Saturday, December 27, 2014

Character Mimicry—Redux

In a previous blog I mentioned how sometimes I find myself mimicking my heroine’s world and that I bet I could get a lesson in a helicopter. Well, my husband arranged for me to get an intro ride in an R-44 Raven ii (Robinson helicopter) as a Christmas gift!

KC Copters Simulator
 Johnny Rowlands, owner of KC Copters, and long-time friend of my husband’s, gave me an intro in a simulator (about 15 minutes of very realistic takeoffs, landings, and cruising using the cyclic, collective, and pedals). Then out to the runway where I got to try my hand on the real thing.

USCG Jayhawk
A bit of background here: The second book in my new Gulf Coast Rescue series (Jayhawk Down) features Caitlyn Stone, a lieutenant in the US Coast Guard and her “office” is a Jayhawk helicopter.
While I’ve been a passenger in a helicopter (sightseeing flight over Alcatraz in San Francisco) I’ve never even come close to riding up front with the controls. I did a lot of research on helicopters, Jayhawks and Blackhawks in particular, for this book, but I really wanted to know what it felt like to fly one. Now granted, the R-44 is a far cry from a Jayhawk, but the sensation, the flight controls, and getting at least a feel for what I have my heroine do was a major kick.
Banking Left
Runway in Sight!
My actual flight was also about 15 minutes. I flew south, did a couple of turns then flew the approach to the airport, using the VASI (visual approach slope indicator) just like in an airplane, and actually landed the helicopter on the runway! Whoo Hoo!
Johnny then flew us sideways (which is how he flies when he has a cameraman shooting video for a local news station) with a lot more finesse than I did going straight forward. I got to practice attempt hovering. Ha,ha, boy that was a joke! Johnny had to rescue me a couple of times because that has to be one of the hardest things to learn how to do in a helicopter—and something Caitlyn has to do when launching a rescue swimmer and picking up survivors from the ocean or off the deck of a ship while being pummeled by high winds (or in the case of the first book in the series, A Dangerous Leap, in the midst of a hurricane). Just getting a taste for her job gave me a whole new perspective that will hopefully translate to more realistic scenes.
My Pilot, Johnny Rowlands
Thanks Johnny, that was a fantastic introduction to helicopters. I’m looking forward to my next trip to KC when I’ll get an hour of actual flight instruction!


Bill Weiler said...

You're welcome and great job of flying - and transitioning from fixed wing to spinning wings.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Well done, Sharon! What a rush that must have been!

Anne Marie Becker said...

That's awesome! Riding in a helicopter is on my bucket list. ;)

J Wachowski said...

Wow! I love doing research that gives me real life experiences. Super cool!

Rita said...

What a wonderful gift!

Sandy Parks said...

What a wonderful gift and terrific opportunity to do "research" for your stories. Looks like those whirly birds can be a lot of fun. Yep, that would be on my bucket list, too.

Cathy Perkins said...

What a great research "trip"!