The Liberty Gazette
March 9, 2010
March 9, 2010
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: By the time he was ten years old Steve Fingerhut knew he loved flying. He wanted to fly helicopters, and held on to that dream through college and later through the Police Academy. Once he was on the force, the Houston Police Officer took advantage of his night shift to take helicopter training and to build his own Mini 500 helicopter on his property in Huffman.
“I like to build things, and I knew this would help me learn more about the helicopters I was flying,” says Steve, now a commercial helicopter and multi-engine airplane pilot.
HPD offered Steve a position flying a Hughes 269C, with an eventual promotion to the Hughes 500. “HPD’s Helicopter Division has an incredible safety record,” he told us, “the worst injury they’ve had since 1970 is a broken collar bone.”
Their safety record says a lot for their training program, where pilots practice autorotation during quarterly check rides. Autorotation is landing a helicopter simulating an engine failure. HPD pilots take autorotations all the way to the ground, and practice other emergency maneuvers, such as loss of tail rotor in flight, maximum performance takeoffs and ground maneuvers. It’s one thing to point the landing light at a point on the ground and fly around it keeping the same airspeed and altitude and distance from the point. Taking wind into account, that maneuver takes concentration, but at least the pilot is facing the point on the ground. Imagine trying to do that with your tail light: pick a point on the ground and fly a perfect circle around it using the tail of the helicopter as your guide. HPD’s helicopter pilots develop advanced skills.
Linda: While flying helicopters, Steve bought a Grumman Yankee, a small single engine airplane, which he kept in Crosby and used to commute to work at the HPD hangar at Hobby.
“Then one day as we were flying back from a family visit in Louisiana we had this great tailwind and I said to my wife, ‘I want to buy that tailwind!’” That’s when he moved up to a Bonanza, a bit of a jump from a Yankee in terms of power and complexity.
“My Bonanza got better gas mileage than my truck,” he laughs as he explains the added benefit of cutting travel time down to a fraction. Then last Fall Steve made another big jump, this time to a fine twin engine airplane, a Baron. It’s a beautiful plane, and soon after its arrival in his hangar at RWJ Airpark, several of us gathered to inspect and congratulate him on his excellent find.
Mike: Steve’s seen some excitement during his nine years in HPD helicopters. He’s chased law-breakers and helped get them captured. Once the Department acquired FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar), officers were able to see in the dark “heat signatures” of people, cars, guns, anything that provided a heat differential.
“One time a guy was hiding, it was dark, and the officers were walking this field in a line. They didn’t know he was behind them, but I could see his heat signature. I radioed to them to stop. I noticed one person didn’t stop and was able to identify him as the suspect. I was then able to tell the officers on the ground the suspect was behind them.”
Next week we’ll tell you more about this very humble and interesting area pilot. Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.