On April 29, 1993 I was helping Dan VanDuesen get ready for his private Pilot helicopter check ride.This was in the early 1990's and we were borrowing Wayne Berry's Scorpion 145 to practice autos. My ship was torn down following an electrical fire (that is covered under wiring in Hints and Tips). Dan's ship was torn down because that is what we did with the early ships, they were always breaking. These were single ignition systems and were quite prone to failure. Wayne was waiting for us back at my hanger as we flew off to train.

Dan was climbing out after a practice auto when the main rotor RPM began to fall. At first I thought that Dan had accidentally rolled the throttle off so I rolled it full on with no response from the engine. I immediately lowered the collective into the pocket and told Dan "I've got it". On climb out Dan had turned to where the helicopter had a quartering left tail wind. When the engine quit we were still in a slight climb attitude so we used up some of our altitude to establish the auto and begin a left turn. I continued the turn into the wind, leveled with a left quartering head wind, and flared into a slight depression of the pasture over which we had been training. Above is a shot of the ship that I took as I returned with parts, my camera, and tools.

This was my first to-the-ground-for-real auto ever. I was so surprised when we were sitting on the ground in the quiet watching the rotors wind down. During the flare the tail rotor kissed the top of two rocks and the skids drug on another one, see below. The gear bows were slightly bent during the landing.

The only tools that we had with us was a Leatherman multi-tool that I carried on my belt whenever I was Rotorway flying. With the multi-tool we were able to determine that the ignition coil on the Scorpions single ignition system had failed. I had the same coil on my Exec 152 so I walked the three miles back to my home and left Dan to guard the helicopter from the curious cattle that were grazing nearby. Dan said that they were all bulls with big horns and bigger attitudes, but I was too elated at the completion of a successful engine-out auto that I did not even notice them.

When I arrived back at my hangar I entered from the street side and at the other end sat Wayne Berry looking out the large hangar door into the distance as he wondered where his helicopter was. By this time it had been two hours since we left and his Scorpion only held one and a half hours of fuel. Wayne knew that something was wrong but did not know what to do about it.

When I said "Hi Wayne" he about fell over on his stool. I then proceeded to tell him what had happened and that we needed to take the coil out of my ship to install in his. In short order we were in Wayne's pickup heading for the helicopter. We had to get the land owners permission first, and then drove out to the wounded helicopter.

In the photo above Dan is congratulating me on my first ever autorotation to the ground. I now felt like a for-real helicopter pilot.

Above are the the three rocks that we scuffed with the helicopter on ground contact. The larger one on the back was under the left skid where the landing bow was bent a bit. The other two had aluminum scuffs on them from the tail rotor blade just kissing them during the flare as I repeated to myself "make it stop" so that we would not rock forward and roll over. The tail rotor blades each had a shiny spot along the center line of the blade end cap but were not damaged at all.

While I was walking home to get the replacement coil and some tools, Dan took the two smaller rocks and used a marker that he carried to memorialize the event. I have done quite a few real touch-down autos for real and in training since then but that first one sticks in my mind more than any other. On the back side of my rock dan wrote a cool note and signed it for me.

As I am writing this I see the rock were it always rests, right on my desk. It is a constant reminder that things can go wrong when flying a helicopter but if the pilot has the proper training the end result will be positive in most cases.

Dan took one of the rocks and gave me the other one. Wayne got the one with the long scratch on it from the skids. I saw Dan just this past December at the Sierra Rotorcraft Club Christmas party held each year at Ruffin and Lois Appersons home. He told me that his rock, like mine, still sits on his desk as a tribute to our experience together.

In the photo above Wayne walks around his little Scorpion checking it out. Notice that he has his rock in hand.

After we replaced the damaged coil with the one from my Rotorway, I fired the engine and it ran perfectly. After the normal warm-up I picked up into a hover and hovered for several minutes. It was running great so I bid my crew goodbye and flew it back to my home helipad.

If memory serves me right, Dan opted to ride back with Wayne so I had changed the ballast weight location.

During this time I was also instructing Wayne in his Scorpion. Wayne was the source of some of my favorite flight instructing stories. He was really having a hard time learning to hover his little ship. We would go out into my hover training area and Wayne would soon be yanking the cyclic all over the place with enthusiasm but the helicopter just would not do what he wanted it to. I told way in a very soothing voice,"Wayne, she is a beautiful woman, relax and just dance with her". His immediate reply as he continued to thrash the cyclic control was "I'm dancing with her but she aint dancing with me". I nearly lost it, just the way he said it struck my funny bone and I had to set it down so that I could recover.

Finally I did get Wayne to become a great hoverer. He loved to hover so much that he did not want to do anything else. Wayne had his Scorpion at every SRC event and always wanted me to give everyone rides in it. Once I landed he would bring some stranger over and say, here is another one Orv, take 'em up. I literally gave hundreds of rides in Wayne's little ship. Any club member who was at the meetings could always depend on Wayne to offer a ride as long as I was piloting his ship.

It turns out that Wayne was afraid of heights. We would depart from my helipad and he would hold onto the doorway tight as we climbed to clear the wires. As soon as we did he would say "Take it down, Orvie" he always called me that. He became our champion cross-country hoverer. We would hover across the open fields until we came to a fence, road, tree line, etc. where he would give me the controls to hop the ship over the obstruction and then he would take it again and continue to do what he loved almost as much as his wife, hovering his little Rotorway Scorpion 145.

Wayne was a great friend and passed away from a massive heart attack several years ago. He told me about a year before he passed that one of the highlights of his life was my helping him to fulfill his life-long dream of flying his own helicopter. Anyone who knew Wayne would attest that he was one in a Million and was definitely a generous and loving friend.

We miss you Wayne.

The above photo shows Wayne looking at his bent landing gear on his Scorpion 145 after I set it down on my helipad at home. He was obviously thinking hard about how we were going to straighten out the gear. Wayne had the skids off and fixed within a week and we were back to teaching him to hover.
Wayne kept his ship in my hangar and asked me to fly it every week if I had the time. I loved flying the little Scorpion so Sheila and I flew it a lot. I even taught my wife Sheila to fly in that helicopter. For some reason she felt more comfortable in the Scorpion than in my ship, perhaps it was the in-flight electrical fire while she was with me in my Exec, or was it the fuel leak that poured fuel all over the cabin while at altitude. Once I re-engineered every component on my Exec and put in redundant systems, she started to really enjoy it and learned to love flying it as well.