He said a fellow had a helicopter company called XYZ Helicopters. He flies the helicopters for one reason only, to dry off the cherries in the cherry orchards after spring rain showers. I had to know more; I did an internet search and found the company. I called the owner and talked to him. He invited me to come visit anytime. Sure enough, he has seven old H-34's which he flies only for drying cherries. It is a fact that if the ripe cherries get wet from a spring shower, they split and are worthlesss. By flying over the cherry trees low and slow after a rain shower, the rotor downwash shakes the branches, knocking most of the water off them and helps to dry the rest of the water off. He told me he will pay about $90,000 for a flyable old H-34 and pay for it the first season. The farmers in the area have doubled their crop since he has been drying them. What a great way to make use of these old machines...and make some big bucks, too.
Flash forward to today. Upon returning from a trip to Portland, I decided to detour to this remote airport and see if I could find this owner and his high flying cherry drying service. When I arrived at the the airport all was quiet. Then I saw an object of extreme beauty:
I explained myself to their very tight security and was allowed to inspect the helicopters. They had a variety of colors and markings. One was all painted up as and UGLY ANGEL of HMM-362, Vietnam fame. I believe it may have actually been in Vietnam with HMM-362, but this will require more investigation to confirm. It was very clean. YL-38 for those of you who know HMM-362. BuNo 148786. Civilian designation N7936C
Here are all seven of the H-34's. The seventh one is tucked into the right corner and is painted white, making it very difficult to see. I took hundreds of pictures and will be posting more soon. One interesting note is that one of the H-34s had the N number of N79AR. I flew that particular H-34 in Alaska in 1983 and 1984 for a company called BRISTOL BAY HELICOPTERS. More on that later, too. I had to climb up into it and sit in the right seat for a while. An old friend and I reunited!
DO NOT make an impromptu visit to this area and try to find these helicopters. I was fortunate that I was able to talk myself past security, but usually visitors are highly discouraged and security is tight!