Archive for November, 2013

choppers

The thirst did not subside after three days the way the hunger had. The cold of the second night was worse than the first. But the cold came with salvation- – frost formed on the fallen leaves. He’d mostly sucked the leaves on morning one, but a few had cupped a spoonful of melt. Upturning dozens had paid with enough water to make the shivering worthwhile.

When he’d  tried to expand his circle of cups  the pain stopped him. Broken hip or broken pelvis, maybe both,  and the opposite ankle. There’d been a drag to the tree when he was still in shock,  now his injuries had set to the point where simply leaning to extend his reach was nearly too much. A jolt that he could not endure with his eyes open. He’d taken to closing them before he reached.

From the tree he could see the ledge, and judged that he had fallen about twelve feet, landing on roots with one leg under him.  A one touch fall,  abetted by his friends the wet leaves;  his own fault.  All caught up in the argument, the arguments.  The words and resentments and regrets and immortal memories had blinded him. In a fog on a dangerous trail. Jesus.

“Go fuck yourself”,  she’d said finally.

“Whatever.”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

.Real Romeo and Juliet stuff, he thought. Dire Straits.

And what the hell might Lulu be doing right now?  Worrying?  Surely she had reported him missing.  The phone was on the counter for Christ’s sake. His phone. Could she possibly still think he was playing games?

No phone, and there had been no note. He hadn’t even been pissed off,  just wanted away.  Drove a half hour, then wheeled onto a tractor path and parked tight between a row of maples and a field of eight foot high corn. In a  rusted brown truck. A hundred yards off the road.  Away off the road, as his Gram would say.

He’d heard a few planes, tried to imagine the sound of a helicopter. Wondered about the corn, the farmer. The corn was  bleached  and dry, past due for cutting, but what would be thought of his truck if the combine did come along?  He was just another hunter. Still there on the second day?  They might think it odd.

A real hunter?  He’d been one once. Fifteen years old, traipsing through the woods back of Gram’s house.

“You be careful  Charlie.”

“Ok Gram.”

Out for two or three hours alone, miles from the house, with a gun.  No need to worry. He’d had his little bit of shit together at fifteen. Wouldn’t have fallen. Warm in the sun on afternoons just like this. Full of pancakes, looking for squirrels, sitting up against trees. Killing.

Lulu was five then, a neighbor he scarcely noticed. At Gram’s he studied the lingerie section of the Montgomery-Ward’s catalog. Dad and Mom both worked. Gramp and Gram both worked. What had they hoped for, giving him all that freedom?

….A .22 cracked, very close.

.Charles closed his eyes, tried to be loud but clear:

“HELP.. ME!”

chopper

The thirst did not subside after three days the way the hunger had, but each brutally cold night left a gift in the darkest hours:  Frost.  Without that, without the shivering, he would be dead by now, and he recognized each fallen leaf around him as another gift from God.

He had lifted hundreds, one by one, judging concavity and placing them to cup the frost melt. Had tried to expand his circle of cups beyond the six foot ovoid he could reach, but the pain stopped him. Broken hip or broken pelvis, maybe both,  and the opposite ankle. He had dragged himself to the tree, instinctively, when he was still in shock, but there his injuries had swollen and set to the point where simply leaning to extend his reach caused agony that he could not endure with his eyes open. He’d adopted bracing himself and closing them before he reached. Forced, but not forced suddenly.

From the tree he could see the ledge, and judged that he had fallen about twelve feet, landing on roots with one leg under his ass. Pretty much a free fall, facilitated by his friends the wet leaves, but his own fault. All caught up in the argument, the arguments. The resentments and lies and regrets and ugly memories that functioned as an unkillable organism. In a fog on a dangerous trail. Jesus.

What the hell Lulu might be doing at the moment was something he pondered several times per hour. He tried to assume she had reported him missing.  The phone was on the counter for Christ’s sake. His phone. Could she possibly still think they were in a tactical game?

No phone, and there had been no note. He hadn’t even been pissed off, he’d just wanted away.  Drove a half hour, then wheeled onto a tractor path and parked tight between a row of maples and a field of eight foot high corn. A hundred yards off the road.  Away off the road, he thought to himself, feeling hollow headed from thirst.

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Rotorhead

My friend Randy was showing me his remote control helicopters a couple months ago.  Actually he was flying a small one annoyingly close to my head in the confines of his basement recreation room, clearly looking to have a conversation about helicopters.  A larger scale model sat nearby, so I began looking it over, and soon Randy was by my side, showing me batteries and controllers, and in a rare moment of humility (PhD Chemistry, grew up in Paterson NJ, builds $10,000 guitars that are worth it) bemoaning his inability to even get the craft to hover reliably.
I innocently asked the first question that popped into my head.
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“How do helicopters fly sideways?”
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“The blades tilt.”
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It seemed that he must have been implying that the whole apparatus of the propeller tilted, which I had always imagined was the case, but at my urging he elaborated.
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“The blade changes its angle of attack on one side of the helicopter, really on both sides, every revolution.”
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I imagined a spinning helicopter rotor and tried to grasp how quickly this change of “tilt” of the blade had to happen (and unhappen). Thousands of times per minute, certainly. I made it clear to Randy that I didn’t think we were communicating properly, and he just said:
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“Yeah, that’s how it works.”
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Ah, Google, it is true.
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A device called a swashplate links the pilot’s controls to the rotorhead, the swashplate essentially being a disc affixed to a rod slightly out of perpendicular, so that rotation of the rod causes the edge of the disc to describe an oscillating path.
On a vertically mounted rod, the swashplate can act directly on connectors above it, pushing them up or pulling them down on one side of the disc as the rod is (slowly) rotated. These connecters, on a helicopter, push and pull at the hub end of each rotor blade, causing the blade to tilt (more or less), where more tilting provides more lift.
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To this point we have madly spinning blades, each manipulated so that it can provide MORE lift on one side of a single rotation and LESS lift on the other.
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My question, “How do helicopters fly sideways?” still felt quite unanswered, so I waded further in, finding that the rotor blade had other critical attachment points: The hinges: The “flapping” or”flying hinge” and the “lead-lag” or “hunting hinge”.
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The flying hinge is the most essential to understanding helicopter flight, as it allows the blade to “fly” or rise above the plane of a rotor spinning perpendicular to the rotor axis. I have just discovered that it is also known as the “coning” hinge, and this seems the most descriptive moniker of all. The degree the blade is allowed to fly is obviously limited, and hydraulic dampers are used soften the mechanics of the flailing blur.
The blades are thus flying higher on one side of the rotational disc and lower on the other, effectively “tilting” it and pushing the aircraft from side to side or fore and aft. This is called Cyclic control, and is managed with a joystick between the pilot’s legs.
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More “lift” (blade tilt) applied symetrically  over the rotating disc causes the craft to rise. This is managed through “collective control”, a separate lever usually found to the side of the pilot’s seat.
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The “hunting hinge”?
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The hunting hinge allows the blades to move toward and away from each other, as aerodynamic mayhem dictates, in the plane of the disc (think “hands of a clock”). Also limited and mercifully damped.
A separate, smaller rotor mounted on the helicopter’s tail, spinning in a vertical plane, pushes against the torque of the main rotor and keeps the body of the aircraft from spinning in the opposite direction of the main rotor. The speed of the tail rotor is controlled with yet another lever (or pedal) in the cockpit, and the craft is is directionally pointed by varying its rpm’s.
Finally, should you ponder riding in a “chopper” for reasons other than grievous injury or illness, consider the name of the hardware that sits at the very top of the main rotor’s stack of twirling, flapping, clattering mechanisms:
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The “Jesus Nut”

helicopter-a-1