Magazine article The Spectator

Black Hawk Down

Magazine article The Spectator

Black Hawk Down

Article excerpt

My friend Spud had an Agusta 109.

That's the best type of helicopter.

They're like super-fancy flying Ferraris, shiny, and all Louis Vuitton and shagpile inside, the closest thing to a magic carpet that you can get. For Spud, the 109 was a skeleton key to everything, as well as a magic carpet to everywhere. People always wanted to borrow it to go to swanky soirées and special occasions in. Those he hardly knew invited him to grands prix, garden parties, Glastonbury, Glyndebourne and for the short amount of time that he owned it he went to absolutely everything. He sold it for a couple of million more than he paid for it, too. It's funny how these things work. Everyone was happy in that invincible bubble. 109s aren't cheap, but it's definitely best to stick with expensive helicopters. A low-priced helicopter isn't something that properly exists. People are always buying it in cheap choppers.

The British army uses a model called a Gazelle. That's a really nice machine, just one jet engine, but pretty safe, as long as no one is shooting at you. The army auctions them off in Bond Street when they've finished with them. It's about the best helicopter deal going, you can pick one up for less than a second-hand Aston Martin, but that's because owning an ex-military flying machine is really complicated. You need a 'permit to fly' from the Civil Aviation Authority every time you want to go anywhere, plus it's best to set up a company to own any kind of aircraft to limit your liability if you crash into anything. The paperwork gets really tedious and it's just much better to know someone with a helicopter than to own one. That's why Spud was so popular.

There's a lot of noise in a helicopter, and even in the really posh ones you have to wear a headset and you can't really read without feeling woozy. Ultimately, it's all very blokey, you're strapping yourself to a huge engine and that's just not as nice for your brain as moving your legs. The first and last hundred feet are miraculous, but no matter how short the flight or how advanced the helicopter there's somehow always time to get bored.

I've spent the past few days flying around the South American jungle in Black Hawks with the Junglas, the Colombian Special Forces. A Black Hawk really develops the idea of invincibility that was suggested by Spud's toy. …

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