On Friday I was lucky enough to go with one of our pilots to his currency training on the MH-47G Chinook helicopter up in Tennessee/Kentucky. Don’t kid yourselves…I am still not “up” (able to ride along in an actual helicopter) due to the FAA…but that’s ok, because this was just a simulator. You are probably thinking, “Oh, it was just a simulator…how lame….” But boys and girls, this is not Microsoft Flight Simulator. The simulator was a full motion, complete cockpit, holy-crap-are-you-sure-I’m-not-flying-a-real-Chinook kind of simulator. And it was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!
After Dave went through his start-up checklist he looked over and told me to try to hover. I was shocked…I mean here I was, a little old engineer just excited to be riding along in an almost-real Chinook, and now he wanted me…ME? to fly this thing?!?!?!?! After a few “jumps” on the ground (picking it up, not having enough power, setting it down, etc.) I actually got it off the ground. 10,000 lbs of horsepower and a 46,000 lb aircraft were held in my two little hands between the cyclic and the collective. HOLY CRAP! I was absolutely floored.
We ended up spending about 4 hours in the simulator, which gave me plenty more time to practice my hover, landings and a little cue-flying. I think Dave was having a kick just watching me try to fly this helicopter that he knows so well. After we were done with the second set and I had landed the helicopter, I looked over at him and said, “I am so tense the whole time Dave. I am just trying to hold these controls to keep everything steady and it takes a lot of concentration! I am exhausted!” He replied, “And you don’t think we are after we’re done?”
I’m sure you get more comfortable and understand the quirks of the helicopter better after several decades of experience. But, it is still hard work, mentally and physically, and I am glad I had the chance to experience what it feels like to pilot a Chinook!