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Meet a Rotorcraft Pro: Adam Hammond

Posted 5 years 187 days ago ago by Admin


RPMN: What is your current position?

I am a utility pilot and safety officer for the Tennessee Valley Authority. We fly MD530F, EC120, EC145, and Bell 407 aircraft in support of serving the people of the Tennessee Valley and its 16,000-plus miles of powerlines.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

My first flight in a helicopter was an introduction flight in an R22 at a flight school, Higher Ground Helicopters in my home state of Ohio. It was only a half-hour flight, but I was hooked.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

Originally I was going to go through the U.S. Army flight school at Ft. Rucker, but I had a bad skydiving accident shortly after my Warrant Officer Candidate School graduation. The injuries I received disqualified me from being an Army pilot, but they did not keep me from following my dream. After seven years of Army service, I used my GI Bill and started the professional pilot course at Higher Ground Helicopters.

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?

I think it was a little bit of both. Growing up, my church pastor always spoke of his time as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, which sparked my interest. Also, my father was a volunteer fireman and I saw MedFlight of Ohio land at the local fire department for an LZ safety briefing. Being able to land vertically in a baseball field seemed much more interesting than landing on a runway. Those experiences were always in the front of my mind when it came time to choose a career.

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

My first big break in the industry was accepting a flight instructor position at Ocean Helicopters in West Palm Beach, Florida. It is a very busy flight school; I was able to give 1,000 hours of instruction in my first year. The chief pilot there, Pam Landis, is a great mentor to new flight instructors. She and Rick Guthery, a Miami-Dade rescue pilot, helped me realize my calling as a utility pilot. My first job outside of flight instructing was with Haverfield Aviation, where I spent four years inspecting, maintaining, and constructing power lines.

RPMN: What else could you see yourself doing if you were not in the helicopter industry?

Not knowing that Army physical requirements for pilots were different than the FAA requirements, I was on my way to law school. After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I still wanted to fly. I started to research the FAA requirements and realized I could receive second-class medical certification. So I said goodbye to the law school plan ... and hello to helicopters.

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

I enjoy spending time with my wife, Maranda, and our two daughters, Lo and Hadley. They are full of life and energy and we always have some fun adventures. During the fall season, my daughters and I devote some of our Saturdays to rooting for The Ohio State Buckeyes while living in the middle of Roll Tide (University of Alabama) country. Go Bucks!

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I have a few. Receiving a Gold Seal on my CFI certificate was a great accomplishment. As an instructor, I helped 22 people realize their dreams to become pilots. The other was gaining the confidence of aerial power linemen when they allowed me to start flying human external cargo operations at Haverfield Aviation. It’s a whole different thought process doing long-line operations when the cargo is people. Those people trust you to bring them back to the ground in the same condition you picked them up.

RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh, crap!” moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened?

Oh, yes! As a flight instructor, I had a 10-hour student with me during a normal takeoff. About 200 feet AGL, our fuel cap separated from the aircraft and took out our tail rotor. We spun 90 degrees pretty quick. I instantly knew we lost tail rotor authority as I lowered the collective and rolled off the throttle. In my head, I heard my old flight instructors telling me the emergency procedure for this: “Keep airspeed up and let the vertical stabilizer help with yaw control.” At about that time we had spun 180 degrees. I saw the vertical stabilizer falling to the ground as I thought to myself: There goes that idea. I was now just trying to manage the rotor RPM as we continued to spin. We spun one-and-a-half times, and when we landed we split the landing gear. There were no injuries, and I made sure to call my old flight instructor to thank him for working so much with me on these types of emergencies when I was a student.

RPMN: If you could give only one piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be?

Set goals and work hard to achieve them. You will have some hurdles to jump, but don’t let that stop you. Also, know that your entire career is a job interview, from the first day you show up to flight school. Our industry is small and it’s easier to get a job if everyone your potential employer talks to tells them how hard you work. Always be professional and don’t burn bridges.

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest current challenge for the helicopter industry?

Educating the non-flying public. I can’t tell how many times the police have been called on me, while working on powerlines. Many people thinking we are stuck to the lines, or stuck to the towers. Other callers believe the lineman sitting on the platform is a crew member that is about to jump because of us being “stuck.” It makes for some interesting stories on the 6 o’clock news!