I Want To Fly A Helicopter, Not Look At A Bunch Of Crazy DialsCommentary • Opinion • travel • technology • ISSUE 40•06 • Feb 11, 2004 By Bob Kuhtz Bob Kuhtz Okay, so since time began, man has dreamed of flight, right? I know I have. I've always wanted to swoop between the mountains and hang suspended high above the earth and all that jazz. So naturally, I decided to try my hand at flying a helicopter. But here's the problem: Everyone makes such a damn big deal out of operating one. I want to fly a helicopter, not look at a bunch of crazy dials. You know what man has not dreamed of since time immemorial? Keeping an eye on his H-over-G indicator. Cavemen did not look to the hawks in the heavens and wonder about their approximate yaw angle, whatever the hell that is. Old Orville and Wilbur sure as hell didn't dream about zeroing the VOR needle for bearing correctionI'll tell you that for free. So why in hell is some instructor screaming at the top of his lungs for me to look down at the console when I'm in the middle of trying to avoid crashing into a barn?! Something tells me there's no barn-missing meter down there! A helicopter has about 40 different instruments. I suppose there's a chance that I'll be curious about a couple of them someday, but for now, they're just getting in the way of the view. In fact, all that blinky-blinky nonsense seems downright dangerous. In the Bell Jet Ranger, I had to sit on a couple of extra cushions, because otherwise, the airspeed indicator and the artificial horizon were right in front of my face! Isn't it more important for me to see the real horizon? For one thing, it'd help me figure out the damn helicopter speedone thing they don't have a dial for! Half of these dials don't even mean anything. What's "ROTOR ANGLE/ATTACK" supposed to stand for? Am I really expected to know what the "COLLECTIVE DEG INCL" is at all times? You can tell me all the scary stories you want, but I doubt old Icarus fell to his death by ignoring his "MANIFOLD PRESS/TEMP IN/HG." All those dials just jump around like crazy, with no rhyme or reason. And if "LBS FUEL PAYLOAD L/R" is supposed to be some sort of gas gauge, it should read "E" to "F" instead of displaying a bunch of arbitrary numbers that go all jangle-dangle when I'm having fun with the stick. And when's the last time anyone ran out of gas, anyway? Everyone knows that there's always a few gallons left, even when the needle's pegged. Hey, if it would make everyone feel better, I guess I could choose one meter and look at it whenever there's nothing to do. We'll compromise: I choose a go-to meter; you bite your tongue. Having a hot-read meter wouldn't be so bad, anyway, so long as it didn't interfere with the serious business of flying around and swooping. But I wouldn't want to let it get in the way of just plain hovering. Because I don't want to be futzing with some meter when I'm trying to do the hovering-around-in-the-air thing I love. Come on, there's a lot to look at when you're flying. Things are spinning around and coming right at you, and the helicopter seems to have a mind of its own. And then there's the crazy-ass instructor, hollering and grabbing at things and telling you everything except how to deal with the telephone poles that keep popping up right in front of you. I can't wait to go solo. It's hard to soar with the eagles when you're scratching with the chickens! Seriously, how important could all those dials be? It seems like any problem would come with a lot of smoke, which I'd smell, or a loud explosion or shrieking metal sound, which I'd hear. Or by a bunch of landscape right in front of my field of vision. If any of that happened, it'd be too late anyway. Flying a copter isn't for the faint of heart. Those loud warning buzzers that start up 30 seconds into your flight will drive you crazy. Sometimes, you get so turned around, you can barely say which way's up. Given how hard it all is to start with, I really don't see why they have to go and complicate things more with a bunch of dials, buttons, lights, and levers. The next guy can futz with those things all he wants; I, for one, am ready to fly.