Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Taking to the skies: Helicopter service offers a different ‘point of view’

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Ed Friedman pilots his Schweizer 300C. The Bowdoinham resident began Point of View Helicopter Services in 2008.

Special to Business
By Patrick Gabrion, Times Record Business Editor

Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:32 PM EDT

BOWDOINHAM - Ed Friedman has done many things in his life. Along with being a certified welder and a farmer, the Bowdoinham resident has been involved with the National Outdoor Leadership School as a mountaineering instructor. He's done work as an EMT, professional ski patrolman, avalanche control worker and has a kayaking business. The list goes on.

And to top it all off, Friedman, 55, is the president and chief pilot of Point of View Helicopter Services.

His business provides a variety of services, including aerial photography, wildlife surveys, mapping, scenic flights, lifting of objects, documentation of environmental hazards and violations, and much more.

And speaking of tracking hazards and violations, according to its website, Point of View Helicopter Services offers reduced rates for uses that fit its point of view, namely environmental and social justice causes that are helping to make the world a better place and possibly even save it. It is POV's desire to make the unique perspectives and uses gained from a helicopter available to nonprofit communities that might benefit, but could not normally afford it.

Recently, Friedman talked about his business, his love of flying, and why people might want to go for a helicopter ride.


 

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A view over the north end of Merrymeeting Bay looking south.

Please tell us a little about Point of View Helicopter Services. When and why did you start the business?

 

A. I began POV in 2008 because the helicopter is an incredibly useful tool for accomplishing good in today's world. A small helicopter like our Schweizer is relatively affordable to operate and is an asset for small organizations who cannot normally afford the perspective our helicopter provides. To foster this we have from the beginning worked closely with environmental organizations to assist in their missions. Often it is the smallest organizations that provide the biggest bang for the buck, both in terms of accomplishments and their ability to act quickly on issues creating positive change. We offer excellent rates and services for those organizations. Of course, POV also provides a pretty complete range of standard services available from most helicopter services and, lastly, it doesn't hurt that I love flying helicopters.

Q. On your website, it says "Providing a Unique Perspective on Life." Please explain this philosophy about your business?

A. Our slogan, like our name Point of View, has a double meaning. In both cases, the names refer to the obvious physical fact the helicopter provides a literal "point of view" and is a "unique perspective" on all below. Equally important is that we are making this unique tool affordable for those environmental and social justice organizations and purposes aligned with our intellectual and heartfelt "point of view." When the early astronauts first looked back from space and saw Earth as an island, they were changed forever. So too have many viewers of those well-known photographs been dramatically influenced by the images of our Earth in space. The physically unique perspective POV offers also strikes deep in the psyche providing that unique perspective for the mind's eye.

Q. Can you explain the history and some of the features of the Schweizer 300C? What are some of its capabilities, as far as payload, range, etc.? Why is this helicopter "right" for the type of services you offer?

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Looking north toward Merrymeeting Bay over Driscoll Island in the lower Androscoggin.

A. The 300C comes from the long line of helicopters originally produced by Hughes Tool Co. in 1955 as the 269 series. Hughes conducted a market survey finding a demand for a light two-passenger helicopter. Production began in 1960 and the helicopters were commonly used in agricultural and police work. Over the years, the helicopter changed to a three-passenger capacity and was equipped with a larger engine. In 1964, the U.S. Army selected the 269 (or Hughes 300) as its primary trainer and this continued until it was replaced by the Bell Huey in 1988. More than 60,000 Army pilots have been trained in the 269/ 300 series. Hughes was purchased by McDonnell Douglas in 1984 and in 1986 Schweizer purchased the 300 FAA-type certificate from McDonnell Douglas. In 2004, Schweizer was purchased by Sikorsky Aircraft.

This helicopter is a good primary aircraft for POV. Operating costs are relatively reasonable, and the 300C has decent airspeed and payload characteristics, is quite stable and is considered one of the safest helicopters manufactured from a crash-worthy perspective. Our useful load is 750 pounds and fuel capacity is 48 gallons at 12 to 16 gallons/hour, depending on airspeed and power settings. Economic cruise speed is 70 knots and maximum cruise is about 84 knots. POV keeps floats on the helicopter at all times for an extra safety margin over the waters of Mid-coast Maine and for extra flotation in our winter snows. Our helicopter is also equipped with external cargo baskets and a cargo hook with external load capacity of 650 pounds.

Q. Speaking of services, I see you offer scenic flights, remote transportation, lifting, aerial photography and video, and several other services. Can you tell us all the services you provide?

doc4bcf306ad3c04050120623-3A. Along with those you mention, we can do utility line inspections and patrol, wildlife surveys, search and rescue, law enforcement, documentation and assessment of environmental hazards and violations, water monitoring, insurance reporting and documentation, aerial tracking and property monitoring. These are some of our more common flights. An amazing thing about helicopters is that someone is always coming up with a new application. Helicopter use can be just plain fun as in a scenic flight for you, a gift or corporate event or it can be a money-saving way to get an important task accomplished, such has moving propane tanks to a mountain-top weather station or monitoring a 1,000-acre property for logging violations.

Q. Do you have access to other helicopters? If so, what kind are they and their capabilities?

A. Yes, indeed. The helicopter community is very small and pretty cooperative. Typically for us the reason to use a different aircraft would be for increased passenger or cargo payload or for greater speed. The most common alternatives in ascending order of operating cost, payload and speed are the Bell 47, Robinson R44 and the Bell 206 Jet Ranger. Rates for these vary from about $450 to $1,000/hour.

Q. What are the rates you charge?

A. $350/hour for basic work in the 300C.

Q. Will you take clients anywhere in Maine? What is the geographical range for the services you provide?

A. Clearly, I'm focused in the Mid-coast region, but I can go anywhere depending on the job.

Q. If someone has never been up in a helicopter, what can they expect? What will surprise them and make them want to come back?

A. Readers should look at the testimonial section of our website for the wonderful ways in which passengers have expressed themselves on this subject. When I take someone up for the first time we start with an explanation of how the helicopter works and then we do some slow maneuvering a few feet off the ground. This is about as close to levitation as you can get. I think most people, even those who may be nervous, know at some level they are in for an incredible experience, but my sense is they are unprepared for the unparalleled visibility, the bird's eye view and the feeling of freedom. In short, the physical and metaphysical "unique perspective."

Q. You live in Bowdoinham. Where do you keep your helicopter?

A. The Auburn-Lewiston airport.

Q. At one time there was a small airstrip along Route 24 in Bowdoinham. Is that still in use?

A. Marginally so. When a private individual sale of the property fell through a number of years ago, the property was sold to developers. A group of us tried to stop the proposed development for the property and attempted to buy out the developers but failed. Our plan included a single home on the property, hangars hidden from road view, a flight school and other open property, including quite a bit of frontage on the Cathance River put into a conservation easement. Eight homes or so later, commercial use of Merrymeeting is out of the question as is conservation of the riverfront. There are something like 2.5 small airports closing per day in this country. The economic value of general aviation far exceeds that of commercial airlines. Residential development with subsequent complaints is the most common reason for closure.

Q. Can you recount for us one or two particular flights that really stand out for you?

A. In my greater universe of flying, one instance was while working as a field biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the Arctic National Wildlife Service in 1981 or 1982. I was being flown around the north side of the Refuge in a Piper Super Cub on my first day out and while we were returning from the Brooks Range to the Beaufort Sea the coastal fog came in. We followed one of the rivers out to the coast. Of course there was nothing on the coastal plain to hit but for one tower miles away. Attending a mountain flying school in British Columbia had me practicing pinnacle landings and canyon flying in a Bell 206, also unforgettable. Closer to home, every eagle survey flight is a treat.

Q. Talk about safety. I'm sure it's something you take very seriously. What kind of weather conditions won't you fly in, etc.?

A. Safety is our highest priority and is reflected in how our 300C is equipped and the care we take in evaluating a proposed mission. Helicopters are permitted to operate in conditions of minimal visibility but it wouldn't make sense to utilize these minimums in most situations. Helicopters are also very sensitive to rain. We typically are not flying fast enough to let water stream easily off the canopy, so visibility can be easily impaired. Rain can also damage the leading edge of rotor blades. While adequate altitude and/or speed are required to safely autorotate to a landing in case of engine or transmission failure, a lot of helicopter missions require close proximity to the ground while flying slowly.

Q. Are there many businesses in Maine that provide helicopter services?

A. No, only a few.

Q. How long have you been flying and how did you become interested in taking to the skies?

A. I've been licensed for more than 30 years and flying for probably another 10 before then. I hold a private fixed wing license and commercial rotorcraft license. I have an instrument rating and private endorsements for single engine land and sea, and multi-engine land. My father developed an interest in flying and received his license when I was young. While I later on took lessons and received my license, it was more for the redundancy factor in flying with him and for the challenge. It was in flying helicopters the real fun began. I think my interest in helicopters began when I would fly over beautiful areas in the course of my work.

Q. I understand you are also a farmer, own a kayaking business and are involved with the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay. Can you please give us more details and some background about yourself?

A. I've also been a certified welder for more than 30 years, a mountaineering instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, leading students into the mountains for 30 days at a time and an EMT/professional ski patrolman/avalanche control worker. Both the kayaking and welding business go under the name Dragonworks and the longtime organic farm on the alluvial soil of East Bowdoinham is called Particular Produce Farm.

With a longtime love of high latitudes, I've worked from the Arctic to Antarctica, typically in science-related positions. My degree is a B.S. in environmental science with a lot of work in such areas as wildlife ecology, glaciology, remote sensing and snow morphology. The varied background in science, outdoor education, work in remote settings and as an EMT create a foundation of good judgment, extensive experience and safety and weather awareness important to successfully and safely operating Point of View Helicopter Services.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?

A. Just the obvious: please take a look at our website, consider us for your mission and come fly with us. Thank you Patrick for the interview.

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