Helicopter Overhaul in Progress

Stripped down and waiting for “the kit.”

Regular readers of this blog might remember my October series of posts about flying my helicopter from my home in Malaga, WA to Quantum Helicopters in Chandler, AZ.

Robinson helicopters are required to be overhauled at 12 years or 2200 hours, whichever comes first. January 2017 would be 12 years for Zero-Mike-Lima, but because I need the helicopter back in time for my late winter frost work and I don’t fly it much during the winter anyway, I dropped it off early to give the shop plenty of time to do the work they needed to do. At this point, they’ve had it for about a month and a half. They’ve had the money they needed to get started for about a month.

I’m back in Arizona now, enjoying the first part of my annual migration to the south. (After 15 years living in Arizona, it’s hard to take the short, dreary days of a Pacific Northwest winter.) I had errands to run in the Phoenix area today, so I thought I’d head down to Chandler to visit Zero-Mike-Lima. I had a part to drop off — a starter that’s part of the “core” that needs to be replaced. The mechanics will pull the existing starter, which was replaced only a few months ago, and I’ll keep that as a spare. The helicopter will get a brand new starter among the many brand new parts that come in the overhaul kit.

And that’s what it’s waiting for now: the kit. The maintenance shop draws up a list of the parts needed for the overhaul and sends it to Robinson Helicopter, along with a huge chunk of my money. The parts folks at Robinson pack up the parts that go into the kit. This takes about six weeks. They then put it all on a truck and ship it to Arizona.

My main rotor blades sit atop a pair from an R22, along with the “candy cane” bar that protects the tail rotor area. I’ll go back for the blades once I figure out how I can get them home. I think they’ll look good hanging on the wall in my living room.

In the meantime, the mechanics disassemble the helicopter and pull out the parts they need to send back to the factory as cores. I’ll get some money back for those — possibly as much as $50K. (I sent them $175K.) They send the engine to a shop to be rebuilt. They send other parts out to another shop to be inspected. They take the time-limited parts that have no value and literally thrown them on a scrap pile.

So the helicopter is mostly disassembled at this point. Most of its parts are on carts where the tailbone should be. Its doors are on another cart. One of its skids is temporarily on another helicopter that had a hard landing the other day and broke a skid. (I saw the video and it’s amazing that helicopter ended up on its skids.) The other skid is shoved underneath of it.

The helicopter’s fuselage is sitting on a rolling wooden cart right now.

Cart full of parts Cart full of parts
Rolling carts full of parts occupy the area where the tailcone should be.

Helicopter Interior
They stripped out the carpet and removed the seats. None of the avionics will be replaced.

No one was working on it when I got there. They’re waiting for the kit. They had plenty of other helicopters to keep them busy, though. Quantum is a large operation.

I’ll go by and visit again later this month or after the kit has arrived. I’ll bring cookies or pizza for the mechanics. (I really regret not stopping for at least cookies today.) I don’t want to be a nuisance, but I do want to keep apprised of the progress. I want to take photos along the way.

And I can’t wait to go flying again.

About the “Postcards” Posts

Lazy blogging at its best.

At this point I think I owe regular readers a quick explanation. 

I normally write very long and drawn out blog posts about cooking, flying, traveling, etc. All kinds of topics — after all, the site is called An Eclectic Mind and I cover an eclectic assortment of topics.

Lately, however, I’ve been on the road traveling south for the winter and I’ve been doing a lot of driving. Although I have my laptop with me, I honestly don’t feel like sitting in front of it typing long blog posts about my travels. Instead, I’ve decided to share short stories about my travels with pictures I’ve taken along the way. That’s with the “postcards” are all about.

I will eventually sit down in front of my computer and write more substantial blog posts about the things I’m doing and thinking. There’s a lot going on in the news and I’m actually following it when I’m on the grid. I just spent two days in Las Vegas and I got really tuned in again. Soon I’ll be housesitting in Wickenburg and have a lot of time on my hands to get some writing done.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t give up on me. If you come here to read my long, thought out blog posts, you will eventually see them again. But it might not be for a few more days. Until then, I hope you enjoy the postcards.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Laughlin, NV

I left Vegas and headed south today. My goal was to find a campsite along the Colorado River near Needles, CA. The direct route took me down Route 95, a typical, mostly straight, desert highway. But when I saw the turn for Laughlin,NV, on the Colorado River, I made a detour. I wanted ice cream.

Laughlin is, in my opinion anyway, a poor man’s Las Vegas. It’s a cluster of about 10 high-rise casino hotels right on the edge of the river. Named for the man who developed the area, Don Laughlin, it attracts mostly seniors from the Sun City area near Phoenix, as well as snowbirds passing through. Indeed, the parking lots were jampacked with motorhomes and trucks pulling fifth wheel trailers.

I’ve been to Laughlin a few times. My wasband and I flew in together at least once, probably in my first helicopter. Back in those days, the airport across the river in Bullhead City, AZ was very close to the river. You’d land and park and then get out and walk to a dock right on the river. A boat would come across the river to fetch you and bring you to Laughlin. I’m pretty sure the boat shuttle was free. 

The time we went there, we went for one of the cheap buffets for lunch. I remember seeing an elderly couple there stuffing food into the pockets of their jackets. I suspect they might’ve been homeless or close to it and had somehow gotten up the money to come to the buffet. It was very sad.

Nowadays, the airport runway is up the hill a bit, farther from the river. The old runway has been turned into a commercial area; there’s a Home Depot on part of it now. When you come in and land, you can still get a shuttle across the river, but it’s in a shuttle van that drives across the bridge. Funny how things change.

Anyway, today I stopped at the Colorado Belle and asked the valet parking attendant where the closest ice cream was. Penny and I walked along the Riverwalk to the Aquarius hotel casino, which I don’t recall being there the last time I was there. I tied Penny up outside, went in, and got ice cream in two cups. We sat by the river and enjoyed them. A lot of old people walked by. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I was the youngest visitor around.

I took these photos before we walked back to the truck. Amazing how blue the water and sky are, eh?

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Behind the Scenes at KÀ

I saw the Cirque du Soleil show KÀ yesterday at the MGM Grand Hotel. I didn’t realize it, but it was the third longest running show in Las Vegas. It’s also the first Cirque du Soleil show to actually have a storyline.

The show was amazing — no doubt about that. Then I had great seats: seventh row center. But I still came out feeling a little disappointed. I like Cirque du Soleil with various acts within the show. And the costumes, of course. And the music. While this show had acrobatic acts and costumes and music, I felt that it relied too heavily on the special effects made available through the incredible stage set up. Simply said: it was a technological marvel more than the amazing human performance i’ve come to expect from Cirque du Soleil.

Yesterday evening, on my way to the show, I heard an announcement that they were going to have a “open house” at the KÀ theater at 11 o’clock today. Because my schedule is sort of free-flowing, I made time to go see it.

It was a half hour presentation led by a man who is involved with the show. After discussing some of the items on display in the lobby of the theater, he brought us inside where we sat in seats and he told us about the various stages and sound system. The theater has 10 stages, several of which move. The most amazing one is the giant flat stage that can be raised, lowered, tilted, and spun. As he told us about this large stage, someone demonstrated the various things it could do, including instantaneously deploying dozens of rods that the performers can use for acrobatics. They then put the stage on its side in a vertical position and used it as a screen for projections they gave us further information about the production.

In all, the open house was fascinating and I’m very glad I stuck around to attend. Here are a few pictures I shot of the theater.

I should mention here that I love to do behind the scenes tours. If you use the search box for this blog, you could find a post about a tour I tagged along on of the Kolb Studios at the Grand Canyon.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: The Las Vegas Strip Walk

One of my very favorite things to do when I come to Las Vegas is to take a very brisk walk along the Strip, walking through hotels and their shopping areas. I start at one end — normally Mandalay Bay or Luxor — and walk along the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard northbound. If I’m feeling very energetic, I can usually get up to Treasure Island. Then I cross the street and I take an equally brisk walk down the other side. This is not a straight line walk; sometimes I’m on the sidewalk, sometimes I’m on a casino floor, sometimes I’m in a shopping area. I zigzag my way north and then south. I do this early in the day, always before noon, and I usually start around 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. That’s when Las Vegas is just starting to wake up but not yet fully engaged.

I did that walk today, although I only got as far as Caesars Palace. I like Caesars, although I’ve never stayed there. I always visit it when I come to town. It was kind of neat to see sashes over the statuary proclaiming Caesars 50th anniversary. It’s really an historic hotel casino, mostly because it’s one of the first on the strip. It used to be a very classy joint inside, but now not quite as much. Everything gets tacky over time in Las Vegas.

One of the reasons I didn’t get any further than Caesars is because of time constraints — I was supposed to meet some friends for lunch. The other reason is that I’m simply out of shape and couldn’t keep up that brisk pace for more than what turned out to be a total of 5 miles. Who says hiking needs to be done in the woods?

I did do some shopping in Caesars Forum Shops. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans and a sweater. I also bought dark chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the Hershey’s store in another casino.  As I mentioned on Twitter, it was a real pleasure to be able to walk through a shopping area without having to stop at every single watch shop or men’s shoe store. That’s one thing about my wasband that I don’t miss it all.

Anyway, these are some of the photos I took along the walk. One of the things I love about Las Vegas is how surreal it is; I think some of these photos illustrate that.