Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Myrtle Beach's Ocean Front Helicopter Rides 7/22/14

     And here it is - the heart of South Carolina's Grand Strand.  This photo was made possible by Ocean Front Helicopters in Myrtle Beach.

     The sales office is located just off of South King's Highway on the very end of the runway at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

     Helping us out today is Tom Printz, director of marketing.

Tom Printz

     Growing up in the Canton Ohio area, Tom's parents took him on an annual vacation to Myrtle Beach.  He swore then that one day he would live here.  Some years passed and he spent time as a medic in the military, but after marrying he found himself settled in Ohio.

     Eight years ago he brought his wife and two children on vacation here and they loved it.  Working as a barber at that time, he told them that if he opened the newspaper and there was a job for a barber he would try to get them moved.  He opened the paper, there was a barbering job, he was hired, and after spending three months here he saved enough money to move the family.  His wife Shawna and he have since had another child - and he now has his hands full with a career and three young children.

    A few years back he applied for a job with the company, and the owner told him that if he could figure out how to operate this large format printer he had a job.  Within two weeks he figured it out and was turning out signs and soon after car wraps.  He is versatile and wears a lot of hats.  He often works out swaps for things like car wraps in exchange for advertising with companies.  It was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with him.

     Just off of the parking lot of the sales office is a path out to the helipad.  The company owns 8 Robinson R44 helicopters and employs 9 pilots.  The pilots are all certified as training pilots, a big step above a regular pilot. 

     In the photo above you can see a plane coming in for landing just beyond the helipad.  After riding out on a golf cart, ground crew assist you into the bird and you are quickly in the air.

     It is a quick turn over condos and then atop King's Highway, and soon you are above the strand.

     Soon you can look back at Myrtle Beach International.

     This airport was built in 1940 to assist in the efforts for WWII.   Because it was built for the Air Force, the runway is two miles long - twice as long as usual.  Because the strip was built with the heavier specifications, it served as an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttles.  The Air Force closed their operations here in 1993 and has since been used for civilian purposes.

     Jet skiers head out through the surf, and from this perspective you can see fish, dolphin, turtles and other aquatic life.

     The large strip of ground that looks undeveloped in this photo is actually a couple of large RV parks.  There are six large campgrounds close by, and thousands of motor homes and trailers visit here each year.

     But what goes up must come down, and soon we are back on the pad.  There are other packages for trips, some going as far north as the N. Carolina line.

     The company has a truck that they keep by the helipad for convenient refueling.

     Jeremy Bass, the owner of the company was actually working for the company some years back, and made enough improvements that the then owner offered a buy-out.  He agreed, and the company has grown from there.  

     Jeremy grew up in Gibsonville NC close to an airport.  He was enthralled with the planes, and as a kid mowed grass, cleaned, ran errands - whatever he could do to swap off for time up in the planes.  His passion has evolved into a solid business employing a couple dozen folks.

       He has two hangers that sit directly across the air strip from the sales office.  Here he has assembled a great crew of airplane mechanics.

     Below, Tom shows a specialty floor jack that allows the helicopters to be pulled into the hangar by hand.  The unit is designed so well that one man can pull a chopper in and out by himself.

     The birds get used - they fly almost non-stop during the busy season.  Maintaining a fleet like this isn't cheap, and unless a company is set up to do its own maintenance and repairs there is no way that rides could be offered so reasonably.

     But Jeremy has it set up right.  His mechanics work on all matter of airplanes - in fact there are a number of them waiting outside for repairs.  The monies earned from working on other's planes covers the cost of maintaining the fleet.

     The company has also acquired a Navajo Chieftain which it hires out for corporate use.

     Planes stay in use longer than cars - and here is an old micro-fiche viewer for use in viewing the blueprints, schematics and repair specs of numerous older planes.

     A number of shelves filled with manuals assist in the work as well.

     But planes and choppers are not the only thing Jeremy is collecting at the moment.  He has quite a collection of old video games that are helicopter related.

     Just outside the gates of the entryway to the hangars is a remnant of the Air Force's presence here - Warbird Park.

     Along with a number of monuments and plaques are several of the planes that were operated and maintained here.

     The A-10 "Warthog" of Gulf War fame was operated out of here.

     Also, the A-7 Corsair that went into service in 1968.

     There is also a memorial to the 40,000 odd men and women who served here over the years.

     Today's parting shot is one of those t-shirts.  Many of them are too explicit for this publication, but here is an example of one of the hundreds for sale with all manner of messages.

Have a great Wednesday!!

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