In The Voyage Home, Sulu pilots a helicopter over Golden Gate Park, to haul slabs of transparent aluminum to the cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey.

Where did he get the money for the helicopter? Between the lot of them, they only had 100 bucks, obtained by pawning Kirk's reading glasses at a hock shop.

Renting a helicopter for even an hour would probably cost much more than that, even in the mid 80s, not to mention a sizeable damage deposit.

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    It's plexiglass/perspex, not transparent alumin(i)um. – OrangeDog Sep 20 '15 at 19:45
  • @OrangeDog is correct. They bartered the science necessary to create transparent aluminum for the plexiglass. – jpmc26 Sep 21 '15 at 1:59

According to the film's official novelisation, the helicopter belonged to the plastics company, Plexicorp. Sulu evidently stole it after tricking the pilot into showing him how it works (since he obviously didn't want the pilot to get freaked out about having to drop the perspex panels off in the middle of the park, to an invisible ship):

Sulu approached the plastics company's big huey, entranced. He had seen still photos and battered old film of this helicopter, but none had survived, even in museums, to his time. The huey was as extinct as the humpback whale. He stroked one hand along its flank.


"Oh, I think so, eventually," Sulu said, trying not to sound too certain. He drew the conversation back to the huey. "I was hoping I'd find a pilot when I saw this helicopter. Mind if I ask a few questions?"

"Fire away."

They chatted about the copter for a while. The pilot glanced at his watch. "I've got to make a delivery," he said. "Want to come along?"

"I'd like nothing better."

In the next scene, there's no pilot evident and Sulu is at the controls.

There was a similar scene in the film's original script (most of which made it into the film). Again, the implication is theft rather than hiring:


Sulu moves through the grounds where Plexiglass Products of all shapes and sizes are stacked. In the midst of this, sits a great HUEY helicopter with the company logo on its side. Its PILOT is working on his engine as Sulu comes up touches the craft lovingly, stares studiously into the cockpit.


SULU: Hi. Huey 205, isn't it?

PILOT: Right on. You fly?

SULU: Oh, here and there. (pats it) I flew something similar in my Academy days.

PILOT: All right, then this is old stuff to you.

SULU: Old, yes. But interesting. (then) Do you mind if I ask a few questions...?

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Note the sheets of perspex in the background.

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  • 2
    I wonder how much they pawned the helicopter for. – Major Stackings Sep 20 '15 at 6:35
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    @MajorStackings - I'm hoping they got the pilot out of the storage locker before they ditched it. – Valorum Sep 20 '15 at 6:36
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    You and your novelisations! ;-) I was going on script only. I thought about Sulu stealing the helicopter, but figured that would draw too much attention... – Praxis Sep 20 '15 at 6:37
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    Then again, large rectangular slabs vanishing slowly over the park draws its own kind of attention. – Praxis Sep 20 '15 at 6:40
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    @HagenvonEitzen - Yes, because the huey was loaded with their plexiglass. If Sulu had stolen it before then, how would they have loaded the helicopter? I'm think we can all hope that they dropped the pilot off somewhere rather than simply shoving his corpse out of the door over the Bay – Valorum Sep 20 '15 at 9:30

Transparent aluminium formula = use of company helicopter

Going on the script alone, they pawned Kirk's glasses for $100, but — in a sense — they also pawned Scotty's formula for the transparent aluminium. This probably got them a lot more than $100.

First of all, the formula itself — being extremely valuable to the commercial plastics expert who they consulted — got them the plexiglass they required for free.

NICHOLS: Transparent aluminum?

SCOTT: That's the ticket, laddie.

NICHOLS: It would take years just to figure out the dynamics of this matrix.

McCOY: Yes, but you'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Getting some time on the plastics company helicopter was probably no big deal — especially given what the expert and his manufacturing company stood to make!

Note: Richard's answer, which cites the official novelization, indicates that Sulu actually stole the helicopter from the company. This makes sense: even if the company agreed to deliver the slabs without cost, they would want their pilot in charge of the delivery, which would mean introducing him to a cloaked spaceship from the future...

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  • Deflategate was based on something that probably happened... We want proof, son. We want proof! ;) – Major Stackings Sep 20 '15 at 6:50
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    @MajorStackings : Hehe. I went as far as I could with what we see in the film. Richard and his collection of novelizations give the complete picture. :-) – Praxis Sep 20 '15 at 7:06
  • @Praxis - And the script. – Valorum Sep 20 '15 at 7:07
  • @Richard : script + novel + Richard = complete. – Praxis Sep 20 '15 at 7:10
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    This is a reasonable answer. I decided to checkmark Richard's because of the novel and additional detail, but thank you too. – television_addiction Sep 20 '15 at 7:31

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