Thursday, July 29, 2010

Safe Streets Acts

More and more police departments were getting helicopters to be used in law enforcement.  What a tool to have when fighting crime.  The federal government was funding part of these programs through what was called, Safe Streets Acts.  Of course some cities already had helicopters, but many larger cities like Kansas City, MO did not.
Hughes Aircraft brought in two of their helicopters to be used for a trial period with the police department.  Comet Aviation contracted to get the maintenance support and also provide pilots.  Kansas City was a perfect environment for this trial test.  There is nothing like playing cops and robbers, when you have a helicopter.                                                   

Also when you have a city that provides you with a variety of crimes to try out your new hardware.  Needless to say, the trial test was a complete success and Kansas City elected to participate in the purchasing of three new helicopters.  Hughes Aircraft came to me and offered me a job training police department pilots.  I accepted the offer, but then Hughes decided to contract a new company known as World Associates to do the training.  I became the chief pilot for this new company.  My very first assignment was to train six pilots for Kansas City.  The training was  initially started in Long Beach, CA and when the newly purchased helicopters were completed at the factory in California, the new pilots would fly them back to Kansas City.  This was done with my supervision and one other flight instructor.  One of the six policeman had some flight experience, but the other five did not. One of the pilots had never flown in anything but the airplane that flew him to California.  So I really had my work cut out for me.  This was not an impossible task, but a very difficult one.  A ground school was set up for the morning hours and in the afternoon we did flight training.  It was our goal to get all six pilots licensed as Private Pilots in approximately six weeks.  The training was being done at a place called, Southland Helicopters.  A hotel within walking distance housed the six pilots and two flight instructors.  We became really good friends and our days were very long.  It seemed like the training never stopped.  Even after hours, we would talk about problems that might of happened during the day. More on this post later...............................

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comet Aviation Inc.

One of the more interesting things we did back in that time period, happened to one of our pipeline companies which is similar to what is happening in the gulf now, but on a much smaller scale.  It seems that one day the folks that controlled the shipment of petroleum products in the pipelines got their orders for the day mixed up, and sent jet fuel and diesel oil in the same pipeline, but in opposing directions.  The pressure was so great, that the pipeline erupted and forty thousand gallons of number two diesel oil dumped into a small seven acre fishing lake in Kansas which was near the pipeline. 

This amounted to several inches of diesel oil floating at the surface of the lake.  Too bad Jerry Getz isn't around today, I'm sure he would come up with an idea.  He suggested to the cleanup crews that they could dig trenches on the four corners of the lake, and we could use our helicopters to sweep the lake with the rotor downwash and move the oil to the windward side and spill the oil into  the trenches.  They then pumped out the trenches and separated the oil from the water.  We did this for several days using a couple of helicopters. It's really amazing how well this worked, considering this was back in the late 60's.  Of course the owner of the fishing lake lost all of his fish stock, but at least the lake was usable a couple years later.   You will notice in the picture how the rotor downwash is pushing the oil on the surface outward from under the helicopter.  When hovering the helicopter sidewards, this would push the oil to the corners of the lake.  One of the last days of this operation, I had been flying all day at this lake.  The rotorwash did cause the air mixed with the oily water to reenter the rotor system and caused the helicopter to be covered with oil.  This made it very difficult to see out of the front of the helicopter, so I had to rely on my visibility out of the sides of the helicopter.  I was going to make one more pass over the lake and then return to the airport.
Because it was hard to see out of the helicopter, when I made my approach to the lake, I decided that when I could see waves made by the rotor downwash, I would decrease my decent and establish a hover.  This almost became a disaster.  Actually the waves would not appear until after the helicopter is in a hover.  On the decent, I misjudged and actually sank the helicopter in the lake almost up to the floor of the helicopter.  When I realized what I had done, I instantly raised the helicopter out of the water and luck was on my side that day.  The good old Lycoming engine kept on running.  When I returned to the airport, the mechanics made a thorough inspection of the helicopter and nothing was found wrong.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Executive Helicopters Inc. Part 3

I remained at Executive Helicopters up until 1968.  I had gained enough flight experience by then, that I felt confident I could teach and instruct others.  I studied for the written test and  took the flight test for my Flight Instructor rating.  Later on we trained pilots for the U.S. Army.  This became a valuable rating.  Almost every helicopter position I had after this, involved flight instructing.  We did a lot of seasonal work and every year we could count on doing these same jobs again.  In November right after Thanksgiving, some of the bigger shopping areas would do a promotional flight and have us fly a Santa Claus into their parking lot.  During the summer months we did what was called a Ping Pong ball drop.  The merchants got together and marked some of the balls for prizes.  We would have large sacks of these balls and would throw them out over a crowd of people in the middle of the parking lot.  I use to get there a bit early and would do a few practice runs over the parking lot to see if I could move the crowd of people around.  If I veered to one side of the parking lot, the people would all run that way, once they got started, I would turn the other way.  One year they got a lot of rain in Kansas City and it was football season.  I got a call from the grounds keeper for the Kansas City Chiefs.  They asked if I could land the helicopter in the stadium.  When I got there, the end zones had a lot of standing water, so I would hover over the wet spots and dry off the field before the game.
We did some work for Comet Electronics which was owned by the Kansas City Southern railroad.  They liked our company so much, that they bought the company and moved it to the Fairfax airport.  One year I was sent on a flight to New Orleans.  I was to follow the railroads from the Kansas City Southern railroad yard back to Kansas City.  On this flight I was to take pictures of all the passing tracks along the way.  I never quite knew what the purpose of this flight was, but it took several days to fly both ways and it was a fun flight.
company, we then became Comet Aviation. We moved into a large hanger on the Fairfax airport in Kansas. The hanger had a very large two story building attached to it and our operation expanded overnight. When Comet bought Executive Helicopters,  we  became a full fledged Fixed Base Operation.

Hannibal Bridge near the downtown airport

During one of the colder winter months, the ice flow in the Missouri river caused several large barges to break loose from their moorings.  The barges were threatening some damage to one of the bridge piers near the airport. This very same thing happened in the winter of 1951.  I met with a worker from the barge company and I flew him out over the river and landed the helicopter 0n one of the barges.  He then attached a line to the drifting barges and they were then secured to the shore.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Executive Helicopters Inc. Part 2

Kansas City Power and Light had powerlines all over the state of Missouri and some went as far north as Nebraska.  I would often pickup a lineman for the company and we would spend almost an entire day patrolling the powerline right of ways.  This was not dangerous work, but we did have to fly very low and close to the towers.  Also in order to see the overall condition or the powerlines, we would fly at a very slow speed until reaching the sub stations where the powerlines ended.  On the return legs, we could follow the lines, but at a normal speed.  These patrols could last up to as many as nine or ten hours.
When ever there was a severe storm or high winds, I could count on going on one of these flights.  As soon as the sun came up the next day, I would be at the airport and ready to go.  In April of 1966, I was scheduled to go on a powerline patrol flight out to the south of the city.  Early one morning while shaving in the bathroom, my wife who was eight months pregnant, came to the door and said she thought she was going to have the baby that day.  Of course it was not due for another month, so I didn't give it much more thought.  I started out on my flight early that morning and the weather was getting very bad.  Who would of thought we would have had freezing rain at this time of the year.  Any kind of ice that forms on the rotor blades can be very severe.  It changes the shape of the airfoil of each blade and can cause a considerable loss in lift created by the rotor system.
We landed at one of the sub stations on the south side of the city and I called in to let our office know that I was cancelling the flight.  Jerry Getz answered the phone and said that my wife had called and she was now certain she was going to have the baby.  Not giving much thought to the changing weather, I fired up the helicopter and headed for the airport which was about a 30 minute flight.  So much ice had formed on the helicopter that it was impossible to see out the front.   I landed several times to scrape the ice off the windshield before getting back to the airport.  I jumped in the car and picked up my wife and drove her to the hospital.  She had the baby(our daughter Holly) minutes after we arrived.  I guess new fathers just don't know these things.  I did get a scolding from her doctor for ignoring the first signs from my expecting wife.  So many more things to tell from my time spent working in Kansas City,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Executive Helicopters Inc. PART 1

It was good to be back in Kansas City.  I had been away for over six months and I was anxious to get settled and started on my new job.  Jerry Getz the owner of Executive Helicopters and my new boss  gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.  There are so few positions.  It was that way then, and still to this day, it  does not offer many  jobs to every helicopter pilot who chooses a career in helicopter aviation.  Several factors enter into this equation.  Helicopters initially are very expensive to purchase, new or used.  The insurance is very high, and sometimes it's not a case of how much you are willing to pay for the coverage, it's a matter of whether the insurance companies will even write the policies. Lloyd's of London often write a portion of these insurance policies. Then comes the cost of maintenance and replacement parts and components.  Helicopters  unlike airplanes, constantly go through a cycle of replacing or overhauling major components.  Such as main rotor blades, drive shaft, gear boxes and engines.  When helicopters are certificated, it is then determined at what intervals this will be done.  Usually on an hourly basis and some things are retired on calendar time periods.  The reason I would mention any of this is to give you a better understanding of just how important it is to have the best experienced people operating these machines.  There are so many moving parts in a helicopter and these machines can be destroyed in a split second.  When operating a helicopter, the margin for error, is ZERO.
So now you can begin to see how fortunate I was to get this job.  I'm sure that Jerry Getz could have found a much more seasoned pilot, but he took a chance and I was thankful for his trust in me.

I don't think there was a day that went by, that some new use or application came up where a helicopter could be put to use.  Executive Helicopters did all the usual types of business, but also did many other different jobs as well.  I credit Jerry Getz for his innovative ways of how he could best use the companies helicopter services.  The core of our work was pipeline patrols for major petroleum companies, local radio station news and traffic watches, power line patrols and aerial photography.  Then comes all the fun stuff that I'll explain later.

My typical day would start like this, I would usually arrive at the airport between 0500 and 0600 hours every weekday morning.  This would give me time to roll out the helicopter and give it a preflight, before the first flight of the day.  We had to be in the air by 0700 hours, before our first live broadcast for a local radio station (KMBC) traffic watch.  This flight would last around 1.5 hours.  When I got back to the airport, I had just enough time to get the helicopter refueled, grab a cup of coffee and then begin a three hour flight for Williams Brothers pipeline company.  These were low level flights out across the city and to the outer limits of the city.  The pipelines were very old and some dated back to the 20's and 30's.  Many different types of petroleum products were shipped through these pipelines and if a leak should be found, we could dispatch a ground crew to make an inspection of any area that may look suspicious.  The pipelines were all underground in most places and were marked with large signs
every mile with a mile marker number.  Also fence post were often marked with a different
marking for each of the companies.  It took a while to learn all of the different pipeline routes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Helicopters Inc. Little Rock, Arkansas

Going back to Kansas City and quiting my job with TWA was a big step, considering I was going to a job that was only good for thirty days.  My wife (Carol) also worked at TWA and she elected to stay behind to see how the first month was going to go.  I stayed with a friend in Little Rock for the first few days and then after work, I would go out apartment hunting.  When I finally found one, I decided to take a chance and have our furniture sent to Little Rock.  When the moving van arrived with all our stuff, I didn't have time to deal with it.  So I hired a woman from the newspaper ads and gave her the address.  Each day I would leave instructions for things for her to do and she would leave me a note at the end of the day if she had questions.  I never saw this woman and each day for two or three weeks, she cleaned and got everything put in it's place.  I would pay her every day with money left on the kitchen counter.                                                                                                
Helicopters Inc. was located on the Little Rock airport Adams Field.  They were a Hughes dealer and doing several different types of jobs.  True to his word, Fred McLane the owner rolled out a brand new Hughes 269B helicopter and assigned me to an engineering company that was building a power line between Little Rock and Memphis, TN.  The engineering company had an office just outside the airport where I would be on standby every morning.  The power line stretched across 133 miles and went through several small towns and crossed a couple of rivers.  The 269B helicopter could carry three people which included the pilot.  These people never stopped.  I would fly all day with one group of engineers and then when they were done, I would pickup another group and fly them until well after dark.  This was fine with me, I was building up my flight time very fast and I was getting the much needed experience.  When I wasn't flying the engineers I was flying a helicopter  traffic watch every morning and evening for a local radio station over both Little Rock and North Little Rock.  At one point in time, I was flying the morning traffic watch in Little Rock and then I would hop in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk airplane and  fly to Memphis. The company had a helicopter in Memphis and I would fly the evening traffic watch for the radio station there.  Usually I would stay over for the night.   The next day I would fly the morning traffic watch while I was still in Memphis.  Later in the day I would hop in the Skyhawk and fly back to Little Rock and do the evening traffic watch back in Little Rock.  So with two helicopters in two different cities and a brand new Cessna Skyhawk airplane to commute between towns, I was keeping very busy and liking my new job more and more.

We did a lot of promotional work as well,  The radio station would have what was called a Picnic Patrol.  We would fly on the weekends and land in one of the several big parks in the city.  A radio station DJ would then pass out records to people who were having picnics.

I was sent to a small town just outside of Little Rock to give helicopter rides.  It was the forth of July and this was one of those cities that all the people that ever lived there returned on that day each year.  There was no airport or place to get fuel, so our line boy drove our company fuel truck there to meet me.  I flew all day and until late in the night.
I filled a grocery sack full of money and I would guess we made several thousand dollars giving 3.00 dollar rides. The line was two deep and wound all around the park.  Some people waited for a long time and then reentered the line to go for a second and third time.

Thirty days had now turned into six months.  So needless to say, I think my chances of staying looked pretty good.  I was doing a lot of  aerial photography flights,  patrolling telephone lines and power lines  all across the state.  The company was just getting in to crop spraying using a helicopter but before I got a chance to try it, the helicopter was involved in an accident and was completely destroyed.

Then one day I received a call from none other than Jerry Getz.  He said he wanted to fly down to Little Rock and have a meeting with me.  Fine, this was the guy who said, don't hang around here looking for a job.  We met that evening and he offered me a job with his company Executive Helicopters.  I had built up my flight time to well over 600 hours and I had a little bit of experience now.  I hated to leave Little Rock, as they had really taken a chance on me and during my last two weeks, I was offered more money and several other company perks.  Going back to Kansas City and working for Jerry Getz turned out to be a great  job and in time I was running his company.  Having a little luck can make the difference some times.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No turning back now, I am on my way

At last my helicopter training had officially started.  It was the early part of October 1963.  October the 8th to be exact.  35 days later I was taking my commercial flight test from the FAA after receiving 15 hours and o5 minutes of instruction.  Contrary to Mr. Getz's thinking, the training went very well for me. Jerry Getz was not a great flight instructor, he was the best.  Flight instructing was not every one's favorite task.  Almost every job I had, involved flight instructing.  It's a hard job, but very rewarding in the end.  Oddly enough I was taking my flight test on my 29th birthday, November 13, 1963.  Most people by this age were already established in their careers.  I at least had the rating, but not necessarily qualified.  Getting a job now was going to be next to impossible.  Especially with all the Army pilot's returning from active duty and with a lot of flight time logged.  Any chances of employment would depend on experience, I certainly couldn't afford to buy it.

Well I broke the second rule by hanging around Executive Helicopters every chance I got.
Jerry Getz allowed me to go on several flights with him and I was able to get a few extra hours of flight time.  Also they did  pipeline patrols for Phillips and Williams Brothers that lasted about 3.0 hours and this was done three days a week.  Again, I was allowed to go along and share half the flight time.

Sure enough, one day I was at the office of Executive Helicopters,  I overheard a phone conversation between Tom Ward the other pilot and a man in Little Rock, Arkansas who was looking for a pilot.  Naturally, when Tom hung up, I asked who was looking for a pilot.  He told me that it was Fred McLane the owner of Helicopters Inc. in Little Rock and he was looking for an experienced pilot.  With the extra flight time I managed to get flying the pipeline patrols and on a couple of other promotional flights, I had around 50 flight hours.  So why not, I decided to make a trip to Little Rock and see what would happen.

I flew down to Little Rock on Ozark Airlines and Fred met me at the terminal the next morning.  When I told him I only had 50 hours, he about fell over backwards.  The longer we talked, he decided to give me a chance and agreed to hire me for thirty days.  He said I'll give you the keys to a new Hughes 269B and if you don't crash the helicopter or kill yourself, I'll consider a longer term of employment.  I went back to Kansas City and quit my job with TWA and then I was off and running.  Flying in Arkansas is like no other place on the planet.  But I was gainfully employed and ready to fulfill my dream.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Now I have the bucks, it's time to get started

I didn't have the money to start my training and part of the agreement was that I was to pay for all the flight time up front before beginning.  At the time I had an interest in Model A Ford cars. I owned several cars in various different stages and also many extra parts. This was going to be my way to finance my training.  I ran a couple ads in the local paper and by the end of the day, everything was gone and I was ready to get started with my training.

For every experience fixed wing pilot that has elected to try their hand at helicopters, I am sure they have had this same humiliating feeling.  My first attempt at controlling the helicopter was like nothing I have ever tried before.   Bicycles, cars, motorcycles, boats, airplanes just don't compare.  Roller skates maybe?  Your limbs are all attached to one of the helicopters controls and the movement of any one of them affects the other three.  I won't begin to try and tell you how to fly a helicopter, but in the beginning it really leaves you with some questionable thoughts about whether you will ever master the machine?  I had already made a sizable investment,  then I was  beginning to see what Jerry Getz meant, when he said, " I doubt you will meet the requirements in the minimum time"

This is a view of the interior of the Hughes 269A helicopter.  Even though it is very simple  looking,  Most helicopters even today have these same basic flight controls.
 In most helicopters, the pilot is seated in the right seat.  This is not true with airplanes where the pilot in command usually is seated in the left seat.  The collective control is operated with the left hand and also contains a twist grip throttle, kind of like a motorcycle. This control, controls the up and down or vertical movement of the helicopter.  It also controls speed and altitude when the movement is combined with the cyclic flight control. The cyclic control is held with the right hand and this tilts the rotor system in the desired direction of flight. Up, down, left or right.  What is not shown in this picture are the two pedals on the floor in front of the pilot's feet.  These are referred to as anti-torque pedals.  Similar to rudder pedals found in an airplane but the function is not the same.

The first few hours of helicopter training can be the most frustrating.  It takes a good flight instructor to get you over that,  "I can't do it feeling".  More on this in the next post........

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My decision to go for the helicopter training.

This helicopter dream had been on my mind for some time.  When I was younger and hearing those rotor blades slapping the wind on the Kellett Autogyro,  following the helicopter that was spraying the city while riding my bike.  Hitching  rides in an  H-19 Sikorsky helicopter when I was stationed in Florida at Eglin AFB during my Air Force days. I was secretly hooked and didn't know it.        

One day I was over at the Fairfax airport which was located in Kansas, I was watching this little teal blue helicopter making circuits parallel to the runway.  It would take off and make a pattern around the airport and then on final approach at a higher altitude, you could hear the engine noise level change.  The helicopter would then make a very high rate of decent until it was very close to the ground.  At the last moment, it would change to a nose high attitude and then level off before touching the ground.  When the skids touched the ground, the helicopter would slide for a short distance on the grass.  Later on, I found out this was a maneuver that helicopter pilot's practiced in the event of an engine failure.  It was called an autorotation.  Simply explained, a non powered landing using the lift derived from a wind driven rotor.  I must of watched this for a least an hour and then I decided to find out who the helicopter belonged too.

The helicopter was a Hughes 269A.  A two place, 180hp Lycoming engine with a fully articulated rotor system.  Small, but very versatile.  The only other civilian helicopters that were on the market at that time were being manufactured by Bell , Brantly, Hiller and Enstrom.  For a short while, Cessna made a helicopter.

The company operating the helicopter was called Executive Helicopters and was located on the airport in Kansas City on the Missouri side of the river.  In the previous post, there is a picture of the two airports.
Kansas City, Missouri downtown airport and the Fairfax, Kansas airport which is separated by the Missouri river.  The two airports were very close together and at night, one airport could be mistaken for the other if you were not careful in your navigation.  This actually happened one night to a TWA flight operating a Constellation passenger airplane.  The pilot must have been confused and lined up with the runway of the wrong airport and completed his landing.  Only to find out when he was on the ground, it was the wrong airport!

I mention these two airports, because for several years I did most of my flying from both locations.  The downtown airport in Kansas City is still active, but the major airlines now go into an airport located to the north of Kansas City.  The old Fairfax airport is now closed and is an industrial park.

Executive Helicopters was a very small company with two helicopters and two pilots.
The company was owned by a Mr. Jerry Getz.  I met Jerry one morning to inquire about pilot training in helicopters.  Once you met Jerry Getz, you would  never forget him.  All the complimentary verbs you could ever think of would best describe him.  Jerry was a tall lean man with cold black hair.  When he spoke, you listened.  Jerry was a former veteran pilot of the U.S. Army and an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard. He flew helicopters in the Korean War and was a pioneer in helicopter aviation in Kansas City, MO.
Jerry Getz passed away in the late 90's.  God rest his soul.  He certainly touched the lives of many people.

This meeting with Getz was probably the turning point in my future in helicopter aviation.
He became my mentor and I will forever be indebted to this man.  But our conversation went like this.  These were his exact words.
"The requirements for an additional rating in helicopters is 15 flight hours.  10 hours dual training and 5 hours of solo flight."  " I doubt seriously you will complete the training in the minimum amount of time"  This is a bit ridiculous, considering the time required now is much more.  Also at that time, flight time was a dollar a minute or 60.00 per flight hour.  This was a lot of money in the early 60's.
His next statement was, "if you are lucky enough to complete the training and get a license, I won't allow you to fly my helicopters and take your friends for a ride"
Lastly he said, " Don't hang around here looking for a job"

So this is the way it all started.  The next post will tell you how the training went.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where to next?

I kicked around a bit after finishing high school, I wasn't sure what direction I was going to take. While living in California, I spent some time at college, to tell you the truth, it just wasn't for me.  I returned to Kansas City in 1953 and had a great summer.  Then it was off to the United States Air Force.  I would have loved to have been involved in pilot training, but I lacked having two full years of college.    I signed up and took  my chances.  Then it was a problem with not having perfect vision.  After completing basic training in San Antonio, Texas I was sent to Amarillo, Texas to become an aircraft mechanic on Boeing B-47 jet bombers.  I was in tech school for six months and then I spent almost two year at Eglin AFB in Florida.  I was only 19, so being around jet airplanes was okay with me.  After Florida, I spent most of the rest of my enlistment in the Philippine Islands at Clark AFB.  I was a crew chief on F-86's and I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sargent.

After receiving a discharge from the Air Force, I returned to Kansas City and was able to get a job at TWA washing those big Lockheed Constellations on the night shift.  Having had so much more responsibilities with very complex jets, this was a real let down.  I moved around to a couple other better jobs at TWA,  still this was not where I wanted to finish out my working years.  At the time a great place to work, with pass privileges and lots of other great perks, but not my cup of tea.

On an earlier post, I told you about starting my pilot training with the hopes of getting a Private Pilot's license to fly airplanes. My place of training was Baker's Flying Service, which was located at the Kansas City, MO airport.  While working at TWA, on many weekends, you could find me at the airport taking flight training.  My early flight training was taken in a Cessna 140 aircraft.  Lot's of really neat people doing the same thing I was.  So we followed each others progress and we would get additional ratings and check out in all the different airplanes.  After about a year, I decided it was time to get a commercial license in airplanes.  This was the next logical step and it meant more advanced training and more flight hours followed by another  test.  Mr. Baker, the owner of Bakers Flying Service was a Piper aircraft dealer and he was buying more aircraft from the Piper factory in Florida.  I asked him one day if I could go to the factory and ferry his new aircraft back to Kansas City, MO.  With working at TWA, I could fly to Miami, Florida and then rent a car and drive to Vero Beach, FL the home of Piper aircraft.  Usually I would take a non-stop flight from Kansas City to Miami and by the time I picked up a rental car (VW bug)  and headed for Vero Beach, I would arrive there late in the evening.  I could call a lady who worked for Piper and was in charge of new aircraft deliveries.  We would walk through a field of hundreds of new aircraft looking for the aircraft I was suppose to receive.  I would go back to the motel at night and read the manual for that aircraft and then the next morning the plane would be located at a pickup station for me to preflight before heading up the Eastern coast of Florida.  The interior of Florida was nothing but swamps, so I elected to take a safer route to Tallahassee and make my first stop.  If all was okay, I would proceed Westerly across the North part of Florida and head for Atlanta.  These were really fun flights and I was accumulating the much needed extra flight time.  My pass on TWA cost two dollars and Bakers paid for everything else.  I did this several times to take advantage of free flying time.  While flying at Bakers, I met a guy named Ferdie Shore.  We really became good friends and decided to go in together and buy one of the training aircraft that was up for sale.  This really enabled me to accelerate my plan to get my commercial license.  Flying the Cessna 140's was great fun and it was cheap to operate.  Having my own airplane, I could hop across the field almost anytime on a lunch break from TWA and take a short flight whenever I wanted.  Finally the day came and I received the license I had worked so hard for.

One night, while driving home from a days work at TWA, the light came on and I made up my mind to go for the helicopter rating.  If you had a rating in airplanes, then training for helicopters was an addition or add on rating.  That way I was able to be commercially rated in both fixed wing and rotor wing aircraft.  So more on this in the next post. . . . .
By the way, you can click on all the photos in my post to enlarge them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Like father like son

I think that I can credit my dad for peaking my interest in aviation. In many ways we were so alike and yet at other times,very distant. Airplanes was a subject we never got tired of talking about. Just those trips to the airport and as they say, kicking the tires. If there was an airshow anywhere near Kansas City, we were sure to be there. Seeing those Boeing PT-17 Stearman's with their big radial engines going through the paces, would keep my head craning around for hours looking at the smoke trails as they did low level acrobatics.  Sometimes my dad would come and take me out of my classes at high school and we would go flying.  Maybe to his home town Buffalo or Springfield, Missouri.  I knew the way and many times my dad would let me fly the airplane.  I would follow the roads and railroad tracks until reaching are destination.

At almost the same age in life, we were  flying airplanes.  This is all I ever wanted to be, just a Private Pilot.  You might wonder why so much has been said about airplanes and not helicopters.  Somewhere tucked away in my memory banks, was a burning desire and interest in helicopter aviation, I just didn't realize it at the time.  Flying airplanes was more social and meeting my friends at the airport and taking flights to places that I had not been too yet.  I went to the airport almost every chance I got.  Even if I didn't have any intentions of flying that day, it was just being there.  Sometimes an opportunity would come my way and I would join one of my pilot friends to fly with them.  We shared a lot in those days and always took an interest in each others accomplishments.  So the road to flying helicopters actually came about by first flying fixed wing aircraft.  While they are completely different to fly, many things that we needed to know was very similar.  Weather, navigation and regulations, just stuff you needed to know regardless.  Also in those days, there were not too many helicopters.  Between the states of Missouri and Kansas, there were three.  Mostly for commercial purposes and so training was almost non-existent, and very expensive.

A lot of helicopter pilots received their training in the U.S. Army and it was probably the best training that could be had.  Again, later on I'll explain how I finally got my foot through door, and my dreams of flying helicopters came to be true.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Small town, North Kansas City

I grew up in a small town, North Kansas City during the 40's and 50's which is near Kansas City, Missouri. The town was very close to the local airport and it was not unusual to see a variety of many different aircraft. The Kansas City airport was one of the major maintenance, dispatching and planning centers for TWA airlines. Also all of the recruiting and training of TWA's hostesses, now known as Flight Attendants was done at this location. I can remember going to the airport on a Cub Scout field trip to visit the TWA hangers. At the time TWA was operating a large fleet of Douglas DC-3 airplanes. Beautiful and highly polished aluminum outer skin with bright red markings

One summer day, I was walking to a nearby playground that had a really nice wading pool. This was before I knew how to swim and most of the kids my age spent their afternoons keeping cool. I heard a very strange loud sound coming from overhead. I looked up and it was a Kellett KD-1 Autogyro. Autogyro's later on were designated as Gyroplanes. It had the fuselage of an airplane without wings. It derived it's lift from a non powered wind driven articulated rotor system. Little did I know at the time that 30 years later, I would have a brief flying experience with an aircraft called the McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane. I accumulated over two thousand flight hours in this type of aircraft. I'll tell this story later on in the blog. During that same summer, we had an unusually high amount of rain. Northtown, as we called it in those days, had a lot of flat land which was heavily farmed with wheat fields. It would rain for days at a time and left many of the fields with several inches of standing water. In time, this became an ideal breeding ground for Mosquito's. The city fathers elected to have trucks drive up and down the streets spraying a chemical called DDT. Of course now, this chemical has been banned for public use. This was a good start, but it did not work well. So they contracted a helicopter operator from over at the airport to spray the city. They came in with helicopters at tree top level altitudes. I was so excited, that I jumped on my Western Flyer bicycle and rode below the helicopter as it slowly went up and down the streets spraying the DDT chemical. Not very healthy, but I sure got a good close up look at that helicopter. This was a very early model Bell 47D-1 helicopter. The kind that was used during the Korean war and also used in a poplar TV show called MASH. The Bell 47's had wooden rotor blades and a vertically mounted Franklin air cooled engine.

Northtown and the old Kansas City airport was the location an author named John Nance used in a book he wrote called, Final Approach. John Nance is currently a captain for Alaska Airlines and also a former pilot for Braniff Airlines.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A boy and his father

After the war was finally over and my dad was discharged from the Navy, he took up flying lessons at the old Kansas City, MO airport. Of course I would always tag along when he would take his training at a place called Toth Aviation. I would sit in the car to wait and watch all the airplanes taxiing in and out from the ramp. They used an aircraft called a Porterfield. It was a single engine 65hp, tail dragger, tandem cockpit and was covered with fabric. One thing that struck me that was unusual, was they would stand the airplanes on their nose and stack them in the hanger like dominos.

When my dad finally finished his training and got his Private License, he took me and my sister for our first airplane ride. I was hooked from that day on. I couldn't wait for the next time we would head for the airport. As time went on, my dad would have me follow him through. Put my hand on the stick and feet on the rudder pedals. I was in seventh heaven. My dad was a pilot!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Remember those questions when you were growing up? Your father or high school counselor (Merton Hoch)  may
North Kansas City High School
have asked. What do you plan to do after high school? Which college will you go to, what is your career goals? Well, I certainly didn't have a clue, and a career in helicopter aviation was the furthest thing from my thoughts. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and it was a time of war in the 40's. Sure, I had some interest in aviation, but I wasn't looking that far down the road. I think every boy my age carried around a part from a B-17 model kit and a piece of sanding paper. My father had already joined the Navy and my mom worked in the North American bomber plant in Fairfax, Kansas building B-25 Billy Mitchell's. We saw those bombers frequently fly over our house when the wind was blowing from the Southwest and the planes would fly over on their final approach after completing a test flight. Every airplane in the sky got my attention and even today, I still look up in the Arizona skies to see the contrails of the jets making their way to California. So hope to share some of my journey and stories of my career in aviation.