Yarnell Daze — Another Success for Flying M Air

We fly up to Yarnell and spend the day giving helicopter rides.

A while back, I wrote an entry that mentioned Yarnell Daze and the good feelings I got from the folks who wanted me to do helicopter rides there. This is an update.

We flew up at 7:30 AM yesterday. Mike and Alex came with me. (No, not Alex the Bird. Alex, my new ground crew kid.) We brought everything we needed except shade.

Wendy at the Buzzard’s Roost had presold 11 tickets. Not exactly enough to get me excited, but enough to get me up there for the event.

The day started off beautiful: cool and calm. The skies were clear — and stayed clear all day. I did a bunch of rides before taking a break for the parade. My last ride before the parade actually flew over town as the parade was starting, so I did a low, slow fly-by with passengers aboard. They were two teenaged girls and I told them that they could tell their friends they’d been in the parade.

We were set up about 3/4 mile north of town, in a field alongside the road. It was a tricky landing zone because it was surrounded on three sides by wires. That made only one safe way in and out, and there was a mountain in that direction. I’d lift off, make a 180¬? pedal turn, and take off toward the mountain, gaining speed until I went through ETL (effective translational lift), give the cyclic a harder push forward, and then bank to the left toward Peeples Valley. I’d go as far as Hiddens Springs Ranch (a thoroughbred horse ranch), then turn to the left back toward Yarnell. We’d fly over Yarnell and then over the cliff there, so there was suddenly 2000 feet of empty air beneath us. (Very dramatic; the passengers loved it.) Then another right turn, back over town, and back to the landing zone. I’d approach it from the north, making a tight right turn as I slowed and descended to land on my spot. Time elapsed: 8 to 10 minutes.

I shut down during the parade (10 AM) and walked into town with Alex to get lunch. The Buzzard’s Roost had a BBQ lunch special. It was a little skimpy on the meat, but it did include chips and a drink for $5. We bought three and walked back to the LZ. By that time, it was getting hot and the only shade was inside the helicopter. We climbed aboard and ate.

The flying started up again as soon as we dumped the 10 gallons of fuel we’d brought into the ship and took off my door. And it didn’t stop. The people just kept coming. It was a good flow of people because they didn’t all come at once, so no one had to wait more than about 15 minutes. Finally, I got to the point where I needed to fuel up again. I made a trip down to Wickenburg with three passengers aboard. The woman at the FBO, who isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, took nearly 20 minutes to screw up my fuel order. I took another 3 minutes to add 10 more gallons of fuel, then brought my passengers back to Yarnell and kept on flying.

The heat was definitely affecting performance. By noon, I didn’t feel comfortable flying with three full-sized passengers on board. It wasn’t the flight that concerned me. It was take off. The wind had picked up and I was taking off with a tail wind. At times, it may have been as much as 10 knots. Great for landing into, but tough for taking off with at your back. So I gave Mike definite instructions about total passenger weights and told him to use the scale we’d brought. One 255-lb guy got pissed when we wouldn’t let him on board — my legal per seat weight limit is 250 — but I didn’t care. Safety first. We just gave him his money back. At least his daughter got to fly with me.

We did two freebie flights for folks that work for the Yarnell Chamber of Commerce. I still owe Wendy a flight for all the work she did selling the tickets.

It was about 2 PM when we called it quits. I shut down to stretch my legs and help the guys load up. Another potential passenger showed up, but we told her we were done for the day. Done isn’t the word. I was well done, like a roast left in the oven too long.

We flew back down to Wickenburg and I landed in one of the helispots. I shut down while Mike fetched his car and cranked the air conditioner. Then I just locked up the helicopter — with all our gear in there — and we went home, stopping to drop off Alex the Ground Crew Kid at home and pick up Alex the Bird at work.

I figure we flew about 50 people — our second best event ever. And it was a real pleasure to help contribute to the success of the event.

Thanks very much to the folks at the Yarnell Chamber of Commerce. I hope I can do this again next year!

What do you think?