Now that I have Zero-Mike-Lima, it’s time to put it to work.
The thing that bothered me most about the last three weeks I waited for my new helicopter, N630ML (or Zero-Mike-Lima, for short), to be ready for delivery is the number of requests for rides I had to turn down. For a while, I was getting them every day. There was the man who wanted to take his grandkids for a ride and the other man who wanted to take his son for a ride. There was the man who’d lost his dune buggy out in the desert near Aguila and the other man who’d lost his dog. There was the man from England who wanted to take photographs of his newly acquired property at Grantham Ranch and the paving company that wanted to take photos of a number of jobs throughout town and the woman who wanted a photo of her house off Scenic Loop. Saying “I can’t do it right now because my helicopter hasn’t been delivered yet” was killing me, one syllable at a time.
It all came to a head on the week of delivery. They said it would be ready sometime during the first week in January, but when I requested a Thursday delivery, they told me to come on Friday. Friday was the same day that a 5-day storm was expected to descend on LA. And I’d scheduled a little event at Wickenburg Airport for Saturday. I lost my patience, in true New Yorker style, and put my foot down. (I also did a lot of begging.) I arrived at the factory on Thursday just 20 minutes after my money did (a long story) and waited while they pulled all the paperwork together. It was about 4 PM local time when we high-tailed it out of the LA area. We got as far as Bermuda Dunes (east of Palm Springs) that night, then flew the rest of the way home early the next morning. By 11 AM on Friday, Zero-Mike-Lima was in its new home in my hangar.
Of course, LA wasn’t the only place out west to get bad weather. Saturday, the day of my event, was overcast and a bit chilly. But when I got to the airport, people were already waiting for rides. I took about a dozen people up that morning and Zero-Mike-Lima began earning its keep.
I have a big event lined up for this coming Saturday. Robson’s Mining World is having their anniversary celebration. Robson’s is a neat place out in the desert near Aguila, that has an incredible collection of old mining and farming equipment among its other turn-of-the-last-century displays. I wrote about it in an article for wickenburg-az.com. I flew for Robson’s last year with Tristan’s R44, but because I came relatively late (around noon, if I recall) and it wasn’t very well publicized (I was a last-minute add-on), I only took about 20 people up for rides. This time around, I’ll arrive around 8:30 and be all ready to go by 9 AM. My ground crew will consist of Mike, John, and Lorna — the same crew that helped out at Robson’s and an event at Stanton last year. We also have T-shirts for sale to help generate a bit more revenue.
Today, I’m going to pick up Jim Wurth at his house and buzz over to Robson’s to check my landing zone and drop off a few signs and flyers. I’m hoping to use the same LZ I used last year, or perhaps one a bit closer to the road. I’m also hoping all this rain hasn’t softened up the ground too much. I haven’t done any off-airport landings with Zero-Mike-Lima yet (heck, there’s less than 10 hours on the hobbs!), so this should be good practice.
After Robson’s Jim is taking me up to the Burro Creek area, where he says there are a few interesting mine sites I might want to visit for one of my Part 135 tours. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), I need to have an FAA Part 135 certificate to land and discharge passengers for hire. I’m working on getting that valuable piece of paper. In fact, yesterday my FAA contact called to tell me that we were getting close to wrapping the whole thing up. So I should be ready for longer tours and charters by month-end.
Today I may also be doing that flight for the paving company. They called yesterday and set up a tentative time for 2 PM. That would be extremely convenient for me, since that’s when I need to drop Jim off.
I’ve also placed an ad in a movie-industry directory, offering Flying M Air’s services to movie/video makers. I did some research and learned that I could put something called a “Tyler mount” on my helicopter so a camera could be gyro-stablized on the helicopter for smooth filming. The mount is available for rent in California and I may have to fly out there to have it installed. The client, of course, would pay all costs for that, plus a per-hour fee for flight time. One good job would pay for the ad, so I have my fingers crossed. My R44 is a lot less costly to operate than turbine helicopters, so I should attract budget-conscious movie/video makers who want to work in the Phoenix area.
I also spent much of money working on getting out-of-town gigs for the spring. I put out a lot of feelers. Next Monday, I’ll follow up. The one I’m most interested in right now is Quartzsite. With the help of the local police chief, I tracked down a property owner who might let me use his land for operations. Next week is the big RV show week in Quartzsite, the week when its population peaks. According to Ivan, who did a whole season there with a Hiller years ago, Quartzsite can be a very lucrative gig. We’ll see.
One thing is for sure: Zero-Mike-Lima has to work for a living. And it’s my job to make sure it does.