Three-Niner-Lima is Gone

I deliver my old helicopter to its new owner with one last scenic flight.

On Monday, I delivered N7139L to its new owner, John, in Mesa, AZ.

Normally, it’s about a 50-60 minute flight to Falcon Field. With the high winds from the north that day, I probably could have made it in 45 minutes. But I admit I didn’t take the fastest route to Falcon Field. Instead, I decided to visit a few of the GPS waypoints I’d accumulated during the four years Three-Niner-Lima was in my possession.

The first waypoint I visited was added just this year. It’s an abandoned, partially constructed house north of Lake Pleasant. Jim Wurth had taken me to see it a few months ago. It was quite amazing. On Monday, I simply flew over. No time to stop.

From there, I visited one of my favorite destinations, the landing strip at Red Creek and the Verde River. We’d done a heli group outing there a few years ago on New Year’s Day. There were four helicopters that day and I’m sure I’ve shown off the photos somewhere in the Web. On Monday, I flew over, then dropped down into the Verde Valley. I followed the Verde River south, crossing over marshes, lakes, and dams along the way.

When I got to the Verde’s confluence with the Salt, I went up the Salt River just a little bit, then crossed some mountains east of Falcon Field and approached from the southeast. The wind was howling when I set Three-Niner-Lima down for the last time in a big open taxiway area south of Falcon’s tower. John drove up just as I was cooling down the engine.

We wheeled Three-Niner-Lima to its new home, a T-hangar among the hundreds there. I showed John everything I’d brought for him. I told him about a few of Three-Niner-Lima’s quirks. I watched him slide the hangar door shut, hiding Three-Niner-Lima from view. I remained dry-eyed, despite the fact that I was leaving a good friend.

The money and title changed hands. John drove me up to the shopping center at 74 and I-17. Keri picked me up at the McDonald’s there. We went for lunch at a sports bar in the shopping center, then came back to Wickenburg.

Three-Niner-Lima’s parking space in my hangar is empty. But in about a month, it should be occupied again.

What do you think?