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Interview by Lyn Burks

RPMN: What is your current position? 

VANDELAAR:  I am the owner of Novictor Aviation, a helicopter tour company in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I am also the pilot for a large volume of our flights.  We operate one full-time Robinson R-44 Helicopter out of Honolulu International Airport.  Our company offers Grand Circle Island, Sunset and City Lights Tours.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

VANDELAAR:  My first flight in a helicopter was in an R22 out of Troy, Michigan.  I went to take the age old intro-flight out of a local flight school in college.  We hovered over the skylight of a nearby mall, and quite frankly, it scared me.  It took me about two weeks to admit that, but I was really impressed with the machine, so I decided to take up training.

RPMN:  How did you get your start in helicopters?

VANDELAAR:  I moved to Orange County, California to train as a full-time student at John Wayne Airport.  At that time, I did not have all the funds to complete the training, but I had enough to get through the Private Pilot’s License, so I decided to take that leap of faith.  After I completed that first milestone, I had enough enthusiasm to earn the rest of the way through a great deal of hard work for other companies and scholarships.

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

VANDELAAR:  Helicopters chose me.  I decided to fly helicopters because I was so inspired by the University of Michigan’s Survival Flight fleet of Bell 430’s that used to fly around Ann Arbor while I was in college.  I was attracted to the capabilities of the helicopter to land off airport and in confined areas.  During my last year at Eastern Michigan University, I decided to pursue a career as a professional helicopter pilot rather than become an airline pilot.

RPMN:  Where did you get your start flying commercially?

VANDELAAR:  My first Commercial position was flying tours in the Robinson R-44 for a Japanese Company out of Honolulu International Airport.  I managed all of the operations as well as the maintenance on the helicopter I flew.  In my first year, I flew approximately 650 tours of Oahu on that helicopter!  I also flew a Cessna 152 and 172 for that company, hopping in between three different aircraft all day long to meet the demands of our large tour business.

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

VANDELAAR:  I would be in real estate.  The reason I say that is because there is such a high earning potential in real estate.  But the reality is I don’t love real estate, so I wouldn’t be fulfilled with just earning the money.

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

VANDELAAR:  I enjoy scuba diving in Hawaii.  We are fortunate to have many beautiful shore dives as well as boat dives here on Oahu, so if I want to just go for a quick morning dive, I can.  I also like to lie by the beautiful beach and watch all my girlfriends fly over when I am off (we have four full-time female professional pilots on the island and it is really fun!)

RPMN:  What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

VANDELAAR:  Owning my own company and building enough business to operate full-time.  And then flying that business myself!

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

VANDELAAR:  During one of my tours, the sleeve of my front seat passenger’s windbreaker flew out the vent.  It turns out there was a little knob on the wrist portion of the jacket that tightened the rubber cord that ended up hitting the back left window over and over again.  The window shattered and I had to make a pre-cautionary landing.  “Oh Crap!”

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

VANDELAAR:  Do not let the fact that you don’t have the money stop you.  Nobody had the money.

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

VANDELAAR:  I believe the greatest challenge is complacency among pilots.  It is very difficult to fly day in and day out in any facet of the helicopter industry, whether it is Tours, EMS, Offshore, Utility, Corporate, or even Flight Instruction.  Pilots are human beings and they can easily make mistakes, and I would like to see more recurrency training given among companies despite the cost of it.  And that is coming from an Owner/Operator.

Posted in: Human Interest

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