Chariho Times - Chariho’s Own - Jeff Codman

Hopkinton – Did you ever wonder what it would be like to have a bird’s eye view of the earth? To fly high in the sky and suddenly zoom downward to take a close look at the world below? Or, to soar off toward Point Judith, then to Ninigret Park to check out the sights?

Jeff Codman of Hopkinton knows. Codman, a 27-year-old pilot and flight instructor, is the owner of Bird’s Eye View Helicopters. And every chance he gets he climbs skyward in his 1990 Robinson R22 helicopter to capture the feeling of flying like a bird and to take aerial photographs of Rhode Island.

Last summer, one of Codman’s aerial photographs of Great Island was featured in Yankee Magazine.

When asked what he feels like when flying, Codman said the only way to explain the feeling is to experience it.

Codman’s helicopter, burgundy with a yellow stripe, is in Kingston, but his office is in Hopkinton.

Before Codman takes off for a flight, he goes through a 10-to-15 minute pre- flight walk around the helicopter thoroughly inspecting it from top to bottom – checking the fuel for water and sediment, warning lights, the engine, etc.

“This helicopter is a complex, yet safe, machine,” Codman explained as he walked around the helicopter gingerly touching its parts to make sure nothing was loose or out of the ordinary. “Every nut is safety wired and it has Teflon bearings. (The helicopter) is fairly light. Its maximum gross weight is 1370 pounds.”

Codman, who is six feet tall, climbs up the side of the helicopter to inspect the fuel inside its tanks.

“I visually inspect the fuel tanks because the gauges could be off,” Codman said. “Both tanks, with the reserve tank, are good for three hours, about eight gallons per hour.”

Codman added that the R22 requires little maintenance and is the least- expensive type of helicopter to operate.

And, unlike a car, helicopters gauge distance in time, not miles.

Inside the machine, the passenger sits on the left side and pilot on the right. Codman then fastens the seat belts and goes through a pre-flight check list on the inside controls because everything must be in 100-percent working condition before he leaves the ground.

When Codman starts the engine, the rotor blades stand still until the engine warms up and the oil pressure and water temperature rises.

Then, he puts on a headset to block out engine noise, listen to air traffic in the local area, and talk to his passenger.

On this flight, Codman gracefully nudged the helicopter forward for a smooth takeoff as the R22 gradually levitated into the sky.

At 400 feet, the helicopter glided so smoothly it felt as if its passengers floated with no machinery surrounding them.

“This is a maneuverable helicopter,” Codman said as he looked toward the horizon. “It’s not an overpowering helicopter. It can fly under 25,000 to 30,000 feet. An airplane usually flies much higher.”

The view was breathtaking as Codman headed toward the Narragansett Pier.

One thousand feet over Narragansett one could see the Jamestown and Newport bridges, people walking on the beach, and waves breaking on the sandy shores.

Somehow Codman manages not to get lost in the strange surroundings of the sky.

“After doing this for years, I know where I’m going,” he said. “I also have an aerial map.”

After 30 minutes, Codman banked the helicopter to the left and headed for home base.

With expert hands, he gently landed the R22.

Codman began his flying career at an early age.

“My dad, Charlie, got me flying airplanes at 14 years old,” he said. “He talked me into going up. On my first flight, I was hooked.”

At 16, Codman earned his private airplane pilot’s license.

Then, after he graduated from high school in 1988, Codman earned his license to fly a helicopter.

“I was looking for a challenge and it was a challenge,” he said. “At first, I wanted to quit. Hovering is a hard part. You’re working four things at the same time and trying to coordinate everything.”

Codman said his father went from flying airplanes to helicopters for fun – a hobby – and talked him into joining him.

In 1989, Codman earned his commercial pilot’s license, which allows him to take passengers on flights.

“I had to learn how to land within 50 feet on a certain spot without engine power,” he said. “It’s all a matter of perfect timing.”

Then, four years ago, Codman received his Certified Flight Instructor License, or CFI, from a school in California. The license allows him to teach others to fly.

Codman also gives tours around Rhode Island.

“I let (passengers) take the controls,” he said. “If they don’t want to participate, they just sit back and enjoy the view.”

Codman said he’s had many requests for tours around Christmas and on birthdays and Father’s Day. Those types of tours are usually gifts from spouses or friends, he said.

When Codman takes aerial photographs, he removes the helicopter’s doors so there is no obstruction when he uses a Cannon T70 to get a good shot.

Last summer, Codman and a friend photographed more than 90 percent of Rhode Island.