Llamas, planes and helicopters play an important role in the Jim Johnson novel book series by RS Perry – the Jim Johnson trilogy – Off The Edge, Over The Line and Out Of Time. James L. Johnson lives on a llama ranch in north central Washington. Planes are important for many reasons in the novels but one that stands out is flying injured llamas and alpacas. Colonel Johnson works at the “secret” Biological Warfare Center (BWC) south of Seattle/Tacoma, Washington. His job as an agent specializing in biological threats is not a typical daily nine to five. Still, he makes the 140 mile flight on average weekly. And if his services are urgently needed, his boss, the director of the BWC, General Will Crystal sends a plane or helicopter to bring him in.
Is it then extravagant for him to have both a helicopter and twin engine plane? Jim would be the first to say it is, as by nature he is conservative with money. Heather his partner would be the second to say it’s extravagant. However, he spends little money on other things, even on his llama ranch in Twisp/Winthrop. And the white Enstrom helicopter just makes him feel good to look at and even better when he is flying it.
The author of the Jim Johnson series has flown Llamas and Alpacas from Wolf Canyon Ranch near Twisp, Washington to Pullman, Washington for emergency medical treatment at the Washington State University veterinary school. I’m sure Jim would do the same.
Jim didn’t learn to fly until he started living at Wolf Canyon Ranch. He knew, from flying with his men in Vietnam that he loved hekicopters. He never thought about getting a plane or helicopter until he purchased his ranch. It was approximately 100 miles from Seattle by air. While the curvy mountain roads across one of three passes extended the driving distance to over 200 miles. The shortest drive, about 3.5 hours, could be beautiful especially on the little traveled North Cascade Highway, however it was closed during winter. And winter made the other two passes oft times an exciting icy driving adventure taking extra hours to drive, taking as long as 5 hours.
A reasonably fast plane such as a Piper twin engined Seneca cut that journey time to 50 minutes, depending on weather. Jim’s first plane was not the Seneca however, but a Piper single engined Cherokee. While cheap to purchase and easy to fly, and also a good plane to earn his private pilots license in, it had several limitations starting with minimal instruments and a single piston engine. Continued in next post… Books available on rsperry.com in paperback and kindle.