The lure of the whir: Pilot lands commercial turbine helicopter service

TRAVERSE CITY – “If a picture is worth a thousand words, the view from a helicopter is worth 10,000 words,” says Kevin W. Nelson, owner of the region’s only commercial turbine helicopter service.

Canton is home to the only other such service in the state, and it caters primarily to the automotive industry.

NELSON AeroDYNAMIX Corporation (NAC), Helicopter Charter Services, began operations in late December after researching potential markets for helicopter charter services in northern Michigan for three years.

The research process ultimately took Nelson to Austin and Ronald Bower, internationally-known helicopter pilot and consultant. Having consulted in over 650 helicopter transactions, Bower transitioned from consultant to buyer/seller, and Nelson was his first client. There was never any question in the selection of a five-seat Bell JetRanger–it’s the most popular helicopter and the safest single engine aircraft in the world, he said.

Based on northern Michigan’s “natural beauty, business growth, and lack of interstate highways,” the market Nelson envisions ranges from business and horticulture to romantic and alluring.

He sees the charter being used for photography (still and motion pictures); real estate site visits/development information gathering; electronic news gathering; utility companies; natural resources management; advertising and promotions; special events; adventure tourism and surveys.

“I can take potential new business concerns up and in 30 minutes of helicopter viewing they’ll know the traffic flow in the area enough to make business decisions without the time and expense of doing surveys and traffic-flow studies,” he said.

A Traverse City Central graduate, Nelson earned a degree in management and economics from the prestigious U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. A stint as a line officer on a buoy tender in southeast Alaska led to attendance at the Coast Guard and Navy’s pilot program at Pensacola Air Station in Florida. There he earned his instrument rating in single engine fixed-wing aircraft and continued on to advanced training in helicopters.

Today, after thousands of flying hours, Nelson holds the highest FAA rating available for helicopter piloting and has completed Bell JetRanger’s in-house training academy, ranked number one worldwide. He is also a member of Helicopter Association International, a governing body that upholds the integrity of helicopter pilots internationally.

Safety is the forerunner of all the features and accolades of the Bell JetRanger. Not only is Nelson required by the FAA to be re-certified annually, but the helicopter must submit to regular and rigorous mechanical inspections.

This month the aircraft is scheduled for a refit that will include custom trim painting, installation of a special light, and modifying the doors on the left side to a slide type opening.

Nelson’s hangar is located at Harbor Air Executive Terminal at Cherry Capital Airport, directly across from the Coast Guard station.

The aircraft has the capacity to carry four passengers and/or up to 700 pounds of gear. Charter rate is $625 per hour of flight, which includes a half-hour of free ground time where Nelson explains the flight process. Per seat rate of $125 with a minimum of three people is another option.

Nelson can land his helicopter in a 40-foot square space, with clearance of 60 feet beyond, i.e. no wires or trees. This makes landing possible on the beach, a football or softball field, and even in a large back yard.

And don’t let the cold weather keep you from scheduling a flight. According to Nelson, “The helicopter flies better in cooler air than in warm air; it takes less power.” But of course, favorable weather is a pre-requisite for any flight.

“I am responsible for the safety of passengers in the aircraft and as pilot in command, reserve the right to cancel/postpone the flight and would reschedule,” explains Nelson. “I appreciate and understand the limitations and am not going to stretch safety.”

Nelson speaks enthusiastically of working for area horticulturalists by using his helicopter to dry vineyards and orchards when the fruit is threatened by too much moisture or impending frost. He will even do preliminary research to determine the application appropriate to the region and his aircraft.

With a genuine passion for his endeavor, Nelson brings integrity and acumen to the business community. His charter services are intended for travel within the northwest area of the state. If one’s destination is airport-to-airport, fixed-wing aircraft makes more sense. NAC is a complement to, not a competitor of, other air services. As a third generation native, Nelson is concerned about preserving what we have ‘up north.’

“I want to be an asset to businesses, hotels, resorts,” he said. “Not be a drawback to the quality of life, but add to it.”

Reservations are not required, but are recommended. Call (231) 932-9323 for quotes and scheduling. BIZNEWS