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Meet A Rotocraft Pro - Brad Shubargo

Posted 2 years 119 days ago ago by Admin

RPMN: What is your current position?

From the moment I started learning about becoming a helicopter pilot, I was not 100% certain, but I saw myself doing something that would help people; air ambulance was on that list. I consider myself both lucky and grateful to have achieved that goal. Today I’m a line pilot flying an H135P2+ for Air Methods Corporation in the eastern U.S. Additionally, I’m an account executive for Rotorcraft Pro Media Network helping helicopter businesses promote their services to the industry.
RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

My first flight was way back in 1988. My eyes had always jumped skyward whenever I saw a helicopter cruise by. I grew up directly under the flight path of runway 1R at Washington Dulles International Airport and regularly saw Concordes arriving and departing which was awesome, but there was always something about helicopters like that of the Fairfax County Police Dept. that blew me away.  My Dad was in the Army and in the mid-to-late ‘80s there were a number of movies released about Vietnam; Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, MIssing in Action and so on.  Naturally, they featured Hueys, etc. and they just captured my imagination.  I used to beg my Dad to take me up on a helicopter and I thought maybe this was a possibility.  Well to my surprise for my 13th birthday he took me to Reagan National Airport and I took a 10-minute tour over D.C. in a Beige 206.  To say that this was one of the most impactful moments in my life is the understatement of the millenium.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

In 2010, I was sitting at my desk with a “Case of the Mondays” wondering why I would do something every day of which I had grown so weary.  After 10 really successful years in advertising sales I had lost the passion for it somewhere along the way. So I started looking for new hobbies and a more constructive way to spend my time on the weekends instead of bouncing around bars with my buddies. I found a flight school not far from where I grew up and scheduled a demo flight.  I knew from the moment we lifted that this was something I was extremely interested in pursuing so I bucked up for the private pilot package.  After being a weekend warrior for a couple of months I just knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  So just like that, I quit my job, sold my house, represented myself as the listing agent so I could keep that 3% commission to myself and used the money I made off of that sale to pay for flight training and jumped in full time.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  

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

It was never even a question. Airplanes just never interested me. It was helicopters all the way.  It didn't take long for me to get bit by the aviation bug either.  I would say I was around 12-15 hours total time when I'd decided that I needed to make flying helicopters a career and not just a hobby.  That's when I began researching the career path, hitting the forums, setting appointments with pilots working in the industry to pick their brains and ask for advice (one guy told me not to do it!), and figuring out a way to pay for this crazy dream of mine.  So I guess you could say that helicopters chose me, kidnapped me, and have possessed me ever since.

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially? 

After becoming a CFI and working for American Helicopters in Northern Virginia, I was lucky enough to get my first job outside of flight training, flying in New York with Liberty Helicopters and later Helicopter Flight Services.  Flying in a fast paced, complex, congested area with constant sports, presidential and United Nation temporary flight restrictions, and very fickle weather teaches you so much about real-world flying that you just don’t get from the training environment. You grow up fast, that’s for sure.

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

I would probably be doing what I was doing originally. Doing what most of us do.  Doing a job just to earn a paycheck. Chasing dollars. Instead, I’m now one of the fortunate and few individuals who can honestly say that I love what I do.

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

Working my dream job at Rotorcraft Pro!  It's nice to get back to my roots, so to speak, since after all, that was the career that afforded me the opportunity to pay for flight training. I enjoy fostering relationships new and old and you meet some really great folks this way. I love helping to develop and implement marketing strategies for our clients.  It allows you to be really creative because we have so many tools at our disposal to create highly robust and well rounded campaigns: video, print, digital, and social media.  It's been really great to gain a different perspective other than just the aviation side. Outside of that, mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking, spending time with my family, figuring out my next adventure, and catching up with my buddies over a beer pretty much fills out what time is left.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I’d have to say the biggest accomplishment would have to be the entire journey.  From putting it all on the line and taking a leap hoping the net would appear, to sleeping in trailers, couch surfing, countless hours on the road, eating enough Ramen noodles to kill a college kid and finally getting an EMS job. It was the challenge of the journey that made it so great.

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

Well, I have definitely had a few, but one that comes to mind was when I was instructing.  My student and I were training run-on landings in an R22.  Upon touchdown we began to veer to the right so I told him to apply left pedal.  Still veering right, I said again, in a slightly louder voice, “left pedal!”  At this point he had kind of locked up and I was trying to overpower him with left pedal.  After telling him I have controls, I was pushing so hard to overpower him and his tree trunk sized legs that when I finally had controls and he had relinquished, I had jammed in full left pedal and there we were sliding down Runway 15 with a heading of 060!  I definitely "oh, crapped."

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

Be an airplane pilot! No, all jokes aside I would say to be humble and be good to the folks around you because it's a small industry and you never know who can help open a door for you.  Most of all, I would tell them to be persistent in their pursuit.  No one is going to just hand you anything in this industry; you really have to earn it.

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

Since I'm a pilot I'll have to speak from a pilot's perspective. Generally, I think pilot pay is a serious challenge for the industry. Pilots fly multi-million dollar aircraft and there are few who possess the skills necessary to do so. There seems to be consensus among many who agree that helicopter pilots are generally underpaid.  That has led to many talented aviators choosing a different career path, or they get out of flying helicopters and go to airlines.  It seems that finding qualified pilots is an ever present challenge and that problem will only be exacerbated in the future if the industry resists change or does not seek solutions.