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Gary Young

RPMN: What is your current and/or last position in the industry?

GY: I am currently acting as HAI’s Chief Instructor for their Heli-Expo Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FAA FIRC).  This exciting program, administered by HAI’s Manager of Education Programs, Kristin Anderson, gives me the opportunity to meet and work with some of our industry’s fantastic helicopter instructors. The course will be held next year in early March in Las Vegas and we anticipate a large turnout of the greatest flight instructors in the aviation industry-Helicopter Flight Instructors!

My last position was with the Bell Helicopter Flight Training Academy in Hurst, Texas.  I retired as Chief Flight Instructor just as the Training Academy was making their transition to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth.

RPMN: Tell us about your first flight.

GY: I do remember my first flight!  I was eight years old when my uncle flew my mom and me from New Mexico to our home in Texas.  It was a bit cramped in that J-3 Cub, but I can still see the view from the cockpit today.  I had two uncles with J-3 cubs, so I think they spilled avgas in my veins.  My first helicopter flight was in a Bell model 47 at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, Texas—and that was the hook that could only be satisfied by learning to fly!

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

GY: I participated in the Army ROTC Aviation Program at West Texas State University (now A&M) in Canyon, Texas.  This was a program that awarded a fixed wing private license, and the opportunity to attend flight school when basic and officer training was completed, while on active duty.  I applied for Rotary Wing training when I completed my request for assignment ---silly boy --- everyone was headed to helicopters and Viet Nam at that time!

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

GY: Believe it or not, but I have had only two jobs after finishing college: The US Army and Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.  Having completed my tour with the Army and achieving enough flight hours, I was hired onto the Production Test Pilot Staff at Bell.

RPMN: Everyone in our industry gets a little career help along the way, who gave you yours?

GY: My college friend, Lon Wimberley, was kind enough to recommend me to the Chief Pilot at Bell which created an opportunity for me to be hired.  In our industry, it does indeed take a little career help sometimes just to open the hiring door.  As a matter of fact, that little ole ROTC Aviation Program created flying careers for five pilots on the Bell pilot staff.

RPMN: If you had not been a helicopter pilot, what do you think you might have done?

GY: If the opportunity at Bell Helicopter had not been there, most likely I would have looked at dental college, or perhaps in the biology science fields of my major.  Who knows, I might have even gone back to farming?  My grandmother furnished me the opportunity to raise cotton on her farm to pay for my college expenses back then.

RPMN: What keeps you busy these days?

GY:  I try to keep up with what is new and what is going on in the helicopter industry.  Of course, I don’t get the opportunity to go fly very often anymore, but my hands stay “itchy” just in case an opportunity comes along.  Keeping up with the changing FAA world of regulations has kept me busy as well. I also stay busy with the grandkids and just generally trying to keep the house intact and standing.  Busy as I am, I do find time for some golf here in my hometown area . 

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

GY: My greatest accomplishment was to work with the best team of helicopter flight instructors the industry had seen.  With great sales and a busy helicopter industry, the Bell Helicopter Training Academy had some of the most skilled, knowledgeable and proficient instructors in the industry.  It was very exciting and rewarding to see so many customers actually look forward to their training sessions and to experience their gratitude for a job well done by the team of ground and flight instructors there.

RPMN: Tell us about an “Oh, crap!” moment you had in a helicopter?

GY: I was taking a friend to the airport so he could make the last flight of the day back to Houston.  I asked him to shut down the aircraft and refuel, but he explained there was not enough time and that the helicopter had enough fuel.  So I hopped in the passenger seat, assumed command, and made the takeoff.  Upon turning downwind I saw a caution light flash, but did not know which one.  This was followed immediately by an “engine out” audio and caution light.  I called “Mayday” three times. The tower responded, “We have you insight,” but I cautioned him that he did not really understand the engine really had quit! He responded again, “We have you insight and rescue is on the way.” Again I responded, “You don’t really understand, the engine really quit!”  Too many simulated engine failures caused me to over-react because no engine would dare quit on ME!

RPMN: If you could give only ONE piece of advice to the new generation of helicopter pilots, what would it be?

GY: My single advice to all is, PREFLIGHT.  At Bell we flew so many aircraft so many times a day; it was so easy to get complacent. After an incident of seat belt damage to a fuselage and lots of finger pointing, I determined that I would never enter the helicopter without at least a walk-around.  That policy prevented me from taking off in a helicopter with a damaged tail boom that would have failed in flight!  PREFLIGHT!

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

GY: I think the challenge to the industry today, and in the near future, will be how to establish a reserve of pilots to supply the industry’s needs.   Over and above the high costs of creating helicopter pilots, will be the challenge of having properly experienced pilots for each sector of the industry.  Until industry resolves the issue of how to qualify and create experienced helicopter pilots (and mechanics), there will always be those odd supply/demand imbalances in our labor force.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Gary B. Young is the Retired Assistant Chief Instructor of the Bell Helicopter Training Academy where he served for 37 years. At his retirement date in 2004, Gary had accumulated more than 17,000 hours of flight time in his career (almost 450 per year) and with the exception of the V22, he had flown and or instructed in every aircraft Bell has ever produced. Legend has it that Gary has executed more than 150,000 instructional autorotations without an accident. I can attest to at least a few dozen of them as Mr. Young was my first Bell Helicopter Instructor. – Editor In Chief, Lyn Burks

Posted in: Human Interest


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