I’ve actually been trying to quit flying since the late 1990’s. I’d been flying commercially since 1982...had been with Petroleum Helicopters Inc. since 1987 and was really “done” with the whole flying for a living thing. In 2001 at age 45 I finally did quit, with no real plan for what I was going to do with the rest of my life other than “not flying.”
That didn’t work out so well. You see, flying gets in your blood. It's hard to walk away. Sometimes you just have accept your fate...that you're destined to do something whether you want to or not. And with me, that "something" appears to be flying.
Shortly after leaving PHI, a guy called me up who just happened to be starting up the production line of the FH1100 helicopter, a model from the 1970’s that he felt was still viable if it were modernized it a little. And he happened to be doing this in a town right near Pensacola. Did I want to come to work for him? Did I! (You can go back to the very beginning of this blog for that story.)
Unfortunately, we just never could get someone to give us a “launch order” for ten...oh, maybe five helicopters. That’s all we needed to start the production line again. Five lousy orders for new ones. Five years later we were running out of steam.
Ironically we did get an order from one guy for two refurbished FH1100’s. One of the ships would stay here in Florida and the other was slated to go down to Honduras. At the very last minute, the pilot who was to fly the Honduras ship bailed, and I slid into that job. (Again, my exploits were chronicled in these pages.)
After the gig in Honduras ended, I came back to the states determined that I was done with helicopters. There had to be more to life, I thought.
I hadn’t been back for two weeks when my former Honduras boss called and said a friend of his here in the Pensacola area was looking to buy a helicopter – would I help him find one? I said I would, but my intention was to find him a pilot to fly it as well – someone other than me. However as fate would have it I not only found him a good ship but like a dummy I agreed to stick around and fly it. That was in 2007.
By late 2010 I’d had enough. I really, really, really didn’t want to be a full-time helicopter pilot anymore. I stuck it out for nearly four years. Finally, due to certain, um, circumstances (long story) I ended up leaving. The boss was incredulous; it was not a good time to be quitting any job. “You’re quitting?!” Yeahhhh, I just don’t want to fly for you anymore – sorry!
Once I was free of full-time employment my friends Scott and Mikey began urging me to come up to Washington to do some cherry-drying. Read about that HERE.
And so indeed I did. I called up Golden Wings Aviation and…long story short…I’ll soon be going back up to Washington State for my third season of cherry-drying.
I’m not a full-time pilot anymore, so that’s good. Part-time is good. On certain helicopter internet discussion forums I call myself “nearly retired.” Perhaps one day I will be fully retired for sure.
But it’s not likely.