One Step Closer

I’d put a towel in the kitten’s carrier. Zoey’s carrier has a little pillow in it, but I couldn’t find anything better than a fluffy towel for the kittens. At least it’s better than nothing. When I walked into the living room, I was relieved to see the two little ones playing in the middle of the room. Easy catch. As I picked them up I noticed Zoey was nowhere to be seen. Great, it would be a challenge to find her in time.

Originally the vet’s appointment was just for Jackie and Wilson, to get their vaccinations. But it made me wonder when Zoey was due, and it turned out she had just missed her shots by a week or so. So she got to come with. If I could find her that was. Something that turned out to be much easier than I feared it would be. Because when I walked into the study to put the kittens in their carrier, Zoey poked her head out the carrier door with an inquisitive look, as if to say “Oh, is this one not for me then?”. Easiest cat to take to the vet, ever.

the “cat-lady” inside of me

The veterinarian is just down the road from us, which saves everyone a long rush hour commute. Except perhaps the vet himself. I’ve gotten used to people at the vet complimenting on Zoey’s eyes and how gorgeous she looks, but bringing her in with two white kittens was a new experience for me. People taking pictures was a definite first. Zoey handled it well, by turning around in her carrier and showing everybody her bum.

The vet was a nice bloke, friendly and good with the animals. A good vet is perhaps worth more than a good physician, but perhaps that line of thought just exposes the “cat-lady” inside of me. Everybody got their F5 shots, normally not for indoor cats, but since Harry and Betty are allowed outside, the vet agreed it would be better to vaccinate the others accordingly. He checked the kittens ears for mites, and gave Jackie some drops for an ear infection. Other than that he was pleased and therefore so was I.

I had prepared myself for a big bill. Just taking Zoey for her two shots and check up ones a year was a costly endeavour back in The Netherlands. I imagined Australia would continue its trend of being more expensive, but (thankfully) it failed to deliver this time. Just $70,- per cat! That’s roughly €50,- for the Europeans. By the way, it is weird to not have the € symbol on your keyboard anymore. Now I have to hold ALT and type in 0128 on the keypad every time. And since I don’t retain such information I also have to look up what the number was every time I need to use it.

perhaps you really do need algebra

Speaking of retaining information, I passed my Meteorology exam! A passing grade of 76%, which is in line with previous performance, and good enough for me. I felt more confident submitting my results than I did during the Aircraft General Knowledge exam, yet, as usual, I got some questions wrong I would’ve sworn I got right, and vice-versa. Regardless, it was good enough for CASA, and thus good enough for me. I was talking to the vet about my study, and we came to the conclusion that as an adult you are better adapted to filtering out nonsense information. As a teenager you have this uncertainty, perhaps you really do need algebra later on in daily life, but as you grow older you realise you don’t. And even though this study is quite narrow and specialised, meteorology is the same for both helicopters and airplanes. So even though a helicopter pilot flying VFR (visual flight rules) would never ever go near a thunderstorm, we still need to know what would happen to our airplane if we did. And it’s information like that, that proved hard to retain.

I also received a seemingly inconspicuous email from CASA this week. It look exactly like the ones the send to request more testing, so I was not overly excited to open this attachment. To my intense relief, it was not a request for further testing, but my medical certificate! I haven’t heard anything from the doc yet, but it’s safe to assume this means I’m not diabetic, and I don’t have kidney stones. So that’s one step closer, and it takes care of the medical stuff for a year. Fingers crossed next year will go smoother.

that’s pretty much the briefing

Now, how did my dream of being a helicopter pilot come back to life? I must have mentioned something about it to Emma when we first started talking on Bristlr. Because when I came over to meet her in April 2016, she had booked me in for a helicopter flight where the tourist gets to fly for a bit himself. I was very excited of course, and as we arrived at Rotorvation to do the scenic flight, the pilot who was going to fly me asked me (and Emma) if we were nervous. He was obviously joking, so I joked back how I wasn’t allowed to ask him to do an auto-rotation. I think he was a little surprised to have a tourist know such a helicopter-specific term.

The experience was to start with a 25 minute briefing, followed by a 35 minute flight up and down the coast. But as we started the briefing, going over the basic controls, I told him I knew a little bit about helicopters. I love reading books about the Vietnam War, the vast abundance of helicopters in that war obviously contributing, and had come across enough stories to know what I deemed to be the very basics. He asked me to tell him what I knew, and when I finished he just sat there and said “well, that’s pretty much the briefing then”. He told me some more in-depth information about the instruments, since we had the time anyway. After that he made me a proposition, to not go along the coast, but fly South-West, where there is absolutely nothing worth looking at. This would enable me to do more flying, and come back a little early and have a go at hovering the helicopter. Now, this was not at all what Emma had booked me in for, so he hastily said I should not hesitate to just go up and down the coast, since that is what we had paid for. But of course the choice was very easy for me at that point. I was strapped in and ready to go, fuck the coast.

He encouraged me to gently keep hold of the controls as we took off, so I could get a sense of what he was doing. And as we neared 500 ft I got my first go at the pedals. After that the collective, followed by the cyclic. We made it to 1000 ft, where I was given full control of the helicopter and told to do some turns and where to go. What a feeling! If possible I would still be on that flight today. Yet, all too soon for my liking, we found ourselves approaching Jandakot airport. To my surprise I was told to take my feet of the pedals and keep both hands on my knees. I figured it was just normal procedure during approach, but then I heard him contact the tower. We got what we asked for, and before I knew it we were softly gliding towards the earth in dead silence; auto-rotation!

“they say that to everybody”

Back on the ground I got a go at trying to hover, which is the hardest thing that ever looked easy to me. Try riding a wild horse stuck in a field of cacti, while trying to pour yourself a glass of water without spilling. Something like that. To top it all off, the instructor showed me some low-level flying. My initial flight, years before in Switzerland, was nothing compared to this.

As we taxied back to the apron at Rotorvation he asked me if I had ever thought about being a helicopter pilot, and I admitted it used to be a teenage dream. He encouraged me to come back and do more flights, whenever I got back to Australia. At the time I couldn’t promise anything of course, I didn’t have the funds then, and more importantly I didn’t know yet if Emma would want to see me again. Thankfully she did.

To be fair, at first I thought “they say that to everybody” since they were the prime flight school in Perth at the time. But Emma reckoned they wouldn’t encourage someone if they didn’t think he/she could do it. After all, it’s the instructors who have to fly with you, and they wouldn’t want some idiot killing them. So over the next months I started thinking in can instead of can’t, and now here I am, three modules successfully completed, and tomorrow I’ll be starting Planning & Performance. Let’s hope I can keep my winning streak going.

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