On Irresponsible and Inconsiderate People

A costly let down.

Today, four days before I was supposed to accompany two pilots as they flew my helicopter from Seattle to Phoenix, I received an e-mail message from one of the pilots. He claimed that his companion couldn’t get time off from work for the trip. Since he couldn’t afford to make the flight on his own, he was going to have to cancel. I should contact one of my “backups” to make the trip with me.

There are no backups. There were two other pilots interested in making the flight, but I told them that the seats were already taken. That was two months ago, when these clowns said they’d do the flight. Did these guys think I had a room full of pilots waiting for them to back out? Or that most people can drop everything to arrange a spur-of-the-moment, two-day trip between Seattle and Phoenix? Or that I can get someone else on my insurance that quickly?

Yes, I’d planned this flight two months ago. I was in Washington State with the helicopter for cherry drying season and I knew I needed to get the helicopter back. I put the word out to the five people I had on a list who’d said they were interested in doing ferry flights with me. Two dropped out right away because of date conflicts. I chose one of the guys who was left because I’d flown with him before. Back then, he’d asked if he could do the return trip and I told him I’d keep him in mind. He was a known. The other two were unknowns. I went with the known. He was bringing along his student pilot to share the costs. Seemed like a good plan.

The trip had several date changes. At first, it was August. Then I gave him a choice between late August or Labor Day week in September. He chose September. We were supposed to go on Wednesday, but my helicopter is waiting for a part, so I had to push it back to Friday.

I was assured there would be no problem right up until I got the e-mail message this morning.

The bastard was too cowardly to call. (That rumor about me being able to beat people to a pulp over a phone line is simply not true.)

Clearly, he knew he wasn’t going for at least a week. If he planned to go, he would have bought his return plane ticket. I bought my ticket up there as soon as I had a solid date — nearly two weeks ago. He probably never bought his. Never made an investment in the flight. Nothing to lose by canceling.


The trip will cost me over $3,000. I expected to receive almost that much from the pilots renting my aircraft for the flight. It would have been an almost break-even ferry flight. They would have built R44 time for about half the cost of renting one through the usual channels. I would have had my helicopter moved 1,000 miles for next to nothing.

But now I’m scrambling for paying passengers or other pilots willing to take their place.

In the end, Mike will likely go up to Seattle with me and we’ll share flying duties for the return flight. It’ll be a very costly two days together.

What amazes me about this is how completely irresponsible and inconsiderate some people can be. Not only are these clowns costing me at least $3,000, but they caused me to let down two other pilots who likely would have done the entire flight with me.

I wonder how reliable these guys will be when employed as pilots. Will they fail to show up at work for their week on at the Canyon? Sleep late when they need to pick up passengers in the Gulf? Cut corners on the routes when running tours in Hawaii? Let accident victims die because they don’t feel like firing up the medevac helicopter so medics can scrape them off the pavement?

Do I sound angry? I am.

Jeez, I would never do this kind of thing to someone.

But, as my friend Jim reminded me this afternoon, I’ve been riding with Lady Luck for quite a while now. Gotta take the bad with the good. So I’ll cough up the money and try not to think about it.

As for the little bastard that cost me all this money, I just hope he’s stupid enough to put me or one of my friends down on his resum√© as a reference.

Interested in making the flight? Check out the Craig’s List listing if you don’t mind me doing the flying.

8 thoughts on “On Irresponsible and Inconsiderate People

  1. Did you get anything in writing from these guys? I’ve learned through various experiences when dealing with something as costly as that, always get the commitment in writing. Verbal word means nothing from most people these days. Then you could have had a penalty clause in there stating they were responsible for X amount of dollars if they bailed. A cancellation fee if you will.

    Regardless, hate to hear this Maria. A pisser for sure.

    • Nope, I’m an idiot, pure and simple. I trust people who give me their word — imagine that! From now on, I’ll ask for a 50% deposit. That should be enough to keep them motivated.

  2. Sorry you got stiffed Maria. I’d have taken it if I wasn’t reading this for the first time at 0030 on Friday with a deadline to meet this afternoon (I’m at PSC, about 2 hours east of BFI, and have a flexible schedule). What better way to get experience than by flying with a real-world pilot? These guys have only reinforced the notion that bringing along a low-time pilot on a ferry is just a pain in the ass for you (or any other operator). All those wasted left seats where a new pilot could learn something….

    The one great ferry experience I had went like this: the pilot offered it up, I sent him my resume and contact info, and he sent me the details for the flight. He made it clear he was going to follow through on his offer, and I saw it as my responsibility to show him I wasn’t going to leave him hanging. The day he gave me a definite date for the flight, I bought my return ticket and sent him the itinerary. I only got 2 hours of flight time, but spent a day talking to somebody who’s been flying for 30+ years–and who went out of his way to share his experience. You aren’t an idiot. These guys took advantage of you and blew a good opportunity.

    Hope you have a safe, smooth flight.

    • Chris: Thanks very much. As we prep for the flight this morning, I’m pretty excited about doing the flight with my husband, sharing flight time with him. It’ll be a great flight — their loss, for sure. Maybe we’ll fly together sometime in the future; I do this flight twice a year.

  3. Update: The guy who stiffed me was hired as a CFI, which I still can’t believe. Found out recently that he lost his job when he let a student overspeed the engine on start-up. (That happens when the throttle is wide open.) I hope he’s flipping burgers in McDonald’s now. I have a long memory and know how to hold a grudge.

  4. Pretty much every time I’ve done a cross country ferry trip in a helicopter, it was solo. Most of those have been for EMS companies, so there’s no provision for dual controls anyway. It would be nice to have another pilot along, even if it’s just for keeping the aircraft upright when refolding a sectional or grabbing a drink. Like all helicopter pilots I’ve flown a fair amount with the cyclic clamped between my knees as I’ve fumbled with one thing or another, but it’s not really a good substitute for another set of hands. Autopilots are rare as hens teeth in the helicopter world (a fact which is often a surprise to airplane pilots), an unfortunate consequence of how much control authority helicopters need even for mundane tasks. Having finally flown a couple of twin turbine models that did have the full autopilot set up, I’d have a hard time going back to flying without one, especially on long ferry flights. It’s too bad that you got burned by that flake, hopefully his karma will reflect. :)

What do you think?