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The Little Red Helicopter    

by James D. Bagwell


I am a retired NASA engineer with no writing experience other than technical papers at work. I thought this experience was a little humorous so I wrote it as a story. 

A week before Christmas and killing time at a shopping mall prior to a doctor’s appointment, I walked by a store that had a lot of toys and gadgets displayed just for the Christmas shopper. Prominently displayed outside the store entry was a stack of boxes containing remote control toy helicopters. They were small and inexpensive--only 30 dollars.

Having grown up in the 50's and 60's, my reluctance to spend and waste any money began to weigh on my mind.  My doctor’s appointment was approaching, so I decided to think about it some more and maybe come back later. After all it was 30 dollars and the possibility of the thing actually flying I considered to be remote. I did survive all those Christmas's as a child dreaming of,  but never getting one of those trains pictured in the Sears Roebuck Catalog.

A day or so later, one of the many Christmas sale papers had a sale for J.C. Penny.  I thumbed through the pages and guess what.  There in big pictures was of all things the remote control helicopters and they were on sale----wow it was a miracle---almost meant to be-- I thought. They were now only 20 dollars and after all J.C. Penny is kinda the same type store as Sears Roebuck.  So thinking this was meant to be, I go to the store and purchase one.

 At home, I proceeded to open it up and check the contents of the box. The first thing that caught my attention was that the box contained a repair kit. This doesn't seem too good to have a repair kit for a new out of the box super duper remote control helicopter. I decided to not worry about the repair kit and proceeded to read the instructions which told me to put the batteries in the control box.  It had a control box operated off of 6 AA batteries.

After the batteries are inserted in the control box,  you have to charge up the battery in the helicopter.  I began the charge and after 30 minutes the charge light went off meaning the helicopter was fully charged.  Fully charged the helicopter was to have a flying time of 7 minutes.

This helicopter was designed to be flown indoors. I had dreams of sitting in my chair that I use to watch TV and flying my helicopter. I envisioned it would fly out a few feet and you would be able to slowly maneuver it about like a real helicopter.

Being smart,  I decided to go to the kitchen area of my living space to try it out. After all I do have an expensive flat screen TV.I could just see my 20 dollar helicopter flying into my very expensive TV and knocking it out of commission. 

I turned the power switch on and all sorts of lights came on.  Lights were flashing in many colors. I turned the control box on.  The control box has two joy sticks that you move to control the direction of the helicopter.  One controlled it up and down and the other left and right. I moved the control switch to go up.  The helicopter blades started spinning. The helicopter rose up about 4 feet then moved forward very fast and in about 3 seconds crashed into the wall.

After about 2 hours of continually crashing into the walls of my kitchen, I finally gave up. One time for about 10 seconds, I got it to stay in one place and actually move about like it was under control.  My wonderful helicopter then was retired to my kitchen counter to wait my next attempt to try to fly it. 

Christmas Eve came and it was kinda warm outside. I decided I would power up my helicopter and give it another try.  This time I would go outside and it would have no walls to fly into. I was going to prove that helicopters are not designed to fly inside. On the first try it looked like it was headed for the roof of my house.  I ran after it and it came down to the ground. I decided I better get away from the house.

My next try it went straight up and then crashed to the ground. On the third try it went behind me and I lost sight of it. There is a fence between me and my neighbor and he has a small house on his side of the fence.  The helicopter was headed toward the fence and the small house. I looked and looked but did not find it. All I had left was the control box. So maybe there is a reason to only fly it inside. You can find it when it crashes into a wall.

I went back to my patio and decided to stay outside a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. The neighbors across the fence came outside and were playing ball beside the little house. There was a man and two boys.  One looked to be a teen and the other little boy looked to be three or four years old.  After a while the older boy saw me and came down the fence with my little red helicopter. The little boy was with him and was looking with bright eyes as he handed me the helicopter.  I could tell the little boy would just love to play with my helicopter.

I talked to the older boy and told him about my experiences trying to fly it. He seemed to be interested in it. So it being the day before Christmas, I decided to give it to him if he wanted it. I retrieved the control box and the instructions and gave it all to him. The little boy was just delighted. 

But was this the end of my little red helicopter. I can imagine that on Christmas day after the little boy had opened and played with all his presents, he would be looking behind a couch or chair and there would be -- a little red helicopter. This time it would not need a control box and it would not need charging and it would not fly into the wall. It would have unlimited power and direction controlled by the imagination of a little boy.



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