Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Right place at the right time

So I realized halfway down the hill that I had forgotten my phone but I had an early flight and no time to turn back for it. No big whoop. I got to school, unpacked my things and got the double whammy of bummed and thankful. Bummed that my spaghetti sauce spilled all over my bag, thankful that it's a water-proof duffle. Actually now that I think about it, the sauce coulda wrecked my headset so that's two thankfuls to one bummed.

After the post flight, Cynthia from next door came over and said they had two extra seats. Next door is Paradise Helicopters. They're the reason I decided to wear earplugs while I do my pre-flights. Turbines are supercool (even if they are 407's) but they're also hella loud. Since I'd like to hear the birdies sing when I'm sixty, I dork out with big yellow wads poking out of my ears. So anyway Paradise had an extra seat and since I was the only student on the lanai (huge surf this week, well not North Shore of Oahu huge or climax in Point Break huge, but overhead) I was offered the chance to weigh in and listen to a safety briefing. No seat cushions, you get your very own lifejacket to wear for the entire trip.

The pilot was my instructor's instructor back in the day. I sat up front, a family of Ruskies with velvet suits and gigantic gold-rimmed sunglasses filled the back. Even the five year old girl had a super serious don't fuck with me look. I guess the mob schools don't do much in the way of teaching English cuz after Clay (the pilot) would talk about this or that for say three minutes, the dad translated over the intercom with about four words in Russian.

When we got through the saddle, I saw steam in several spots across the lava field. Clay had his ipod plugged into the system. I heard the horns on the Johnny Cash tune just as we circled the first lava tube that you could see through. Tubes are basically pipes made of cooled lava that the hot lava flows through. Some of them are close enough to the surface in places that you can see the molten lava flowing through them.

Clay also found a spot where the lava broke through to the surface and the red fire fanned out, turning black on top as it cooled while still flowing red underneath. Pretty cool that I got to see that cuz he flies the tour three times a day and hadn't seen it in a month. He shared his find with the other pilots and it was just like a whale tour out of Seward, all the ships headed our way. So we boogied off to the coast.

The lava is either there or it isn't. But the valleys have been there for thousands of years, and they are stunning. Waterfalls galore, the tallest of which is measures in at 1290', number eleven in the world. Spinal Tap, anyone? After all the photos were taken, none by me, (smartphone=camera=spilled spaghetti) we headed to the back of the valley. The walls are super steep and as we got to the top my reptilian brain freaked out cuz the ridge was razor thin and fell away just as steeply on the other side. It gives you the sensation of falling. Clay and I smiled while we listened to the hardened killers in the back sucking in their breath and exhaling big "Wheeeeee's."

The tour was super cool, Clay is an entertaining host and a good pilot. He did some sweet maneuvers that would make anyone appreciate helicopters. But now it's pretty boring to be flying and not doing the flying.

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