Generally, helicopter pilots get frustrated when the weather is so bad that it keeps us grounded. It's simple: Pilots want to fly. It's why we become pilots. It's why we become professional pilots – so we can get paid to fly! When you can turn a hobby into a job that pays the bills, well...isn't that the best of both worlds?
I've been “lucky” in that I've been a professional pilot for most of my life. I've never once woken up in the morning angry that I had to go to “work.” Just the opposite! I've always leaped out of bed knowing that I'm going to get to do something that I really enjoy. Okay, maybe not leaped, but I've never gotten up thinking, “Dammit, I have to go to work today. Grrrr.”
Now that I'm thirty-something years down the road in this field and semi-retired, things have changed slightly. Now my idea of the perfect flying job is one where I get to sit around with my feet up and get paid to not fly. Which is what I've got this summer.
Did I mention how dry it's been here in cherryland? Since the beginning of the season we have had exactly one day of rain. And it was not an all-day soaker; most of us only got a couple of hours before the cherries were all dry. And since June 15th there's been...nothing. No rain. Not even a cloud in the sky to give us the faint hope of rain. In the seven seasons I've been coming up here, it's been the most severe-clear, dry summer. Even the temperatures have been moderate, with fewer days above 100 degrees than usual.
The absolutely clear weather is good for me but bad for the pilots I hired. They're all fairly young and eager, thirsty for flying. But they're all sitting around with long faces because the weather has been so good. Ironic, isn't it?
I won't bore you with what I've been doing all summer. You really don't want to know. My life isn't any more exciting or interesting than yours other than I (sometimes) fly a helicopter that's as old as I am, and I'm 61.
The boss is not happy. Then again, we've had no maintenance problems; these are old helicopters after all. We didn't crash anything; these are young pilots with very little time in this specific model of helicopter. And we haven't used any fuel or oil. So there are always trade-offs. Not a great year; not a horrible year. Most people who live up here would tell you that this summer weather has been great! For us it's been depressingly good.
We do still have a few helicopters on contract, one of which is “mine.” The grower to whom I'm assigned told us he'll be keeping one ship around until sometimes in August. And there are two other guys covering cherry orchards that don't ripen until later. So I guess I'll stick around for a while. But not for too long...
I'm hoping that I can get out of here and back to Florida while there's still some good motorcycle-riding weather left. I've got my "new" Harley Sportster down there and I'm itching to put some miles on it. Unlike tropical Miami, Pensacola is sub-tropical, which means our winter temperatures can be fairly cool. And when we go back to Central Standard Time the days get short. Call me a wuss, but I don't like to ride when it's less than 60 degrees out, or at night.