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Meet a Rotor Pro - Rex Alexander, Five-Alpha LLC

Posted 26 days ago ago by Admin

RPMN: What is your current position?

I am the owner and president of Five-Alpha LLC.  I also serve as the infrastructure advisor to the Vertical Flight Society and am the technical committee chair to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 418 Standard for Heliports and Vertiports. Some of the other volunteer hats I have worn during my career include board member and president of the National EMS Pilots Association (NEMSPA), board member and president of the Indiana Association of Air Medical Services (INAAMS), co-chair of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team Infrastructure Working Group just to name a few.

RPMN: Tell me about your first experience with helicopters.

It was when I began studying for my airframe & powerplant (A&P) certificate at Parks College. They had some old Bell-47 equipment in the lab that I found absolutely fascinating.  Most people were all about airplanes and big iron at the time, but I found helicopters spoke a special language that resonated with me.

RPMN: How did you get your start in the helicopter industry?

In 1985, shortly after getting my bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance and management, and while working in St. Louis, Missouri, for McDonald Douglas Corp, I tagged along with a friend to speak with an Army recruiter about flight school.  I then took the U.S. Army’s flight aptitude test and scored high enough that they offered me a flight slot shortly thereafter.

RPMN: When and how did you choose the helicopter industry? Or did it choose you?

Ever since my father took me up for my first flight in an airplane at age three, I knew aviation was where I wanted to be.  However, while I may have chosen aviation as my career path, the helicopter industry picked which on ramp I was to take.

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying or maintaining professionally?

My first A&P job was of course working for McDonald Douglas while I was still finishing up my college degree. My helicopter flying career then began in the Army with my first civilian pilot job coming in the Gulf of Mexico flying in the offshore oil and gas market for Crescent Helicopters. It was while flying in the Gulf that I got the opportunity to work in the Helicopter Air Ambulance industry where I spent the better part of 20 years.

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

When I was in high school, I was enthralled with the film industry. My interest lay  more in understanding how things were created, i.e., cameras, lighting, sound, editing…  Thats probably why I am a bit of a techno-geek and have my own home recording study.  Which explains why I have so much editing, lighting, sound, and video equipment laying around the house.  My good friends at Aero-News Network let me pretend that I am an aviation journalist at airshows like EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and provide me with the opportunity to do a lot of my own production work as well.  I have been very fortunate to be able to merge two passions if you will.

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

I have always been interested in history and purely by accident happened to literally stumble into a beginner’s class on genealogy at the local library over 30 years ago.  Ever since then I have been doing genealogical research and digging through historical records around the world. Solving other people’s family history mysteries and doing historical research has also proven to be a great learning platform for the work I do in accident investigation with the Transportation Safety Institute as well as the research my company now participates in with NASA and the FAA.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

Being a husband and a father in spite of my career.

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

One night around 1:00 a.m. in the morning at Fort Hood, Texas, while conducting nap of the earth (NOE) flight training under night vision goggles (NVGs) with two of my aerial observe colleagues, I managed to fly my OH-58C scout helicopter through a set of powerlines at about 50 feet AGL with around 20 knots of forward airspeed. By the grace of God, I managed to keep the helicopter right side up while the Wire Strike Protection System (WSPS) cut the wires before they had a chance to go through the rotor system.  Amazingly, the only damage was a scratched windshield and a broken free air temperature gauge along with a bruised ego. The lesson learned: no matter how well you thought you planned your flight there is always something else, always expect the unexpected and plan for the “what if.”

RPMN: If you could give only one piece of advice to new pilots, mechanics or support personnel, what would it be?

As far as advice to anyone looking to make a career in the aviation industry, I would offer up the following:  1) Have an opinion, don’t be one of the sheeple. 2) Be able to support your opinion: do the research, learn and fully understand the information and data. 3) Be prepared to defend your opinion. You will get scars for standing up for what you believe in, wear them with pride. 4) Be willing to change your opinion. When presented with better information and data, be prepared to change course when and if necessary.
RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?

With the increased popularity and use of drones in our industry, many of the jobs’ pilots traditionally would take to build flight time are becoming fewer and farther between.  Building the time needed to land your dream job has always been one of those challenges young pilots starting out faced.  My fear is that if it continues to get harder to build flight time, many individuals may no longer consider aviation as a potential career path.

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