The folks at Decair gave me some
of the jet ranger charter work so that I could stay current and cover some
of those flight should one of the other pilots get sick or need time off.
Those flights were a welcomed relief from the track patrol. One of
those flights was a contract for a chopper to go up to Newburg, which was
the next large city north of the Big Apple and pick up one of the larger
bank's checking slips and drop them off at the wall street heliport for
same day processing.
All the pilots loved the flights at first because the front seat was free and we could take a friend along if we wanted. It was truly a stunning flight. We would take off about 15 minutes before sunset and fly up the Hudson River to Newburg. By the time we picked up the checks it was dark which made flying down to the city, at night, definitely something to see. The city is all lit up and the orange colored street lamps made it look like a giant had poured hot coals over everything. It sure was pleasing to the eye. It definitely made for a romantic evening. The other pilot's wives were impressed as well with the flight when their husbands took them along.
At the end of the river you made a left turn and there was the Wall Street heliport where a currier was waiting to get the boxes. After a while the trip became a nuisance with the other pilots because it used up an evening. There are only so many ladies you can impress with that flight. As for me I loved it, mainly because I wasn't dating anyone special at the time and I was getting in a lot of night time.
Things did get exciting once though and the night mechanic that had to put the ship to bed had his respect for pilots raised a notch or two that night. I had the flight one night as a winter storm was moving in. It was a race against the weather and I got up to Newburg OK but I knew the river was about to sock in behind me. No problem thought, I just flew it IFR (I follow roads) which is this case was the NY State Thruway. Six lanes of bumper to bumper traffic sure did light up the night and led straight to the city. I cleared the mountains and got over the river again and the lights of the city were sure a welcomed sight. About 10 seconds past the George Washington Bridge though the lights went out. I hit ice and in 1 split second the entire front of the jet ranger had iced over. It only lasted for a second or two but both forward windows and chin bubbles were now viewless and I was at cruse and at 300 ft with buildings taller than me on either side. I slowed her down and got ready for the turn into the Wall Street heliport. I just kicked a little pedal to get her out of trim and made like old Charles Lindbergh and flew her in using only the side window.
The guy picking up the checks couldn't believe you could land a chopper that way. I asked the radioman there if he had any kind of heat gun, for the ice, and he said no. With my bare hands I melted a spot on my window that I could see out of and off I went for home. The spot was only about 12" in diameter because that was all my hands could take but that was enough to see out of.. Darn if I didn't run into it again as I was going up the river.
Decair had a nice large hanger and all the choppers were inside which left me a lot of room in front. On short final I could see the landing dolly and the night mechanic assigned to put her to bed ready to wave me in. I sure wish I could have seen his face as I was on short final. In any case I didn't need his help any ways. With the hanger lights on and snow all over I could see the front side of the hanger no problem. That gave me the depth perception I needed so all I really had to do was find the left edge of the dolly. That was no problem either because I had seen it on my short final turn in and knew it was in front of a certain door. I set her down just like a normal landing, piece of cake. It was just like landing in dust back in Nam. The mechanic though couldn't believe his eyes. Here comes this chopper for a night landing and here he is waving her in so it can land on the dolly and he can't see the pilot. Not seeing the pilot also means the pilot can't see out and that usually translates to "it's going to crash" to the mechanic. About 10' out I saw him get out of the way. He sure had one of those "how'd you do that" looks on his face when he came over to see if there indeed was a pilot in there. That landing was all he talked about as we put the bird to bed. It was nice to be appreciated and finally home.
They did give me other flights with the jet ranger. I did fly a millionaire and his kids several times and got a $10 tip each time, which was nice. He would always sit in the back and let his 10 year old son have the other front seat. He always requested and got the dual control so his son could get in some flying time. His daughter didn't want anything to do with the ship because she was older and had boys on her mind. I had to let his son fly or else there would be no tip. His son wanted to dive us to the left all the time and had no qualms about telling me to get my hands off the controls because he was flying. That kid needed a good smack. In any case, with my arms obviously crossed on my chest, I corrected his heavy hand with the side of my leg on my control. He never caught on.
There is one story left that I will not write about but will hint at. It involved a full day's charter by an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT Italian gentleman from the city and two of his male companions. When I finally got back to base almost everyone was there waiting on me to hear about the trip and it was well past quitting time. They didn't tell the importance of the gentlemen until I got back but I figured it out about 3/4 way into the trip. I could see why the other pilots had turned down the flight. In any case I enjoyed it, got a $200 tip to boot and a job offer to fly for them full time at twice the salary and I could even pick the ship I wanted. I said it was an interesting offer but that I was happy right where I was Thank You. So much for flying the bank run and other sometimes interesting missions. I sometimes wonder though if the Good LORD is looking down on me and smiling while shaking his head a little as he throws these things my way. I'm sure glad he's on my side and has an apparent sense of humor.