensed pilot, one must fly 50 to 60 hours ...at least I have my first 30 minutes. One needs flight ground instruction which covers rules on what is allowed and prohibited, weather conditions, where you can and cannot fly, etc. "Everything in America is regulated by licensing. In other countries like Russia, you have to answer where you are going and why. In the United States, we are allowed more freedom, but also more responsibility. If you violate any of the regulations, you lose your license. Period."

The second part in getting licensed is taking a written test by the Federal Aviation Association. The third is a 2-part exam with a designated examiner. The student is tested orally then must perform the maneuvers. How long it takes to actually achieve the license is dependent on how much the student dedicates to fly time, which should be 1 to 3 times per week. The financial commitment may reach approximately $12,000 to $15,000 in total. I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson, gave him a tip, which he initially refused. He called me a troublemaker followed by "but 'cha probably heard that before." We said our goodbyes and I assured him I would be back.

I followed this excursion with another fun task - recording session at Beathouse Music. I was so happy to see that Jim had reunited two of my favorite vocalists and client for this project, Erin, Ameerah and Ky. We goofed around per usual, but the synergy made for quite a productive and efficient session. Looking forward to the following reunion once more.

The week ended swimmingly with our wedding anniversary celebration at The Iron Horse Hotel. I met up with my husband, caught a cocktail before a relaxing dinner, then retreated back to our room for a comfortable night in. Happy Anniversary, hon.

Solitude at 1500 feet in the air; utter joy in a reunion of friends; connection and inner peace at this stage in marriage. All beautiful things...so very grateful.
For more information on Midwestern Helicopters, please visit: http://www.midwesternhelicopter.com/.
For more information on recording studio Beathouse Music, please visit: http://www.beathousemusic.com/.
For more information on The Iron Horse Hotel, please visit: http://www.theironhorsehotel.com/.