Mike Wiegele near Soft Cotton



a way to the fun.


a way to the top.

photo by "Hacksaw""

Carpooling in a Flying Ferrari

A helicopter pilot friend lent me an issue of VERTICAL magazine with an article about the MD 500 helicopter. I have flown several times in the MD 500 (back then the Hughes 500). In part of the article the author called the MD 500, “Ferraris.”  I really related to and laughed about this how, “500’s are the true ‘Ferraris’ of light helicopters.” 


In August 1986 I was in New Zealand, and this was the first time I ever went heliskiing. I will leave out the real names of the guide, pilot, in order to protect the innocent, stupid and masters of the low budget operation I was flying with from being prosecuted. Sometimes when you don't know better, it is better to let you're guardian angels protect you.  


On my second day ever of heliskiing we had a Hughes 500 arrive at the landing zone. This would be the third time I had ever flown in a helicopter. Looking at the helicopter I started to wonder how one pilot, one guide and four skiers where going to fit into this “small” helicopter. Our ski guide and pilot after a VERY shot heli-safety-intro had us load up into the helicopter. “No worries mate, we'll all fit in.” 


I'm a big guy at 6’5” tall, so they put me into the left front seat. And then, our pilot had this “smaller” lady climb in and sit on my lap. Yeah, that’s right, sit on my lap. Obviously, the seatbelt would only fit around me. 


The pilot said to me, “Mate, just hang on to her like she’s the playmate of the month.”  In the back of the machine, there were two guests and one guide. The guide was a fairly short fellow, so he was able to fit between the two guests, in "the tunnel." I don't know why seeing the little plate on the instrument panel that said something about not firing the net guns at over such and such airspeed, made me think that we were good hands. Oh, to be young, uninformed and in the hands of cowboys.


So, we spent the entire day having great powder skiing and flying with this lady sitting on my lap. She didn't seem to mind. But, I never got a date out of it. I have since gone on to heliski a lot in Canada and few times in Colorado, without anyone giving me another "heli-lap-dance".


At the end of the day we landed at our starting point in a sheep pasture. All of us had a great day of heliskiing. After the helicopter left us, I remember commenting to everyone that, “Heliskiing with a 500 is like trying to carpool with a Ferrari.” I will always remember how fast the 500 was and how hard I had to hang on to the lady in my lap, while doing hard turns.


Now when I see a 500 I smile and shake my head at the same time. Yes, the MD 500 is a wonderful light helicopter and it is amazing what you can get away with in one. Today, no one believes this story. But, I'll swear on a stack of Bibles that this happened.

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