I flew a helicopter!
Yes, I actually manned the controls myself, flew about 500 feet high, and practiced hovering (a ridiculously hard task).
I got to fly a helicopter, thanks to Cloud9Living.com, a company here in Las Vegas (and in cities all over the USA) that offer unique and thrilling experiences to clients who want to try something different from the normal tourist activities. This is also the same company that offers the experiences I asked you to vote on last month. Well, you voted for me to Fly A Helicopter, so this is what it was like:
After arriving at the North Las Vegas Airport, I got a 30 minute ground lesson describing the controls, what each do, and just a friendly chat (which I know is to help relax the student and determine their comfort level with flying)
During this ground lesson Leslie, my instructor says to me, “The doors are off [the helicopter] right now. If you want we can put them or yours back on, but it becomes quite hot inside if we do. Would you like me to put them on for you?”
I sit back for a few seconds, think about it and say confidently, “No. No I don’t.”
I don’t particularly like flying. I’ve been on commercial planes and I’m not a huge fan. I do it, I don’t freak out, but inside I’m pretty convinced I’m going to die the whole time. So I did not want the doors on this helicopter for two reasons. I wanted to get awesome photos and video, and this is an experience I don’t know when I will ever do again. I am already out of my comfort zone, so if I’m going to do this, I’m doing it all the way…door free baby!
After the lesson , and a quick golf cart ride across the tarmac, we arrive at 2 small, personal helicopters. I can’t believe it, I’m going to fly this! Leslie leaves me for a minute while I snap some photographs of this Schweizer 300C helicopter, then comes back over and gets my side set up. I climb up into the helicopter, sit down, and Leslie starts helping me strap the safety belt properly. I put each upper strap over my shoulders, clip in the waist band, then looking down at the door-less helicopter, tighten the hell out of the straps. I’m bringing my camera up with me. I already know this means I will try to lean over the edge to get photos, so I strap myself in real tight. I’m leaning how to fly a helicopter today, not attempting to fly myself.
Leslie starts up the rotors and lets the motor warm up. We chat for a bit over the headsets, then she gives me the “Ok, I’m going to go up now.”
The instructor does the takeoff and landing for first timers, which is fine with me, but because of the dual controls, I can feel what she is doing and how the joystick and foot pedals move while she takes off. We get up and she tells me, “Ok, now we are going to turn towards you”.
Having no doors on the plane, and banking towards my side means I end up about a 45 degree angle. Looking straight out the gaping opening where a door should be, I am looking almost perpendicular to the ground. I have to do it. This is the moment of truth where I learn if this scares the crap out of me or if I can handle this…..so what am I thinking, tipped sideways, looking directly down 500 feet below?…
I WANT TO GO SKYDIVING!
Yes, it is exhilarating! Feeling the air on my face and seeing the earth below me made me want to jump out. Good thing I am strapped in and aware enough of the lack of parachute on my back. But I really want to go paragliding and skydiving now.
We reach about 500 feet in the air, and Leslie tells me its my turn.
“See that mountain over there?”, as she points to Lone Mountain in the west part of the Las Vegas valley, “Head towards that.” I use the extremely touchy joystick to try to stay heading straight at the mountain. Leslie is controlling the throttle and foot pedals. One thing at a time to get use to. Which I am ok with. Flying is not easy.
I feel I’m doing pretty good staying heading towards the mountain. A couple of wind gusts blew us towards the south, but a little right momentum and we are back on course. To my surprise, when the wind gusts instead of freaking out (like I do on every tiny bump in a plane) I think, “WHEEEEEE!”
So glad I didn’t say that out loud.
Then I’m told to turn left and run parallel with the highway. We go straight for a bit, then make a 180 degree left turn to head back towards the airport. This is not enough time. I just want to keep flying for the next few hours, alternating between taking pictures, taking in the beautiful birds-eye view of the valley, and taking the controls (however minimal my actual controlling of the helicopter may be).
On the way back I want to get some photos and video of this flight. I hand the controls back to Leslie, and just take in the view. I can see half the valley from up here, the cars stretching down the highway, rows of houses. The Strip is off in the distance, a little hazy but still visible. The air is crisp and fresh, the sun is bright overhead. And you feel like you are just floating. The doors may be open, but because of the height, and the wide view, you barely feel as if you are moving…and we are cruise about 60 miles per hour.
As we approach the airport, Leslie takes us slowly in and lands the helicopter as gentle as if you just took one step while walking. No thumping about like in most commercial airplane flights. She brings us low, then hovers for a bit before she gently touches down.
“That’s it? But I want more!”, I’m thinking, just as Leslie says, “Now we will practice hovering”.
Over the airport tarmac, we go back up a few feet. She tells me to put my hands in my lap (because it is instinct to try to maneuver the helicopter too), and I practice using the foot pedals. The foot pedals control the direction of the nose of the pane.
I pick a building in the distance and practice moving my feet back and forth to keep the nose of the helicopter aimed directly at the building. Then she starts moving slowly forward. With the left pedal making us steer left, the right pedal right, using the pedals in conjunction is extremely comparable to trying to use the clutch and gas in unison in a stick-shift (manual transmission) car.
Luckily I drive stick shift cars, so the foot motion is familiar to me. I feel I did pretty good.
We turn around and then she has me take the joystick and try hovering.
This is not easy at all!
I don’t even think I’m moving the joystick and suddenly we start going forward. Then right. Then forward again.
Leslie is on her controls, evening me out and making sure I don’t charge head first into a building, airplane, the other helicopter. After trying (and failing) at hovering, she tells me it usually takes people about 15 hours of flight time before they can hover, and that hovering is the hardest move to make in a helicopter.
She brings us back over to the landing spot, and again touches so gently on the ground I don’t even realize we aren’t in the air anymore until I look down and see the skids (the ski-like feet of the helicopter) on the ground.
I want to fly again. Thirty minutes in the air is not enough! I will fly a helicopter more. I don’t know when, but I am already determined to do this again!
So that was my amazing experience all thanks to Cloud9Living.com. To be specific, this was a complimentary opportunity I received in exchange for (and this is copy and pasted from their email):
·An unbiased review of the experience you go on
(love that they specify unbiased. These people have done their research on how bloggers work)
·At least one link back to any page on cloud9living.com
(how about a couple, because I am so pleased with them and the relationship and exchange I have has over this last month that I want to have a couple of links in various parts of this blog post for their company)
·Any tid bit on experience gifts; what they are, why you would recommend them, etc.
·A link to the Christmas contest
Yes, Cloud9Living started this blogger/experience exchange to promote their Christmas contest, and I personally think this was a brilliant marketing plan. Send a bunch of bloggers out on trips before the Christmas season, then ask them to mention the contest? What better way to spread the word!
Cloud9Living is giving away 9 experiences to 9 people for Christmas. Cloud9 runs in cities all over the USA (head to their webpage and click on region to see the list of cities, and the experiences in each city). For Christmas they are giving away 9 experiences, 1 a day to people who sign up for the contest.
They offer experiences for all types of people. Just here in Vegas I can do everything from flying a helicopter, driving an race car, taking the antigravity flight (you know, the one where they bring you way up in a plane then go up and down in the air so on the down turns you actually start floating like being in space).
They also offer things for the non-thrill seekers such as romantic gondola cruise, a Strip food tour, a sunset horseback ride complete with a BBQ finale, or a DaVinci style scavenger hunt around town (great unique idea for a company function or alternative bachelorette party).
There are different things to do in each city, and also offer gift certificates (for a specific experience or a general voucher).
Have a cousin halfway across the USA that you have no idea what to get for Christmas?
You can buy a general gift certificate good towards whatever amount you want, and said cousin can pick which thing they would like to do. It’s pretty much guaranteed no one else will be giving them the opportunity to go on a balloon ride, drive a fancy sports car, or take a VIP , backstage tour of Universal studios.
The 9 Days of Christmas contest starts Nov 1rst, 2012. Each day wins a specific prize. Winners will be picked, one per day, from December 16 through Dec 24. Go to the link to see the details.
Cloud 9 is amazing. I am so glad to learn about them. This is exactly the type of service we here at Going Nomadic are looking for; experiences and services that you cannot find in your typical guidebook.
Thank you Cloud9!
Want to read about other blogger’s experiences with Cloud9? Check out this post (more will be added as people write about their experiences):
Fall Horseback Riding in Soldier Hollow by Matt Gibson
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.