If you have 700 hours to spare and can shim a rotor assembly to within .001 of an inch, here's a hobby for you.
- By James R. Chiles
- Photographs by Joe Loxterkamp
- Air & Space magazine, August 2010
(Page 4 of 4)
Pool is a high-time corporate jet pilot (and licensed airframe-and-powerplant mechanic) who seems content with setting aside time and money to learn the hobby—up to a point: He wants to earn his hover endorsement this week, rather than having to come back later to finish Phase 1. Preston warns him that most students need to come back for an additional week of training before moving on to Phases 2 and 3. In all, someone new to helicoptering could require four trips to Chandler, but at the end he or she will have a gilt-edged rotorcraft license.
Patience and good workmanship is key, says Al Behuncik. “The helicopter is a wonderful machine, but if it’s not built correctly it can and will kill you. There’s no excuse for anyone building a shoddy machine, because the instructional books and videos show you exactly how to do it.”
What do people do with their helicopters upon completion, besides attend fly-ins? As these are experimental craft, commercial use is prohibited. Rod Harms plans on using his Talon for two-hour jaunts to Chicago, packing luggage in a cargo compartment that fits under the cabin. Joe Goetz uses his Helicycle as a volunteer eye in the sky for the sheriff’s department in Maricopa County, Arizona; he enjoys the sense of mission and the fact that when on duty he can land at places otherwise off-limits to helicopters, like downtown parking ramps. Norm St. Peter and his wife use their float-equipped Hummingbird to fly from Florida to northern Maine, where they fish remote lakes.
Checking back with Don Pool at the end of his week at RotorWay, I learn he has beaten the odds and won his hovering endorsement. This opens the way for training at home, followed by more work at Chandler to finish his rating. Then he plans to load his Executive on a trailer and haul it out west behind an RV. Where the pavement stops and the desert begins, he’ll climb in and head for the hills.
James R. Chiles is the author of The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, The Story of the Helicopter (Bantam Dell, 2007).