First Flight

Myself, and a fellow helicopter pilot want to be, was sitting in a little restaurant outside the Daleville gates of Ft. Rucker, AL. I would bet I wasn’t a resident of that Fort more than three days at this point. I was what you called a snowbird. We were ready to enter into the crappy part of flight school (Warrant Officer Entry Course). But there were more new candidates, than there was space. So after morning PT, we did our best to stay out of trouble until it was our turn. Basically, the Army had not use for us.

I don’t remember my fellow snowbirds name. But we sort of hit it off, and since I didn’t have a car, I joined him for dinner off post. He was from Georgia…Atlanta, I think, but to me, his accent didn’t sound any different from my Yankee accent.

He was asking me if I ever flew an airplane before. I said no, I have never been forward of the coach section of a jet airliner.

“The what?” He asked.

“The coach section.” I replied.

“The what?” He asked again, leaning in and looking at me as if I was having a seizure.

“The coach section, you know, behind first class, but in front of the tail.” I replied, trying to be understood.

“Oh,” He said, his face lighting up with recognition. “The coach section.”

I swear to this day, he said it exactly as I said it, three times earlier. He then went on to say that was about the fourth or fifth thing he could not understand because of my Minnesota accent.

What accent? We enunciate, just because those southerners slur all their words doesn’t mean we have an accent. Come on!

Anyway, he was surprised that I wanted so badly to be a helicopter pilot, even though I never even sat in the cockpit of an airplane, much less a helicopter. Once again, I didn’t see the connection. But I did have my concerns.

Here is why.

When I went for my pre-Army flight physical, I went to Grand Forks, ND. I flew there in whatever small jet airliner Boeing and Northwest was flying at the time. As we ascended, I was struggling to keep my ears clear. Then just as we leveled off, and I could really get to work on them, we started our descent. I was in so much pain by the time we landed at the Grand Forks airport. I was surprised I did so well on my hearing test. I was sure I was deaf.

A guy who was also on his way to Grand Forks for a pre-flight school physical said the first thousand feet up or down are the worst. As if a helicopter spends a lot of time anywhere else. So after that flight, I was a little concerned that I could fly without pain. The flight back to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport was painless, as I look back. But we never remember the painless episodes, do we.

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