Friday, November 4, 2011

Good bye muk luks, hello flip flops

So I took a half-hour introductory helicopter lesson last winter. I told my parents about it and my mom said something along the lines of "Oh boy, do I have to start to worry about this?" I assured her that there was nothing to worry about. Then I spent the next few months obsessing about whirlybirds. Several of my friends and I already had healthy rc helicopter habits and I thought that was as far as it would go.

Spring came and with it the transition to the job that pays well enough so that I could continue ski patrolling. I found myself sitting in an excavator pulling out fence posts between a building and a power transformer with traffic lights overhead. All four limbs had something to do on that particular project and I realized that flying helicopters was something I could do. So the obsessing kicked into high gear.

I grew up on a farm and was put at the controls of a tractor at age four. Dad put it in second gear, low range, let out the clutch and hopped off. I drove in slow circles while Dad and others picked rocks and tossed them on the trailer. The next summer my brother got to drive the tractor and I began my long rock-picking career. But I continued to operate equipment.

That's just part of growing up on a farm. Lots of stuff is mechanized/motorized and you learn how to operate all sorts of equipment way before the manufacture's warning label says you should. I remember when Dad put a thimble on the shut-off switch below the seat on the riding lawnmower to override it cuz Kyle was too light. It didn't occur to my father that my little brother shouldn't be on the lawnmower cuz he was too young. The idea of waiting to do adult duties simply doesn't fly on a farm.

I flipped a skid steer into a pond we were filling in to make more ground for mink sheds when I was nine. But it wasn't because I was too small or didn't have the skills. Dad told me not to get too close to the edge, I didn't listen.

I've tried to retire from landscaping several times in the past but I couldn't seem to find a seasonal outside gig that allowed me to keep patrolling in the winter. I love everything about that job except the politics and low pay. But this summer when the Resort sent out its annual, "This is how we're gonna screw you this season," letter informing us that overtime would be virtually eliminated and we would be required to remain on-call, it became apparent that I could no longer afford to work there.

I decided to take my equipment operating skills to the next level. After all, I've been running various machinery nearly my whole life, but gravity's been keeping me down.

I did the research, read blogs and websites til my eyes bled, talked to people in the industry, and decided on Mauna Loa Helicopters in Hawaii. They simply have the best non-military program(let's face it, I'm not military material) in the world. Yes, world. Plus, believe it or not, it's more affordable to train in Hawaii than Nicaragua. The school is well respected, takes training seriously, the weather is conducive to flying most every day, and there is plenty of terrain to challenge the aspiring pilot.


cynicalbuddha said...

You lucky bastard. When do you leave. You still owe me a drink for not coming to the wedding!!! :) Give me a shout next time you make it up Anchortown way. Oh and I've got a friend who just got her whirlybird license, she was training down in Seattle somewhere. You could totally be the black dude from Magnum PI now!

Lauren said...

good on ya!