I get a call for a flight I won’t do — no matter how much is offered.
Last night, at almost 9:30 PM, my phone rang. Caller ID displayed a Bellevue (Seattle area) phone number. I answered as I usually do:
Me: Flying M, Maria speaking.
Him: Oh, hi. Is your helicopter out?
That was a weird question. I started to wonder whether this was going to be some kind of noise complaint call. If so, they had the wrong operator.
Him: Good. I need you to fly me from Manson to Lake Stevens.
Manson is a small town on Lake Chelan, about 30 miles from where I live. I wasn’t sure exactly sure where Lake Stevens was, but I knew it was on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, at least an hour flight time away.
I actually wasn’t surprised. His tone had that kind of urgency about it.
Me: I can’t do that.
Him: Well, I got your number from Dale.
Dale is another helicopter pilot with a business almost identical to mine. He’s based up in Chelan and actually lives in Manson. This guy had obviously called him first and Dale, being no idiot, wasn’t going to do the flight either. I could imagine this guy pressing him for an alternative and Dale giving him my number just so he could hang up. But getting my number from Dale doesn’t mean I’d be willing to do the flight either.
Me: You want me to fly you from Manson to Seattle in a helicopter at 9:30 on a Sunday night?
Him: Lake Stevens.
Me: Sorry, no.
Him: I’ll pay you $2500.
Me: No. I wouldn’t do it for any price. Sorry.
It kind of pisses me off when people think they can buy me. I’m not desperate for money. The truth of the matter is, the flight would have cost him about $1500 anyway, which probably would have surprised him. But I didn’t care. There was no way I was going to fly across the Cascades at night. My helicopter is VFR only and I had no idea what the cloud cover was to the west. (It’s socked in more often than not.) It also wasn’t legal for me to take the flight because (1) I wasn’t current for night flying with passengers and (2) I’d had two glasses of wine that evening.
There was some more talk back and forth. He was clearly outraged — and I don’t use that word as an exaggeration — that I wouldn’t drop everything on a Sunday night to fly him to the Seattle area. It was difficult to get off the phone with him without being rude. I kept wondering why he seemed to think that calling for a helicopter was just like calling for a cab ride. Finally, I was able to get off the phone with him.
Some people, I thought to myself. And then I put it out of my head.
Until about 20 minutes later.
I’d just gotten into bed and turned off the light when my phone rang. It was the same number. I didn’t answer it. Could he really expect a business to answer the phone at 10 PM?
Two minutes later, I got a text:
$2100 to fly me to lake Stevens right now
Apparently, the price had dropped. Maybe he didn’t recall offering me $400 more during his call.
I ignored the text.
If you don’t understand what makes this kind of request “unreasonable,” it’s this:
A Part 135 charter operator is required by the FAA to perform several preflight actions. These include preflighting the aircraft to make sure it’s airworthy, adding fuel if necessary, obtaining accurate information about the current weather conditions, obtaining information about the intended destination and alternatives, creating a flight plan, calculating a weight and balance for the passenger/cargo load, and preparing a flight manifest. This takes time — often more than an hour. I typically like at least 24 hours notice for charter flights but have done them with as few as two or three. But immediate? Never.
Besides, it was 9:30 on a Sunday night, long after anyone’s normal business hours. How can anyone possibly expect immediate charter aircraft service at that time?
I seriously doubt this guy got anyone to fly him to Lake Stevens last night. There’s no airport there so he’d have to go by helicopter or seaplane. And although there is a seaplane operator at Lake Chelan, I’m sure that company was all tucked in for the night, too.
Now I’m wondering whether I’ll hear from him again this morning. I’m just hoping that he calls Dale first and Dale takes him.