started when blades were wood and the electric starter was optional - parts flying off put me down 17 times - 2 engine failures in the same day. got the 180 autorotation down to 200 feet in H-19. Sprayed bananas in Guatemala with serial # 11 bell H-13 (mod 47) Nobody left to reminisce with. Nobody understands the mindset of old helo pilots -
around 1981 I had aseasonal job with the Forest Service doing wildland firefighting
I got to go on Helitack for a while at the end of the season to be a crew replacement
I just did a search of where the helicopter is and discovered Don crashed that Bell 206B long ranger and died in 1986 , he actually let me fly it by the stick over the san Jacinto mountains for about 10 minutes one day
we had some good times , he was a good pilot but I suppose he just put his head in the lions mouth one too many times.
RIP my crazy buddy Don Land ells !!!!
not sure if I can be sad for Don he died doing what he loved , just sad for the passengers
once when we were flying out crews and it was down to just him and me last flight of the day , he asked if I was up for a hell ride, I said "Hell Yah"
we buzzed through the trees in a meadow near the top of the Palm Springs Tram and skirted treetops inches from the skids at max speed , then he flew over the ridge crest where the mountain drops straight down into Palm Springs, there was a steady marine influence wind coming off the top of the ridge spilling into the desert heat upift,
Don said "hold on to your ......" and started to ascend the side of the cliff verticle with the nose of the helicopter facing up, we were scarcely 50 feet from the side of the nearly vertical granite cliff and the helicopter blades were at a nearly vertical plane climbing slowly up the side , the craft was shaking under full power and heavy rotor cyclic to maintain maximum torque , as we neared to crest the aircraft caught the stream of air spilling over the top and lifted violently horizontally when the rotors hooked up so we had the effect of being shot from a catapault horizontally through the air while laying back and looking straight up at blue sky, he then hit full rudder and a rebel yell and we were looking down at Palm springs from about 8.000 feet, what an indescribable thrill , I actully had a thought he was suicidal at that point and for a time thought "what a way to die" and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest and explode during the whole ordeal, then he told me that I was absolutely not allowed to tell anyone about our little joy ride or he could lose his Forest service contract and he would make life very difficult for me and I assured him he had my word ,
but I think its OK to tell the story now, he'll have to reach out from the grave to wring my neck
As a young man, while I was along for the ride performing these stunts, I remember thinking we had a good probability of dying but I didnt care and figured it would be an awesome way to go out and was way worth the risk ! and I think Don did too and knew I would be up for it because he saw me get crazy on my 650 Yamaha dirt sled on the helitack road, maybe thats why he requested me for the crew , now that I think about it
sorry that I have no pictures from those days , I could barely afford food, much less a disposable camera and developing
I searched through some old stuff and found this hat pilot Landells gave me , I wanted the Helitack hat but they were out of them at the time
I like to tell this story hope someone understands