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Flying Helmut

'Origins' Through the Helmut-Cam: Flying Helmut’s ‘Origins’ Odyssey - June 2023

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The Prologue:

The Long and Winding Road that was the 3.5 Year Run-Up to my ‘Origins’ trip.

It was back in late October of 2019 that Matt56 (Harry Materne) sent me a PM, informing me that I had been chosen as the 9th Lend Lease Participant, and that I had been invited to go to the ‘Origins’ Game Fair to be held in June of 2020.

It was a great honour to be chosen – I at once arranged holiday (vacation?) time from work, and then accepted this amazing offer. Matt kept me up to date with regular contact PMs.

In January of 2020 I booked, and paid for, my flights, and Matt put in the hard yards Stateside, arranging and organising the details of my trip.

Meanwhile, COVID began to cast a shadow over proceedings, but ‘Origins’ was still set to take place in June of that year.

Then came the shocking news of Matt’s sudden and tragic passing….

Jim (rhodie80) and Keith (Oberst Hajj) took over the arrangements, and the three of us kept in touch while we watched the pandemic spreading, and inexorably shutting down social events all across the world.

It was in early April that we got the news that the ‘Origins’ Game Fair had been moved back, now rescheduled for early October. Fortunately I was able to move my Annual Leave to span the new dates, and in late May British Airways finally cancelled my flight package – that meant a full refund, because they cancelled them on Government instruction, so things looked set for an October reboot.

Then it all fell apart…

The U.S. government closed its borders, the British Government shut down International flights to the U.S.A., and ‘Origins’ was cancelled, with a tentative new date in June of 2021. That date was then rapidly ruled out as well, and the next date for consideration was to be June of 2022.

It was not until February of 2022 that feelers were finally put out again on the Forum, but with Keith having withdrawn from a full-time presence on the Forum, and Jim and Peter (Teaticket) not having the full access and authority to put preparations in place, things developed too slowly to allow for any certainty of running the Lend Lease program in 2022. Only two raffles had been run up until that point, and several of the painted plane prizes had not been sent in, or else had been sent but their whereabouts was unknown, so there could be no third raffle. I was offered the choice of pressing ahead with attending a cut-back pared-down ‘Origins’ in 2022, or of waiting for another 12 months and aiming for 2023. By the end of that month, with time running out and insufficient funding having been raised and little prospect of any more, we all of us collectively decided to call off the Lend Lease visit for 2022.

The ‘Origins’ Game Fair event DID go ahead in 2022, but with enforced Social Distancing, player numbers limited on game tables, many traders not attending at all, and a large number of gamers not taking the risk of attending either, particularly with the ongoing controversy regarding the compulsory wearing of masks.

Privately, at this point, I considered my Lend Lease trip to have reached a point of no return.

Things started looking up again in early January 2023, when Jim PM’d me to let me know that Keith had forwarded to him the money raised thus far. As it turned out, it didn’t quite cover the cost of the flights, but by using up some “British Airways ‘Avios’ points” I managed to meet the price – there wasn’t enough time to organise another raffle, and, anyway, the Avios points couldn’t be used for anything else but flights!

Peter got in touch the following day, regarding the possibility of my hosting a game, and so I started to put together an idea for a Game for me to GM on the Thursday afternoon.

Jim then contacted me about the flights, suggesting suitable days and times, and I was able to book inbound and outbound journeys on the very days he recommended! Awesome!

Then came 1st February, my birthday – and I received a horrible Birthday Present from British Airways; they cancelled 3 of my 4 flights! The aftershock of COVID had left the airline industry in tatters, and many staff had been laid off (and aircraft scrapped; the Boeing 747 Jumbo jet I had originally been booked to fly in had by now been removed from passenger service!).

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I managed to rebook the cancelled flights, with just a resulting slight increase in layover time at Philadelphia on the outbound journey, and a switch to Chicago on the return flight.

Then on 20th February, British Airways cancelled two of these rearranged flights!!! When I phoned up to rearrange AGAIN, they tried to have me fly in to Washington Dulles airport, then transfer by taxi to Washington Ronald Reagan airport, before flying on to Dayton! I told them to stuff it, and they subsequently “found” a later flight into Philadelphia (as before!) which then linked to Dayton.

My return transatlantic flight was pushed back to a post-22:00 departure, meaning a 9.5 hour layover @ Chicago O’Hare airport – on the Forum, I paraphrased “Jaws”s Police Chief Brody, saying “I’m gonna need a bigger Kindle!”

As May rushed by, with no further crises arising, it finally dawned on me that it was actually going to happen! I’d never flown long-haul before, and had never had to navigate around connecting flights either – this was going to be quite the adventure. Recent trips to the “Wings of Prague” gathering had taught me much of what I needed to know/do, though, so I was reasonably confident that I could get through it successfully.

Monday June 19th dawned, and I gathered up the gifts I was taking for various U.S. pilots, and all the paraphernalia of travel, and carefully packed everything; too carefully, as it turned out – it took MUCH too long, and I only finished packing everything around 02:00, with my ‘Uber’ taxi booked to come and get me @ 06:15!!!

Leaving everything ‘til the last minute – my Superpower!
Time for bed!

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  1. Flying Officer Kyte's Avatar
    What an epic first Blog Tim.
    You are no longer a Drome Blogging Virgin. No airline pun intended!

  2. predhead's Avatar
    Excellent start, Tim!!