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Meet a Rotorcraft Pro - Jerry Daniels

Posted 8 years 200 days ago ago by Admin


RP: What is your current position?

I am the owner and chief instructor of Humboldt Helicopters LLC in Humboldt, Kansas. We offer helicopter and fixed-wing flight instruction, while offering real-life training from EMS, civilian, law enforcement, and military scenarios. We are located in a rural area of Kansas, but within 6 miles of two well-equipped uncontrolled airports. We also have some of the cheapest fuel prices in the country at Allen County Regional Airport (K88). We have over a thousand acres we use for a local flight training area where we conduct off-airport landings and incorporate our scenario-based training. Southeast Kansas is one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest.

RP: Tell me about your first flight.

I grew up flying in the back seat of a Cessna 172, while my dad took flight lessons. What hooked me on helicopters happened at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in 1986. After basic rifle marksmanship, all the soldiers that scored expert on the range got to fly in a Huey back to the company area. I was hooked!

RP: How did you get your start in helicopters?

After returning from Desert Storm, I started taking flight lessons in an R22 and chose a career in law enforcement. I continued serving in the Kansas Army National Guard as a crew chief on Hueys and Blackhawks. In law enforcement, I was a state trooper in the Kansas Highway Patrol, and was eventually selected for a pilot-in-command position in the patrol’s Special Operations Air Unit. That’s how I got my break flying missions every day in helicopters and airplanes. It was just after 9/11 and there were so many security and surveillance flight missions. It was a great time to be a pilot in law enforcement who wanted to fly and build flight time. Best job I ever had!

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

Growing up on a farm I always wanted to fly and land anywhere, and helicopters always had my interest. Watching them every week on Magnum P.I. didn’t help either. I knew I would fly helicopters someday, but never knew for sure how I would get there.

RP: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

I started flying commercially for an air ambulance company and eventually became a lead pilot, safety officer, and a company flight instructor. I then realized how satisfying flight training was and knew I wanted to instruct on my own. As I taught new pilots that came into the company, I soon realized how much fun it was teaching people aviation. I was known for giving new company pilots real-world scenarios and making them think their way out of problems. It was fun.

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

I would probably still be in the law enforcement field, instructing other officers in those subject areas that I taught as a trooper at the patrol academy. By the way, I hope to see everybody at ALEA next year in Savannah, Georgia!

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

Living back on the family farm, there are always things to do. It has over a thousand acres that make it very versatile for helicopter training … but it also comes with a lot of work.

RP: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

Getting my CFI and starting my own helicopter company. Watching new students evolve into a pilot right before your eyes while operating your own company is something I always wanted to do. I enjoy passing all the things I’ve learned over the years in general aviation, military, law enforcement, and flying EMS to new students. I teach them what to do … and what not to do.

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

As a trooper, I responded on the ground to tornado-damaged areas several times in Kansas, and several times in my career I have also flown over damaged areas after the fact. On the evening of May 22, 2011, while flying an EMS helicopter, I was the second helicopter that landed in Joplin, Missouri, to start evacuating injured patients after the tornado hit. My crew and I flew all night without hesitation. Approaching Joplin that evening at dusk from the air was surreal. It was very satisfying to be part of something that could help so many people that night.

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

Never give up on your dream to be a pilot; I never did and it paid off. I like to offer my new students a little counseling during training that hopefully helps them through the hurdles of flight training and helps them find a way to succeed in their aviation career.

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

Financial aid for students! We all know the expense of flight training. We need to help students find the means and the way to pay for flight training so they can get that career in aviation. We do everything we can at Humboldt Helicopters to keep overhead low, so we can pass the savings on to our students and passengers. Stop by and visit; the coffee is always on!