29 August 2006

Karl From Canada

It was the mid- 1970's. I was working at my first commercial flying job.
I was instructing in a Hiller UH-12C and Bell 47G2.
The company also owned two Bell JetRangers in which I did Part 91 and Part 135 flying. We had sold one of the JetRangers to a company in Canada.

Karl arrived from the Yukon to inspect the aircraft. He regaled us with stories of flying where the compass was nearly useless and Tundra provided no landmarks to navigate by....(Pre GPS, and Loran was relatively new, at least for aviation usage.)
Strange stuff to Midwestern ears.

We had removed the dual controls and had covered access to them with carpeting on this machine. A single pilot operation, this Jetranger needed that left seat for passengers. We had also sprayed the new Registration number on the tail: CGSHI.
I immediately thought how that registration was one letter short of an interesting vulgarity.

In passing conversation, Karl mentioned he would like to fly with a helmet, but couldn't afford one. I happened to own one, but it was located at my girlfriends apartment, a 35 minute flight away in the JetRanger. Karl suggested we could kill two birds with one stone: Test-fly the JetRanger and fly to get the helmet.
I called my girlfriend and asked her to meet us at the airport with helmet in tow, and Karl and I would take her to dinner.

We had cancelled our insurance coverage on the aircraft, and Karl's company had picked up the coverage. I watched him go through his startup procedure, then suggested he do some hovering maneuvers so I could evaluate his skills prior to heading off on the 35 minute flight. He was good with the aircraft, and I quickly relaxed while he flew.

We met my girlfriend mid-afternoon and went to get Pizza. At first, all went well...... Karl seemed to be enjoying the attention my attractive girlfriend was paying him....... she was fascinated with his accent.

But I began to notice some strange quirks about him...... he began to be nervous, frequently looking at his watch. He finally asked, "what time does it get dark around here?"

"Shortly after 5 P.M." I responded.
"Oh My!", was Karl's answer. I was really puzzled by this behavior-
He was freaking out!

By the time we got to the airport, the sun was already sneaking below the horizon. Only then did Karl enlighten us about his strange behavior:
He had never flown at night.

So now I've got a dilemma-
The aircraft has one set of controls, so I can't support him as co-pilot. I'm not insured under his coverage to fly this very expensive machine. We have to get back to our home base, in order to get him on his way home in the morning.

I swallow hard and climb into the Pilot's seat.
It is dusk as we take off, but is completely dark within 5 minutes, and Karl is squirming like a child that has been caught stealing. The flight home follows a major highway, with four towns along the way. I point out to him that from 3000 feet indicated we can see the daisy-chain of lighted towns in succession, and our destination out on the horizon. He begins to relax. By the time we land, he actually seems to be enjoying himself. I'm just glad to get skids on the ground so I don't have to worry about bending an uninsured machine.

Apparently it is against Regulations to fly single engine aircraft at night in Canada. We take single-engine night flying for granted in the U.S., and do it with relative safety. I find it incredible that in Canada, where it remains dark for a huge chunk of time during Winter, single engine aircraft simply don't fly without the sun in the sky.

With that restriction in mind, how does anyone make money with a single engine aircraft in Canada?

UPDATED, 1508 hours:
Upon re-reading, I realized I really began to notice strange behavior from Karl as we flew toward the city. The flight started in relatively rural countryside, then got more and more urban during the flight. Karl was accustomed to flying over the occasional Caribou. When it was obvious the only forced landing area available would be the center of a city street, dodging the attendant streetlights and wires, Karl expressed great discomfort. It was another window into a totally different style of flying, and how accustomed we can get to taking risks when it is a daily part of the job.

Reading the registration number peaked my curiosity and I went to look the number up, hoping the designation would still come up as a Bell 206B. Sadly, that's not the case: CGSHI is now registered as a Beech 95- B55. I'd love to be able to track the history of the JetRanger from the time Karl disappeared from sight as he flew it to it's new workplace!


Rubberducky1.0 said...

I do really enjoy reading your blog. Even your grumpy stuff is put in a funny light that makes my mood lighten. Thank you for being here for everyone.

Anonymous said...

GSHI Bell206 S/N 1123 was registered to Shirley Helicopoters in 1985 and was de-registered in 1995.

Greybeard said...

Thank you, Anon., for taking the time!
De-registered? Crashed probably?
What else could have happened to cause that?

Aviatrix said...

I've heard this story already, maybe you told me in private e-mail. I believe I quoted some of the current Canadian regs (commercial single-engine night ops are permitted, but there are limitations on the carriage of passengers) and speculation on what the rules were back then.

If I didn't, let me know. I'll check with some old timers and get back to you.