Posted 7 years 8 days ago ago by Randy Rowles
When I entered the helicopter industry, I was eighteen years old with very little insight into the complexities of the real world. I held an FAA certificate that told the world I was a helicopter pilot; however, it was apparent that my peers viewed me as nothing more than a kid with a new hobby. It took years to garner the respect of the seasoned pilots I had come to know. With time, I was afforded opportunities to grow and learn from industry leaders that took an interest in me. In retrospect, I often wondered “why me”?
One of my closest friends passed recently. His name was Wayne and he was one of those seasoned pilots that I met early in my career. At first impression, Wayne was a funny, light hearted guy that really didn’t take much of anything serious. That was before I had the opportunity to fly with him. It was amazing! When he entered the helicopter, it was like a switch was flipped and this serious, driven, and consummate aviation professional emerged. The best part about Wayne…he loved to share his knowledge and experience to those willing to put in a little effort.
In the early years of our friendship, I spent many hours working for Wayne doing simple tasks like washing the helicopter and helping with maintenance. In return, Wayne would allow me to fly with him on various types of flights all over the country. He flew for a private owner Part 91, and the owner allowed me to fly with Wayne as often as I was available. Because of this opportunity, the first turbine helicopter I was checked out to fly was the Sikorsky S-55B/T helicopter at the ripe old age of 19. Over our 25-year friendship, I’ve been introduced to multiple models of aircraft to include the Sikorsky S-55 WhisperJet, S-62A, BO-105, and the Bell 230.
Every flight with Wayne was a tremendous learning experience. I would be placed in the pilot seat and provided the opportunity to learn to fly. I was already a commercial helicopter pilot, but it was only now flying with Wayne that I was truly learning to fly! Each flight was an experience facilitated by not only a great instructor…but a mentor. It is without question that I am a safer, more competent helicopter pilot because Wayne was a mentor during those formidable years of my career. At the end of the day, I am a much safer pilot because of him...period!
So…why me? Why did Wayne spend so much effort and time on my career? I once asked him and his response was quite simple, yet very true. He said “you had the right attitude”. I don’t know what that statement meant to him, but I do know what it meant to me. It was an affirmation that the helicopter industry requires lots of hard work, patience, and a positive attitude.
Wayne only asked one thing of me in return for the opportunities he presented. He said “never forget where you come from”. I live every day reflecting upon how different my career would be without the mentorship provided to me. Wayne was one of four key individuals that had a tremendous impact on my career as a helicopter pilot. So, keep a positive attitude and seek out a mentor. Your safety and success may depend on it!
About Randy: Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Randy is currently Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.