"Sound Beats Print ... Pictures Beat Sound"

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This is the turn out off U.S. 40 we were using for an L.Z.

That's me standing on the skids of a Bell Jet Ranger III, it's the first week of January 1979. At 40 below, it was too cold to work. About 1,000 ft above my head it was 16 above. We always worked until it got to 35 below at the drill. I'm really glad I have this picture, about 25 yds. to my left I would nearly be killed about a week after this shot was taken.

I've have a pretty interesting life, at least some parts were interesting . For nearly four years I was a , " Helicopter-Portable-Seismic-Shot-Hole-Driller ". Then when I knew my luck with helicopters was all played out, I switched to truck-drills.

There's something great about a job that everyday when you put on your boots, you know you can get killed.

Now about these helicopters.

The Jet Ranger was at the time the most widely used ship in the world. We've all seen these things over the years. Seismic crews use them to fly the surveyors around, and to move the " Juggies " crap and people. I took my first helicopter safety lesson at the Lost Canyon Reservoir Utah, roughly about 75 miles north and a little west of this spot in the picture. There were three of us that day, so the whole crew sat in on it. My friend Lewis, whom I had pestered to get the job, leaned over and pointed at a Jet Ranger, and whispered, " That's a Death Ranger III." I whispered back, " Why is it called that ?" " Because they tend to burn, when they crash."
I was hooked..... But I learned to hate the Jet Rangers .... all body, no engine.

This is the L.Z. at Afton Wyoming, and that is an Aerospatiale
SA.315B Lama

One will note that is all engine and no body. In fact, here's it's record,

June 21, 1972 :
A Lama reaches major height for an helicopter: (12.442 m ~ 41,000 ft)

This is the machine the drill crew used . For a small ship it is extremely powerful .

Now, back to that safety lesson at Lost Canyon . I've been tryin' to remember that pilot's name, and it just won't pop out of the grey matter. But I remember his words, which is one reason I'm still here. He patted the nose of his ship, and said the following : " This is a helicopter, it is not a whirly-bird, it is not a chopper, it is not an eggbeater. You may call it a ship, a helo, or a helicopter. Do not walk up hill from the ship. Do not walk down hill to the ship. Do not walk back of the doors when the rotors are turning." There was some other stuff ... wear your seat belt. Don't track dirt into the cabin. Be careful with the doors. Here's the air vents. A laundry list of things about the ship . That was a pretty big contract .... we had nearly 40 people in that parking lot that morning. So it wasn't long before the 2 Lamas, a Hughes 500 D, and that Death Ranger were flyin' people out to the field. The three of us squirrels were the on the last load to the field. That's what we called new people squirrels .... flying squirrels. I got the best seat possible for my low station that day .... in the middle of the back seat, looking right out the front with all that plexiglass around me.

This is a shot out of the back seat of the Lama, looking down the tail boom to the tail rotor. Those are the mountains near Park City. We're probably at about 11,000 ft.

That pilot knew exactly who he had on board that day .... and he didn't hold back . First he did a classic move , we came straight up from the parking lot to a hover of about 50 ft. And then he rotated the the ship 90 degrees, like it was sitting on a lazy susan, tilled that nose down, and boom .... we were going 75 mph out across that lake. 5 seconds after that move, we were 6 ft. above the water , headed straight for the far shore which had a small ridge along it , covered with 100 ft. spruce trees ... and just when we all thought we were gonna make matches out of those trees. He popped that thing up, and we just cleared the tops.
I was hooked.
Then the ride started. Because as we cleared the ridge, a canyon opened up, and we went down that thing at a 100 mph standing one one edge of the main rotor and then the other. Going around curves in the canyon, first the right side of the ship was "down" then the left side. By this point the guys on either side of me were white as sheets. I had a great big ole' grin on my face.
Those two never finished out the week .... But I was hooked.

Lamas at the Afton Wyoming airport fall of 79'
Next time the drills.

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