Monday, December 20, 2010

Jetcopters Part 6

I stayed on with Jetcopters for almost two years.  It was a great place to work and the opportunities were abundant.  We had a great group of pilots and Peter McKerrnan the owner was always opening new doors for the company.  As time went on, this was all about to change.
Just when you think things could get no better, the worst happens.  Meanwhile I was filling in some of the blanks in my career goals.  The FAA office in Long Beach designated me to be able to give flight test for every combination of helicopter pilots licenses available.  This included Airline Transport Pilot, Instrument Instructor and all other ratings.
Helicopter and actors from TV series Riptide  click to enlarge

I was enjoying the rewards of movie and television residuals from the several that I participated in.  This included, Rip Tide, Airwolf.  Also a movie called Starman and a John Carpenter movie called, They Live.
Bell 222 used in TV series Airwolf  click to enlarge

I enjoyed working with the Hollywood bunch, but often things were asked of pilots that just went across the grain of what my core principals were.  I admit, that I have been in some sticky situations, but I never started out knowingly with that intent.  A few times I would have a difference of opinion with a movie director or aerial coordinator, and eventually I was labeled as being too conservative.  In my eyes, I would consider this to be a compliment.  I just could not take it upon myself to abuse an expensive helicopter or potentially endanger someones life for the sake of creating something sensational for a few seconds on the big screen.  You can't imagine how exciting it is to go to the very first screening of a movie.  Usually at one of the bigger Hollywood theaters and then seeing the completed film.  At the end, when they are showing the credits, you look for your name among the list of pilots that worked on that movie.  This was good, but not for me.  I got into a career in flying helicopters and I found out soon, that their were more important things to consider over the forty some years from the time I started out back in Kansas City, MO with Jerry Getz.  I would prefer to be remembered as a good pilot that was dependable and a record of achievement.

As time went on, I continued to be involved in other interesting flights on almost a daily basis.  I was sent out to pickup a passenger early one morning at the Los Angeles county substation heliport in Malibu, CA.  I arrived early and shut down to wait for him to arrive.  Shortly after, a car pulled up and a man got out and walked towards the helicopter.  It was Robert Redford who was directing a movie that was being filmed in Frasier Park which is just south of Bakersfield, CA.  I was on this assignment for five days and each day I would meet with him in the morning and then at the end of the day, fly back to Malibu.  We had some interesting conversations and I was a big fan of his movies, The Sting and The Natural.  Later on I was sent to Malibu to land on the beach near a big house located nearby.  Two passengers came out and it was Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards her husband.
He was tired and grouchy and sat in the back, and she turned to him and said, I want to sit in front with the pilot.  Wow, here I am sitting next to the lady that sang in the movie, The Sound of Music.  Just small talk on our way to San Diego for the day, but still these were the types of flights I did almost every week.

Now here comes that bad part.  One evening while I was home, I received a phone call from Peter McKernnan who then asked, if I was interested in being the Chief Pilot for Jetcopters.  This position was presently being held by Jim Deeth, who also was the Director of Operations.  With a company that was growing as rapidly as Jetcopters, I could see that one person doing both of these company assignments, it could be very overwhelming.  I was a good friend of Jim's and at the time I thought this was being offered to me with his blessing.  As it turned out, Jim was being demoted from both positions and was offered to stay on as a line pilot.  Also he would take a big cut in pay, not to consider how demoralizing it must of been.  Had I known this in the beginning, I would have declined the offer, but it was done and I was stuck with trying to deal with this as tactfully as possible.  We had several part time pilots and a few that were from the Los Angeles county fire department.  One pilot in particular, became very greedy and sat out to see these changes made in the companies staff.
I know that Jim Deeth at times was very strict with how things were done and maybe he didn't always use his best communication skills.
But on the other hand, he was fair and honest and the success of the company was founded on his ideas in the early going.

This story has a good ending, but it took some time and I'll continue with the turn of events in the next post.........

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