Author Archives: Twolane

About Twolane

Helicopter aviator in my younger days, but then flew a desk once I retired from active flying in 1981.

Wheeling and dealing

In 1977, Larry and Viking Helicopters had a Hughes 500 for sale. I looked it over, and then I asked an engineer that I had worked with and trusted to take a good look at it. Mechanically, it appeared to be in pretty good shape. The books looked just as good. Many of the components would last for a year or much longer – depending on usage – before needing any major replacements.

It turned out to be a long walk back to Larry’s office by way of the hanger, during which time many on the shop floor told me that I’d never do it. In fact, I think I recall getting only a single “good luck”. I can tell you that that negativity only encouraged me even more.

With a handshake between us to seal the deal, I was almost the proud owner of a Hughes 500. That handshake held QYU, with a reasonable time limit, until I could arrange financing. I sold everything I owned, found a bank willing to work with me, and damned if I didn’t come up with the money. I was about to become the proud owner of a Hughes 500 C-18, with the lighter transmission.

I returned to Ottawa, shook hands on the deal, and damned if I wasn’t taken by complete surprise when Larry asked if he’d be able to lease the helicopter for a year. Another handshake ensued.

Unasked, Larry went into his file cabinets and brought out copies of several leases for me to take away. He told me I could use them as examples when writing my own lease. When I returned once again, lease in hand, I was told that I had written one of the better leases that he had seen. Whether that was true or not, I was happy.

Larry must have been happy, too, because we shook hands again after we signed and initialed.
The deal was done.

Over time I added the heavy-duty transmission. The C-18 was upgraded to a C-20. In 1979, the aircraft rolled down a hill. Thankfully, no one was injured. Damage was light. Before long, thanks to the lease requirements, it was back in the air, happily turning another 700 hours a year, 200 more than the annual requirement for each lease.

When the helicopter business went into the doldrums in 1981, Larry gave me plenty of warning that he’d be unable to pick up the lease for another term. I didn’t mind. Each year the aircraft operated, I managed to bank an additional 200 hours beyond the lease requirements.

I sold the helicopter to a mom-and-pop operator from western Canada. Sight unseen, and without looking at the tech logs or taking a test flight, the new owner picked it up and ferried it west.

I happily waved good-bye, retired from active flying, and took some time off. The pickle-jar theory of accounting had won out yet again.

Site update

I finally found the time to do a site update. The new theme allows  the site to fit within the display on any device, be it phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop. It’s called making the site responsive, and while it’s not new by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve only just taken the time to upgrade.

Surprisingly, this site continues to generate many thousands of hits in the search engines. I never dreamed that when I began it in 2009 that it would ever get, and remain, so widely popular into 2015. Many thanks to the image contributors (read who they are in the sidebar) as well as the many who find the place, spend time looking around, and choose to leave comments.

January 1979 in northern Quebec

An unremarkable two-month winter contract at Storm Lake in January of 1979 turned into a disaster for the drilling company. The weather held, sunshine and blue sky prevailed, and everyone was happy, until

  • the temperature went down to -55F (-48C) and stayed there for the duration of the job.
  • freezing water lines couldn’t be prevented.
  • the DC-3 supplying the camp went through the ice.

There was plenty of lift in the cold, dense air, however, and camp food was excellent.

Needless to say, we were all happy to see the end of that one.

Thanks for the memories

I’m saddened to learn that Jim Hawes passed away. When I met him in 1971, Jim was an engineer with Midwest. At the time, I was a lowly apprentice. Jim later went on to own Custom Helicopters.

Occasionally, when I rode east, I’d stop in for a visit at the hangar and we’d share some laughs and tall tales while reminiscing over the experiences we had and the people we knew from “back in the old days”. Both he and I always spoke kindly of them all, and we did so with huge grins on our faces.

Thanks for the memories, Jim. It was great to have known you.