I tallied up my flight time for the year 2009 and discovered that the helicopter and I only flew 118 hours. Not very much. I did put in another 80 or so hours as “copilot” in our King Air, which has since been returned to the leasing company. Even 200 hours per year is not a whole bunch of flying.
On one hand, I get paid a lot of money to do very little. In many ways, this is the “cake” job that we all seek. On the other hand, I flew on New Year’s Day, and I flew a couple of days later on Sunday. So it’s not like I have weekends and holidays off – just the opposite, often enough. I flew on a whole bunch of weekends in 2009. That’s just the nature of this (and most) flying jobs. But the Boss doesn’t require me to be in the office on non-flying days, so I spend a lot of time at home.
My neighbors must think I’m strange. I keep very odd hours, sometimes departing well before sunrise and many times not arriving back until well after midnight, sometimes on the same “day” but not always. I’ll be home for days at a time, and then be gone for days at a time with no rhythm or regularity. Whenever I walk out of my house, the very first thing I do is look up and study the sky, even if it’s severe-clear. It’s an old habit.
2009 was a strange year. We needed a part-time mechanic, and a great one just happened to fall into our lap at exactly the right time. It was a coincidence that is hard to explain. We did not advertise. It sort of just…happened. He has experience working on Bell 206’s, and has all the documentation (manuals, etc.) the FAA requires and so is “legal” to work on our ship. (It’s complicated, but basically, not every mechanic can work on every aircraft just because he has a mechanic’s certificate.) I’m still amazed by the timing of it. Chris has been…(is there any other way to say it?)...a godsend.
I’d write more about my flights, but the Boss is an intensely private guy who doesn’t like other people knowing his business – like where he goes and what he does. He’s alluded to this blog a couple of times, and never said anything negative about it, but there’d be hell to pay if I put something in here that didn’t belong. So I’ve cut back on the details a bit, as you may have noticed. But aside from that, we really haven’t been doing anything interesting lately. Although you might think that every flight is jam-packed with excitement and adventure, the truth is just the opposite. We pilots work extra-hard to keep our flights mundane and unexciting. (It’s safer that way.) I go here, I go there…and it’s been pretty routine. Like driving a car.
I don’t know what’s in store for 2010. As a company, we’re doing well in spite of the down economy. (People always need inexpensive places to live.) Still, I can’t see any increase in helicopter flight time. We will undoubtedly get another airplane for the longer trips. And that would be fun - I like flying airplanes.
I wasn’t sure how long this job would last when I took it. I figured that if it lasted a year or two, that’d be great. Time passes quickly. It’s hard to believe that we’re into our third year already. I get restless. And I’m getting old(er). There are still things I want to do with my life, and they don’t include sitting around waiting for the Boss to call with a flight. Not that I’m looking to make a change – I like my boss a lot and this is much too good a job to quit. So I’m happy to stay put and see what happens, airplane-wise.
If I fantasize, I see myself as a flight instructor at some busy flight school. Flight instruction is normally the bottom rung on the aviation ladder, the first place young pilots go to build their time so they can move on to supposedly bigger and better things. But there are a few of us “old guys” around – the ones who’ve already had their career and want to give something back. And that’s me: the seasoned, gray-haired guy who still gets a boner when he gets to go flying, and who would like to show the young guys all about it.
Wait…uhh…that didn’t come out right…
Flying! I meant, “show them about flying.” But for that to happen I have to get a few other prerequisites done. I am not a Certified Flight Instructor, which you have to be. So it’s not something I can jump into tomorrow. But these past couple of years passed in the blink of an eye. Who knows what 2010 will bring?