in June of 2005, John Biladeau and I were coming up I-5 into Redding, CA on our way home from a trip. I was talking about taking a helicopter trip around the area so we went to their airport and spotted Air Shasta but they were closed. That August, I was on another trip and knew I would be in the Redding area on the 15th. Determined to take a ride, I called Air Shasta on the 14th to book a flight for the next day at 3pm.
We arrived about 2:40 on the 15th and met up with our pilot Dave. I knew it would be an awesome ride at the first sight of him. I asked if I could whip up a quick flight plan and he was more than willing. It seemed that he liked my first line best, "If you are allowed to do bush style flying." Dave got a big smile on his face and said, "Sure, we can do that." I also asked for a fast take-off and explained the rest of the flight plan to him.
It didn't seem that the two guys with me, Dustin Osterhaus and Justin DeNike, knew quite what Dave and I were cook'n up, but then again, oh well. So we all went to the hanger snapped a few pictures and figured out the best way to get me into his helicopter. Dave removed the door to allow more room and prepared to lift me in.
I actually brought Justin to lift me in, he's the type that could lift the whole copter and stands about 6'6 or better. I asked Dustin to climb in and guide my legs as Justin lifted me in. The fit was Excellent! Dave said, "I'll take off my door so we'll get more air." I smiled at him, but Dustin's face got a "say what" but no real big deal.
Dave pushed me and his copter out onto the tarmac, did preflight with us, and then he spun up. It took a minute or two ito warm up. After that, he cleared with the tower, throttled up hard, and we were off
Dave lifted up fast and then tilted about 25-30 degrees forward, so we got a lot of forward acceleration. It was awesome, we then headed due north with I-5 in view about 5 miles to the West.
The first point I wanted to fly over was a place on I-5 that had always puzzled me whenever passing by. It was off to the east of I-5 about a mile and on top of this small, steep mountain. Dave told us it was a lime quarry. After this he headed straight for the middle of the mountain then kind of eased up and over the crest, revealing Lake Shasta.
Dave did kind of a quick dive down to the lake and began to skim the lake at 50- 75 feet. When Justin asked about how fast we were going, he replied, "oh, about 140." All three of us thought, "Awesome!"
We skimmed the lake waving at people swimming and aboard house boats until we neared the Shasta Dam. I wanted to fly over the dam but back at the office Dave said ahter 9/11 the dam had a 1500 foot no fly zone. So he took us around the south end of the dam instead.
When we got around the dam, he took us to it's center point, about 1500 feet away, and about 50-100 feet up from the top of it. He then zeroed our rates and just hovered a minute, as we rotated first to the east then to the south.
As we faced south, he stopped a minute, and then he looked back at me with a smile and said, "Yuh ready Kirk?" I smiled back and nodded yup! "Ok Kirk, here we go!"
Full right bank about 30 degrees tilt as we picked up a whole lot of speed, lost a lot of altitude, and swung west all at the same time. So, we went from 0 to 120 mph, from 700ft to 75ft, and pivoted from south to west, all in about 5-7 seconds. It was awesome!!!!!
I was laughing hard from then on... It was screaming fun! Dustin's eyes got real big for a few seconds as we did this then he got into it big time. I couldn't see Justin's face, because he was sitting in front. I'm sure I'd react the same way if I didn't know what was coming.
We skimmed down the Sacramento River 25 or so feet off the surface for about five minutes, swinging left and right as we'd go around bends in the river. Then Dave asked, "Would you like to see her climbing capabilities Kirk?" He looked back and I nodded, "Bring-it."
A cliff wall was about 1500 feet ahead of us where the river turned sharp. Dave headed right for it as Justin said "uhhhh."
When we got about 100 or so feet from the face before Dave tilted us back hard to slow our forward rate and also put it into full lift...the thing could climb. As we crested the cliff, Dave goes over and down the other side skimming the tree tops as we head back to Redding. He flew us around the Sun Dial Bridge, a few other Redding sites, and his house. After that, on our way back to the Airport, he says, "I know what Kirk would like. Do you want me to simulate an engine failure and do an Auto Rotation?"
Justin looks at Dave, Dustin and Justin look at each other a bit puzzled. Dave looks back at me and I once again nod, "Bring-it."
He started a slow climb as we headed a bit past the airport, while explaining how helicopters can fly for a bit without the power plant oline. Up around 1500-2000 feet, things got extremely quiet as lights started to flash, and we started to lose altitude. Dave starts us in a spin; it was nothing violent, just a nice, easy, gliging spin.
The guys got a bit quiet as we fell. A few seconds into the fall the oil pressure buzzer came on. Like on a diesel, you know, one second of an obnoxious buzz, one second off, a second on, a cecond off . Justin asked what the buzzer was and Dave replied, "ehhh, the engine is turning too slow to keep the oil pressure up"
To make a long store short, Dave did an Auto Rotation until we were 3 feet from the ground, brought his engine back online, and up we went.
It was a half hour of shear fun. If you are able to, by all means go!