It happened! I rode in a helicopter for the second time in my entire life with my friend Claudia at the American Helicopter Museum this past weekend! I flew in an R-44 Robinson helicopter piloted by an older man with over 1000 hours of flight time logged in every war since Vietnam. It was an amazing experience despite the ride only lasting six minutes, I took a video during the entire duration of the flight to use for my final project. It was cloudy and drizzling that morning so the visibility was not great and the video quality was not either. However, I asked the pilot a few questions to understand how it the helicopter was being flown while I was inside. As we flew out over a reservoir and made our first turn, a loud chopping and crackling sound occurred every second. Knowing Claudia and myself started worrying, the pilot informed us that the noise was because of the high humidity and the blades were cutting through the thick air faster and at different angles when the helicopter turned and the blades broke the speed of sound. The pilot flew at about a top speed of 80 mph that morning and we cruised out over route 202, circled back over the reservoir, and then continued to make laps around the airport until we descended back towards the ground. As we were coming into land, I asked what a few of the controls did and how he maneuvered the helicopter. The pilot explained that the joystick in the middle was for turning the front of the helicopter and angling it different ways, the throttle handle on the side of his seat was used to increase blade speed to go up and down, and the foot pedals were used to control the tail rotor and keep the helicopter from spinning. Riding in a helicopter always makes five to ten minutes feel like 30 seconds but I was glad I could enjoy this experience once again and make it a part of my research.
However, my trip did not end with the helicopter ride. Before I got on, I had an hour between registering and our actual flight, I was able to explore the helicopter models on display, and I gained some invaluable information from a Vietnam War veteran and a current Boeing test pilot who flies Chinooks, about the V-22 Osprey. The V-22 is a helicopter plane hybrid meant to increase the efficiency and speed from a typical helicopter design, while also still being able to have hovering capabilities. I got to go inside the third model ever designed that the American Helicopter Museum had outside on display next to the runway. Asking as many questions as possible of the two experienced pilots and war vets, I learned that when the V-22 was being brought to the museum in 1997, it departed from a base near Ocean City, MD, and got to the museum 35 minutes later… Besides its high speed capability which is 288 mph! It also can carry up to 24 troops and a crew of 2-3. The Osprey’s two Rolls Royce turbo shaft engines can rotate with the wings of the vehicle around the middle of the aircraft. According to the pilot at the museum, there are over 80 being used right now by the U.S. military around the world. However, funding has been slowed down mainly because engineers are discouraged by the blade stall that keeps a traditional helicopter from going any faster. Combining the knowledge I gained from the two highly experienced war veterans and the pilot who I flew with in the helicopter, this weekend was invaluable to my project!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Here are some photos from my day!