The job in Dallas may not exist after all.
As I've written about before, my jet pilot friend Brad’s boss is a big hunter. Kind of on the side, he also owns a huge lumber company that has made him very, very wealthy. To get around among his various, spread out business and personal properties, he owns two business jets. He bought the second one merely because the warranty ran out on the first one, and then kept the first one as a backup. Seriously.
He’s always been making noises about buying a helicopter for use at two of his (many) hunting camps. Every year he talks about it but so far has never done anything about it. Initially he wanted a small helicopter: The new Robinson R-66 turbine seemed to fit the bill. Nothing fancy, just a basic turbine helicopter to scout his properties when he was there.
I’ve known Brad for years. We’re good friends. From the beginning we’ve been looking for a way of working together. And by “working together,” I always thought it meant as the two-man crew of some bizjet, which would be a gas. When he told me that his boss was looking for a helicopter, I “sort of” committed to come fly it if and when that should ever happen. You know, the half-hearted thing one friend might say to another. Like, “Sure I’ll help you move!” while secretly planning to be in the Bahamas that weekend.
This year’s hunting season is upon us. Turns out that the new Robinson helicopter is experiencing some, err, “technical difficulties” in production. A brand-new one would not be available until February of 2012, after hunting season had ended. So it didn’t look like Brad’s boss would get a helicopter this year either. Oh well.
But then Brad found out that a friend of his who owned a very nice Bell LongRanger was interested in selling. The friend wants to move up to a model 407 which is newer and faster. The quoted price range for the LongRanger was good (about the same as a brand-new Robinson). Friend to friend. Aircraft brokers call such transactions “off-market” deals. Brad called me in Washington and suggested that we: A) go look at the ship; and B) talk to his boss about considering a different type of helicopter. I jumped in the car and beat feet for Dallas.
When we finally met up with Brad’s boss, he was much more receptive to the idea than we’d anticipated. I told him that the helicopter was in fine shape and suggested he go to Tulsa and take a look at it and maybe go up on a demonstra... He cut me off with a wave of his hand.
“You guys like this thing?” he asked. Brad and I said we did. “Well I don’t need to see it. If you guys like it, that’s good enough for me.” He turned to Brad. “Okay, do it. Get it done. Buy it and get it down here.” Brad and I looked at each other uncomfortably. We weren’t that far along in the deal yet. Then his boss turned to me and we made our little employment arrangement.
I left Dallas the next morning, not quite knowing what to expect. I was ambivalent about taking the job. Money is nice, but it’s not everything. The prospect of moving to Dallas and taking one of these hybrid “corporate/personal” flying jobs was not attractive. My last job was exactly that, and there was a reason I left it (actually there were many reasons). My stomach was in knots as I drove across I-20 for home.
Tuesday morning, Brad called me up. “You haven’t started driving toward Dallas yet, have you?” he asked coyly. I told him that I had not. It turns out that the owner of the LongRanger has decided to not sell after all…at least not until he finds a 407 first. And that process has not yet begun in earnest. Oops! Brad had to relay that information to his boss, who was not pleased. Brad said that he got a major ass-chewing over that one.
So now we’re supposedly looking for a 407 for the LongRanger owner. To be honest, I’m not looking all that diligently. If this whole thing falls apart, I’m okay with it.