It has been
several months since I have flown due to my wifeís deteriorating
health. Many of you know that Sheila has been battling heart failure
for the past 16 years and 2003 has been incredibly hard on her.
We left Sun n Fun several days early due to her condition worsening.
On May the 26th her health deteriorated further and she was hospitalized,
and on June 6, 2003 was placed on the heart transplant list at Barnes
Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO. By June 7th miraculously there
was a heart available for transplant and Sheila was a perfect match.
She was transplanted on the 7th of June and then
had numerous complications that necessitated a 2 month hospital
stay. We are now home and she is undergoing physical therapy while
I help out with the domestic duties. As I have not flown in a couple
of months, I am anxious to get back to instructing, and by the time
this article is read, I most likely will be doing just that once
again, depending on my wifeís recovery rate.
I have had several students express interest in
bringing their helicopters here to our facility in Missouri and
that works out quite well.
With all of the talk of secondary shaft failures
lately, I was reflecting back on some of the memorable flights that
we have experienced in the early years of my Rotorway flying. In
those days there was not a secondary problem that we were aware
of, I had never heard of a 30mm shaft secondary breaking, though
we had other challenges of our own.
One particularly memorable flight comes to mind
that took place in the early Ď90ís. The Sierra Rotorcraft Club decided
to do a fly out of a group of Rotorway helicopters from the Nut
Tree Airport in Central California to Marysville airport in Northern
California. As I recall it was about a one hour flight. There were
four ships going on this adventure.
Steven flew his new Exec 90 over from his helipad
in the Napa Valley, it was the newest ship in the club. Bill flew
his black Exec in from the Napa airport. Dan flew ďTAZZĒ, his immaculate
Exec, up from Livermore, and Sheila and I flew our Exec from our
helipad 6 miles north of the Nut Tree airport. At that time Billís
helicopter was not equipped for night flight. Dan and I had outfitted
our ships with all sorts of lighting, multiple strobes, position
lights, and I even had retractable landing lights that lowered from
the bottom of the tub with a flick of a switch on the cyclic. We
were planning on being home well before dark so lighting was not
really a concern.
We departed as a group after topping off our fuel
tanks at the Nut Tree airport and flew in a line formation up the
Sacramento Valley towards Marysville. Around 15 miles from our destination
Billís helicopter developed a coolant leak in one of his radiator
hoses. We radioed him to inform him that he was on fire as there
was a large cloud of white smoke billowing out of the engine compartment.
Bill did an immediate set down in a field and the rest of us landed
and helped him extinguish the fire. After the fire was put out we
found that one of the water hoses, which were all fairly old, had
split and was spraying anti-freeze onto the exhaust pipe. Fortunately
there was no other damage as a result of the fire. The hose was
removed and Bill doubled up with one of the other pilots (remember
to change the ballast weight in such a situation) and we arrived
at Marysville in a flight of 3 Rotorway helicopters.