Well here's another one.
I had wanted to take the summer off and just chill. But that didn't happen. Since I got back from Honduras I've been involved in the Search For The Perfect Helicopter for my new boss. It has not been easy. I mean, you'd think that helicopter brokers and salespeople would be falling all over themselves to sell me a half-a-million dollar helicopter. But no. Many times my calls went unreturned. Often I had to chase people down just to send me what we call "spec sheets" (component times and general records) for a particular ship. I've been to look at a few candidates, flown a couple. None were just right.
There was that one down in Sarasota, Florida that I looked at. It was very nice, although it did not have the most modern radio package. There were a couple of other things we didn't like too, and the seller wanted too much money for it.
Quick background lesson: Helicopters have a huge amount of rotating components: gearboxes and rotor blades and such. Some of these components must be overhauled at certain intervals. Many of them are also "life-limited." This means that after a certain amount of flight time you have to throw away that component and replace it with a new one. (By comparison, airplanes generally have zero finite-life components.) On a helicopter, overhauling and replacing these components can be costly. Thus, the closer the components are to overhaul or their life limit, the proportionately less that helicopter is worth. The key is to find a helicopter with good component times.
There was one for sale up in New Jersey (still is for sale, in fact). On the surface it appears to be a very nice ship at a very good price. But in scrutinizing the component list, the owner cleverly buried a little fact: One of the four turbine wheels in the engine will shortly need to be replaced. Very shortly. The wheel costs $12,500 by itself, not to mention the labor to dismantle the engine to get at it. And as picky as the overhaul shops are, who knows what other "little" discrepancies they'll find? The prospective buyer could easily be looking at a bill of $50,000 on top of the purchase price. Needless to say, we passed on that one.
I kept coming back to that ship in Sarasota. It was just super-clean and it flew very nicely.
About a week or so after I'd been down to see it, the seller called me up. His name is Philip Carey and his company is Engage Aviation. Philip normally sells big planes (airliners and such), but he's a helicopter nut and a pretty decent helicopter pilot. So he decided to branch out into the used helicopter market. He buys them, puts them through a complete overhaul, puts a nice interior in and then gives them a new paint job on the outside. He can "spec-out" the ship any way the buyer likes - for a price, of course. Here is the ship he had for sale.
And that is the one we ultimately bought.
Last Monday began a flurry of back-and-forth phone calls and negotiations. We finally came to an agreement on the price and the boss said, "Go get it." The next morning I was in a Beech 1900 airliner headed for Tampa. (I do not like flying on the airlines. I would have preferred to drive but time was of the essence.)
It really is a beautiful ship. Right-click on the picture and select "Open Link In New Window" to see how the paint gleams and sparkles in the sun. The paint and interior (done by Lance Aviation in Lakeland, Florida) are gorgeous. Honestly, it looks like a brand-new Bell 206B and frequently gets mistaken for one by people who do not know. Those of us in aviation can easily spot the things that mark it as being "old," but the thing about helicopters is that with continuous rebuilds and component replacement, they can realistically last almost forever.
Those strange angular protuberances on the front of the cabin are wire-cutters. Helicopters often land at places that are not airports, as ours certainly will. Whenever you're operating "off-airport" there is always the danger of hitting some sort of wire, especially at night. This usually results in a fatal accident. The wire-cutters at least give you half a chance of surviving the event. It's just a little bit of extra insurance that I requested we install. As luck would have it, this ship already had them.
So I got the ship back up here to the Pensacola area on Thursday. The boss started using it for his business on Friday. We flew right through the weekend. Then I had a day (a grueling day, I might add) of Recurrent Training yesterday. That's a whole story in itself. It's been hectic, to say the least. But hopefully it will all settle down into some sort of routine soon as I begin the life of a Corporate Pilot.