The Liberty Gazette
December 6, 2016Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: We’re blessed with friendships with some amazing people we admire for their compassion, faithfulness, intelligence, wisdom, and talent. Yasmina Platt is one of these. Her schoolteacher parents moved from the Canary Islands to the U.S. when Yasmina was in high school because she wanted to learn to fly. Mature beyond her years, Yas earned her Certificated Flight Instructor certificate and a Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning by the age of 24. Now, just a few years later, and having made a big splash in the aviation industry nationwide through significant legislation and lobbying work, Yas is bubbling with elation over her new-found love – flying helicopters.
Throughout her helicopter training this summer she was giddy with infectious excitement. Every time we chatted I saw and heard the wonder and passion as she’d tell about her most recent flight lesson. I guess that’s why she says she’s “fallen in love all over again … learned to fly all over again.”
Yasmina: The differences between airplane and helicopter flying are immense. So much so that it does not feel like transition training; it feels like learning to fly all over again. The most obvious difference is that the pilot sits on the right side versus the left to free the left hand to manipulate switches, and more easily conduct right-hand traffic patterns, keeping away from left-traffic airplanes at airports. Let me explain a few of the lessons I learned.
Helicopter pilots’ hands and feet are occupied at all times, but perhaps more critically around the airport environment and especially when taxiing or maneuvering low to the ground. During my first or second lesson I was practicing hovering and pedal turns (turning around the center of gravity, without moving forward, backward, or to either side) up and down a taxiway when an airplane turned toward us. We immediately got out of the way and hovered over the grass, parallel to the airplane, letting them taxi past us. The pilot waved at us. Lesson #1: Helicopter pilots are not rude if they don’t wave back. They just may not be able to. Their left hand is on the collective, the right one is on the cyclic, and they cannot let go!
There are also differences in aircraft capabilities and limitations: Lesson #2. Yes, helicopters are incredibly capable but I was surprised to learn all their limitations. I mean, really surprised. They are not quite as “superman” as I thought. Consider aerodynamics.
The four principles of flight - weight, gravity, thrust, and drag - apply to both all aircraft; however, helicopters have a dizzying list of additional aerodynamic principles and limitations, such as dynamic rollover, ground resonance, tail rotor drift, dissymmetry of lift, transverse flow effect, blow back, translational lift, and much more. Thank you, Leonardo da Vinci, Juan de la Cierva y Codorniu and Igor Sikorsky, for all your hard work to create helicopters. You had a LOT to overcome!
It’s hard to come up with a favorite helicopter maneuver, but I enjoy those things I can’t do in an airplane. For example, pirouettes (flying in one direction, at hover altitude, while rotating around oneself) – challenging but lots of fun. For a while, I just wanted to do autorotations (simulated engine-outs). There’s something about dropping 600-800 feet in just seconds that I find amusing.
Mike: Whether she’s practicing an emergency maneuver or dancing in the sky, Yasmina’s love affair has given her a fresh new perspective on flying. “Helicopters are more expensive, versatile, and challenging than airplanes,” she says, beaming, “but nothing worthwhile comes easy in life.”