The unlikely collaboration of a helicopter company, a radio station, and a traffic-reporting helicopter pilot has resulted in a needed reminder of home for war-weary troops overseas. A cooperative effort between Leading Edge Aviation and Caring for Troops will have local benefits but will also provide a morale boost for U.S. soldiers.
Leading Edge Aviation, located in Bend, Ore., is a Part 135 helicopter company, Robinson facility, and has flight schools in both Bend and Salem. Recently, they approached the Caring for Troops organization with an idea that would be mutually beneficial.
Caring for Troops is a war neutral, troop supportive organization that sends gift packages to U.S. soldiers overseas. Completely a result of community donations, the packages contain niceties that wouldn’t be available to the troops otherwise, like magazines, candy, toiletries, and DVDs.
Recently, however, Caring for Troops has been pushed to the limit. They are sending out a high volume of packages every month, and the costs and labor add up quickly. “The issue for us is that CFT is having to put out 50 to 70 packages a month,” said Pete Johnson, sales manager of Leading Edge Aviation. And that number will more than double, now that over 200 more troops from the Bend area have been deployed. The problem, as always, is money.
Leading Edge already had an agreement with a local radio station, KBND, to do a daily morning traffic report in one of their choppers. Chris Jordan, a pilot with 1,400 hours, stepped up to the challenge. “Pete came to me and asked if I’d be in to doing traffic. They wanted a radio personality, the same person every morning,” said Jordan.
Often traffic choppers use a two-person system: one pilot, one traffic reporter. In Jordan’s case, he multitasks. When asked if it was difficult to fly and report traffic at the same time, he said “you get used to it.”
Leading Edge caught wind of Caring for Troop’s struggle, and came up with a unique program that would provide a funding boost for both parties. Every morning when Jordan went up to report the traffic, there was an empty seat next to him. Why not fill that seat, provide an aerial tour to a local, make money doing it, and give half of it to Caring for Troops?
That’s just what they did. The idea was a win-win and dubbed Traffic for Troops. Half the money made would be donated to Caring for Troops, so they could afford the drastic increase in packages to be sent.
Now, for $99, any person can go up in the traffic chopper with Jordan and see a spectacular view of Bend and the surrounding countryside, which, according to Jordan, is quite scenic and beautiful. “It’s always interesting to get someone who’s never been in a helicopter, or even in the air,” said Jordan. The economy may be bad, but it hasn’t affected the willingness of general aviation to serve its community.