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.

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