Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. - Late 1970s
Sometime in the 1970s, I became eligible to transition into PHI's Bell 212 (See below), a twin engine "Huey" type helicopter which was used mostly for crew changes and hauling large equipment, etc. It was also used for emergency night flights. During this time, I did one tour of duty at St. Simon's Island in Georgia and another where I flew for a few weeks from Atlantic City, NJ. The 212 was an instrument capable helicopter and most of the pilots were instrument and night qualified in it. Later I became one of the emergency night pilots in Morgan City, LA, and decided I had found my niche.
The last several years with PHI, I and Billy Linker, were the night pilots on our 7 day shift at Morgan City. The night ship required 2 pilots by company policy. We went to work a sunset, when everyone else left, and we left when they came in at sunrise. A few nights we'd fly all night, but often we'd go 2-3 nights without a flight. We were just on call for any after hours emergency from medical to accidents to unexpected breakdowns on the oil rigs. One night we got a call, from a rig 175 miles away in the Gulf. We hopped over to the oil company heliport, picked up a small package of o-rings and flew them out to the rig, shut down to eat at their galley and returned to PHI, about a 3 hour round trip at our night rates of $2500 per hour. We guessed those were the most expensive o-rings in the world, but cheap compared to the $40,000 per day cost of a rig shut down.
We also flew in injured workers to the hospitals and flew out oil company inspectors, with their drug dogs, for surprise inspections. The nose on those dogs was amazing. Once a dog went into the restroom and barked at the ceiling. Removing a ceiling tile exposed a stash. Another time the dog grabbed a guys pocket. He had one marijuana seed in his pocket. Anyone caught, flew back in with us to be fired the next day.