Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

14 December 2007

The Versatile Helicopter

Here's our November-Two-One-Eight-Alpha-Lima, sitting pretty in a mobile home dealership in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

So…the Boss asked me to pick him up this past Wednesday morning at the company headquarters at 9:30. He had a doctor’s appointment in Pensacola, so we flew there first. It would have taken him about 1:10 or so to drive. We made it down from Brewton, Alabama to Pensacola in less than thirty minutes. Then the good folks at Heliworks loaned him a vehicle to get to his doctor, which was right near the airport.

By 11:30 we were airborne again, headed west to Gulfport, Mississippi where we have a big project underway. An hour later we were on the ground. The boss did…whatever it is that bosses do. I took a long lunch.

At 3:30 we were lifting off and headed for home. About another hour flight.

“This is just great!” he said as we neared home base. “The helicopter has really let me do a lot more in my day. I got a lot of work done, and I still have time to make some phone calls from the office when I get back. I never could’ve done all of this today by car.”

My boss uses the helicopter for both business and pleasure. And I have to admit, we are utilizing this JetRanger exactly in the way Bell Helicopters envisioned when they designed it. We go from point to point, landing right where we need to be most of the time. The helicopter has increased my boss’s efficiency and productivity immensely. It is the right size and speed for the job. It is, for a helicopter, economical and dependable.

There are times when I’d like a bigger helicopter…a faster one…maybe a more-sophisticated one…or a ship with two engines. But I’ve resisted pushing for such a helicopter because this one fits our needs so perfectly. I’ve known pilots who’ve sold their bosses on “bigger, better” helicopters and eventually sold themselves right out of a job. (The expenses of owning and operating a helicopter can truly be staggering.)

We've got this JetRanger equipped with a terrific Garmin moving-map GPS that has terrain-avoidance and obstruction warnings, plus it displays weather information in nearly real-time sent down to us from XM Radio. The GPS is also hooked to a collision-avoidance device. It is a level of capability that would have been either completely unavailable and/or astronomical in price just a few years ago. Because we fly at night, we've upgraded the instrument lighting on the panel and augmented the standard landing lights with an HID auxiliary light that is almost as bright as those you see on police helicopters.

Here we are on the Cambrian Ridge Golf Course in Greenville, Alabama. We landed (with permission) on one of their unused driving ranges.

The Bell 206B JetRanger has always been one of my all-time favorite aircraft. It may not be the most glamorous aircraft in the sky, but it is one of the safest, and it suits us well. And I’m damn proud to be flying it for this company. Plus, I just like the look of the thing. Pretty, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

How liberal can your flight plan be, Bob?


Redlefty said...

Thanks again for the insight into your world!

Redlefty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Barbanes said...

kman asked: How liberal can your flight plan be, Bob?

We actually prefer conservative flight plans. But we accept liberal ones as well.

The great thing about aviation in the U.S. is the freedom it provides. You can take off and go when and where you like - no official flight plan required! That may sound horribly lax to some, but imagine if you had to file a "drive plan" with the government every time you wanted to go somewhere in your car? I keep the helicopter full of gas so that we can usually always go anywhere within our area of operation. And since we only go to a limited number of places, surprises are few.

We do have flight-following on all our flights (which is the intended purpose of an FAA flight plan anyway); it's just provided by our company, which can actually and ironically respond faster than the FAA. Plus the helicopter has its own impact-activated Emergency Locator Transmitter and we augment that with a nifty personal emergency beacon that sends our information (who we are and exactly where we are) up to a satellite.

That's probably more than any of you ever wanted to know about general aviation in America.