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Meet A Rotorcraft Pro - Kalynn Hargis

Posted 4 years 309 days ago ago by Admin

RPMN: What is your current position?

I’m currently flying for Miami-Dade Air Rescue. We are a specialty unit within the county fire department. We fly the Bell 412 and our operations include firefighting, HEMS, and SAR for the South Florida area. I have an all civilian background in aviation.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

The first flight that I remember was in a small plane with my dad when I was little. I loved it! I quickly knew I wanted to be a pilot but remember thinking that there was no way I’d ever be able to communicate over theradio. The first time I was given the controls of a helicopter during my first training flight, I was positive we were going to die. It turns out, I was comfortable with the helicopter long before I was comfortable talking on the radio.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

I began ground school just after my 19th birthday at a school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. By the end of that year, 2007, I had my private and was working on instrument/commercial. When that school filed for bankruptcy, I had a huge loan frozen on my credit while a lawsuit was in play. All training ceased until almost a year later when my dad offered to take out a private loan in his name as long as I paid it back monthly.

The loan amount was a guess, of course, and then when I needed more, I maxed out whatever credit card I could get as well as paid out of pocket for whatever I could. So I worked my restaurant jobs at night and trained during the day. Finally I had my CFI/CFII and continued working in two restaurants until one was sufficient, then finally I was OK working full time as a pilot.

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

My dad heard about a new flight school that was opening up close to us and suggested that I go to the orientation. Half-heartedly listening, as I was preoccupied with something at the time, I agreed to go.

Immediately after listening to the school’s presentation, I turned to my sister who joined me and said, “I’m doing this.” I walked right over to the sign-up table and filled out the paperwork.

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

After my first school shut down, I browsed around other flight schools and then finally decided on another school at the same airport so that I could continue living at home while I trained. I greatly appreciated it when that school asked me to teach for them once my training concluded. After a time I started doing ferry flights and ENG. Before I was hired by Miami-Dade, I had flown throughout Canada, the States, the Caribbean, and South America. Much of which was either solo or accompanied by a beginning pilot or non-aviator altogether. Shortly after, I finished my ATP.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?

The truth is I wasn't doing anything good before I started flying. If I wasn't flying I'm sure I’d be doing something very boring. It certainly wouldn't be worthy of being featured in this magazine.

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

I now live a great life. My husband and I travel as much as we can. We’ve been to every continent except Antarctica. In the beginning of this year we spent some time in Africa where we climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and went on a self-drive safari with our best friend, Jacopo. I have many hobbies and flying is still one of them. I go up with friends and family every chance I get.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I’d say working for Miami-Dade Air Rescue has been my greatest accomplishment yet. I became a firefighter/EMT specifically for that position. I consider myself very young. (This is the part where my co- workers laugh at me and tell me their socks are older than I am.) I’m far from finished with my career. I am also in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle. Sky’s the limit, right?

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

One time, I was flying to Brazil in an R44. We were a flight of two and just fueled up at SMJP in Suriname when about three miles from the airfield my engine quit. Being that I was only at about 400 feet I’m extremely grateful there was a narrow cutout for what looked like a truck in a back yard, which butted up against a river. Two good things came out of that: first, I’m happy to say that autos really do work. Second, I made the local newspaper. It was in Dutch so I couldn’t read it, but I was still stoked.

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

The mental fundamentals you learn for flying are needed in all aspects of aviation and at every level from leadership down. It’s all too easy to make poor decisions because you’re trying to please your boss, your crew, etc. Staying true to one’s principles as an aviator will keep one on a safe and effective path. Accidents are often due a series of bad choices in a culturally corrupt environment. The objective is to enjoy a long career; stamina and longevity should be the goal. Safety and conservation, within reason, are practical methods of accomplishing this.

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?

Aviation has been teetering on the balance between automation and human intervention for a while now. Technological growth is exponential; the most obvious example of this is drones. Educating non- aviators about safety practices in general is always a challenge; now that challenge seems to be aggravated by drone flyers and administrators attempting to take traffic control to the next level by utilizing automation and privatizing ATC.

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