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Flying helicopters!

OK, this entry was supposed to be entitled “Maintenance Day 3” but it got eclipsed by other events…

That’s not to say the guys at Roger Williams Airstream didn’t do great work yesterday. They did. They re-assembled the Hensley hitch with the new parts, and it looks great. Note it is now metallic pewter rather than orange.

Weatherford fresh painted hitch.jpg

They also installed a pair of SilenX computer fans in the refrigerator vent. These will help greatly with the refrigerator cooling when we get back into warm weather. Last summer we had several days when, in temperatures over 90 degrees, our refrigerator was unable to stay at proper temperature. In Death Valley, the interior of the compartment went up to 58 degrees and we lost all the perishables.

Weatherford fridge fans.jpg

The problem was that the refrigerator cooling depends on a draft of air rising up the chimney and out a roof vent. The chimney is partially obstructed by design, and in very warm temperatures the draft is weak. So the two fans, which are on a switch, were mounted at the top to pull air up and out of the roof vent. In the picture, the vent cap has been removed to allow installation of the two fans. They are mounted on silicone feet to reduce vibration.

But the big event of the day was an invitation by fellow Airstreamer and blog reader Dwight to come see his workplace. Dwight happens to be a helicopter flight instructor at FlightSafety in Hurst TX. They are the factory-authorized Bell helicopter training facility. Dwight — realizing I have a fixed-wing pilot’s license — emailed me to offer me a tour of the facility and some time in one of their simulators.

Now, if you’re not a pilot or interested in aviation, this may not mean much to you, but for me it was like being invited to Willy Wonka’s factory and given a lifetime supply of chocolate. FlightSafety is the premiere flight training company. If you want a professional pilot to be very well trained, that’s where you send ’em. Transition classes to get an existing helicopter pilot into a new Bell turbine helicopter run about $20,000 — and that includes about six hours in a really incredible simulator like this one.

Hurst flight sim.jpg
The Bell 430 flight simulator

So obviously I dropped everything and drove 40 miles over to Hurst to fly the big sim. I had zero helicopter experience, but Dwight made it easy. With his touch-screen instructor’s panel, he can put the simulator at any airport in the world, in any weather, and it all seems perfectly real, full motion and sound included.

Hurst flight sim panel.jpg
The instructor’s control panel

What can I tell you … it was amazing. Everything from the initial engine-start procedures right through the landing is exactly like the real thing. We took a Bell 430, which is a beautiful aircraft that can carry up to 10 people, around the countryside. At one point I crashed it, which was interesting. The jolt you get when hitting the “ground” is pretty considerable.

Hurst Bell 212 sim.jpg
The Bell 212 helicopter simulator by FlightSafety

Then we switched to another room with the Bell 212 sim and flew it around New York City. I orbited the Chrysler building, flew down the Hudson River, and then came around to the Wall Street heliport. Dwight demonstrated a couple of wingovers, which were serious fun too. The things you can do with a helicopter are just amazing. I could really get into flying one for real.

It was interesting to fly both simulators, since the Bell 430 has FADEC controls and the 212 doesn’t. What a sweet ride in both, though!

Hurst wall patches.jpg
Wall of patches of pilots who have trained at FlightSafety

Upon my departure Dwight awarded me a certificate from FlightSafety International, which reads “future aviator Rich Luhr piloted the Bell model 430 simulator as sole manipulator of all flight controls.” That’s a souvenir I’ll treasure.

We spent last night inside the service bay, which is always a peculiar experience. When we wanted the “sun” to set last night, we had to step out into the shop and snap off the overhead lights. Then this morning, we woke up in pitch black thinking it was still early morning … until David and Bret came in and turned the lights back on.

(In case you are wondering, while we are in the enclosed shop we don’t run the propane appliances, for safety.)

Today we are pulling out of Roger Williams Airstream and heading south to the hill country west of Austin. We’ll be there for at least a few days.

Hurst sign.jpg
Sign of the week!

75 Responses to “Flying helicopters!”

  1. Roger Says:

    Here is an item that I purchased to help keep the reefer cool, I have not put it in yet though.

  2. Tim Shephard Says:

    Hitch looks great.

    On the fans. A neat way to wire two 12vdc fans is like this.

    Use a DPDT Center Off switch. On one direction have the fans wired in series for a low speed and quieter operation. On the other position, wire the fans in parallel for full cooling power.

    Just an idea. Good maintenance tips!

  3. Rob Super Says:

    Love the black Hensley! I think I’ll do that as soon as it gets warm enough here to paint. Were the helicopters also black?