Harlem Barber/Test Pilot Episode Recap

Think Richard had enough of New York City after giving comedy and cab driving a try a few weeks ago? No way. We know The Hamster is always up for his next challenge, and this week on “Crash Course,” Richard was back in the Big Apple to see if he could cut it as a barber in Harlem.

This wasn’t your ordinary barber gig. He had the chance to work with master barber Kamal Nuru, owner and operator of the mega popular Levels Barbershop.

And Kamal — as Richard called him, “the undisputed king” of barbering — wasted no time getting Richard to work with his first cut of the day, the classic “Caesar” do. If you’re not familiar, George Clooney, Jay-Z and President Barack Obama have rocked it well.

Now, the Caesar cut isn’t as basic as one might think. There’s a “light Caesar,” which means the barber should cut against the grain of the hair. The opposite is the “dark Caesar,” which means to cut with the grain. All of this sounded incredibly complicated to a nervous Brit looking to impress his mentor. And before he knew it, a Levels regular named Mike was sitting in Richard’s hair and looking for a trim.

Mike wasn’t bashful about what he was looking for either, and was a bit outspoken about his nerves, but Kamal was right by Richard’s side as he perfected Mike’s “shape-up.” After all was said and done, Mike applauded Richard’s efforts and gave him an 8 out of 10. Not bad for a first-timer. High five, Richard!

Next, Kamal and Richard headed to Queens for a visit to the historical barber supply store, Long Island Cutlery, so Richard could purchase his very own shiny pair of clippers.

Once back at Levels, another customer, Ruben, was looking for a short Caesar cut (with the grain). Ruben was a bit more relaxed and impressed with Richard’s skills — another feather in Richard the rookie’s cap. But the hardest work was yet to come.

Two of Kamal’s master barbers, Rico London and Tony Touch, stepped up to showcase another side to barbering: hair design! Richard was a little unsure about how to go about it, but he jumped in like a champ, leaving Rico, Tony and Kamal totally impressed by his creativity and focus. To amp things up a little more, Tony and Rico jumped in with some hair spray paint, cosmetic pencil and glitter. A mini barber battle if you will. Richard was just in awe of the whole thing.

And for more on Tony Touch, watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip of the charming and entertaining master barber talking about his early barber days below:

So how did Kamal think Richard did? He said he liked Richard’s spirit and that he followed directions quite well. Phew, another successful challenge in the bag for our pal, Richard!

Later on, the Hamster headed West to meet with the folks at Robinson Helicopter Company, one of the leading helicopter manufacturers in the world. A giddy Richard couldn’t have been more excited, as he is a proud owner of a Robinson R44 helicopter. The opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how one of these machines works — specifically an R66 Turbine model — and to see how things roll on the assembly line would be Richard next’s task. If his work was up to snuff, he’d have the chance to test fly it, too.

His first assignment was to learn how to assemble a cabin. Cabin rigger Danny Lopez had already constructed the skeletal frame of the cabin, but Richard’s job would be to remove and clean some of the “skin,” a.k.a. the metal pieces that are designed for drill holes.

Then it was time to file the rigger holes so that fits appropriately to the cabin’s frame, and clean the dust out after sanding. But drilling in some rivets would be a bit more demanding for the eager Hamster. After some good old-fashioned practice, he got into the swing of it.

Soon he was off to tinker around on the mighty 200-pound turbine engine so he could attach it to the airframe. A “mind boggling” task, Richard said, but he moved swiftly and accomplished this without any snag.

His final step, fitting the helicopter blades, was a bit nerve-racking, too, as the precision of the matter took patience and supreme focus. But Richard pushed on. And bolting them to the hearth, no problem. Woo hoo, it was fight test time!

As he soared into the clear blue California sky with test pilot Chris Smith, the two ran through a series of precision maneuvers, like the pedal turn test, which makes sure the blades are rigged appropriately. Then, a 1,500-foot climb for a proper flight test – success! The autorotation test, which tests the machine’s stability during a decent, went smoothly, too. And the landing test was flawless. It’s safe to say that Richard passed with flying colors!

What did you think about this week’s episode? Share your comments below!

MacKenzie Wilson