Monday, August 16, 2010

Mc Culloch Aircraft Part 1

While visiting with Jerry Getz, I asked him what he thought about my decision to go with McCulloch.  He looked at the  preliminary copy of the Flight Manual for the J-2 Gyroplane and said, he thought it was a good move, and by the time they figured it out, they had made a big mistake, a couple of years will have passed.  I had to agree with him, but my goals were a little different at the time. Yes, I wanted to think a move like this would be permanent, and you could maybe think of long term employment in one place with one company.  I had my doubts, but getting my wife's surgery taken care of and also to leave behind that dreadful winter we had just endured in Indiana.  I remember asking Dick Caldwell about how much snow they get in this part of Indiana,   Dick hesitated for a moment, and then said, oh, this part of Indiana is not in the snow belt.  Wrong!  I had been up and down this highway so many times, I think they knew me by my first name all along the way.  Interstate 10 and 40 were not  completed yet, so we were still traveling along parts of the country's mother road, Route 66.  As we passed through Needles, CA, I turned to my wife, with a big smile on my face and said, it's great to be back in California.  I don't know what the magic of being back in this state was, but I felt secure and I never gave much thought to any problems that might come our way in the future. So it was California, here I come!  I located a house over in Lakewood, CA that was badly in need of cleaning and fixing, but I was able to make a deal with the landlord to rent the house.  It was about a 40 minute drive to El Segundo.  The next day I checked in for my first day of work.  Freddy introduced me to everyone and they assigned me  a work station with a desk.   At the present time, they only had one prototype J-2 gyroplane that was mostly being used for flight test and certification flights. A checkout for me in the aircraft would be delayed for a while and have to wait.  The chief pilot was Jim Richert who for the time being would be my boss.  Jim's personality was very different,  and I got a funny feeling about him, right from the beginning.   When you first meet someone like this, they seem nice enough, but they also show a side you don't always trust.  Seems like every company you work for, their is always someone like this.  Until I came along, Jim was the one and only pilot at the company.  He had a background in aeronautical engineering, so he pretty much had a lot to say about how things were done.  Jim hired me, so I didn't worry too much about my first impressions.  Getting a new aircraft certificated is a long drawn out process and especially with the FAA group we had to work with in the Western Region of the United States.  The end result, was it took a lot longer than anyone expected.  Meanwhile I was busy shuffling paper and making new friends that worked for the company.  Fred McLane was busy traveling around the country promoting the J-2 Gyroplane and setting up new dealers.  I'll have to give him credit for his salesmanship.  He had a network spread out from East to West, and the dealers had committed to over 100 aircraft.  Each dealer would be required to have at least two pilots trained and in some cases maybe more.  So things really looked good.  I was assigned to write a finished flight manual for the aircraft.  This was a bit difficult in as much as I had never been in or flown the aircraft.  Even though I had experience in flying both airplanes and helicopters, not a whole lot of it could be directed to the J-2.
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I was with McCulloch Aircraft  from 1970 thru 1975. I was now 36 years old and I didn't feel that I had accomplished that much in life.  I would have rather been flying helicopters, but sometimes the opportunities don't always go your way.  I was beginning to get some recognition in the aviation world, but just couldn't make the right connections. Certainly I was not well known in the California area.  One positive thing about being back on the west coast, there were a lot of helicopters and operators, so at least I was in the right place for the time being.  The J-2 Gyroplane was so unusual and the people behind this new idea were very enthusiastic about it's future. They had the backing of a many millionaire, Robert McCulloch and he was equally excited about his investment.
As time went on I got a lot of teasing from my helicopter friends, but still I can look back at my time spent at McCulloch, and I can see a few doors that opened for me that probably would not have otherwise. In the several years that I worked at McCulloch, I wore several hats and was assigned to a few different positions.  I accumulated some 2000 flight hours in this  weird looking machine and could brag to my friends that this flight time was all in autorotation.  I started as the companies Chief Flight Instructor, heading up the flight training for the company.  Later on I took on the responsibilities of Production Flight Test.  This is where new aircraft when assembled and finished, they are flight tested for the first time, and then certified. Later on, I was assigned to do all the experimental test flying.  A couple of years of doing this, qualified me to become a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.  A very prestigious organization that had many famous aviation names like Armstrong and Yeager. It's my hope, to tell you all the great stories that happened in these five plus years.  I traveled all over the United States and flew in Europe, both in England and France.  Sure some of my fellow pilot friends would question why I would have taken a position with this company.  At times, I wasn't sure myself, but looking back, I would not have missed it for anything.  So please read on, I'm sure you will enjoy hearing about these flying adventures too...................

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