One of the interesting things about South Africa is that you can feel a little detached from real life. Things are just different there, no Health & Safety rules like in Europe definately set a certain atmosphere. This adventure started as I was sitting with a litre of freshly brewed, dark German ale straight out of the vat! This was about 5 minutes before heading off to the HQ of the Huey Extreme Club of which I joined whilst there. The benefit of membership is that you get to have a free flight on a Huey helicopter and get to experience what it would be like to be in one in active service, is it any wonder I signed up immediately!
Having found the office at the waterfront and waiting for a few minutes, a golf cart came skidding in to pick us up. We bumbled along to the helipad itself and were given a short talk about the history of the Huey we were going to be flying in. signing up for the club we were to be kitted out with protective goggles and vests in mandatory army green. The guy was shocked to see that we only had shirts on and said that we might freeze and suggested we put 2 vests on each.
As we approached the Huey, it became clear why we were wearing vests and goggles… there were no sides on the helicopter. Somehow, I was seated in the cargo area which meant I was actually facing out the side. Webbing straps only held me in and I could lean forward and see the undercarriage below. Before today, I had never been on a helicopter before; this was getting exciting. My final preparations had me checking that my camera was secure around my neck… I was planning to use it but having it hang out the side of the helicopter in flight had me wondering if I would actually get it back! As the engines were starting I really had no idea what I was to expect. The rotors started turning and when running at what I can only assume was full speed we started to go up, the blades demonstrating their awesome power with a loud thwacking sound that you could feel in your chest.
The ride really began when we tilted to right then the left. I was happily looking down at the ground and then suddenly I was hanging towards it, I very nearly crapped myself but before I could, off we went. The Huey is apparently capable of some extreme acceleration and manoeuvrability. We passed over the city area and headed for a distant beach over the sea. The flight was exciting at that but when we approached the beach we did a sharp dive and began to fly along the surface of the water no more than 10 meters from the shore. People were on the beach waving at us as we shot past them just skimming the waves, the Huey would then climb sharply nose first until it stalled and fell sideways. Imagine my face as I am hanging out the side of a helicopter and falling face first towards the ground. Of course it gained lift again and started flying back the way it come and then it was the turn of the person on the other side of the cabin to see the ground coming up at them and for me to watch the sky moving away! Having repeated this a couple of times we shot off cross country, and flew over roads and buildings before skimming over the tops of trees and brush land. We simulated a troop drop and escape which was impressive. The helicopter was skimming over the ground then the nose lifted right up and we stopped almost immediately and hovered. The escape was a very fast dash across the brush again and ended with a dramatic launch off the top of a hill which when you are looking out at the floor just a few meters below one moment then about 100 meters the next. This was quite exhilarating but made my stomache go funny! As we were generally flying around we happened to come across another helicopter.
Only in South Africa could we fly up to them and wave at each other, what a ride. The grin on my face was fixed, even when I had filled up my camera’s memory card with video leaving no room for anything else.
It would be safe to say that we were all impressed with the Huey itself and the pilot who demonstrated his excellent skill and control. I was pleased that I had been given the chance to experience something that exciting and would like to thank the Huey Extreme Club for a great experience.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/W3eqgnkdFMo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]