Finding The Hover Button
One of the most humbling experiences in my Army career was learning to hover in a helicopter. I came across a video this weekend that a buddy took of me trying to find the hover button, and thought it would be good for a laugh…
I heard the instructor pilot’s voice over my headset, “Okay, you have the controls.” Are you crazy, I remember thinking to myself? I didn’t know what a cyclic was until just the other day, and now you want me to do four different things with each of my extremities and keep this spinning, shaking, contraption in a stationary three-foot hover? “Uhm, okay, I have the controls.”
My plan was simple, I’d just hold all of the controls exactly where they were at, and everything would be fine. In my left hand I held the stick that made us go up and down; its name escaped me. My feet were solidly placed on the pedals, but since I didn’t want to turn anywhere I wouldn’t need to worry about those. In my right hand I held the cyclic with a Kung-Fu grip that would have made GI-Joe jealous. Just hold what you got, I kept telling myself.
Hey, it’s working! Oh, wait a second we’re drifting to the right a little bit. Alright, I just need to move the cyclic back to the left. Well, maybe that was too much, now we’re sliding left. Wait, why are we going higher now? The stick on the left, yeah, that’s what it’s for. Just push it down a little bit. Oh crap, we’re falling, we’re falling. Quick, pull it back up to where it was. The nose is swinging around now. Why is that happening? I didn’t do anything with the pedals! Are we going backwards now? Oh, we’re drifting again! Descending and rotating right, but somehow drifting left, and accelerating backward I realized it was time to cry uncle, “YOU HAVE THE CONTROLS!”
The seasoned veteran sitting in the right seat coolly took the controls and instantly had us in a stabilized hover. He was completely calm; apparently blissfully unaware that we were mere seconds away from being entombed in a crumpled mass of counter-rotating parts that used to be a helicopter. Looking over at me, the instructor chuckled as he flew us back to where the chaos began. “Okay, you have the controls” he said, “let’s try that again.”