The earth rejects it.

The sun was still resting behind the Sacramento Mountains as we rolled the dark green beast out of a huge hangar. Gray hulks with orange wingtips, a rampful of F-4 drones, were emerging out of the crisp dawn behind Sandi and our crew chief, who yelled their conversation above the noise as we started the engine and the huge blades above us started their “whop…..whop…whop..whopwhopwhop”.

A moment later the pilot asked if I was ready. “Sure”, I replied. He said, “You got it.” I looked at him wide-eyed and shook my head. I’ve heard enough stories about how difficult helicopters are to fly when close to the ground. So he took off, then gave me the controls. I flew just above the cactus tops, swerved around a butte, climbed over the power lines, and squashed between the light poles. He took the control stick again to set down beside a single car-port just off the highway. A “range rider” boarded the back seat for his flight over Centennial Range. He was making sure there were no illegal aliens on the range before the Army shot a missile, but I rather think he was scouting for good hunting areas. We circled a herd of oryx, frightened several deer, startled a pair of huge bucks, even chased a pair of javelina with two babies. We skirted a water hole that had been dry for years, examining the tracks in the mud, swerving around the desert brush.

It was also a history tour, with the range rider regaling us with tales of a rancher who refused to be displaced by the Army when they established the range, of a shoot-out at a dilapidated corral we passed, of a nasty homesteader who settled folks on his land long enough for them to improve it then kill them, and of a farm tucked away in the desert valleys. The farm was now alongside a flowing river that no one has seen flow like it is now. Ever. As we traversed above rounded green ridges I pondered the river, and a favorite rock-climbing face that is oozing water – and the fact that our well is still dry…

We dropped off the range rider at his truck and toured back into the hills and over our house. My habit of being as high as possible above the mountains was challenging my helicopter pilotage. Mountain flying rules differ between fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, apparently, and my experience teaching mountain flying in Colorado was hindering me. Nevertheless, we survived a very chilly trip to 6,900 feet just above our house before landing at Alamogordo Municipal Airport. By the time the pilot took the controls to land, a crowd had gathered to see the crash of the craft careening down the taxiway at odd, ever-changing angles and attitudes. Flying a (doorless) helicopter is far easier than taxiing one!

The smile was literally frozen on my face when Sandi picked me up to drag me to work. What a great spouse he is, to arrange such an opportunity for this fixed-wing snob! I really appreciated it!

So what about the subject line of this blog? It’s a joke – why does a helicopter fly? It beats the air into submission and …


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