Posts Tagged ‘Helicopters’

A Unique 80th Birthday Gift

November 28, 2010

Andrew Cashen, of Prestige Helicopters, Inc. at McCollum Field, Kennesaw, Georgia, asked me “Have you ever flown in a helicopter before?” 

Me and my helicopter lesson instructor Andrew Cashen, McCollum Field, Kennesaw, GA

“Yes. I flew in Hueys, Bells, and a Georgia Power helicopter that flew me from Columbus to Plant Vogtle.”

“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.

Me on the left, Andrew on the right.

  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. 

This is IT!

July 14, 2008


  My former WTVM newsroom co-worker and still friend Cyndy Cerbin took me on a fascinating tour of the new National Infantry Museum recently.





Cyndy Cerbin



 Cyndy is now Director of Communications for the Infantry Foundation. She said, “Dick, this is the ‘It’ they were talking about when they said Columbus needs an ‘It’ to attract lots of tourists.” Since this baby could bring in between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors a year, I think she’s right.





 National Infantry Museum Panorama

 National Infantry Museum Under Construction



   Fort Benning is already supplying 3,000 visitors a week to eat in the city’s restaurants, stay in its hotels and visit tourist attractions.  With the original National Infantry Museum still operating on post, and, in town, add the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center, the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Columbus Museum, and an attractive softball complex at South Commons, and you can see they already have a lot to do.


  Those 3,000 visitors come from all over the country to Fort Benning each week to attend a loved one’s graduation ceremony. That ceremony is going to move to the new National Infantry Museum’s “back yard.” The field is ready now, but the stands have to be added.





National Infantry Museum Graduation Field




  Either before or after the ceremony they’ll be able to stroll through the World War II barracks area, which not only boasts real WW II barracks, but General Patton’s headquarters building and the cabin near it where he slept. They’ll also see a WWII Patton tank, and a smaller tank of the type Patton used during Fort Benning exercizes.




WWII Barracks

World War II Barracks





Patton Shack and Tanks

Gen. Patton’s Sleeping Quarters and Patton Tank




   Once inside the !00 million dollar museum, they’ll walk along the Last One Hundred Yards Ramp, It’s called that because of the famous saying that, “the infantry owns the last one hundred yards of battle.”  This one hundred yards will contain exhibits that graphically depict, with virtual high-tech aids, seven major battles fought by the infantry, ranging all the way from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan.




NIM Lst. 100 Yrds.

Last 100 Yards Ramp 


   A couple of standouts will be a real Bradley Fighting Vehicle that saw action in Iraq and Vietnam era Huey Helicopter. Both will hang over the side of the ramp where they will also be seen from the Grand Hall on the Gallery level. The Bradley is already there. Cyndy said that it’s so heavy it had to brought in during the early stages of construction, that the museum is being built around it. 




NIM Brad Ft. Vehicle

 Bradley Fighting Vehicle






Bradley Fighting Vehicle seen from Grand Hall on Gallery Level




  At the end of the ramp is the  Fort Benning area, where they will see and experience how young civilians are transformed into soldiers. There will be a jump tower. Also, a virtual firing range will allow visitors to experience the same virtual firing training that our soldiers receive. There will also be a section dedicated to the relationship with Columbus over the years.





Fort Benning Section




Because of the Department of the Army’s sanctioning of the museum, it cannot charge admission. However, it can charge admission to the 300 seat IMAX Theater and adventure simulators. Income will also be generated by the full service restaurant and gift shop.






IMAX Theater Entrance



The galleries on the lower level will feature large exhibits of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam together, and the desert wars.




Desert Wars Exhibit




 The Vietnam exhibit will feature another Huey that is already in place. Part of the Vietnam exhibit will recreate the jungle atmosphere of Vietnam, including the tropical weather that soldiers had to endure while fighting in that country. 




Covered Huey Helicopter in Vietnam War Exhibit



 You’ll be able to see the finished product on March 20, 2009.  That’s the target date to open the museum. As the late Arthur Godfrey used to say on CBS Radio, “If the good Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise,” I’ll see you there.