#tbt to 1998. I was working for America West Airlines with a bunch of aviation students and caught the flight bug myself. I had no interest in fixed-wing aircraft, but I did always have an interest in rotary-wing (helicopters, essentially). I called around and was able to find a guy out at Bolton Field who provided both classroom and flight lessons. So I went for it. At $392/hour. (Ouch.)

The fellow’s name was Jerry Eckstein. I didn’t get to know him real well, but he was a nice guy — clearly a wealthy guy who dabbled in wealthy guy hobbies, like race cars, high-end motorcycles and helicopters. Providing helicopter lessons, I came to find out, was one of the few ways to actually be able to finance the very expensive hobby of owning, flying, storing, and maintaining a helicopter.

I actually trained in two of his helicopters: the Robinson R22 I snapped a picture of below, and an older Hughes 300C that the R22 replaced. I much preferred the 300C — fully-glass cockpit and joystick-style cyclic. The R22 uses this strange type of crossbar cyclic that I thought was just weird.

I ended up doing about 20 flight hours before the expense caught up with me. (I also had a lot of discouragement from people who claimed that only military-trained helicopter pilots could ever hope to find actual employment. Probably true.) Those 20 hours were too awesome. Jerry was supportive, complimented my (terrible) landings, and almost made me puke demonstrating an autorotation. Great once-in-a-lifetime memories, if nothing else.

I tried to track down Jerry, but it seems he passed away about six years ago. Thanks for the great ride, my friend!