Andrew Cashen, of Prestige Helicopters, Inc. at McCollum Field, Kennesaw, Georgia, asked me “Have you ever flown in a helicopter before?”
“But, never at the controls.”
“No, never at the controls.”
He also asked me if I had ever flown a fixed-wing aircraft, and I told him I had, that I was not a licensed pilot, but I knew how to fly. As a teenager, the first time I ever went up in an airplane I flew it. On learning that I had never flown before, a friend of my accompanying older brother, Elbert, told me if I paid half the price of the gas in a rental plane, he would take me up. When we got into the small two-place tail-dragger, he informed me that I was going to fly it. Following his instructions, I taxied it to the runway, took it off, and flew it around for a little while, and, lined it up with the runway for a landing. He insisted on landing it, which I agreed was an excellent idea.
Over the years other pilots, including the late legendary Tuskegee Airman instructor Chief Anderson, had let me take the controls some. Anderson, who was 80 at the time, even let me, with a little assist, land his Cessna, apply the brakes and taxi it to the hangar. What a great guy he was.
Andrew explained to me that, while there were some similar characteristics in flying a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter, there were some distinct differences. And he pointed that understanding those differences was important in preventing a crash. He definitely got my attention with that remark.
He told me about the three main controls, which you have to coordinate for successful flight. He said that he would let me handle each one separately while he controlled the other two, and if I did that all right, he would let me control all three and actually fly the chopper. I did end up controlling all three, and after we landed, I said, “I actually flew it!”
He replied, “You actually did better when you controlled all three.”
That keeper memory was made possible by stepson Ken Champion and his wife Katrina, who bought me the helicopter lesson for my 80th birthday. It was a unique and very enjoyable experience. One of the main reasons it was so enjoyable was because of the sunny personality of the instructor. He had a great knack for giving orders without sounding like he was giving orders. As we were walking back to his office building after the flight, I asked him if he flew other helicopters. He replied that he did, including a Black Hawk. Turns out that he is also a National Guard helicopter pilot.
If you’re interested in a lesson you can contact him at 770-655-3976. Tell him Dick sent you. I liked him. In fact, I don’t think I ever met a pilot I didn’t like, including the one who gave me my first fixed-wing lesson. I guess there is something about wanting to fly that makes for happier people. On the back of Andrew’s business card is the Gover C. Norwood quote, “Because I Fly, I envy no man on earth.”
Ken and Katrina, along with my granddaughter Shannon, witnessed the flight and took some video of the takeoff and landing. You can actually see me inside the R-22. I’m the one in the khaki pants. The R-22 is, as you can see, small and light. You really know you are flying when you are in a small one like the R-22. It is quite popular as a trainer, and can perform incredible areobatics.