Back in college I was lucky enough to arrange to fly with a Royal Navy Search and Rescue Helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall as a photography project. On a rainy September morning I went up with the crew on a flight exercise.
They practiced hovering close to the cliffs. And I mean really close to the cliffs – the blades were maybe 20 feet away from the rocks. Because the instruments can’t tell you what is beside you, only your altitude from the ground below, the observer had to look out of the side door to tell the pilot how many yards away the rotor blades were from hitting the cliff. This was the only guidance the pilot had. These guys were really good.
I wanted to get some shots of the helicopter hovering over a rocky outcrop. So they dropped me off in a field. Later, after I had finished my shots they retrieved me by winching me back in, dangling outside the helicopter door. This was a bit unnerving to say the least.
The last part of the morning flight was to simulate a total engine failure a few times and land with no power. This was my first experience of autorotations, and a crewmember kindly suggested I unplugged my headset in case I threw up as the sound would annoy everyone. Happily, I didn’t get sick.