All in the Family
My columns in ROTOR normally cover technology, operations, pilots and mechanics, and safety. This time, I want to talk about our industry in another context: our status as a family.
When I am among those in our industry, I feel I am among family and friends. I see a family dynamic at work all the time, whether it is a senior member of our industry stopping to mentor the next generation or organizations working together and helping each other like brothers and sisters. I know we are supposed to be a bunch of tough gals and guys, but we actually enjoy and care about each other.
So I want tell you about an experience I had that was about as close to a perfect family day as it gets.
This past spring, I was at an HAI board meeting in Idaho. It was our good fortune that Jack and Barb Scanlon, owners of River City Helicopters, hosted a reception for the board of directors and HAI members at their facility. Lots of great people, their families, fantastic food and entertainment — a good time was had by all.
The hospitality and great environment made me feel like I had lived there and known everyone my whole life. I thought it could not get much better, but I was wrong.
I was introduced to Brian Jorgenson of Timberline Helicopters, out of Sandpoint, Idaho. He knew I had flown Huey helicopters in Vietnam as an Army aviator and noted that Timberline owned a UH-1H that had flown in Vietnam. Best of all, that aircraft was parked right outside. Would I like to fly it? I was in the aircraft and buckled in before Brian could get into the pilot-in-command seat.
Like many of you, the last time I flew a Huey was not under the best of circumstances. To fly one 44 years later — it wasn’t just another flight, I was meeting an old friend. What happened over the next hour was nothing short of an out-of-body experience for me.
As Brian started the aircraft and the blades started to turn, I settled into the seat, taking in the familiar sounds, smells, and motion. I was back home.
As we climbed into the clear, crisp skies over the lakes and hills of Idaho, Brian said the magic words: “The aircraft is yours if you want it.”
I acknowledged control of the aircraft. In that instant, I made a long journey to days gone by when I was a naive 19-year-old warrior, without the maturity and experience I now possess. The hour passed in what seemed like seconds, and I found myself on final approach to the heliport.
As we shut down the aircraft, I did not move until the blades came to a complete stop. I wanted to stay in the comfort of this old friend that had brought me home safely so many times under the most difficult situations. As I thanked Brian and walked away, I cannot remember the last time I felt so comforted, happy, or relaxed.
Believe it or not, it then got even better. Gale Wilson, who was then the HAI chairman, presented me with a stunning painting that portrays eight UH-1H helicopters making an aerial assault in the mountains of Vietnam. That painting now hangs in my office at HAI. When I look at it, I remember I am in a wonderful industry with a great heritage. More importantly, I know I am part of a fantastic family.
My reunion with the Huey was a game changer for me. I hope you have such days.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, fly safe — fly neighborly.