Near the end of the day at Wings, Wheels, Rotors and Expo, Tom Lasser (the voice of WWRE and co-chairman with Jim Thigpen of the WWRE organizing committee) took me by the ear, commandeered a golf cart and press-ganged me aboard.
He had earlier threatened to put me on a helicopter.
I had humored him. “Sure, Tom,” I said. “As long as they give me one of those little bags.”
The last time I flew on a helicopter — with New York Air — I was the only passenger to get sick. I am not what could be tagged as a natural flyer.
Tom handed me off to the ground crew of Adventure Helicopter Tours, then jumped aboard the golf cart to hightail it back to the main stage to take over from the band.
I watched the fog roll in.
The ground crew promised to put me on their spiffy new MD520 Notar before the air space closed.
“Real fast,” they said. “Only takes about two hours to fly to Vegas.”
After the previous party cleared the aircraft, we were briefed: “Don’t step on the landing rail. Keep your seat belt fastened. Put your headphones on. If you get sick, there’s a bag right in front of you.”
Ah. Be prepared.
Then the ground crew fixed steely eyes on me: “We’ll put you in the front seat if you promise not to try to fly the air craft.”
Cross my heart! Hope to die…
So we embarked. I had to leave my straw fedora with the ground crew because of the headphones. I was not graceful climbing in, but I did manage to not touch any of the controls.
Besides the obvious control panel filled with dials and knobs, there were two foot pedals and a control stick that came up between my knees.
On my honor, I touched none of them. I even managed to clear the control stick to sit down.
Our pilot, Tom, managed not to snicker.
In fact, I must praise pilot Tom. Not once during the flight did I feel the least interest in that be-prepared bag.
I kept busy taking photos and picking out landmarks.
Look! That’s gotta be St. Hedwig’s right next door to Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, where the Orange County Sheriff’s Department held its most recent public outreach about property crime in Rossmoor.
Los Alamitos Boulevard was easy to pinpoint. My eye followed it north past Farquhar, past Rite Aid… hah! A bird’s-eye view of our room with a view on the second floor of 11110 Los Alamitos Boulevard, right next door to Enchanted Florist.
As we turned east, Los Alamitos Medical Center (LAMC) stretched out along Katella Avenue and the Los Alamitos Youth Baseball fields snuggled up against the northern boundary of the JFTB. LAMC recently opened its new emergency department and continues its upgrade and expansion as approved by the City Council earlier this year. A bone marrow drive for Kai Quinonez was held at the fields earlier this year.
Our turn south allowed a clear view of the pool and Cal EMA facilities. A recent public works bid for roof repair at the pool (bundled with other small municipal projects) received only a single too-expensive bid. City staff will re-work and re-bid. Attendees of the Regional Military Affairs Committee meeting on October 25 toured the Cal EMA facility.
We slowly descended past the airfield’s control tower and hangar and the entire flight line filled with private aircraft, cars in the show, emergency responders, vintage fixed-wing aircraft, vendors — even a boat from the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. President Obama’s Marine helicopter sheltered in the hangar. That helicopter, along with three others at the east end of the airfield, were flown in last week in the belly of a C-17, then assembled ahead of the President’s visit to California.
The highest praise I can offer is this: the flight was too short!
If you want to see what I saw, more photos are available at OC Breeze’s Flickr photo stream.
All too soon, we were back where we started and I had to figure out how to get out without touching any of those controls.
Let’s just say that gravity helped, and dignity was not maintained.
The ground crew had conscientiously guarded my straw fedora.
And I can endorse Adventure Helicopter Tours with a clear conscience and a steady stomach.
Locally, the company is based out of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima. Tours start as low as $89/person. (The company offered a special price of $40/person at WWRE.)
The same company also flies out of Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri.
They have a set of pre-designed tours ranging from buzzing the Hollywood sign to a night/twilight flight to their Wow! Tour. You can also work with them to design your own personal tour.
The company accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover.
For more information, call 888-933-5952 or visit AdventureHelicopterTours.com online.
Two helos and a private plane. The photo gives a small idea of the busy airspace controlled by WWRE’s Air Boss, J.D. Brown. At the time this photo was taken, fog was rolling in and the tower was warning pilots that the air space would soon be closed. Rotor aircraft began leaving ahead of the closure. The black helicopter is from a local television news station. The speck at the upper right is a private plane owned and flown by a volunteer in the Young Eagles program. The red helo at front is an MD 520 Notar owned by Adventure Helicopter Tours, just landed after its next-to-last flight of the day.
More photos are available at OC Breeze’s Flickr photo stream.
- Los Alamitos Chamber of Commerce thanks WWRE sponsors (oc-breeze.com)
- Winners of OC Breeze raffles announced (oc-breeze.com)