24 - 09 - 2017
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cousins in SD

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Whirlybirds were part of the '70s scene
Kjerstad brothers flew helicopters around Jackson Hole, even over the Grand Teton.

By Michael Sellett

The day Floyd Kjerstad began his scenic helicopter service from what was then the west edge of Jackson in June 1972, the switchboard at city hall lit up.

One woman who liked to sunbathe nude told the town council her privacy was being invaded. Others complained about the noise as the whirlybird passed over their houses.

"Mrs. Crabtree lived over at the base of Snow King and she told the city council she was going to shoot me down if I flew over her house," Kjerstad recalled in a telephone interview from South Dakota.

To placate the council, Kjerstad took members up for a ride and found out where Mrs. Crabtree's house was located. The next trip he adjusted his route.

Kjerstad, who now farms wheat, began the helicopter service from a 40-acre field where Shervin's Independent Oil and Albertson's are now located. His brother, Roger, was a partner part of the time. Floyd Kjerstad said he had to build a fence to keep the horses that grazed the field away from his helicopter.

Soon after the initial uproar over the scenic flights, Kjerstad said he got called to assist in a backcountry rescue. "That changed everybody's mind when they saw the helicopter was useful," Kjerstad said.

For more than a decade Kjerstad's Helicopters took thousands of customers on scenic flights around the valley and into Grand Teton National Park.

Kjerstad offered three basic scenic flights from his roadside operation west of town. The so-called "shorty hop" took off over the south end of East Gros Ventre Butte, circled back to Snow King, passed over the ski area, and cruised over town as it returned to the heliport. The whole trip took five minutes.

A second route flew over West Gros Ventre Butte on the way to Teton Village, circled Rendezvous Peak and then followed the Tetons south to Wilson before turning back toward town. The real show stopper was the trip that took off over West Gros Ventre Butte en route to the Grand Teton.

"As we went over West Gros Ventre Butte there was a nice reveal of the Snake River. Then we went over to the east end of Phelps Lake. If it was nice and calm the lake was like a mirror and we got to see a moving picture of the reflection of the mountains in the lake."

From Phelps Lake Kjerstad's helicopter proceeded up the east side of the range to the Grand Teton, gaining altitude as it approached the peak.

"We circled the Grand Teton and sometimes went right over the top of it," the pilot recalls.

Kjerstad said he got one cautionary letter from the Park Service after a group of climbers on the Grand complained that he had ruined their experience. "I kept a diary of every day," Kjerstad said, "and on that particular day I hauled a guy without any legs and he had a wonderful experience."

Eventually, Kjerstad expanded his operation to seven helicopters as he did contract work for oil companies conducting seismic exploration in Star Valley, 65 miles south of Jackson. During that time and and on his scenic flights, Kjerstad never felt his choppers frightened or endangered animals.

"I wish some of those people would have been out there and watched the wildlife," Kjerstad said. "We had an elk herd that would follow us for a week at a time. I never circled wildlife. It starts making them nervous. You just have to use a little sense how you fly around them."

From an isolated life on his South Dakota farm, Kjerstad is still aware of the controversy surrounding Vortex Aviation's scenic helicopter operations at the Jackson Hole Airport. Kjerstad believes Vortex has a right to operate its scenic flights.

"It would seem like a basic freedom," he said.

But the long-time pilot realizes Jackson Hole is a very different place than it was 30 years ago.

"Our whole society has changed a lot," Kjerstad said. "No matter what somebody wants to do there is somebody against it."

Cherish moments of the unforgetable

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Summer 2014

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After a long, tiring, endless busy workday --- RELAX!

Summer Season is the best season of the year . The warmer days of summer are good news for all of us. It is the season when you go to holidays/vacation with your love ones. 

 

 Before our vacation  was almost over, we visited mama Norveig at the nursing home. She was so happy when she saw us. 

No one will ever love you like your mother. She will always  be there for you in sickness or in health  :) ...