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Meet a Rotor Pro - Brandi Rector, CEO of Skyhunter Outfitters and Semper Fly Helicopters

Posted 345 days ago ago by Admin


RPMN: What is your current position?
My current position with Skyhunter Outfitters and Semper Fly Helicopters is CEO and pilot. I am a CFII  and also an A&P mechanic so I help maintain our helicopter. Skyhunter offers helicopter hog hunting  along the Texas/Oklahoma border as well as night thermal hunts on the ground. Semper Fly Helicopters  does tours of Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma, customizable tours, and skydiving events. I am working on solidifying a Part 135 so we can offer charters. We also do a lot of work with veterans and first responders and try to donate hunts and host events to raise money for them.


RPMN: Tell me about your first flight or experience with helicopters.

The first time I ever flew in helicopters was in the Marine Corps. I went in as a helicopter mechanic on the  CH53E and the opportunity arose to become an aerial observer/gunner. I volunteered to go through the  training to get my wings and that was the first time I had ever been in a helicopter. It was the most amazing free feeling and I was hooked right away. After getting out of the Marines, I missed flying so much that I decided to become a pilot. I went and did my introductory flight and knew that’s what I was meant to do. 

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

I got my start in the Marines. It was one of those things where helicopters had not been on my mind at all.  I never considered, or even thought of helicopters, but after joining the Marines and getting selected for a helicopter MOS, I found a new passion. 

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

Prior to joining the military, I had never considered anything in aviation. I had been pursuing a degree in law, but decided it wasn't active enough. I came to this moment in my life where I wasn't sure what  direction to take or what I even enjoyed doing. I had been sitting at my desk, doing a job I didn't enjoy when I got a recruiting email from the Army (my dad and brother were in the Army), I stared at it for a few  minutes and called my dad. I asked him what he would think if I joined the military and he said it would be the best thing for me. I had always enjoyed working on cars with my dad and since I didn't have a degree to go in as an officer, being an aviation mechanic sounded like the perfect fit. I selected that and the Marines selected me for the 53 program. I had no idea what a CH53E was and I remember Googling it trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. 

RPMN: Where did you get your start professionally?
I got out of the Marine Corps in late 2014 and got hired by Sikorsky to work on the new CH53K maintenance  program in West Palm Beach, Florida. I lasted 6 months before I couldn't take the slow pace and lack of action. I missed being in the air. I started looking at options to go either the police route or pilot route. When I found out my GI Bill would pay for flight training, I was full speed ahead for getting in school and getting  started. I’d already gotten my A&P license as I was transitioning out. So while starting and going to school full time, working on my bachelor’s degree in aeronautics, and learning to fly helicopters, I was  working as a mechanic for Trans States Airlines. This all started around October of 2015. 

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

I have put a lot of thought into this question and helicopters have been such a part of my identity for so long that it is tough to  think of myself as doing anything else. I had been in the hiring process for the FBI before purchasing  Skyhunter Outfitters, but backed out when the opportunity arose to own the company. I suppose I would  either be doing some government job or selling everything I own and traveling the world. There really isn't  an in-between there.

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
When I am not flying or working on the businesses, I enjoy traveling with my boyfriend, being at home  with my horses and other animals, relaxing and reading. I try to find time for myself to just shut everything  out and de-stress. I am a worrier and everything gets to me so it's nice to find some down and calm time, even if it's only a couple hours. 

RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh crap” moment in helicopters?

Yes. My first year flying hog hunting I got myself in a scary situation. A couple days prior to this incident a friend of mine had messaged me about crashing his Bell 206. He told me he had gotten too slow in a tailwind and warned me to be careful. After speaking with him, I  looked up ways to get out of LTE and it was fresh in my mind, which I believe is what saved me. I was flying low (maybe 70 feet) chasing pigs. I was into the wind but didn't see the small tornado coming across the field. Because I was slow (below 30 knots) and next to trees with small trees below me, when it hit I felt the tail start to come around and I was out of left pedal. I couldn't pull power because it sped the spin so I rode the slow spin almost 3 rotations  just holding steady and waiting for the right moment. I came around, dropped power to try and stop the spin and nosed forward, I skimmed those low trees and got enough airspeed to get out of it. I learned a lot that day; even in low winds and seemingly perfect conditions, mother nature can surprise you and you need to know your machine. 

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

To a pilot I would say: You will never know everything, you will never be the best. Stay humble. There can always be a new and better way to do something. Stay open minded and be willing to listen and learn.  To a mechanic: Never take shortcuts and don't rush jobs. Be thorough all the time! If it doesn't look or feel right, trust your instincts or hit the manuals again. As a mechanic on aircraft, lives are in your hands; don't ever forget that. 

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

I have noticed that there isn't a lot of "in-between" experience. There are either very high-time, experienced pilots or very low-time, inexperienced pilots. The high-time guys are retiring or staying put in their careers  and the low-time guys are struggling to get time and experience that is affordable or lucrative. I feel like that leaves a gap of experienced and qualified pilots to fill positions. There is a real struggle to get turbine time and to get experience as a low-time pilot that is affordable. I know I went through that struggle, so now, when I can, I offer to take low-time pilots with little-to-no turbine time, on cross countries with me at no charge to them and I share the knowledge I have.


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