The following story was contributed by Andy Singer, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and spent part of Mother’s Day Weekend in western North Carolina:
I spent Saturday trying to perfect the art of flying a radio-controlled helicopter. I’ve always been fascinated about the mechanics/physics of getting one to fly (a real one that is). So I picked up a small R/C one, about 18 inches long. The salesman told me to stay away from the big one with single rotor and a tail rotor, but I should get the smaller one with counter-rotating main blades and no tail rotor. Those didn’t look quite right to me, so I went with a medium-sized single rotor and tail rotor.
My first few flights were little hops on the driveway. Then one where it came at me furiously. Then an uncontrolled flight to my neighbor’s yard where the landing skid broke. The one hobby shop [Smoky Mountain Hobbies] in all of Cherokee County, N.C., is 1 mile from Jamie’s parents and happened to have spare parts.
The proprietor, a retired Marine, runs the store by himself with only his one-eyed cat as a helper. You can also get any type of radio-controlled plane or car from him, as well as various action figures and wine/beer making equipment.
A replaced landing skid (and new main rotor blades) had me flying around again. We pulled the father-in-law’s Cessna out of it hangar, figuring a large indoor space without wind would be more conducive to learning the black art of helicoptering. A few timid hops, and then the bird and I became one. Hovering around the hanger, manipulating physics and aerodynamics. Then one moment of lost concentration. I was still one, but the helicopter hit the wall and became many. Rotors splintered, and the piece holding a rotor blade to the pitch adjusting mechanism sheared off.
A trip to visit the one-eyed cat and the Marine led to a revelation or two. The first was that the replacement parts are on national back order until June. The second was that the not quite authentic-looking counter-rotating-blade models are easier to learn on. So until parts are in, I have a micro-sized twin-rotor chopper to terrorize my family with. About the size of a tennis ball, it’s able to be flown in the house. Although I’m not sure Jamie appreciated me landing it in the middle of her New York Times crossword puzzle … while she was still working on it.