Friday, April 4, 2008

Fly Anywhere, Land Anywhere

by Robert L Gisel

 There are privileges to being a renown Bush Pilot. One of these is that the authorities leave you alone and let you go and do. At least that is my assumption for the wide respect the community afforded my father, Charles A. Gisel Jr.

 I know that one time when a friend and I were boisterously experimenting with 150 proof Everclear late into the night the knock on the door was from my father not from the Juneau Police Department. They had gone instead to my father and he came around and politely asked if maybe we could keep the the noise down. Apart from a wake up call for our errant behavior it was an interesting view on how the police handled this by reason of my father being who he was.

 How and where he flew airplanes and helicopters was partly allowable, then, just due to the tremendous respect he earned from people. However that explains only part of it. Either nobody cared about the rules, I know my Dad sure didn't worry himself about them too much, or the acceptance of the Bush Pilot and the prevalence of Air Taxi make it a very unique to Alaska flying experience.

When we first moved to Alaska we lived 13 miles out the road from town. Actually we were on the spur Fritz Cove Road which weaved along above the shores of Auke Bay. Ralph Reischel was an old time woodsman who had a house on the beach with a guest house. He and his wife Martha moved into the guest house, that was big enough for them, and we moved our family into the big house.

 It was right on the beach. Maybe 6 feet in front of the house was a small 2 foot rock wall and the beach stretched out from there. That was where the highest tides came to, that little retaining wall. To the right of the house a long low log dock stretched out into the water. Left of the house was a small grass yard the length of the house but only about 30 feet wide.

 Playing outside on the dock I was surprised to see Dad fly in one day in the helicopter. He was just coming home after the day's work. He had not wanted to go all the way back to the seaplane port so he just flew it home.

 Even more surprising to me was where he landed, perched at the edge of the yard, where it did not appear to me to be enough room for the rotors between the house and the trees. He says there was "plenty of room". It seems a common deal to land a helicopter on a larger yaught but this was the first and probably only time I had heard of commuting home in your helicopter.

 Another time during a summer vacation I was in town with a friend of mine, wandering around looking for something to do as lads will, when we saw my Dad's copter come in for a landing. We hurried over there to find that he had landed on the landfill just behind the Foodland Supermarket. My friend had the idea you were not supposed to land in the city. Come on! He had run out of King Edward cigars and was just stopping at the store for more. What's wrong with that?

 It was usual to spend time flying to places with Dad. One summer he had a contract hauling people and things for a mountain top radio signal reflector that was going up on Mt. Hood. There was an abandoned cannery at the base of the mountain and my brother and I stayed there for a couple weeks for a vacation. Some days he had to haul gas barrels to the top so he could fly all day without coming back down. He would come in and hover low over these and I would run under the copter and hook the cargo net to the cargo hook.

 The ski area those days was on Douglas Island just across from Juneau where the Juneau-Douglas Bridge came across. Dad used to run a service flying skiiers from the parking lot up to the mountain top for a small fee or would just carry their skis up for a lessor fee. I'd help him load the helicopter and then take the last ride up.

 Whenever we wanted to go anywhere for hunting or fishing, or whatever, there was always a plane available or the copter. Mom wanted to go clam digging one time so Dad flew us and some friends out to an abundant clam beach on Admiralty Island. He dropped us off there while he went around doing his flying jobs for the day. It took two trips going home and Mom and couple others went back in the float plane and my brother and I waited on the beach. In a while he came back in the helicopter and picked us up.

 There is a bottomless lake in Auke Bay where we would sometimes water ski. This one particular time there was a barbeque for the Rainbow Girls at a house on the shore. Mom was an Eastern Star so she was active as well overseeing the girls' organization. Eric Lindeguard was our next door neighbor so he brought his ski boat and lauched it into the lake. To top the whole event off Dad would stop by in between trips to the Glacier where he was flying Glaciologists. He wouild land on the beach in their back yard and give the girls free helicopter rides.

 Dad was fun loving and likely to do a good humored prank. He started buzzing Eric with the helicopter. It was great fun for dad and us watching this hilarious show of Dad's straffing runs low over the top of Eric's boat. As I recall though Eric was not at all happy about being on the receiving end of this great fun.

 The planes and helicopters Dad flew for work became like our personal rec vehicles. It just seemed the way things ought to be. John Travolta set up his home in Ochola, Florida, to accomodate his close involvement with flying this way. There is a private community there with a landing strip for the residents' planes. John took it one step further and extended the runway taxi strip so he could park his planes at his house.

 On one side of the house is the Boeing 707 and the Gulfstream Jet he parks under an awning on the other side. He comments that he always thought that is the way it should be, that he had grown up thinking that everyone would someday have their own plane parked at their home. I have always thought so too.

 Quite some years ago a feature article which I thought was Popular Mechanics portrayed this idea with a kit plane you could buy. It was billed and presented as a flying car. The hood area contained a rotor and the trunk area of the car was another rotor. It was said to be VTOL and could land in your driveway and that was the cover picture on the magazine.

 A friend of mined said he had attended an Oshgosh Experimental Flight Meet and there were 1/2 a dozen of these still in operational condition. I don't have any idea what happened that the kits are not still available and for the life of me I haven't been able to remember the name of this or locate it in a search.

 It is my ideal scene that a car/aircraft could be so versatel and usual that you just fly it home to your garage and these should be as abundant as you see rec vehicles today. We certainly had a taste of that living under the wing of a Bush pilot as tjhat is just the way it was.This is the way it should be everywhere and if I can make a few ideas work it will be that way.


No comments: