I’m often asked, “when is the best time to fly?” Other than “NOW!!!” Here are some of my thoughts to answer that question. Spring is a renewing event. Everything is turning green and fresh. Flowers, blossoms and fresh cut grass add fragrants to the air. For some the pollen goes a little overboard. So many things are springing to life, it is hard not to enjoy Spring. People are anxious to get out and enjoy the days as they warm and lengthen out. Summer is full of excitement, vacations and adventure. Folks are looking to try new things and enjoy the outdoors. It gets pretty warm and dry here in the Summer. Most schools are out and people are taking vacations. These long days make for lots of time to be active and adventuresome. We are the busiest in the Summer, what a shock. Winter is a great time to fly. The air is cool, lucky we have a nice heater in Whirly. Some days the valley clears up and we have such beautiful blue sky. How majestic the view is when the sky meets the freshly fallen snow on the mountain tops. Flying over the mountains is just incredible. Some of the mountain peaks have 20-30 feet of snow on the tops. Seeing animals in the winter is easier than any other time. I truly enjoy the fresh snow and the views Winter gives us. I think my favorite time of the year to fly is the Fall. The leaves are turning, air is calm, skies are clear (usually). The Summer pace has slowed down and things are just a little more laid back. The mountains have their patches of “color”. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, can match the wonderful patchwork of color as we fly over our valley. Each crop variety has different color of leaves. The grapes, apples, pears, blueberries and cherries each have a unique color pattern. Since they are planted in blocks, the colors come together like a giant quilt like Grandma made. Folks have said these colors are more impressive than the famous New England colors. Each season has great thing to see and do, but Fall is a tough season to beat.
As a kid I was awe struck by the Ag Spray planes flying over our orchard. We lived a short distance from the gravel air strip where AK Platt kept a couple of Bi-wing planes he sprayed with. As he flew over he would wiggle his wings at us. I developed a love of flying from seeing him go by daily. When I started Lake Chelan Helicopters it was out of my joy for flying. We strive to share the love of flying and combine it with the beauty of our area. Two wonderful things in my life that I’d like everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy. We work at contributing to our community as much as we can. We donate many rides to local fund raisers and groups. A few years ago a cow fell of a cliff along Lake Chelan. It landed on the front of a car. The incident made national news. The Lake Chelan Winery holds an annual Falling Cow Festival to honor the poor cow. We contribute by dropping little foam cows attached with parachutes to them. It reminds me of the WKRP Turkey Drop episode, but I digress. It is a fun way to involve folks in flying while they are enjoying the beauty and activities in the Valley. Until next year, have a safe and enjoyable Summer. -Dale England, Owner
Some people ask “why did you choose this helicopter?” There are several reasons why this type of helicopter fits the things we do at Lake Chelan Helicopters. Most helicopters are the sum of many, many parts. Each part has a life time of use. When each part’s hours are used up they must be changed. Another helicopter we owned was this way. The engine, blades, frame, control tubes all had different lifetimes so you were changing out part every few months or so. This method meant we were always replacing and paying for something most of the time. This necessitated having a mechanic around a lot. The Robinson helicopter was designed with the small or private operators in mind. All their time limited parts are due at one time. Either 2200 hours or 12 years a major overhaul is required. This way a mechanic is only required for scheduled maintenance or in the event of a required repair. It allows the operator to more easily schedule finances and not keep a mechanic in their back pocket. Robinson helicopters still need oil changes and routine maintenance, just not the big stuff generally. The model we have, R-44, is a 4 seat with a piston engine. It is basically the same engine found in many airplanes. It is FAA certified, just like in airplanes, and is able to make the 2200 hour TBO because Robinson de-rates the available horsepower. It still generates enough power to get us in the air. While there are many kinds of helicopters out there, this is the one that best fits our operations at this time. Maybe as things change, so will we. -Dale England, Owner
People often ask me, “what is it like to own a helicopter?”. It depends on who is asking what my answer will be. The basic answer is, GREAT! To be free to fly, see and set down pretty much where you want is such a fun adventure. It isn’t all fun and games though. I hope to share with you a few things involved with owning a helicopter and a helicopter business. <img class="size-medium wp-image-1294 alignright" src="http://lakechelanhelicopters.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/16114334_1201985836518039_5746358223170534490_n-225x300.jpg" alt="16114334_1201985836518039_5746358223170534490_n" width="225" height="300" /> A basic starting point in flying helicopters is the big, how do you do it? There are many ways to get started. I took the route of getting my Private airplane license years ago. A friend of mine lied to me and said I could get my helicopter added onto my airplane license cheap and easy. Well, it wasn’t cheap or easy. It took me about a year of going to Spokane for training. I tried to go twice a week and on each trip taking two lessons. As life goes I was unable to go every week and not always able to take two lessons when I did go. Getting my Private Helicopter License was a real accomplishment but to get any returns off of the investment I needed to finish my Commercial License. The Commercial License took me another few months of training. I then lied to my wife and told her the only way I could recoup the training expenses was to buy a helicopter…by now I think she knew I was lying and just rolled her eyes and said it was ok. <img class="size-medium wp-image-1259 alignleft" src="http://lakechelanhelicopters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/15977506_1201985593184730_6615972175983694113_n-300x300.jpg" alt="15977506_1201985593184730_6615972175983694113_n" width="300" height="300" /> Once I had my license in hand and bought a helicopter my first job was to dry cherries. When cherries are getting ripe any rain will collect in the stem bowl at the top of the cherry. If the water sits there for a long period of time the cherry will absorb the water. The skin on the cherry cannot expand quick enough and the extra water will cause the cherry to split. Once split the cherry is of no value. By hovering, flying slow, over the trees we are able to knock enough of the water off the cherries to save the crop. My next adventure was to take real people up for rides. Being responsible for real people added stress and more oversight from the FAA. The rides consisted of taking off and landing at the same location and staying within a certain distance. After a while I decided to get my Charter Certificate so I could take people from one location and stop or drop them off at a different one. This came with much more FAA oversight and required I develop an operating manual. Some of the additional requirements mandated I not do very much maintenance on the helicopter at all. Prior to the Charter Certificate I could change the oil, spark plugs, lights and other simple tasks. Once I obtained the Charter Certificate I could no longer do those tasks. By having a certified aircraft mechanic do those tasks increases the safety of the flights. <img class="size-medium wp-image-1261 alignright" src="http://lakechelanhelicopters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16113917_1208140512569238_6684637501636565122_n-300x300.jpg" alt="16113917_1208140512569238_6684637501636565122_n" width="300" height="300" /> Each aircraft has parts on it that have time limits. These times are usually decided on due to accidents or failures of previous aircraft. Records are needed to make sure all the parts are within their expected life time limits. By tracking and replacing these parts on a regular basis we can ensure the helicopter is safe to fly, not matter it’s age. <img class="alignright wp-image-1262 size-thumbnail" src="http://lakechelanhelicopters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16114231_1201985616518061_155644272937906579_n-150x150.jpg" alt="16114231_1201985616518061_155644272937906579_n" width="150" height="150" /> Prior to each flight a Pre-Flight Inspection is completed. We are checking to make sure the proper maintenance is done, parts that should move do and parts that should not move don’t. Fluid levels, belts, blades, seatbelts, doors and their latches, gauges, screws and rivets. It is so much better to find an issue on the ground and not take the flight than it is to find out there is a problem while in the air. At the end of each flight a Post-Flight Inspection is also conducted to make sure belts and gear boxes are not hotter than normal and no damage occurred during the flight. I can’t express the joy I feel when I get to take people up for their first flight or on a special occasion. Some of my most favorite flights have been to take “old” people up over the areas they grew up in, seeing from the air the spots they worked and played. To see their excitement and hear their memories makes my efforts well worth it. -Dale England, Owner