Posted 16 days ago ago by Admin
RP: What is your current position?
I am the assistant director of operations for Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. We are the world’s largest and longest-operating helicopter tour company with 57 years of experience. Papillon currently operates a fleet of 47 helicopters, including Bell 206Ls, Airbus AS350B3es and EC130B4/T2s, and an MD 900. We employ over 60 pilots in seven locations across Nevada and Arizona. In addition to tours, we also have a robust utility division with helicopters working on contracts anywhere from Alaska to Florida.
RP: Tell me about your first flight or experience with helicopters.
My first helicopter flight experience, like many other pilots, was in an R-22. Before flying, most things in life had come relatively easy to me. I thought that flying a helicopter would be just the same. I took my first flight—and what a humbling experience it was! However, I also knew at that moment what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
RP: How did you get your start in helicopters?
I earned my certificates and ratings from a busy flight school in Utah. The field elevation was 4,500 feet. The school was based in a Class Delta airport with a Class Golf airport only four miles southeast. Just north was Class Bravo. My experience there exposed me to multiple airspaces as well as high DAs.
RP: When and how did you choose to fly or work on helicopters? Or did they choose you?
My career in helicopters didn’t begin in a traditional path. I had a successful career in property and casualty coverage with a major insurance company. I had insured many airline pilots and was familiar with the progression in that field, but it held no draw for me. It wasn’t until one of my insured clients called to verify that they would be covered while away going to helicopter flight school that I learned of such a thing. I only knew of pilots learning to fly helicopters in the military, which by that time in my life was no longer an option for me. I searched the internet and found a few flight schools near me. Called my wife to ask if I could spend a lot of money. Oh, and change my career. She said yes, and the rest is history.
RP: Where did you get your start flying or maintaining professionally?
In the traditional sense the flight school where I received my flight training is where I got my first job. I found that I really enjoyed flight instructing so I stuck around longer than most. After five years of instructing, I finally decided that it was time to move into the Part 135 world. That’s when I went to Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. In Papillon I found that there were many opportunities for me to grow. I began as a line pilot, then progressed to lead pilot, training director, chief pilot, and now assistant director of operations.
RP: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?
It’s safe to say that if I didn’t find helicopters, I would still be in the Insurance business. Having experienced the aviation industry first-hand, I would now focus on the aviation side of insurance instead of property and casualty.
RP: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
During my time off I enjoy being outdoors. As a now “retired” competitive soccer coach I find myself involved in league play or pick up games. I also enjoy hiking, hunting, and camping.
RP: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
You might think that making it to my current position at Papillon would be my greatest accomplishment, but no. The part I’ve played in the success of others is what I cherish most. I have helped 300-plus pilots establish and navigate their careers. I continue to be inspired by their successes. I have trained and mentored pilots who have now become chief pilots, training captains, directors of operations, NASA pilots, or owners of their own companies, among other amazing roles.
RP: Have you ever had an “Oh, crap!” moment in helicopters? If so, please summarize what happened.
I’ve been quite fortunate in my career to not have a major “crap” moment, though that’s not to say that every flight has gone according to plan. I can give an example of a flight that could have been disastrous, but because of proper planning became a success. During the time I worked as a flight instructor I was tasked with ferrying an R-22 from Utah to Kansas, which required crossing the Rocky Mountain range at high altitude. I had a student working on his commercial certificate with me. We planned that we would make the crossing at first light, since that would be the only time with temperatures cool enough to keep us below the 14,000 foot decision-altitude limitation of the aircraft. The terrain in Monarch Pass reaches 13,500 feet MSL. We understood that our engine and rotor tachs coupled with maintaining airspeed above the drag curve would be our limiting factors. I briefed my student regarding our limitations before the flight and actions to take if we recognized a decrease in either airspeed or rotor RPMs. We also planned to take just enough fuel so that at the highest point in the pass we could either turn around and return to our point of departure or make it to the next airport with adequate reserve. We did successfully make it over that mountain pass but understood before the flight that it would be “successful” so long as we reached an airport, either the one across the pass or the one from which we initially departed.
RP: If you could give only one piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot or mechanic, what would it be?
The effort you put into your training and career from the first day forward will add up to equal your success. No one is going to just hand it to you; you must put in the work. This is the same message my instructor gave me. My first day of class he said, “Today is the first day of your job interview and every day after is the same.”
RP: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?
The shortage of pilots. Coming from someone who has been involved in the industry from inspiring the next generation of rotorcraft professionals during their primary training, all the way to assisting pilots in transitioning to their final stop in their careers, I would say that there is a lack of qualified pilots. On top of that, it can be harder now for new pilots to secure funding to get started.
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