First Annual Labor Day Heli Fly In and Pot Luck Picnic

An event to kick off Arizona’s flying season.

If you’re a helicopter pilot, you are cordially invited to attend our first annual Labor Day Heli Fly In and Pot Luck picnic.

Some Background

As you may know, I’m part of a group of helicopter pilots who occasionally gathers for outings. I call our group the “Heli Group.” Not very creative, but simple.

In the summer, in central and southern Arizona, its simply too darn hot to fly during the day. Or get out of the helicopter at an off-airport destination. So we don’t have many trips in the summer.

But in the autumn, things start cooling down a bit. That’s when it’s time to ramp up for the flying season.

Our group has done a few trips in the past. Our first trip was to Red Creek, a dirt strip near the Verde River, north of Phoenix. We had a picnic lunch, then went our separate ways. The next trip was to The Francisco Grande hotel near Casa Grande. We landed near the driving range and went in for a nice lunch. Another more recent trip was to the Wayside Inn, a restaurant not far from Alamo Lake. We had a good turnout at that one and seeing all those helicopters parked outside the restaurant soon filled the restaurant with other customers. We followed up lunch with a trip to the Swansea ghost town.

This season, I’m trying to get us started for a bunch of flights by starting early with this event.

The Invitation Details

This invitation is open to helicopter pilots with access to a helicopter. You must RSVP to get the GPS coordinates for the landing zone.

My significant other and I own 40 acres of land north of Williams, AZ. The property sits at 6700 feet MSL. There is a large, flat area that could comfortably fit at least 10 helicopters. There is also a new, bright orange wind sock near the landing zone. The wind is normally from the west, making the usual approach over uninhabited state land. There are few houses in the area and no full-time residents nearby, so it is unlikely that the event will bother anyone with noise.

We’re planning a pot luck — in other words, bring something to eat! — picnic. The camper currently at the property has a small stove and small refrigerator, as well as a bathroom. There’s plenty of water but limited electricity; we’re running off a tiny solar system. We also have a gas grill and a firepit, so you can bring something that can be grilled on the premises. There’s no oven so don’t bring something that needs reheating in the oven.

We’ll provide the non-alcoholic beverages, plates, napkins, etc. You can bring whatever you want to drink for the members of your party. Keep in mind, however, that any pilot who has flown in who drinks alcohol will not be allowed to fly out. I don’t want our event to be in the newspapers.

I figure we’d start gathering around 10:00 AM and have lunch around 12:00 noon. You’re free to come early and stay as long as you like, but do keep in mind that the chance of isolated T-Storms increases at the day progresses. The property has 360 degree views of the area, so you can clearly see storms coming hours before they arrive.

If you’re interested in camping out, no problem. I’ll be arriving the day before (Sunday, September 5) and will be staying up there for the entire week. The camper has limited sleeping accommodations, however, so I do recommend you bring a tent and sleeping bag. We have a pop-up camper that can be used in a pinch, but it has some mouse damage and I’m not sure whether I’d recommend it.

More about the Landing Zone

The landing zone is covered with small rocks and some grass and small tumbleweed. There are small pinon and juniper pine trees in the area, but plenty of space to park between them. Care must be used when landing a helicopter with a low slung tail. Some dust might kick up on landing and take-off. The landing zone is level. Anyone landing at the landing zone does so at his own risk. Although I consider the landing zone to be easy — I do it in my R22 all the time — the pilot in command is ultimately responsible for making a landing decision.

In making a landing decision, you must consider high density altitude. The elevation is 6700 feet. Daytime temperatures that time of year are in the 75-85 degree range. Wind is usually light, but can be brisk, depending on weather conditions.

If you have never done an off-airport landing at high altitude, please do not make this trip your first time, especially if you are near max gross weight.

100LL fuel is available by self-serve in Williams, AZ, about 15 miles south, and Valle, AZ, about 9 miles north. JetA is available at Grand Canyon airport, which is about 30 NM north and Prescott, AZ, which is about 40 (?) miles south.

Questions? E-mail me. Don’t use the Comment link here to ask a question; I probably won’t see it in time to answer.

How to RSVP

If you’re seriously interested in attending and want to fly in, please click this link to RSVP. Tell me about your helicopter, your flying experience, and the number of people you plan to bring. Also, tell me whether you’d like to camp out before or after the event. If I think you’re up to the challenge of the landing (and sorry, but I do need to be careful about this), I’ll provide you with the GPS coordinates and a “map” of the landing zone. On the day of the party, I’ll be monitoring the Williams/Valle UNICOM frequencies to provide wind and conditions information to arriving pilots.

If you think you might want to drive up, just to join the fun and meet the members of our group, click this link to RSVP. Keep in mind that the location is 5 miles down a relatively rugged dirt road. If it has rained within the past 24 hours, you’ll need 4 wheel drive and some off-road driving skills. But if it is dry, you should be able to make it with a normal car or truck. Keep your sports car in the garage for this one.

What do you think?