Dear Vertical Freedom,
You definitely put the WOW in your pilotage and photographic skills! I garnered four hours of PIC time in an Evergreen Bell 206 Long Ranger way back in 1978. (I had accumulated 760 hours in Cessna 152's, 172's, 185's, and 320's at the time.) I could hover, barely...
One Sunday my friend/instructor called to see if I would like to bring my then-wife, son, and friend along for a sight seeing pleasure flight in the chopper. We spent nearly an hour doing maneuvers and low-level, high-speed runs over marshland and ocean. We requested and were granted landing permission at KSSI (St. Simons Island) when we were three minutes out at 3,000' MSL. My so-called friend came on the intercom and said "Watch this!" I recall, in slow motion, his reaching out from the right seat to cycle the emergency fuel cut-off switch. The annunciator panel went from green to orange to red. We were going to auto-rotate and were too low to get a relight/restart. I turned around and told my wife, son, and friend (who was busy shooting 3 frames/second with his Nikon) to Brace-Brace-Brace.
We flared 50' too soon and went down on the beach. Airspeed was indicated at 60 kts. and the VSI was pegged full down. Our skids dug into the sand, we tipped forward, and the main rotors made a clean decapitation of the boom. My wife grabbed our 8-year-old son and exited beneath the still-rotating main, which fluffed her hair. Had she been an inch taller - curtains! I fumbled frantically and finally released my five-point harness and exited stage left.
We walked about a quarter mile up the beach on Sea Island and encountered four gentlemen who were leaning out of a porch on the third floor of a condominium. They yelled "Hey! Did you see that helicopter go down? It was smoking and going too fast!" I responded "Yeah! We were in it!" "Do you want a drink?", they asked. Moments later, four gentlemen from Atlanta hugged us and motioned to a table upon which were half-gallons of every alcoholic beverage known to modern man. I grabbed a bottle and glugged. Our "pilot", replete in the knowledge that the FAA would be around soon, did not partake. My wife, who worked for the Sea Island Company, commandeered one of their limousines and took our son home. Our friend still has photos of the entire episode.
All by way of saying Thank You for bringing the joy of High Flight back to me. I have been afraid all these years and now am not. I owe a debt of gratitude to he who understands the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake, a kind and beautiful Bride, and the miracle of Himalayan Mountain Highs.
John Denver, whose Dad flew B-58's, would be proud...