A new UH-1-A “Huey” helicopter, based in Saranac Lake, was put into action Tuesday, April 23, to help DEC Forest Rangers rescue a group of teens unprepared for conditions near the summit of Mount Colden.
Four 17-year-olds from the Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs area, one with a leg injury, were stranded near the summit of Mount Colden. They were wearing sneakers, without snowshoes, and stuck in deep soft snow, according to reports by State Police and Forest Rangers, who were dispatched to the rescue.
In August 1995, the WASP community suffered a loss with the death of Marianne Verges, a non-member who admired their accomplishments and helped preserve their legacy by authoring the book, On Silver Wings: The Women Air Force Pilots of World War II (1991). The book’s final paragraph captures the spirit of women like Betty who saw possibilities, stood tall in a decidedly male bastion, the military, and fought for the right to make equal contributions to the nation’s future: “As with many others of their generation who forged their characters during World War II, the true legacy of the WASPs is found in their lives, the opportunities they expected and accepted for themselves and others through the years, and their exuberant vision of unlimited human possibility.”
Betty continued to maintain a high level of activity despite a couple of health setbacks late in the year, described in her own words: “… a fall on my face after Thanksgiving, and another fall resulting in a broken wrist. I think that’s enough falls for the time being!” At the time, besides working as historian, she was busy making edits and corrections in a reprint of Byrd Granger’s On Final Approach, one of numerous books covering the WASP story from many angles. » Continue Reading.
In June 1982, Betty Pettitt Nicholas was awarded the Nicholas Trophy by the Indianapolis Aero Club as the previous year’s “most deserving woman pilot of the year.” It was the second time she was chosen for the honor, and as happened on the first occasion back in 1952, unusual circumstances surrounded the award. The trophy given 30 years earlier was named in honor of Dee Nicholas, who had been the wife of Ted Nicholas, a pilot and TV executive. A year after winning the award, Betty Pettitt married Ted, a union that ended 15 years later, in 1968, when he died of a heart attack.
Since that time, the Dee Nicholas Trophy had been retired, and was replaced by the Ted Nicholas Trophy. Which means Betty Pettitt Nicholas won a trophy named after her husband’s first wife, and another trophy named after him. To mark the occasion, a photograph of the honoree with seven of her good friends, all previous winners, appeared in the 99s newsletter. The Seymour Daily Tribune noted that the award was given “to the most deserving licensed woman pilot for her outstanding achievement and service in the field of aviation.” No doubt she was a good fit on both occasions. » Continue Reading.
Betty left the state aeronautics commission when the term of boss and close friend Cap Cornish, director, was ended by a newly elected governor in 1952. But, as Betty Pettitt Nicholas after her 1953 marriage, she remained busy in other aviation-related positions, and took frequent flights in the Cessna 170 that she and husband Ted had purchased. A trip in summer 1955 took them farther away from home than most: they journeyed to Quebec, Canada, and flew over her old haunts in the Adirondacks on the way home. She also took part in flying contests, and earned a bronze-and-glass candy-dish trophy in 1958 for winning a spot-landing competition (extreme accuracy in wheel touchdown).
Such was her life in the 1960s, flying for fun, taking part in air races sponsored by the 99s (in the first one in 1961, she finished sixth), and promoting aviation at every opportunity. She also found employment with the College Life Insurance Company, working as executive secretary to the president and chairman of the board. In 1967, she and Ted bought a new Cessna 150, and that summer enjoyed a trip to Montreal, where they experienced Expo 67 (the World’s Fair), one of the greatest events the city has ever hosted. How popular was it? In a nation of 20 million, and a province of about 6 million, attendance surpassed 50 million, a record that still stands. » Continue Reading.
In October 1947, pilot Betty Pettitt moved to Indianapolis and joined a staff (for automobile maker Kaiser-Frazer) that included an unusual co-worker: a skywriter who handled the company’s airborne advertising. Skywriting was once expected to prevail as the prime advertising method of the future, only to drop into a steep decline when a new technology, television, provided a reliable method of reaching mass numbers of consumers without having to rely on the whims of weather. But for a few decades, skywriting was a very popular method of advertising and provided excellent employment for skilled pilots.
As luck would have it, Betty’s skywriting co-worker soon opted for a salesman’s position, leaving her as his obvious replacement. Something as complex as creating huge letters high in the sky would surely require extensive training. It wasn’t, after all, the same concept as writing letters by hand, as Betty explained: “When you remember that you are writing so someone below can read it, you find it is just like writing backwards on a steamy window so someone outside can read it…. It’s all done backwards and upside down.” » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the agency has deployed a fleet of 22 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, across the state. An announcement from the state agency said the drones will “enhance the state’s environmental management, conservation and emergency response efforts.”
“DEC has a wide range of responsibilities in protecting the state’s environment and ensuring the safety of our citizens and visitors, and well-being of our communities,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in the statement, which was sent to the press. “The use of drone technology will help us do our jobs better and faster while saving taxpayer dollars. We live in a changing world with technological advances being made at an exponential rate, and UAVs give us a safe and efficient way to collect and analyze data, assess threats to the environment, and quickly respond to emergencies. This technology is helping DEC with everything from petroleum spills and wildlife surveys to search and rescue missions, forest fires, and natural disasters.” » Continue Reading.
Chip Moeser hiked fifteen miles from Lake Placid in early July to spend the night at Duck Hole deep in the High Peaks Wilderness. He was looking for quiet, but in the late afternoon, a helicopter started descending from overhead.
“It was coming in like it was going to land,” Moeser said, adding that it got as close as ten feet to the ground before taking off.
At first, he had assumed it was a state helicopter. In fact, it was owned by Go Aviation, which this summer started flying helicopter tours out of Lake Placid and Lake Clear. » Continue Reading.
Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was realized that airmarks could be used by enemy planes, so the order was given to remove 2,500 airmarks that stood within 150 miles of the nation’s coasts. Six weeks later, those marks were obliterated, undoing six years of labor—but shortly after, the blanket order was modified. Why? The absence of airmarks was causing military pilot trainees to become lost. The new order allowed airmarks within 50 miles of flight training airfields.
The national program resumed after the war, with improved methods (including government-supplied plywood templates for lettering) and greater participation, but it’s truly remarkable that despite historic advances in communications and airplanes, the airmark system remained in use into the 1970s.
If you’re old enough to have flown locally back then, you might recall some North Country rooftop markings, some of which are listed below with their year of origin. Most were maintained until the system became outdated. » Continue Reading.
We take navigation for granted today, what with Siri, GPS, radio communications, radar, and services like Google Maps. But imagine you were a pilot in upstate New York back in the 1920s, when aviation was first coming into its own. If you took to the air, as many citizens did, how would you avoid getting lost?
The answer quite often was — you probably wouldn’t, and with potentially fatal consequences. Many pilots died in crashes after running out of fuel while trying to find a destination. » Continue Reading.
Leigh Campbell got quite a shock in the predawn hours of April 3: his wife, Heather, 27 weeks pregnant, went into early labor.
The couple, who live in Ray Brook, rushed to the Adirondack Medical Center in nearby Saranac Lake. But because that hospital lacks a neonatal intensive-care unit, their midwife called for a helicopter to bring Heather to a hospital in Burlington, Vermont, on the other side of Lake Champlain.
The good news: Heather avoided a premature birth. As of Friday, she remained in the hospital waiting to bring her baby to term.
But the Campbells are still dealing with the aftermath of another shock: two days after the medical emergency, they learned that the bill for the 25-minute helicopter flight was $59,999. And Heather’s insurance carrier would cover only about $370. The service provided by the helicopter company, LifeNet, was “out of network” and therefore not covered by her health-insurance policy. » Continue Reading.
It has often been said by various Park planners that the availability of convenient air travel from the Adirondack region is an important piece of the North Country’s economic puzzle. But what has seemed colloquially obvious now has interesting research to back it up. If we can draw any parallels to the same issue out West, we can say with more certainty that convenient air travel is in fact an essential piece.
The Adirondack Region offers a great deal to the remote worker: world-class natural beauty, unsurpassed recreational opportunities, a pristine environment, a surprising level of cultural amenities, good restaurants and expanding broadband availability. I’ve even been pleased with shipping and postage times, considerably better than I had expected before I moved here. Indeed, for people who want to be able to live in the Park while participating in a global business world, the overall story is getting more persuasive. But transportation in, around and out of the Adirondacks is a real problem. » Continue Reading.
If you are in Essex and Clinton counties, you may notice an airplane flying a grid pattern at low altitude for a few weeks this December as scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey map buried geological features that provide clues into mineral resources in the area.
The region was known for iron ore mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it also contains deposits of rare earth minerals according to the USGS. Rare earth minerals are used in advanced technology such as in cell phones, rechargeable batteries and super-magnets. The surveys will measure subtle changes in Earth’s magnetic field that reflect different types of buried rock. They will also measure low, background levels of natural radioactivity that help with mapping different types of surface rocks. Together, these data will allow visualization of geological structures at and beneath the surface. » Continue Reading.
In the 1950s northern New Yorkers had war on their minds. Thousands of average citizens put television, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Corvettes aside over concerns about World War III. Fresh on everyone’s minds was World War II, but the U.S. was right back into a mess in 1950 in Korea, where a three-year fight became one of the building blocks of the Cold War. On it’s ground floor were the everyday North Country folks who joined Operation Skywatch. » Continue Reading.
As I made my way up Seward Mountain with Scott Van Laer last October, trying to find the wreckage of a Piper Cherokee that slammed into the peak in 1970, I kept thinking that the search would go pretty quickly. After all, a plane, even a single-engine model like the Cherokee, is big. It does not belong in the forest. How could we not find it?
Van Laer was pretty confident in our chances, too. He’s done this before, having tracked down about twenty of these wrecks throughout the Adirondacks, and is writing a guidebook for others who want to make their own way to the sites. » Continue Reading.
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