Getting my feet wet

Here is why this is the best job in the world. This was my substitute for coffee Tuesday morning.

Last Tuesday, bright and early, I was pulling up at the port at the Pensacola Naval Air Station for a ride aboard the smallest aircraft carrier in the Navy: The HLT. (Short for Helicopter Landing Trainer).

This thing is run by civilians, and has booked well over 100,000 mishap-free landings by helicopter pilots. This is astounding when you realize that many of the pilots have only been flying helicopters for a couple of months.

These nice folks took me onboard like I was one of the crew, showed me the ropes and got me on the flight deck for some really cool stuff.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This guy’s name is Michael. He’s retired Navy, and he’s been guiding in helicopters for years. He swears that he feel safer on the boat than on his 45 minute daily commute. I don’t think I was ever scared on the flight deck, but I’ll admit that when those rotor blades were spinning over my head and I was snapping photos, I had a strong urge to back away.

Michael had no such urge.

I did not look nearly this cool on the deck, although I was suited up in a red life vest and what the ex-Navy types called a “Cranial.” Goofy journalist self portrait after the break…

One of the best parts was that they arranged it so I wouldn’t have to stay the entire day on the boat. At about 1 p.m. the Port Ops folks sent out a boat to pick me up.

The Navy sure did show and ex-Air Force type some good hospitality.

Now…I’ve just got to figure out how to write up a cool story…

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