My First Helicopter Ride
14 September 2012
A bundle of nerves, I found myself trudging hesitantly over the turf to the machine. It was roaring impatiently, waiting for its six passengers to board before taking off into the clear New Zealand skies.
With awe and fear at the same time, I climbed onboard and gripped my husband’s hand tightly. I had never taken a helicopter before. I imagined the flight to be choppy (is that why they call it a chopper?) and wobbly. After all, this was a tiny aircraft, and compared to a commercial airplane, it felt almost like a toy. It could only take 8 persons including the pilot and barely measured 10 metres in length. The deafening roar of the rotors and the crushing downwash we felt while approaching it did little to allay my fears.
It was now too late to back out, and before I could even take a deep breath, my heart almost leapt out as I felt ourselves lifting off the ground and swaying in the breeze. A few seconds later, after the helicopter steadied itself, I found, to much relief, that much of my apprehension was actually uncalled for.
It was actually very stable. The feeling was almost like floating in the air, if not for the constant bellow of the rotor above us, even though we had our ear mufflers on. We were also able to get a much better view of the terrain than if we were on an airplane, as we could hover and we were much closer to the ground than airplanes usually can go.
Seeing that we had soothed our nerves, the pilot decided to inject some new excitement into the flight and took the machine forward—at great speed. We were following the long straight road as seen in this picture (albeit not on wheels) towards the “destination”. Looking down at the cars that we were “overtaking” about a hundred metres below us, it felt so surreal.
Suddenly, we all started screaming when the helicopter abruptly banked sharply to its right. Our bodies, tightly strapped to our seats, were almost perpendicular to the ground below and I think I did see the pilot smirking to himself at having succeeded in raising the level of excitement in the ride again. However, he was soon forgiven when, during the banking, I looked out of the side window and saw the majestic Huka Falls directly below us. It was what we had come for, and we had got exactly what we bargained for, looking down at the Falls from such a memorable angle and awkward body position.
When we landed about 20 minutes later, I was ironically wishing the ride could have lasted longer. It was a thought I would not have dared harbour just moments ago when I was boarding the craft. That was my first helicopter ride, and I know I will be hoping for many more to come!