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Meet A Rotorcraft Pro - Rick Guthery

Posted 6 years 124 days ago ago by Admin



RPMN: What is your current position?

I’m currently the training and standardization commander at the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department Air Rescue Bureau. Additionally, I am a helicopter designated pilot examiner with the South Florida Flight Standards District Office. For the last 21 years, I’ve also operated my own business, Helicopter Partners Inc.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

The first flight I remember with my hands on the controls was in the early 1970s in a Cessna 182. We flew from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. I was not tall enough to see over the dashboard of the airplane, so my dad pointed to the altimeter and heading instruments and told me what numbers to look at and hold. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well. We were all over the sky and my mom and sister quickly got air sick. It was a short-lived flight attempt, but I was definitely hooked on flying.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

In September of 1982, thanks to Sgt. 1st Class Dwight Thayer, I applied and was accepted into the Army warrant officer high school to flight school program. After basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, I found myself back in my childhood home area of Fort Rucker, Alabama, only this time I was in Royal Blue “shoot ‘em in the face” flight class 83-43-1. We started out with 35 candidates, and graduated a year later with nine.

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters … or did they choose you?

Helicopters definitely chose me. My entire childhood at Fort Rucker was spent watching Hueys takeoff and land. I always wondered which one Dad was flying. After he left the Army, I flew with him every chance I could get in Jet Rangers and AStars ... and finally found the elusive “hover button.”

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

In 1988, after six years of active duty, I left the Army to fly for International Helicopter Service, which operated several AS350s for aerial filming and movie work. The company was owned by Al Guthery, the greatest helicopter pilot ever. (I may be a bit biased; he’s my dad.) I almost didn’t get the job—the interview was brutal!

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

When I was in high school I really wanted to play professional football or be in a rock band. Unfortunately, I was really really bad at  football, singing, and guitar playing. If the Army had not given me the opportunity to fly, then my best guess is that I would have stayed with some form of teaching. I enjoy seeing people learn and master new skills. Sometimes a different approach or teaching technique can turn failure into success.  

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

I rarely have an entire day off. There is always something going on or a crisis to figure out. If there is any free time, I love spending it with my family. They sacrificed so much early on, but always supported me throughout the aviation industry’s ups and downs. I missed so much of our children growing up, and they never complained.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

It was getting into and graduating Army flight school at 19 years of age. The Army gave me a solid aviation foundation to build upon. I have met and worked with some of the best in our business. It has worked out well for me, and I still enjoy flying and teaching    

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

Yes indeed! I had a catastrophic engine failure over the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Bahamas. I was able to inflate the floats during the autorotation and land in waves 8 feet to 10 feet high. Within seconds, the helicopter rolled upside down, but the floats kept it from sinking. An air rescue helicopter (from the same place I now work) came and lowered a diver, Manny Gelabert, 17 hours later to rescue me. A rescue boat from the Coast Guard picked us up. To this day, I can still hear music from the  movie Jaws playing in my head.       

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

Control the things that you have control over. If something is out of your control, then the risk is not worth the reward. Never compromise safety, weather, maintenance, and most importantly—your integrity.  

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

I believe the unmanned aircraft/drone industry is here to stay. We have to find a way to safely operate in the same airspace with them. The helicopter industry will lose some business to drones, but other opportunities will become available as well. There will always be a need for helicopters, and a greater need for professional pilots to fly them. We have to fly smarter and safer to maintain our place in the sky.