Friday, September 17, 2010

Out on the street again

Throughout my career, I have been pretty lucky whenever I was unemployed or between jobs as they say.  This time it was totally unexpected.  In the past I have managed okay and I would again. In most cases, I have been able to see it coming, this time I didn't.  I had a few things going for me and some time to plan my next move.  Meanwhile, I was still going to the airport every day and taking care of the Oxy helicopter until it was sold.  I had a young man come in weekly to help me wash and wax the helicopter and we kept it looking like new.  Once a week I would roll in out to the flight line and crank it up and run it for a few minutes.  The company would not allow me fly it, so that was as much as I could do.  I didn't really have any experience in selling any type of aircraft, so I was not making a big effort to do so.  I was still receiving a salary,  I did  what I could.  A friend of mine, Mike Dresman, was walking through the hangar one day while I was doing some work on the helicopter.  In passing, he said hello, and I casually yelled back to him, "do you want to buy a helicopter".  We both laughed and that was the end of it.  In my past, I've sold three helicopters that ranged in  value of nearly a million dollars each.  About a week later, I received a call from Mike and we met to discuss the sale of the helicopter. The helicopter now had a new owner and I had finished my obligation.  Too bad, I didn't ask for a commission, it would have amounted to several thousand dollars.  As I said earlier, I was not a helicopter sales person, so the sale was more by accident, rather than to my credit.

Mike had several pilots working for his company part time, and one of the provisions of the sale, was that I was to conduct a ground school and a checkout for each pilot on his staff.  One thing led to another, and I was employed part time to work for Helitac.  The company was located in a part of Los Angeles, CA called Echo Park.  They had an entire upper floor of a bank building on Sunset Blvd. that also had a rooftop heliport.  The heliport could manage four helicopters and they were left on the roof overnight after the evenings work was finished.
Helitac Heliport, Echo Park, Los Angeles 

Echo Park was once one of the finer parts of Los Angeles, but now it was in the heart of a gangland center.  At night, looking down on the streets below the bank heliport, you could hear gun shots being fired sometimes.  Every takeoff from the heliport was over  water, any type of emergency landing would be directly in the lake at night.  Whenever my work was finished late at night, I made sure my doors were locked and I took the shortest route to the freeway.
Mike Dresman was the owner of Helitac.  Most of their work was courier work at night collecting bank checks and cash from several large banking institutions in the greater Los Angeles area.  After the banks closed for the day, a fleet of trucks would collect bank checks and in some cases cash. They would meet with the helicopter several times during the evening hours at the Fullerton, CA airport.  This was done five or six times at almost every other hour intervals. All of the bank transactions were packed in small boxes about the size of a shoe box.  We could load the helicopter to the ceiling and carry a considerable amount of weight.  Everything was striped out of the helicopter with the exception of the two front seats.
View inside of a Bell BH-206B Jet Ranger click to enlarge

The above picture was going to be my office for the time being.  Most of the flying would be at night with the exception of the first hour and then I would be making these flight throughout the evening.  When we made our pickups at Fullerton, we then dropped off the banks cargo at a clearing house in downtown Los Angeles they also had a rooftop heliport.  When all the collections had been completed, we then flew back to the clearing house heliport and transferred the processed bank paperwork to either Burbank or Los Angeles airport.  At these airports we would rendezvous with a Lear Jet aircraft that would fly the completed processed checks and cash to either New York or San Francisco.  It was my understanding that this would enable the banks to realize a considerable savings in unpaid interest.  Flying around Los Angeles at night was okay, but sometimes the weather could really make some flights very difficult.  This was the major part of our flight activity, but we also flew a television news helicopter for ABC network in LA.  I continued on with Helitac for several more months.  Eventually I talked Mike into giving me a full time position.  This would at least give me peace of mind for the time being.  I enjoyed the work, but the drive into downtown Los Angles everyday was not to my liking.  Most people in Los Angeles seem to live in one place and work in another.  So I guess I fit in with all the other people on the crowded freeways. Later on I met with Jim Deeth who was the Director of Operations for a company called Jetcopters, located in Van Nuys, CA.  They had asked me to come to work for them, but the 50 mile drive everyday caused me to have some second thoughts.  See what happens in the next post. . . . . . .

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