I’m Addicted

I realize that I’m addicted to flying.

Addiction. It’s a strong word for a nasty condition. Unfortunately, I think it applies to me.

I think I’m addicted to flying. It’s been over a month now since I’ve flown and I’m suffering from withdrawal. I look out into the clear, blue skies so common in this area, see the mountains out in the distance, and imagine flying among them, in their canyons and over their peaks. I imagine discovering new points of interest from 500 feet up. I imagine cruising around Vulture Peak, waving to the hikers I know must be climbing this time of year. I imagine flying low over empty desert roads, using them as guidelines at twice the speed a ground vehicle would drive them. I imagine dropping in to the Wayside Inn, Kofa Cafe, Wild Horse West, or that truckstop out on I-10, just for a $200 hamburger. I imagine sharing the joy of flight with Wickenburg residents and seasonal visitors, many of whom have never been aloft in a helicopter. I imagine smooth flight, graceful turns, on-the-spot landings.

It’s hard not to be able to do all that. But my old helicopter has been gone since November 1 and other than a few minutes of stick time in Jim Wurth’s Hughes 500c, I’ve been grounded, waiting for my new helicopter to be built, tested, and ready for delivery.

I never really thought of this feeling as withdrawal from an addition. That wasn’t until I started surfing the Web. I found an article on VerticalReference.com titled “How to Get Out of Aviation.” And there it was, in big, bold letters, the phrase I’d never considered: “Helicopters are an addiction!” What followed was a tongue-in-cheek 12-step program to quit flying helicopters. Cute. As if I wanted to quit.

Yesterday, I was chatting with Gus, who took over my contract at Wickenburg Airport. I told him about my frustrations in not being able to fly. He used the A word, too. He said he hadn’t flown in 12 years. He’s been offered rides many times, but he always turns them down. He’s worried that he’ll get hooked again. And he says the habit is just too expensive. Can’t argue about that. But there’s a lot of bang for the buck.

My sister smokes and has been smoking for over twenty years. We all want her to quit, but she won’t. She says she likes smoking. Well, I like flying. And at least this addiction isn’t slowly killing me, poisoning my lungs with smoke and tar.

Yesterday, while I was working hard on a revision to my Mac OS X book, I got a phone call from Tristan. Tristan is a buddy of mine based in Santa Clara, CA who owns an R44 Raven helicopter. I leased his helicopter last winter/spring while he was in graduate school and it did great things for my tour business, convincing me to upgrade. Anyway, Tristan starts off the conversation by saying, “I’m at the Robinson factory taking the safety course and there’s a beautiful red Raven II with the N-number 630ML doing hovering autos outside on the ramp.” My helicopter! It’s finished! It’s flying!

It appears that it emerged from the factory on Monday and is going through its FAA airworthiness certification. After that, according to Justin at Hillsboro Aviation, it’ll be partially disassembled and inspected again. Then 5 to 10 hours of test flying will be done. Oddly enough, safety course students sometimes fly helicopters ready for delivery. (If the timing is just right, Tristan might actually fly my helicopter before I do!) Finally, the helicopter will be taken back inside, where it will be detailed and prepared for delivery. I’ll get a phone call and hop on a plane to LAX, where a Robinson test pilot will pick me up — perhaps in my own helicopter! — and take me to the factory to receive my ship.

When will all this happen? Well, there’s a SLIGHT chance that it will happen next week, right before Christmas. What a present THAT will make! But it’s more likely that it’ll have to wait until after the Christmas holiday, when Robinson is closed for the week. That means January 3 or 4. In the meantime, I’m draining all my bank accounts and going back into debt to fund the purchase and pay the first installment on an extremely costly commercial insurance policy.

Until then, I’m looking for a fix. Mike offered to take me flying in his Grumman Tiger, but I’m not very interested. Cruising along at 120 knots 5000 feet above the ground is not very interesting to me. I’d rather fly at 90 knots and 500 feet. Jim said he’s going flying this week and promised to call me. I promised to pay for fuel. And Chris said I can come flying with him in his recently acquired 1946 Piper Cub. He says he seldom flies faster than 60 knots or 400 feet up. Just the kind of flying I like to do. The trick is to be at the airport when Chris gets there. And although Chris doesn’t work all winter long, I do.

Today I’ll go back to my office and continue working on the book that will pay for my addiction. I was recently told by someone in the know that my Mac OS X book is the #2 bestselling Macintosh book. (Number one would be better, but I’d need to hire a hit man to achieve that and all my money is tied up in aviation right now.) I’ll finish Chapter 3 and probably Chapter 4. My editor will be very pleased. But while I’m working, I’ll be listening to my aviation radio, hearing the helicopters from Universal and Silver State fly into Wickenburg for cross-country flights and pattern work.

And I’ll be looking forward to the time when I can get a good fix.

What do you think?