by G.W. Mercure
I intend to convince you to take a helicopter tour of Provincetown and beyond.
Which is peculiar. Because when the editor of Provincetown Magazine asked me several weeks ago to take the tour and write about it I jumped at the chance to let her find someone else to do it.
Finding no writers without aerophobia, she asked again. And I would like to tell you something profound about saying “Yes” to things, and seizing the day, and YOLO, but the truth is that my reasoning was this: The worst-case scenario was a death better than Hart Crane’s. And the best-case scenario? I will get to momentarily. So I said yes, and didn’t fret about it, really, until on the way to the airport a Stevie Ray Vaughan song played on the stereo.
Ted Rosenberger is the chief pilot and founder of Vertivue Air Charters. Rosenberger is congenial, assured, loquacious, and beyond knowledgeable: He is an expert on so many things that to enumerate all of them would require its own expertise.
“I majored in computer science in college and founded a software company in 1994 that ended up becoming very successful. As soon as I could afford it, I obtained my pilot’s license and bought a small plane,” he explains.
The credentials that Rosenberger has accumulated since then are impressive. “I obtained my instrument rating, then my commercial pilot’s license, then my multi-engine rating, and ultimately my Airline Transport Pilot rating, which is the highest pilot certificate available from the Federal Aviation Administration,” he says. He has been flying for 30 years, incident-free, and has a Gold rating from the Aviation Research Group, United States (ARGUS). “I’ve accumulated more than 7,100 hours in the air.”
Rosenberger’s pre-flight protocols included a tour of the machine and its safety protocols. It looked sharp on the tarmac at Provincetown Municipal Airport, for sure: Corvette red, shapely, sleek. The Enstrom 480B beckoned with its Rolls Royce jet engine and roomy interior and the camera window that I might have fit through should the helicopter end up somehow at the right wrong angle. It’s equipped with a pontoon system that allows the helicopter to land on the water safely in an emergency. He carefully describes the steps he takes in the event of engine failure, which involves angling the helicopter in a way that uses air rushing around the propellers to turn them with enough velocity to safely descend and land. “Yes,” I thought, “but that seems like it requires a great deal of skill”—skill that would be gravely tested by my dynamic manner of boundless panicking.
“You’re about to do something that very few people get to do!” he says.
During takeoff I resolved all at once to bail before it was too late. But before I could complete the thought we were 600 feet over Herring Cove, gazing down at harbor seals like ants. And, fellow vertically-averse readers, it was one of the most spectacular things I have ever done.
Vertivue operates out of Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Queen City Airport, and Provincetown. Rosenberger serves both airports and offers tours, transit, rapid trips for executives (he can get you to Boston in 25 minutes), and landmark livery to weddings and other events. Vertivue’s tours range from 30 to 90 minutes and offer once-in-a-lot-of-lifetimes views of the Outer Cape. Through sister company Ptown Air Charters, one can also book airplane transportation with Rosenberger.
The curve of the Cape laid out open like a painter’s model. Bathers on Herring Cove beach were reduced to their bright summer colors. The dune shacks were like squat buttons in that great rolling gold fabric. You don’t get this view in an airplane.
Occasions when the helicopter banked to turn took some getting used to, but when it leveled out again for a closer look at a whale tour, for example, or a long view of town with the Monument framed by the skyline, the learning curve was well worth it.
Although our flight was only supposed to last about 20 minutes, we remained in the air for closer to 40, and I didn’t even notice. A plane was preparing to land in Provincetown, and Rosenberger delayed approaching. But he also seemed to still be thrilled by flying, governed by a childlike reluctance to get out of the air, finding always more to see, more to show, more to do.
He grew up next to a small airport in Pennsylvania. “As a boy, I was mesmerized watching the planes take off and dreamed of someday piloting a plane myself,” he recalls.
At last, he headed for the runway, over the dunes, a copse of willowy trees, where an airplane wouldn’t, couldn’t go. He evoked Doc Emmett Brown from Back to the Future: “We don’t need a runway!”
We descended to about five feet over the tarmac quickly. But the show was not over. Rosenberger demonstrated how he could command the helicopter to fly sideways, to bob back and bank forward, even fly backward, all of which it did do, like a stock Clydesdale in a dressage competition.
I did not greet the ground with penitent kisses, nor did I thank any saints for my return. I recall thinking about flying with Rosenberger again, inquiring after flights from Rhode Island to the Cape, whether he does GrubHub. I will fly with Ted Rosenberger and Vertivue again.