Scooter said, “I’m trying to get the lat/long coordinates of that site for you.” Scooter is the new manager who’s been hired to oversee all of our mobile home dealerships. We were putting together a two-day round-robin trip of five of our “stores” in Alabama. The site he was referring to is that of a store we’re thinking of opening in a new city.
I thought about it for a bit, and then said, “Never mind the lat/long. Just get me the street address. I’ll Google it.” Or Bing it. Or Mapquest it. All three internet services have satellite views available that you can zoom in pretty damn close. Google has a “street view” feature which takes you down and shows pictures taken from a car or truck that apparently drove along every street in America. Alternatively, MSN/Bing maps has a neat “Bird’s Eye” view feature which shows pictures taken from a low-flying airplane. The detail from both is incredible.
In the old days, finding the location of a “site landing” was an iffy thing. Latitude and longitude coordinates were offered, but they were not always accurate. The proliferation of personal GPS’s helped greatly, but there’s a catch. Aviation charts are marked in degrees, minutes and seconds while many GPS’s inexplicably read in degrees, tenths and hundreds of minutes (unless deliberately selected to read degrees/minutes/seconds). It can be confusing.
Anyway, we got the address. I went on the internet and printed out aerial pictures of the likely site, then I plotted it on my aeronautical sectional chart (correctly, as it turned out), and we flew right to it. The site was exactly like the picture. Easy as cake. You’ve gotta love new technology. It makes my job so easy.
The whole two-day trip was a lot of fun. We visited three stores on Tuesday, then overnighted in Birmingham, Alabama. Next morning, we flew to the potential new site, and then to our dealership in Dothan, which is the only store at which we cannot land on the premises and have to use the nearby airport. Eh- by then I had to get fuel anyway.
Since our dealerships are spread out all over the state, the whole trip would have taken three days if Scooter had to drive. The helicopter made it possible to do it in either one long day or two easy ones. I think it’s really cool when we can use the helicopter in the way it was designed and intended: Point to point, land where you need to be.
It might seem ostentatious to some, but the helicopter is an incredibly useful and powerful business tool. The image of general aviation (i.e. all non-airline flying) has taken some hits recently. The debacle created by the “Big Three” automakers gave the country the impression that business jets were nothing but frivolous, luxury perks for the rich. But that’s far from the truth. The airlines simply do not always go where you need to go, when you need to go there. What all “business aircraft” do is save an enormous amount of time while increasing productivity immensely. And a helicopter is an awesome business aircraft, even our “little” Bell 206.
So instead of a grueling three-day business trip, Scooter arrived home to his wife and daughters by five p.m. of the second day. Only one night spent on the road. He was happy, and I was happy that we could demonstrate how convenient and efficient the helicopter can be.