Jul 25, 2018
Flying a Helicopter in Alaska
I didn’t learn to fly until I was 48! My first plane was a Cessna 182. It was pure excitement for the first couple years. Then I started to see too many places I couldn’t land. So I learned to fly a taildragger with oversized tundra tires. It let me land on beaches, river gravel bars, mountain ridges, and other short field situations.
It was only another couple years before I discovered too many places I couldn’t land in the taildragger! I did a lot of research and concluded that a helicopter would be safer for the type of flying I wanted to do. First, it has less landing risk. Unlike a fixed wing where you have to commit to your landing spot at 45 knots, in a helicopter, you hover in slowly, and if you don’t like it, you pick up and move on. I also feel safer in cloudy weather; I can turn back on a dime, or put down and wait for the weather to improve.
Believe it or not, the average private pilot flies only 35 hours a year. While that may work for a fixed wing (airplane) pilot, I find helicopter to be far more committing. It requires constant control inputs. And there are more things to think about while flying and more emergency maneuvers to master. I fly 100-150 hours a year and train periodically with an instructor. There’s too much at stake to fly when you don’t feel highly proficient.
But the rewards are well worth the investment.
The helicopter takes me to amazing places that hardly anyone sees. I want to share some of the favorite places I’ve landed.