Posted 7 years 349 days ago ago by Admin
What is your current position?
I am the vice president of flight operations at Firehawk Helicopters, Inc. At Firehawk we operate four Sikorsky S-70 commercial Black Hawks and four BHI H60 Hawks (former Army UH-60s) and four Airbus Helicopters AS-350B3s. The aircraft are used for aerial firefighting, research and development flight testing, construction and external lift, and television and film productions. Previously I spent 17 years at Sikorsky Aircraft. The first nine years I was a test engineer and the last eight years I was a test pilot. Concurrent with my time at Sikorsky I was also in the US Army Reserves where I flew UH-60s for a decade.
Tell me about your first flight.
The first flight where I was “at the controls” of an aircraft was with my friend Dave Bulos in his Piper Cherokee 235. He taxied it out to the runway at the Airport in Stuart, Florida, pushed the throttle forward and said “You have the flight controls.” He guided me through the takeoff and I was immediately hooked.
How did you get your start in helicopters?
My first job out of college was as a ground test engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft. I was also driving racecars in a semi-pro SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) series. My passion of being in control of machines and my engineering work in helicopters started blending. Before I knew it, all I wanted to do in life was fly, work on, and test helicopters.
How and why did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?
When I decided to learn to fly, I started flying R22s at Ocean Helicopters in West Palm Beach,Florida. I loved it, but I wanted to get paid doing it. I walked into the chief pilot’s office at Sikorsky and asked him, “What do I have to do to get a job flying for you?” He said “Join the Army, get the proper experience, then come talk to me.” So I did!
Where did you get your start flying commercially?
After following the chief pilot’s advice and joining the US Army Reserves I went on to become a UH-60 maintenance test pilot. This school gave the knowledge and experience required to apply for a production test pilot position at Sikorsky Aircraft. I got the job and did production flight test for a few years before moving into experimental flight test.
If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?
I probably would be building and racing cars. I really loved it and wish I could still do it for a hobby, but there are just not enough hours in a day. I do still help crew a small race car team here in Florida whenever I get the chance.
What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
I like taking my wife and kids to North County Airport (F45) in West Palm Beach and spend the day working on or flying our vintage Sikorsky helicopter. We also enjoy taking our boat out to the intercoastal waterways here in Florida.
What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
I am very honored to have been a soldier in the U.S. Army. Nothing compares to the comradery that you feel when you launch on a combat mission. Also, last summer I had the opportunity to do aerial firefighting with Firehawk helicopters on forest fires in California, Oregon, and Washington. We were fortunate enough to be part of the effort that was able to help save some homes on the Okanogan Complex in Omak, Washington. That was a humbling and rewarding experience to see such immediate results of the team’s hard work.
Have you ever had an “Oh, crap” moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened?
I had an engine failure in a UH-60 while performing a maintenance test flight during a “VH” check. During this check you are demanding 100 percent torque from both engines while flying at the maximum straight and level airspeed the helicopter can attain. There was a loud Bang! as the engine turbine gas temperature (TGT) reading went off the scale and the torque indication on the No. 1 engine went to zero. The rotor dropped significantly, but after a quick collective reduction the rotor rpm recovered. We slowed down, returned to the airport, and did a single-engine rolling landing with power to spare. It was not a serious emergency because of how powerful UH-60s are. However, any time you hear loud bangs in a helicopter, it immediately gets your attention.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be?
Study! Flight hours and skills will come with time, but pilots tend to study less and less the more experienced they get. Maximize your knowledge of your aircraft; it could save your life someday. Be proficient with instrument procedures; it will save your life someday. And of course, remember to read and understand the FARs.
In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?
It’s an exciting time to be involved in the helicopter industry, but I am concerned with the emphasis in the industry. There seems to be greater efforts towards “gadgets” and automation than towards aircraft performance. The increase in automation threatens to dull basic airmanship skills. When the automation fails (and it will) pilots find themselves in very difficult situations. In my opinion the industry needs to focus more on higher payloads, efficiency, and cruise speeds.