Miami Zen Awakening
The text message arrives at 7:10 PM. “Are you ready for your helicopter ride tomorrow? We will pick you up at 9:30 AM”. It was from friends Jeff and Natacha. I find the courage to reply “Yes”. So begins a Miami Zen Awakening.
The flight crew arrives the next morning for the 45 minute drive to North Perry Airport, where 350 light aircraft and a dozen helicopters are based.
The car park is nearly full but after circling we find a space and walk to the small airport office. Jeff and Natacha are on a first name basis with the staff and we walk out thru the maintenance shop, onto the airport apron. It is a short distance to the helipad.
The helicopter is bright orange. It is a Robinson R-44 with 4 seats and no doors. I am thinking there must be an FAA regulation requiring doors on helicopters, and want to ask Jeff but he is already unbuckling the protective canopy cover and I move forward to assist. A fuel truck arrives to top off the tank.
It is time to board the helicopter. Jeff is the pilot and sits in the front-right seat. Natacha is going to take photos and sits in the second row. My seat is front-left. We buckle our seat belts. I notice a T-shapped lever extending thru the floor up to shoulder height. “Do not touch that lever” Jeff commands. I nod affirmatively. “And do not touch the two levers on either side of your seat.” I see the levers down by my knees. I nod again. For added safety I decide to sit on my hands.
Jeff hands me a headset with an attached microphone. “Put this on and adjust the volume knob. There will be some engine noise and wind. These will allow us to communicate easily.”
After starting the engine Jeff goes thru a pre-flight checklist to insure all the controls and gauges are working correctly. He calls the control tower on the two-way radio and after a brief conversation we are cleared for takeoff.
There is a sensation like being under a giant ceiling fan turned to the highest setting. The helicopter gently lifts off the runway, rises to an altitude of 80 feet, hovers for a moment, then tilts forward slightly and we are off.
We head east toward the beach flying at nearly 100 mph, though it don’t seem that fast. We approach two super tall high-rise buildings and then fly between them. I glance over at my fellow crew members but it seems flying between buildings is no big deal. We come out over the ocean and turn south along the beach. Its a beautiful sunny day and the ocean below is sparkling turquoise and crystal clear.
Suddenly I hear Natacha’s voice on the headset. “Hey, I just saw a big fish or maybe a shark at 9 o’clock”. Jeff swings into a sharp left turn and the helicopter leans over at 45 degrees. I am intensely wishing there was a door on the left side.
We see that shark and approximately 99 others, many manta rays and one manatee. We fly above Bal Harbour, Miami Beach and Fischer Island. Heading south over Key Biscayne Jeff changes course slightly and flies over my house. When we reach the Cape Florida Lighthouse we circle it and then fly north.
Viewing the city from 200 feet, the streets below seem calm and serene. There is no sense of traffic or drama. People all look the same. I can clearly see how my street fits into the neighborhood and the neighborhood fits into the village and how all of that is part of the larger metropolis. There are no boundary lines. Everything seems to be connected and joined together as part of the whole…
WOW. I sense enlightenment is dawning as I feel one with everything.
Then, over the headset, I hear a voice: “Hey, I see a big bird at 3 o’clock.” The helicopter tilts on its side as we swoop down for a closer look, and I awaken from another dream.
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Written by: Bill Durham