'Richard Hammond's Crash Course' Recap: 'Harlem Barber/Test Pilot' (2.05)
It's now time for Richard to learn about hair design from Tony and Rico London, the 'first chair' (or top barber) at Levels. They give him a few tips before expecting him to put them to use straight away. "I was kind of surprised, he just caught on to that real fast," Rico tells the audience, before Tony muscles in and takes over, employing things like cosmetic pencil and glitter. You don't see that every day.
With that, Richard's 'crash course' as a Harlem barber comes to an abrupt end. At least it's with a passing grade. "I would put you on the team," Kamal tells him, citing his spirit and his ability to learn quickly.
He's on to Robinson Helicopter in Torrance, California, "the world's leading manufacturer of non-military helicopters," which fills him with glee as Richard owns and flies a Robinson already (you'll recall that he mentioned this while testing as a cab driver earlier this season). If he can put one together, they'll let him fly at the end of the course.
Things start in the cabin assembly department, where Richard meets cabin rigger Danny Lopez. Danny explains to him that the first task is to remove cabin pieces so that they can be cleaned before permanent attachment. Once the frame is spotless, it's time to rivet everything back into place. "I love the sound of a rivet gun in the morning," Richard quips before he takes the gun, hurts himself, and screws up his first rivet.
Once he gets better at riveting, he's passed off to the engine department, where he has to get the engine prepared and into place with the help of Jorge Gonzalez. This is something Richard knows a bit better, and he's excited as he tinkers with the various bits. Once the mount is in place, it's much harder to actually get the expensive engine bolted in. Richard pulls it off, though, and calls it so enjoyable that he might want a lie down afterward.
There's no time for that, though: he's on his way to work with Mike Johnson, who's responsible for literally putting the blades on the helicopter. Richard is not thrilled when Mike wants him to carry a sixteen-foot, sixty-two pound blade and then slide it into place. He can't get it in and his arms can't take the weight while Mike tries to get it done for him. Once the problem's resolved, Richard remarks about the pain, but is happy he hasn't shut down production somewhere along the line. He's earned his test flight.
Chris Smith is one of Robinson's test pilots, and takes Richard out to one of the company's R66 helicopters, not too different from the R44 that Richard already knows. As such, it's not long before Chris lets Richard take the helicopter through its paces, including pedal turns, basic flight, and autorotation - which means cutting the engine and letting just the blades take over to ensure that the vehicle is stable. Once they've landed safely, the helicopter passes its final test, and so does Richard.
Like earlier episodes in the Crash Course season, 'Harlem Barber/Test Pilot' suffers a bit from having to condense things for time, particularly in the second half of the installment. There's obviously much more that goes into helicopter assembly and it's a subject that Richard obviously brings a lot of passion and interest to. That's what makes it a great episode overall: his enthusiasm makes what did get into the show just that much more interesting for the audience.
Likewise, the experts at Levels give us some interesting information about the culture that surrounds the profession, even if it's just a small portion of what they could probably say. Crash Course has always been less about the physical doing of the job in question and more about exploring the culture of the career, and this episode does that in spades. If there's ever a Crash Course Revisited someday, this would be the place to start.