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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The View From Above and A Drive to Indy

After several cancellations today was finally good enough weather for me to go on my helicopter ride. A month or two ago at the Crisis Intervention Team banquet I was the winner of the silent auction item of a ride in a Metro Air Support helicopter.

I didn't know what to expect and was actually quite nervous as I left my house. To quell the nerves I listened to the song "Liberation of Gracemeria" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HGQS5XSoJ4) and it seemed to work, but as I neared the airport I realized I had no idea where to go.

To help find the location I turned to the certificate that was given to me at the banquet and it had the phone numbers, but I hate calling people and I had already called once to confirm that the weather wasn't going to ground the flight again.

I drove up and down the road and saw sign after sign and hangar after hangar but didn't see anything that was helicopter based or police based. Defeated, I got out my cell phone and dialed them again and held my breath and hoped that they wouldn't be angry that I didn't know where I should have gone.

Of course my phone anxiety was all for not and once I was directed as to where to go there was no way for me to have known. One of the pilots led me in and we went straight into the hangar where the impressive fleet of helicopters were.

I was given a brief explanation of the helicopters they use and their operation hours. I didn't realize that Metro Air Support was operation for all hours of the day (that explains the helicopters at 1AM I used to hear all the time) and they support Saint Louis City, Saint Louis County, and Saint Charles County.

After the brief intro the time for fear was over as we went outside and entered the helicopter that we would be flying through the air in. I had one flight in a helicopter before, but this was an ultra-small helicopter and was a brief flight at a tourist attraction in Keystone, South Dakota. That flight was in 1991, I think, so it had been a while.

As a warning, and a precaution, air-sickness bags were given to me and I was told to let the two pilots know if I felt ill at all. I thought back to my flight from 1991 and didn't remember any ill feelings, but when the pilot told me this helicopter was able to do full rolls and stay in the air I could see why one could possibly get sick (not that rolls were on the menu for the day).

The engine fired and before it did I worried about how loud it would be, but with the headset it wasn't that bad; in fact even without a headset the noise wasn't all that bad. We sat on the landing pad and waited...and waited... and finally there was lift and we were airborne.

The feeling of rising vertically caught me off guard. I'm used to planes, and I even took pilot's lessons back in 2001-2002, but this felt odd. We rotated and headed to the East and headed towards the city.

The navigator asked me for my address and he punched it in and we started heading in that direction. On the way though there was a traffic stop in Maplewood so the pilot began to orbit the scene of the traffic stop. The navigator reached towards the pouch in front of me and pulled out some binoculars. The officer on the ground got out of his car and approached the car he had stopped. We remained above until the officer was walking back to his car and then headed towards my house.

All this time it was so odd to see all the places I knew from street level from the air. The world looks so peaceful from 800 feet. Places also look a lot closer, but with a max speed of 170mph anything in a city would be rather close in a helicopter like this.

Within seconds we were over the house I live in and I know I have said, "it felt odd" many times, but I know of no other way to state how I felt seeing my house from above. Everything looks so peaceful and small.

After a few orbits there was a call just a mile or so from my house so we made a hard turn and now I knew why there were air sickness bags. Seriously, the G's I felt in this bank rivaled anything I felt on a race track. I could feel the blood moving throughout my body and was amazed at the sensations I felt.

The sensations were move than just pressure as thoughts became easier. I don't know how better to explain this as it happens so fast. Perhaps it can be compared to the moments right before sleep to obtained, and if that's the case perhaps the feeling isn't the best one. Okay, now I know, with that pressure of the corner it feels very much like a fever. My mind is slower. Why this is? I don't know and this is just an observation, but I would certainly need to experience that more to come to a conclusion.

When we got to the call I could hear on the headset that the situation down below was not a peaceful one. There was one officer there, then another car showed, and by the 15th orbit four squad cars were outside the place of residence. Once the situation was under control we headed towards downtown.

One of my favorite memories of all time was when I was a child and I was on a plane headed back to the Indianapolis Airport. It was just becoming night time and we flew in over downtown. As far back as I can remember I have loved downtowns, and today was very much like being back all those years ago. But instead of being on a plane with a brief view, I was in a helicopter that was doing circles around downtown.

I took two photos and here they are:



After patrolling the downtown area we flew south and I was still in awe of all the places I recognized and the peacefulness the world seemed to have. For a while we flew over the South County Center Mall and I had many memories of what it was like working the holiday season. This led to a web of thoughts and I, for the first time during the day, realized that Christmas is just two days away and I also realized that the 7 year anniversary of knowing that I am on the spectrum came and went.

There was one more call that we covered that turned out to be a false alarm, but as we headed back to the airport I came to the conclusion that I feel much safer now knowing that there is this eye in the sky. I wanted to tell the two pilots that they have one of the coolest jobs in the world because they keep officers and people on the ground safe, but they also have the best view of Saint Louis on a daily basis.
The landing was sad in a way because it meant the flight was over. It was well worth it though as we were in the air for around 90 minutes give or take 30 (I know, big margin of error). After I got off the helicopter I thanked the co-pilot and I was on my way.

From the airport I started my way towards Indianapolis. My mom is going to my sister's house for Christmas and I decided to join them, but I was going up Thursday but the weather forecast looked grim as of last night (it looks not as grim now).

If you have followed my blog this month you will know that December is a tough month for me. Even though this has been the best year of my life by far, this month still has me down like every other year. That being so, the drive to Indy is really difficult because I am able to recall all the drive I have driven previously. Be it 1998, 1996, or even the deathly scary foggy drive of 2004 when I left Saint Louis after bowling at midnight.

The drive itself wasn't that bad today, except for the same company of semi-trucks that drove side by side doing 45 in a 65 for 20 miles.

As for the memories? Well, I think this blog is long enough for one day so I will end this at that and talk about more memories from Indianapolis tomorrow.




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