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RPMN: What is your current position?
I am currently an airport lineman at Sunriver Resort Airport.  I have my helicopter instrument and commercial ratings and just recently attained my airplane private add – on rating.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.
My first flight was in an R-22 in beautiful Bend, Oregon.  I remember walking out to the helipad and being in utter shock at the size of these tiny helicopters!  After working as mechanic and flying as aircrew on MH60-Jayhawk helicopters in the Coast Guard for seven years, the downsize was truly astounding.  However, I was completely charmed… that is, until I found out I had to carry a cushion just to reach the yaw pedals.  Needless to say, my ‘glory’ moment was comically diminished.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?
My start in helicopters began in the Coast Guard in 2002, when I was stationed on the US Coast Guard icebreaker ship, Polar Sea.   Polar Sea was deployed to Antarctica with two Dauphin helicopters onboard; I was mesmerized.  Shortly thereafter, I enrolled in avionics electronics school, and spent the next six-and-a-half years working on and flying in the MH60-Jayhawk.

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?
Helicopters chose me.  I never dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot.  After I left the USCG, I decided to pursue an English degree, and was studying at a local teahouse when I overheard two aviation students speaking in that unmistakable ‘aviation’ lingo, and my heart literally skipped a beat.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed aviation, and after finding out that there was an amazing aviation program at the same college I was attending, I knew I’d have to be crazy not to pursue such an exciting opportunity.  

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?
I left Kodiak, Alaska and moved to Bend, Oregon in order to help out my twin sister’s family.  It was here that I discovered the flight program.  I am currently still in flight school, and the next step is CFI and then CFII.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?
If I weren’t flying helicopters I would want to be writing about them.  I would likely pursue an aviation journalism career that would allow me to still be immersed in the excitement of the aviation industry.

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
When I have a rare free moment, I spend much of it with my four wonderful nieces.  When I’m not with them, I love rock climbing, running, hiking, camping, swing dancing, playing the Irish penny whistle, singing in my church choir, and reading very long Victorian era novels.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
During my departure ceremony from my eight years in the U.S. Coast Guard, I was awarded the Volunteer Service Medal.  The award was given to me based on my many years of serving as an assistant youth director, youth camp volunteer, Sunday school teacher, and leader in the local Special Olympics.  It has been a personal goal of mine to give back to others as much as I can.  I feel that life is a gift from God, and that we should use that gift to bring joy, hope, and value to as many people as we are given the opportunity to.

RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh crap” moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened?
Yes, and unluckily, it happened during a progress check.  It was the beginning of the flight and my examining instructor and I were holding short for landing traffic.  To save Hobbs time, we knock out a hover auto while we waited.  Next, we did a run-on landing.  When the helicopter came to a stop, for some reason, muscle memory from earlier took over and I rolled the throttle ‘back’ on…and gave myself an engine over-speed.  I was mortified, to put it lightly.

RPMN: If you could give only ONE piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be?
When --- not IF --- you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and move on.  It is more important to continue flying the aircraft than to scrutinize your mistake in your head.  Choosing the latter action leads one to lose focus, get behind the aircraft, and creates greater potential for more mistakes.  In my sincerity to strive for perfection when I fly, when I make a mistake it eats me up inside.  It is always good to strive for perfection, however, it is critical to not let your mistake distract you from the moment at hand, and that is to keep flying the helicopter, no matter what.

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?
Since my experience in the helicopter industry is still limited to the training environment, I’ll pull my view from there.  New helicopter pilots poorly understand the term, ‘avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic.’  There seems to be a misconception that helicopters must comply with this rule because airplane pilots think they are superior.  After training for my airplane add-on, however, I feel the greater reality is that tiny helicopters are just plain hard to see, in addition, they are slower, lower, less predictable, and often make incomprehensible radio calls like, “High right base to final.”  I think that it is vital for new helicopter pilots to understand that we don’t make sense to airplane pilots.  In order to create a culture of safety in the shared airspace, we must readily and happily communicate clearly with one another.

Editor’s Note:
After attending the HeliSuccess Career Development Seminar produced by Rotorcraft Pro Media Network, Heidi felt she had received a wealth of invaluable information.  She told me, “All I could think about was how EVERYONE training to be a helicopter pilot NEEDED to hear this stuff. One of the things I heard at HeliSuccess stuck: ‘If you're here, you're smart, if you're not here, you're not smart.’  I realized many students are not at these seminars because they don’t know about them.” Heidi then jumped right into discovering a way to pass this information on.  She found out the college she was attending had been given a grant in the form of a Professional Development Fund. She immediately went to work, plowing the way to get at as many aviation students to the HeliSuccess Seminar as she could. She had a proposal written and submitted before the college had even written the rules for their new found money. Her enthusiasm, hours of preparation, and hard work payed off because she was approved for $7,500 to bring 15 students to attend HeliSuccess and HeliExpo this past February 2013!

Posted in: Human Interest


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