Today's Big News

February 1, 2012

A Gazelle flown by the Empire Test Pilots School, photographed by Jez B on September 29, 2011: used under Creative Commons license; click on the photo for larger versions from Jez's Flickr stream

The Harry Redknapp trial maintains its status as a gift that keeps giving, Anonymous have hacked the BNP (sorta), and - at least, at the time of writing - Newcastle are beating Blackburn. But the biggest news of the day, for me at least, is that I flew a helicopter.

OK, so technically that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I was in control of the aircraft for all of about eight seconds. And in fact, now I think about it, "control" probably isn't the word to use either.

The task seemed simple: it's hovering, just keep it still. All you have to do is move the stick a little bit to stop it moving around. Instead, as soon as the Gazelle started drifting, I managed to make it drift further; when it started to dip, I made it dive, and instead of gently correcting, I managed to make it leap up like it had been startled.  

Fortunately, I was sitting next to Commander Simon Sparkes, commanding officer of the Empire Test Pilots School, who was kind enough to suppress the giggles I'm sure can't have been far away. A piece on the ETPS and the MoD flight test set-up at Boscombe Down will eventually emerge: it won't heavily feature my "piloting", but it's an experience that, while brief, will live long in the memory. 


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