To make this website work, we log user data. By using Shephard's online services, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including cookie policy.

Open menu Search

Podcast: Revolutions in Vertical Flight S2 E4 - The Utility of the Helicopter

7th September 2021 - 12:00 GMT | by Studio

The helicopter has become an essential tool for militaries, parapublic agencies and emergency services. But its unique characteristics have also ensured a vital role for the helicopter across a myriad of commercial activities.

Welcome to Shephard Studio’s podcast series on Revolutions in Vertical Flight, sponsored by our partner Bell.

Listen on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify and more.

In our first series, we learnt about the history of vertical flight and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today. 

In this second series, we learn more about the helicopter’s role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public and ultimately save lives. 

We'll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future, discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further.

In this episode, we hear the helicopter's unique set of operating characteristics has seen it used for tasks that can't be achieved with other types of aircraft, or that would be too time or work-intensive to accomplish on the ground.

Episode 5 of the second series: Providing Disaster Relief is here.


A transcript of this episode is below:

Arthur Young 00:00  Way back, people used to ask me what would be the use of a helicopter? When I was trying to make models and stuff. 

Narrator 00:09 This is Arthur Young, the inventor who designed Bell's first helicopter, and who single handedly helped create an industry. 

Arthur Young 00:18  I was very impatient with that, trying to answer that question. It had nothing to do with what I was doing. I was trying to make one that worked. What people did with it, I didn't really care. I prepared a stock answer. It would be invaluable for oiling weather vents. Actually, it wasn't such a silly answer after all, because one of the first uses that they made of the helicopter was to blow the dew from cherries. That's a little more ridiculous than oiling weather vents. I mean, you wouldn't think of it. But actually, they say, like a $6,000 cherry crop a month, half hour's flight, they just blow the orchard and blow the dew. See the dew collects on these ripe cherries and gets drawn into the cherrry and breaks the skin so they're ruined. But there are many other strange uses that helicopter was put to. 

Narrator 01:38 Author Young's words underscore the sheer versatility of the new type of aircraft that he helped pioneer. The helicopter has become an essential tool for militaries, parapublic agencies and emergency services. But its unique characteristics have also ensured a vital role for the helicopter across a myriad of commercial activities. Today, the helicopter is used in ways that Arthur Young could never have imagined. Welcome to Shepherd Studios Revolutions in Vertical Flight, brought to you in partnership with Bell. In our first series, we learnt about the history of vertical flight and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today. In this second series, we learn more about the helicopter's role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public and ultimately save lives.  

We'll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future. Discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further. The helicopter has a unique set of operating characteristics. It can take off and land vertically, it can hover for extended periods, and it has unique handling properties under low airspeed conditions. Therefore, the helicopter is used for tasks that can't be achieved with other types of aircraft, or that would be too time or work intensive to accomplish on the ground. Helicopters provide vital services and construction, logging and agriculture. Helicopters provide stunning scenic flights for tourists and act as an eye in the sky for news media.  

A helicopter has now even taken off and landed on the surface of Mars. When Arthur young and the other helicopter pioneers were laying down their plans, they could not imagine every roll their designs but eventually play. Columbia Helicopters is a US company that helped pioneer many of today's helicopter applications, Wes Lematta founded the company over 60 years ago. Wes' younger brother Jim Minamata spoke with us to discuss the early days of helicopter logging operations. 

Jim Lematta 04:30 Wes back in 1962, he had the idea of helicopter logging, even though we didn't have only the small helicopters. He went up to Alaska and looked into it and obviously didn't have a large enough helicopter to do this. 1971 we had the Sikorsky helicopter and also Jack Erickson had to had some timber sale down in California so that the two, Columbia and Erickson got together and did their first logging in January 1971. But I'll jump back a little bit on the Boeing Vertol helicopters. In 1969, New York airways had seven Boeing Vertol helicopters and they went into bankruptcy and they were up for sale. Wes and I, we went back to New York and looked at them and tried to make a deal with them. There was three of them, that New York Airways actually owned, and the four of the others were owned by Pan American Airlines. We couldn't a get deal put together, so we went to Pan American Airlines while we were back in New York, and we bought those for in 1969. Then we put those to work pretty much immediately up in Alaska at the North Slope when they discovered the oil up in Alaska North Slope. Then after we started this logging in 71, then we put the other vertols into logging later that year. That's kind of how the logging came about. 

Narrator 06:14 As the helicopter was finding a role in logging and construction, the offshore oil and gas sector realised the benefits of the helicopter in servicing offshore platforms. Mike Suldo is Belle's Customer Support Manager for energy, who has extensive experience in the sector. 

Mike Suldo 06:34 But oil and gas offshore is probably the biggest market that started in 1949 with PHI Bob Suggs and Dukey Byeon they spent $100,000 and bought three Bill 47 helicopters so you can see there's a real commonality there in the late 1940s, and Bell Helicopter starting all these industries. They provided services to a place called hellhole by you in the northern Gulf of Mexico in the swamps. Because of the alligators in the mosquitoes, nobody wanted to go in there but the helicopters could get them. Met a lot of growth in the market and a lot of improvements over the time. When I first started flying offshore, I spent 20 years as a Navy pilot after getting out of college. Then an early 1990s late 1980s I started flying offshore and I didn't have GPS. We didn't have GPS or anything. Back then we hadn't Loran and the helicopters and no radar altimeters are very few no no radar, no auto pilots, none of the modern things. Now we've got GPS, EGPWS, HUMS, TCAS, ADSB, tonnes of things. ADSB is one of the best late improvements for safe, dependable operations. Now we're going 250 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which is a pretty good trip.  

Narrator 07:49  Wind farms are a smaller market for the helicopter industry at the moment. Though environmental concerns are fueling growth. Piloted rotorcraft still play a key role in the industry. Although the sector is one that could see increased use of unmanned aircraft in the future. 

Mike Suldo 08:08 Yeah, I think UAVs will probably take over and Bell is a leader in the UAV, UAS field. We have some neat products in the pipeline right now the new powerline infections. Sooner or later, I think you may see UAVs take a bigger part of that market. But it all depends. If we do away with fossil fuel, there won't be a lot of coal fired power plants and other power plants that have power lines coming out of them. I think a lot depends on the political climate pf the United States for the next few years. But right now, it's a pretty stable and steady market because it's regulatory, you have to do it. For regulatory and economics, you have to do it, so they have to have the helicopters right now. I mean, we're looking at two different types of helicopters for wind farm.  

For construction, you need something like a 412 to take a lot of people out and take a lot of cargo out when they're building the wind farms, to like a mothership out there. Then once that wind farm is built, you have to be able to have a smaller light twin like the 429 to be able to take the technicians out and winch them down to the deck to do maintenance on the wind farm at quite regular frequencies. If you're in close to shore, they do it by boats. But once you get 25 miles or so offshore then helicopters are much more efficient. 

Narrator 09:20 From servicing oil and gas and wind farm platforms far offshore to inland where the helicopter plays a central role in agriculture, supporting farms, vineyards, and orchards. Marlborough Helicopters provides a range of services from its base at the top of New Zealand's South Island. Here's Simon Moar CEO of the company. 

Simon Moar 09:46 We do pretty much anything that involves using the helicopter, apart from the EMS contracts that are in New Zealand now in search and rescue, but any other commercial type missions will do. Firefighting, spraying top dressing scenic flights, support work in the sand. We'll do lifting. We'll do all sorts of commercial lifting. We've done things like banner flying, you name it, we've usually had something to do with it. It's pretty much what the company's established a good history of being able to accommodate most missions. 

Narrator 10:31 Here is Owen Dodson, the former CEO of the company, who still flies for Marlborough Helicopters today. 

Owen Dodson 10:40 We do a lot of predominately brush weed spraying for private farm clients for forestry, commercial forests that have us on a rotational basis. We operate some specialized low drift equipment called through valve boom out of the states. Represents probably the top tier of low drift or drift control equipment. Yeah, that requires a good GPS to make it to fly accurately, to avoid striping and provide a good job. Outside the spraying, we also do a bit of bucket work with farmers, bit of fertilizer and sand on pine trees is a better fertilizer as well, but a bit of trace element stuff. Other underslung agricultural work would be baiting, which is become a larger part of the operation for pitfall control of possums and rats and rabbits. 

Conservation Department, New Zealand have determined it's the most effective way to control rodents on a landscape basis. It has received significant funding from central government over the last three or four years. It looks like it's sustainable, that they're sustaining that level of spending. It's quite a big part of the operation there. But we've got a vineyard work as well but a fungicide work in the spring on grapes. Outside the agricultural work we support utilities so remote area access for staff to repeater sites, the local power reticulation company is probably one of our bigger commercial customers following a storm, we will carry out line patrols to find faults and also carry out repair work as far as new poles, new transformers running new wires. That external load work, at the Marlborough Sounds in the area here which is a significant area of coastline and waterways where excess is difficult. We will fly building products off barges onto building sites for homeowners and builders. 

Narrator 12:44 In a rugged and isolated part of the world such as Marlborough, the helicopter brings a range of advantages to the clients. 

Simon Moar 12:52 One of the things with Marlborough in particular is quite isolated some of the back country work and the mobile sounds makes exits pretty awkward. Some building sites for example, down there that might be two or 300 metres off the shore. Getting materials and stuff onto those building sites just requires aerial support to do that. I think other things long standing company in the region. It means experience and pilots that have been here a long time and know the region well, weather and stuff like that, that we understand pretty well. Because we've been here a long time and had that experience.  

Narrator 13:32  Helicopters conduct a range of vital agricultural tasks, including the spraying of crops, which requires specialist equipment and careful planning.  

Simon Moar 13:43  Yeah, that's something that we pride ourselves on. We've done it for a long time. We've got very specialist gear for obviously Marlborough being a grape region, huge spray drift in chemical damage risks there. That was identified early on where the previous owner even before Owen came on board that we needed some equipment that actually reduced the risk of us potentially damaging vineyards, because there's just a multi billion dollar industry here, so we can't afford to have stuff up in that department. We're one of only two companies in New Zealand that ran the through valve boom system, which is obviously designed in America, but it creates a very large droplet which keeps the fines to a minimum. Which the fines are obviously which drift away. Large droplets that prove extremely valuable to us in the productivity of what they bring to our business. Therefore that rolls on to the client. The clients know that the job doesn't, if it's within a k of a vineyard, that they're not going to have to worry about whether the neighbour is going to ring up and complain about it. 

Narrator 14:51 One essential role that helicopters play in the region, at least as far as fans of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc are concerned, is protecting grapes from frost damage. Flying helicopters above vineyards and orchards at key points during the night is an effective way of protecting crops from frost damage. The helicopter flies in the inversion layer, forcing the warmer air down to circulate amongst the crop. 

Owen Dodson 15:18 We get a call from the client the day before that frost is forecast for the following morning. We'll make sure the equipment's ready to go, the machines have the lights on, we've got the right support equipment, fuel on site. Then we just wait for a phone call. The vineyard owner or manager will monitor the temperature through the night. Once they get to a stage they feel they need to fly to protect the vineyard from damage, they'll give us a call. Typically, within 30, 40 minutes, we can be on site flying. 

Simon Moar 15:49 I mean, we were basically bringing down the inversion layer. With any frost, you generally have a warm air layer. We're just bringing that warm air layer down may only be 150 feet that you bring that warm air layer down, and mix it in with the cold air. Yeah, not really rocket science. 

 Owen Dodson 16:06 In the early 2000s, up to 200 would come into the region on a decent forecast. They came from all over the South of Ireland and even some from right off the top of the north of Ireland. That'd be three to four hours flying away, that'd get here, that come out, that position the day before, if needed that work that night. Then they disappear the following day. Some of them would get called back the following evening to come back. The vineyard industry took a bit of a hit as far as prices and returns go in about 2008. Since then that's more been a dozen or two or three would return up until this year, we recently had about 120 turn up for a frost event this last spring. That's more reflective of the returns from viticulture stacking up from medicalised machines.  

But we'll never see the return to a couple of 100 because there's so many more options. Now for process control is predominately windmills. But there's also water used for frostage as well. We'll have a thermometer on board tells us what the outside temperature of the air is and we will try and find an aversion layer hopefully within 50 60, 70 feet of the ground and we'll just fly at an airspeed such that will draw the air down to the ground. It's certainly below translation but just depends on how high we are. If you're 100 feet high, you might be able to walk in speed and if you're down at 20 feet, you can probably get a fast clip. People think helicopters are expensive, but it's a small price to pay for the potential of them losing the crop. What one machine will typically only look after a jet Ranger type machine will look after about 15 or 20 acres or about six or eight hectares. Because you've got to be able to go over it, depending on how hard the frost is you've got to be able to go back over at about 20 minutes to avoid damage. 

Narrator 18:16 For an operator such as Marlborough Helicopters, which has the experience and expertise to carry out a range of missions, the very utility of the helicopter ensures that no two days are ever the same.  

Owen Dodson 18:30 I guess any of the one offs are a bit unusual. We've lifted deceased bodies off hillsides. We've lifted an orb out of the safe corporate getaway. I'm not quite sure what it was but it was also tied a birthday banner around a ship down the sands for some wealthy overseas client that had his yacht there for the week. But even some of the more common jobs we do can be quite memorable. We lit a fire for a farmer, a private client only a couple weeks ago. It was about 400 hectares nearly 1000 acres. It went up like a firestorm. It was one of the most impressive fires I've lit. It's quite memorable. When I decided helicopters was for me, I was going to go flying. I'm sure I would have enjoyed airlines to a certain extent but it was too much a routine enough for me to really fulfil what I wanted.  

Helicopters are applied to quite a bit of other machinery, farm machinery and some heavy harvesting equipment. For me, the helicopter is the only one where the more you do the better you get, the more enjoyable it is. Whereas for most other machinery you get to master it and then it becomes monotonous. The helicopter is not like that. Certainly the different roles it can do certainly enhances it. 

Simon Moar 20:03 Every day is different. That's what makes the job interesting. We can go through runs of doing the same thing, same general job at different areas, day after day, but weather and things always change that. But, I mean, here we've done all sorts of unusual ones, some really cool ones around the earthquake around studying with the GNS, which is a government based company here that sort of do the seismic activity. We spent several days putting out portable GPS systems and then came back to pick those up sort of 10 days later. We got to fly to all sorts of really unique parts of the top of the South basically, and put out these from GPSs. Then one of the good things about working with some of these clients is they're really keen to show you the data and the information we got back.  

We got to see all where the island had shifted, and how things had moved in the earthquake. That was a pretty cool mission. I think for a start for me, it was certainly the fact that you could be here now and this afternoon, you could be in the back blocks or somewhere completely away from civilization and landed by a nice Creek somewhere and there'd be no stress. Get away from all that was the romance of it and learning to be able to do that. But certainly now becoming an owner and a operator the realities of running the business and stuff that I really enjoy getting out and doing the flying part of it. 

Narrator 21:35 One important task has also been powerline inspections. Here's Regan Graham, a pilot and business development manager at GCH Aviation, a New Zealand provider of helicopter services. 

Regan Graham 21:52 Okay, so that the work that we do is a little bit different to what you may have seen on YouTube watching a huge 500 helicopter with a platform. The helicopter becomes part of I guess the magnetic field or the electrical circuit of the line without getting too technical. What we do is we put out an alignment on the end of a 100 foot line, and the line is insulated. The helicopter does not become I guess you could say for a better word charged, like you see on the huge 400 with platforms. We have a lineman on 100 foot line underneath the helicopter sometimes to lineman, and we put them on the wires and they become part of the magnetic field or electrical field and they wear Faraday suits. When you see them bonding on you see the classic spikes from their fingers as they grab the wire and you can actually hear the crackling and the popping over the radio when you're doing it.  

What we do as a pilot is, it's all beautiful reference we're looking at the door we're looking straight down. We can position the guys quite accurately onto the wires to do all sorts of tasks such as testing midspan joints, repairing repairs, basic maintenance tasks. I just finished a project last week where we were testing midspan joints on one of our main DC power lines that runs from the deep south of the South Island and feeds the North Island of New Zealand with power. A lot of the New Zealand's power is generated in the deep south of the South Island, it's predominantly hydro, and then that power is shipped throughout New Zealand using I guess larger high voltage power lines. Nothing like what you'd find in America, I guess in Europe, but most of that sort of the largest voltage that I've worked on is 220kV or 220,000 volts.  

The lines that we work on fortunately for us are spaced far enough apart so that we can put personnel on the wires without any risk of face to face or face to earth flashovers. It is very, very safe for them. But a lot of airlines are quite different in that there isn't enough room to get a helicopter in there because of the distancing. They're using the long line and the helicopters is ideal for that scenario, I guess. We can get the personnel onto a lot of areas that you just wouldn't be able to get into with a platform. 

Narrator 24:28 Helicopters of course aren't just for work, but also for fun. For those wanting to enjoy the unique perspective provided by the helicopter, tourists can jump on scenic flights at beauty spots all over the world. Today, many helicopter operators offer various VIP packages for once in a lifetime experiences. Brian Kroten is vice president of marketing for Las Vegas based Maverick helicopters. The company started out 25 years ago as a one helicopter operation, providing a boutique experience to visitors of Sin City. 

Bryan Kroten 25:12 We started more than 20 years ago. We're going on almost 25 years started as a one helicopter operation in Las Vegas. Our owner was a Vietnam helicopter pilot, and was a tour pilot, both in the Las Vegas market and in the line market. I need to do things a little differently. that was the start of Maverick helicopters. He saw there needed to be a little refinement in the industry. From a safety component, from a customer service standpoint, really, we designed our company as a boutique type company. We were definitely not the most inexpensive. We were more on the high end, but we wanted to provide a better service. You know, it is an experiential product, even going back 20 years ago, helicopters were definitely not as popular as they are today.  

We really wanted to make that, some people use the term helicopter tour, we love to use the term helicopter experience because we think it's a lot. It's very interactive. Obviously, the Las Vegas formerly was known as the city of entertainment, we'll get there again. But there is a lot of entertainment options in the Las Vegas market, as well as the Grand Canyon market and the Hawaiian markets, which we're in so we're competing against every piece of entertainment, from golf to spas, to shopping to dining to other helicopter operators to ground tours to everything. There's a lot of competition in this market and fortunately when times are good, we have over 40 million visitors coming to Las Vegas. Safety considerations are top of mind for us. You know we are in a very sensitive market when it comes to the airport being my office, I'm sitting right here, I can see the Las Vegas Strip out my window. We are very, very close to the Las Vegas Strip. There is no room for error when it comes to getting in and out of the airport. One of our operations. is that McCarran Airport. The other one is that Henderson Executive Airport both within the Las Vegas Valley but both of those airports are very tight to the strip. 

Narrator 27:28 Providing a VIP level experience is approached somewhat differently from other helicopter operations. 

Bryan Kroten 27:35 A couple of things Maverick does differently is not only do we hire a pilot, we hire a pilot that has great personality, is able to be the concierge, be the entertainer. For a two and a half hour experience to go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, he is those guests tour guide per se. He is not only flying your helicopter, but he's also giving you a lot of information and making sure you have a great time. We only fly one type of helicopter. We have two variations of it, but we fly the VC-130 and the H-130. We think having one type of helicopter instead of different types of helicopters is great for our pilots, but also great for maintenance and also great enabled a market our company. You know it's kind of that Southwest model is what you're going to get? We think the VC-130, H-130 is the premier helicopter when it comes to tourism.  

Obviously in Las Vegas with over 300 days of sun, we have great weather to be fine here. When we get reviews on social media or calls or letters. It's not about oh, your helicopter was beautiful or it's not hey, the Grand Canyon was spectacular. It's this pilot, Jared, this pilot Matt, this pilot Joe. The pilots are the ones that really have that unique interaction and even social media, we get pictures 10, 15 years ago, hey, is this my pilot? Is he still there? It creates a really cool connection with us and our guests. 

Narrator 29:09 Maverick helicopters has also been an integral part of numerous filming projects, partnering with some of the biggest networks in television. 

Bryan Kroten 29:20 Film projects are always unique as of today when we're recording this. There's a television show that's on right now called the Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. We were a part of several episodes of that filming. We've done movies, we've done a lot of TV. We do a lot of private filming for some of the hotels and everything. There definitely is a difference when it comes to open door or photo flights. There's definitely a skill level with the pilot where we have a good niche of pilots that really love doing it and want to do it and are great at it. Not every pilot loves that and that's where we're fortunate to have a nice real wide range of pilots and then when it comes filming on movies and TV, that's just fun. We've been on The Bachelor several times, we were on Love Island this past summer. A lot of network TV, we're fortunate to have a lot of celebrities fly with us and being the preferred company up and down the strip, we have a high expectation of what people expect from us. 

Narrator 30:24 While scenic flights are within reach of many, a select few and go one step further, and purchase their own helicopter for the complete freedom that offers. Cyrus Sigari is an investor and businessman focused on aviation. Sigari is also a helicopter pilot, and an owner of the Bell 505, which he uses for mountain and adventure flying. 

Cyrus Sigari 30:51 I've been fortunate enough in the last year or two to experience the world in a very different way. From flying through Yosemite to Sedona and Moab and Lake Powell and, back country camping, sharing the experience with friends and family. You know, it's been just an incredible experience, we're going to places that, I've flown over the southwestern United States for 30 years in airplanes. I thought I was kind of like an expert on that. I was at 45,000 feet, not at 500 feet. Once you go down to 500 feet, there's a whole new world down there. There's not a minute that doesn't go by we're like, wow, this is incredible. The way I've started to think about flying helicopters, the 505 is you're kind of borrowing the air to interact with the ground.  

Because you're in a very different perspective with the ground, you're almost always got the ground around you and you fill up your space. Whereas in a fixing aircraft, you don't really have a lot of ground in front of you. It's kind of all down below you. You have a very different relationship with mother nature and humanity in general. That's just been an incredibly eye opening experience that makes me just want to go do it right now. I bought a 505 because I've always had a interest and curiosity and passion for helicopters. I've been flying airplanes for the better part of three decades, 27 years. Finally, I got motivated enough to get on the pathway of exploring, buying a helicopter and ultimately decided on the 505. It's been an incredible machine, in terms of helping me become a better aviator altogether, being in fixed wing or rotor wing, and learning and experiencing the world in a very different way that I really never fully understood until I actually got up out there to do it. 

Sharing it with our friends and our clients and one of our businesses and aircraft sales company and using it as a tool and helping expose others to the Bell product line and to give them experiences to build relationships. It's been a really magical flying carpet, it's probably the best way to put it and I'm excited share with more individuals out there. Flying a 505 is perhaps the closest you can be to have absolute freedom. Between the visibility you see everything the comfort of having a very safe turban aircraft, it's got wonderful handling characteristics where you simply just think you go and it just feels amazing.  

I'm not someone that is easily impressed by flying missions. I mean, I've been surrounded by aviation my entire life. I've built businesses around it. I'm a professional pilot, and a flight instructor. I've been an aerospace engineer, I've designed aircraft, I've tested a test pilot, and it's pretty cool that every time I get up and go I still got the oh my god, this is amazing. I can't believe this is my life. I get to experience this product in this type of flying in general. It really gets me fired up not only for my experiences but for all those that haven't experienced it yet to get out there and give it a try. It's not easy. It's hard to fly helicopters. It takes a real commitment to do it. But that reason is why I like doing it because it challenges me intellectually, challenges me physically. gives me something to continue to get better at that is something that all aviators generally enjoy. There's challenge to continue to learn and to increase their skill set. 

Narrator 34:35 While safety considerations remain at the fore, trips are only constrained by the range of the helicopter, the need for a suitable landing site, and perhaps the odd phone call to secure the permission of the landowner. 

Cyrus Sigari 34:49 In terms of the physical constraints, how much space you'd need, you probably need about, safely 100 feet by100 feet to be able to get down to a spot that doesn't have really big trees. We can even be quite a bit less than that in terms of, your skits are only like 10 feet by 4 feet. As long as that trees within your rotor or tail radius, you can technically do it but let's say about 100 feet by 100 feet, it's probably relatively comfortable to get in, and there's a lot of spots out there that have 100 feet by 100 feet of open land for you to go land. In a lot of cases, it's friend's backyard. But after we purchased the aircraft, a client of ours whose parking lot and landed in his office and Carson City, at restaurants in Montana, at a truck stop, places that you would just never think that you could land a helicopter. But it turns out if you just make a phone call or two people will say yeah, go right ahead and land it, right after we purchased the aircraft, finished my checkride in Bozeman, Montana, with a wonderful instructor and an exam rep there buddy Mark Taylor, who also has another 505, and my best friend and business partner flew up to Bozeman and we did six national parks in 48 hours.  

If you'd asked me, what's your favourite place to fly to is all six of the national parks in 48 hours, from Yellowstone, to Teton to Moab to Bryce Canyon to all the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree that will melt west part of the United States. Until you experienced a helicopter, you haven't experienced it. I say that from a place of having thought I really experienced a lot because I ponder on that part of the world from an airplane, but to be able to land in some of the places that you're legal to land in be on land and go camp or hike or explore that nobody has ever been to in the history of humanity, because it's so sparse and far out that you may be likely the first person ever to set foot there. That's pretty special. 

Narrator 37:00 Like Cyrus Sigari, Tennessee based businessman Rusty Robinson is a travel enthusiast and a private owner of the bell 505. 

Rusty Robinson 37:09 I love travelling and I love experiencing the world and all it has to offer. The helicopter seems like everywhere we went, we always charted a helicopter to just get in the back country and see what we wanted to see. It just made a natural progression to acquire a helicopter so that we can see the nation and enjoy the parts of the area that were hard to reach. I've done a tour of the American West so far. Colorado, Utah, up in Montana, and over into Idaho. This weekend, we're doing Washington and Oregon. Then of course, all the way up in through the panhandle of Alaska. Those are some of the favourites that I've done so far. They've been amazing. You know, I'm in shock and awe and I've seen a lot of things in the world. I've been a lot of places, but it's just like it's almost the first time when you fly over this glaciated peak, or you come and you see the different layers of stem and the trees and above the tree lines. I mean, we're constantly gassing. My partner Kelly travels with me.  

We both it's just constant chatter about the beauty of it. It's hard to put in words, a lot of my use was recreational and really no matter what you're doing in a helicopter, whether you're going to a business meeting, or long running it or whatnot. It's impossible not to enjoy it because of the view. It is like flying a bird almost. We have done some heli camping we certainly have in Montana, and we plan on doing some more that this weekend actually. There are quite a few lodges. It's surprising if you'll do some research that allow helicopters to land and it's pretty exceptional way to arrive and depart. It's incredible how many small airports are in the back country of Montana and Idaho. Even in wilderness area where you can't take a mechanised vehicle, the US Forest Service has put these small little remote strips in there. It's pretty special to go hundreds of miles into the wilderness in a helicopter, land in these remote strips and the nearest lights which is 60 miles away, no roads and they're nothing but river or it's like a long hike to get to some of these locations, but they are jaw dropping. I mean just gorgeous. The helicopter it just takes you just minutes to get there. That's exciting. 

Narrator 39:32 Robinson has used the aircraft to travel to many locations in style and comfort. Some of his favourite experiences were only made possible by the helicopter, including one memorable mountain adventure. 

Rusty Robinson 39:47 Such a gorgeous morning, we departed just before sunrise and went over the fewer words in the sounds and land in the mountains. The coastal range all the way up to Alaska, and I had a good friend there with me. It was familiar with the area and we watched the sun come up over the mountains in the morning fog. It was just an unbelievable experience, in a place that so very few people had ever stepped foot. We were able to be there in 15 minutes. It was glorious. That was one of my favourite places. Also flying out the coastline of Upper Peninsula, Michigan, over Lake Michigan was just astounding, seeing all the different homes and the water colour and the old shipwrecks that you could only see from the air. That was another one of my favourite trips as well. I mean, a lot of people call it a time machine and I'll have to completely agree to hop off the airplane and into the helicopter and 15 minutes later be in a location that would take you a day to get to by travelling. It's pretty awesome experience and it's a great way to disconnect and really connect to nature very quickly. 

Narrator 40:57 Next time on revolutions in vertical flight, we learn about the vital role the helicopter plays in responding to natural disasters, and we hear from pilots who carry out such life saving work and the unexpected challenges they can face. The revolutions in vertical flight podcast is produced in partnership with Bell, a huge thanks for their support. A big thanks to everyone who gave their time to support the project. 

Revolutions in Vertical Flight was produced by Tony Skinner, with interviews conducted by Scott Gourley, scriptwriting by Gerrard Cowen and audio edits by Carmac Media. I'm your narrator to Gennifer Becouarn. Until next time. 





Shephard Studio works closely with companies and event organisers across the aerospace and defence industry …

Read full bio

Share to