• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors

Meet a Rotorcraft Pro – Ken Ramos

Posted 8 years 97 days ago ago by Admin

RP: What is your current position?

I am a principal aviation safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

I was only 16 years old attending Cleveland Aviation High School. The school had two Cessna 150s and was renting them for $25 an hour. To pay for my flight lessons, I was saving every dime I made working at my uncle’s bakery; I remember only making about $2.50 an hour. Every time I got $25, I would schedule my flight lesson. Unfortunately, I was unable to get enough flight time before I graduated, so without my pilot’s certificate I joined the Army with only an airframe and powerplant license to become a Huey helicopter mechanic.

RP: How did you get your start in helicopters?  

The Army gave me the opportunity to become a helicopter mechanic. After basic training I went to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to become a UH-1 (67T) mechanic and gained my experience in the 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Battalion.

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

While stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in the 82nd Airborne Division, I became a crew chief/door gunner. It was an exciting job and I got to see combat in the Island of Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. I was mentored by a couple of old Vietnam-era warrant officers. Unfortunately the Army was not taking applications for flight slots at the time. I had to make a decision: Get out and return to Ohio or reenlist for another three years. The Ohio Army National Guard was hiring, so I left the Army for a helicopter mechanic position as a civilian. Apparently this was the best decision I ever made! The Ohio Army National Guard reviewed my military records and offered me the opportunity of a lifetime: If I passed the application process, I could get into flight school! The next day I applied and the rest is history.

RP: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

My trajectory took me in many different directions. I graduated Army flight school with my commercial helicopter instrument certificate. Officially, my first paying civilian job was with the Columbus Division of Police as a helicopter police pilot. I continued to pursue other ratings, including my certified flight instructor certificates both in helicopter and airplanes. Every opportunity I found to fly, I took it. Currently I have my airline transport pilot certificate in both helicopter and airplane, and am a certified flight instructor in helicopter and airplane for both single engine and multi-engine. This past year I obtained my instrument ground instructor license along with my gold seal instructor certificate.

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

It would be something to do with aviation education. I am currently a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University pursuing a Doctorate of Education in aviation. I enjoy teaching and I love flying.

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

I love photography and take my camera everywhere I go. I see the world differently through the lens. I believe you can tell a story with the camera; it creates lasting memories. But most of all I enjoy time with my family, regardless of what we are doing.

RP: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I brag about being able to take my daughter to her senior prom in a helicopter. Also being able to say I am a retired airborne law enforcement officer is pretty cool. Still, I would have to say, serving this great country for more than 26 years in the U.S. Army and the Ohio Army National Guard is my greatest accomplishment.  

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

Scud running in a helicopter is definitely better than in an airplane because you can really slow down. However, one day we kept going slower and lower until we saw the base of a power line tower. I have never done that again. From that point on, I always looked at the weather with greater detail and made my no-go decision way ahead of getting too deep into a flight.  It is better to never takeoff and wish you were flying, than to be flying and wish you never took off.

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

Don’t make decisions that will require your experience to get you out of something bad, rather let your experience keep you from regretting your decisions. Avoid getting rushed; there is always another day to fly. Do a good preflight check, and include yourself. Making sure you’re ready to fly is just as important as making sure your aircraft is ready.

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

It’s safety versus revenue. Helicopters are very expensive but provide a necessary service to the community. From medical missions to airborne law enforcement to electronic news gathering, helicopters are great tools. Training and maintenance cost bite into the revenue stream, but without proper training and diligent maintenance there won’t be a revenue stream.  Maintaining a safety culture is probably the biggest challenge. It takes everyone, from the pilot to the mechanic, and from the director of operations to the director of maintenance, to keep this industry safe.