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Meet a Rotorcraft Pro – Lyn Burks

What is your current position?
I am fortunate to wear several hats, which keeps things interesting.  I am the Owner / Developer of Justhelicopters.com and VerticalReference.com. I am the Co-Owner / Editor In Chief of Rotorcraft Pro Magazine.  I also produce the HeliSuccess Career Development and NightCon Night Vision Conferences. Additionally, although I no longer fly full time, I still fly as a contract pilot several days per month. I am current in the Agusta A109E and the Sikorsky S76 C+.

Tell me about your first flight?
My first flight in a helicopter was as U.S. Marine when I was flown from the Island of Okinawa to an LST Naval vessel as part of a military exercise. I was only a passenger on that flight, but the experience put helicopters on my radar. I didn’t get the “helicopter bug” until after I got out of the Marines.

When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?
The more I think about it --- I think they chose me. My first job out of the Marines was a Firefighter/EMT with a municipal fire-rescue department. They sent me to an advanced rope rescue class where we were doing rescue ops out of a Forestry UH-1. From that moment on, I knew I had to fly helicopters.

Where did you get your start flying commercially?
As a civilian trained pilot who started in Robinson R22’s in 1991, my first paying job was as a CFII.  I flew helicopters on my days off from the fire department. Since then I have gained 6000 hours of experience and have flown Robinson, Bell, Agusta, and Sikorsky aircraft. I have had the privilege of flying in the sectors of instruction, charter, ENG, utility, EMS, and corporate. I even did a tour as a Sikorsky S76 instructor pilot in China for their national SAR program.

If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?
Without a doubt, I would still be with fire rescue. I loved that job! I left that career in 1999 as a Captain on a Rescue Engine for a full time job as an EMS pilot.

What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
Honestly, I have been blessed with many high points, so it’s hard to say. I am particularly proud of my accomplishments in the area of career development in the industry. With the help of some very good people, I have produced the HeliSuccess seminar in one form or another 12 times in the last five years. I have also produced several career development EBooks targeting career pilots and pilots transitioning from the military to the civilian world. Through our seminars and EBooks we have touched thousands of pilots in various stages of their careers. For these efforts, I was the humble recipient of the Helicopter Association International’s, 2012 Salute to Excellence in Communications Award.

Have you ever had an “oh crap” moment in a helicopter?

I had a stuck right pedal in a hover hole! One very windy day, I took a pre-solo student into a confined area surrounded by woods (to block the wind) to practice hovering. I asked him to do a right pedal turn and he did. I asked him to stop the turn, but instead he pressed more right pedal and we spun faster. I calmly asked him to stop the turn and he pressed even more pedal. Now approaching “tilt-a-whirl” speed, I slid my feet from the floor up onto the pedals to assist. At that moment, his brain kicked in and he jammed in left pedal to stop the turn. Only one problem --- my right foot slid between the pedals and was now wedged between the two.  The dilemma: The harder he pushed left pedal, the more my foot was crushed. The more right pedal we pushed to get my foot out, the faster we turned. Solution: I pulled pitch and performed a climbing, right-spinning turn to get out of the hole and to extricate my foot from between the pedals.

What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
Aside from helicopters, my favorite things to do are cycling (mountain and road), surfing, photography, fishing on the river (Sante Fe) behind my house, and watching my daughter play volleyball . . . not necessarily in the order.

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

Never compromise your reputation as a professional, safe pilot. This industry is way too small to make careless mistakes. Your integrity and reputation are all that you have to progress in this business. You can have lots of experience and many contacts in the industry, but if you do something stupid to harm your reputation or integrity, your career will come to a screeching halt. Fly professional. Act professional.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the helicopter industry today?
I know it has become cliché, but I still believe it is the looming threat of a helicopter pilot shortage. Many thought the Vietnam era pilots (our biggest generation of pilots) would mostly be out by now as they hit their early to mid 60’s. With better health and poor 401k performance, they are sticking around longer and that theory has not proven true. However, with inevitable departure of that generation, increasing global demand for helicopters in emerging markets, and a historical reduction in trained pilots, it is not a matter of if a shortage will come, but when.

Posted in: Human Interest


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