Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Good and now the Bad 1974

My career in helicopter aviation has gone pretty good up until now.  After returning to the United States from my trip overseas, things were not looking too good and the future of the J-2 was coming to an end.  We moved all of the  J-2 inventory again to a new location in Gardena, CA and then once more to Van Nuys, CA.   I was doing much less flying now.  I could see the hand writing on the wall and did not think things were going to change, given the present conditions.  Fortunately for me, I was earning some additional income from my export aircraft dealings with the people in England.  Each week, more people were getting notices and when pay checks were given out at the end of the week, it was a mad dash to the local Bank of America, to get there before the funds ran out. Finally the company was down to one employee, me.  What was left of the company, was located in a large hangar at the Van Nuys airport. The only reason I was still there, was to finish up a few loose ends and to give a legal deposition involving a law suit against the company.  The law suit was to do with an accident involving a J-2 aircraft back in Michigan.  This involved a couple of days in the court room,  then I too was out on the street, unemployed.  This was no surprise.  I could see it coming and made several financial moves to keep us going for a while.  Actually I was relieved.  Several years before, Jerry Getz had predicted this would happen.  It lasted longer than he said, but I was okay with the situation and this would give me a chance to do a few things that I did not have time for while working.

My resume looked pretty good, but still lacked one very important requirement for me to  move ahead.  I lacked flight time in turbine powered helicopters.  I had a few hours here and there, but none of this time involved actual working conditions.  I had a good friend Don Miles in Long Beach, CA that flew a Bell Jet Ranger for John Wayne and he would give me a little stick time when he could.  Most helicopters at that time operated the same.  Same flight controls,  but the turbine engine offered a few changes.
The difference in cost between an internal combustion and turbine engine was considerable.  It is very easy to mis-manage a turbine engine and the cost for repairs amounts to thousands of dollars.  The bottom line, you have to have this experience before you can expect to be flying helicopters powered by turbine engines.

After applying for a few positions in the Southern California area, I could see this turbine experience was going to be a real issue with most helicopter operators.  More and more turbine powered helicopters were now being used, and more and more Army helicopter pilots were returning after their enlistments were finished.  These guys were great pilots and had the turbine time to boot.  Again, this is not going to be easy.

I was doing a few flights for the city of Lakewood, CA flying their police helicopter for the Los Angeles Sheriffs department.  Also, doing some flight instruction for a helicopter company that was located at the Torrance, CA airport.  These were just part time jobs, but at least I was keeping busy.   I was now an  FAA designated pilot Examiner for the FAA office in Santa Monica, CA.  I was able to charge a fee for each flight test given.

Bell BH-206 Jet Ranger III

I decided to go to the Bell Helicopter factory, which was located in Dallas, TX for one week and get a check out at their school for the Bell Jet Ranger.  A week of ground school and several hours of flight time.  This would be at a considerable expense to myself and money I hated to spend while I was not working.  It was a good decision and paid off in spades.  The factory school is by far the best training you could receive in the world.  They have a staff of flight instructors that demonstrate the use of their product to the Nth degree.

Bell BH-206 helicopter instrument panel

The Bell Jet Ranger was the workhorse of the helicopter industry.  So this was a good start and after receiving the training at the factory, I had hoped this would help open a few doors.  Next stop, The Grand Canyon..............................

No comments:

Post a Comment