Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Born to fly

March 13

Today I got to fly in one of our helicopters! It was amazing and I am really grateful to the whole team of our two pilots and two helicopter engineers for making it happen. They always wanted to take more people, but there was never enough time in the good weather window for the “fun” flights for the scientists. There are quite a lot of scientists on board; some need to use helicopters to get to their scientific destination (like ice coring people can only reach their coring sights via helicopters). There are also quite a few of VIPs – Frederik Paulsen and his guests always want to fly everywhere. And then there are scientists like me, whose work does not involve going to the top of a glacier or going to any island at all really. So I never got to fly…

There were always “attempts” – in case the weather is good and there is a lot of “extra time” we will be spending at an island, it was always rumored that we, the ship-locked people of Tryoshnikov will get to fly. But this never happened. I stopped being hopeful about it in the middle of leg one; I never even mentioned it on my blog (I think).

Today we were at the last island – last time our helicopters were flying during ACE. I was working upstairs in “my meteorological” office, when one of the pilots came in and said that he heard I would fly today. At first I thought it was a cruel joke on his part – I’ve heard this so many times already! But I decided to check with the hangar and to my surprise one of the helicopter engineers greeted me with a special orange helicopter suite.

I was scheduled to go for a test flight with the helicopter engineer – they had to do safety checks with the machine before putting it to rest till Cape Town. My flight almost did not happen as a snow shower started out of nowhere (ok, ok there were clouds all over, but not low clouds…).  I was thinking that fitting into one of the heli-suites would be as close as I would get to flying on ACE helicopter.
But the snow cleared up and off we went. There were two helicopters getting tested, so our wonderful heli-team took four passengers from the crowd of scientists who’s been on the ship the longest and never went anywhere.

What can I say? It was absolutely amazing!!!

My favorite part was flying over an iceberg really-really low and watching the waves wash off the base of the ice.
It was also really fun to play with another helicopter, go hi and low and left and right
We flew over the water, over icebergs and over glaciers on Bouvet island
One thing I did not realize before – helicopter’s nose is pointing down for the most part – so it’s amazingly nice views of everything happening below
What an amazing gift from our helicopter team! Thank you so much!
I actually meant to write a separate post about them a long time ago, since my grandfather has a rather lengthy journal entry about the «aviation team» from 1960. This post is getting too long, so I will introduce my heroes and pick it up in the next post.
Here they are:
Sam (helicopter engineer), Sergio (pilot), Bob (pilot), Ian (engineer)

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