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Meet a Rotorcraft Pro Questionnaire – Kevin W. Nelson

RPMN: What is your current position?

I’m the founder, owner, president and ‘chief bottle washer’ of Nelson AeroDynamiX, Corp. and its division, Aero Alliance.  I am a contributing editor with Vertical magazine; so don’t tell them I’m on your pages!  I also work in a close affiliation relationship with Chase Aviation for giving a fresh, honest, thorough and informed service to buyers and sellers of helicopters as a “tag team,” doubling the value. (www.chaseaviation.com)

RPMN: What does your company do?

We manage, operate, complete, refurbish, buy and sell helicopters, train pilots and clients, and consult for mainly yacht-based helicopters.  We’re in the VIP, corporate, and private owner helicopter market segments.  I would like to just direct people to our websites so I can spend more time answering the more personal questions.  (www.helicopter4u.com and www.helocompletions.com)
RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

I was a newly appointed USCG Academy cadet and it was in a USCG HH-52 SeaGuard helicopter in my hometown, doing practice autos.  What a blast!  I still know that pilot, Bill Biggar, who went on to fly EMS after careers in the Army and Coast Guard.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

After one year in civilian college, our ‘rich’ Uncle Sam paid my way through the USCG Academy, where I earned a B.S. in Management and Economics and trained to drive ships, which I actually did.  Later I was accepted to flight school at NAS Pensacola/Whiting Field – my intended goal.  I got kicked out of flight school three times for Navy Medical concerns over my eyes and the Coast Guard backed me.  I was told before my first solo I would never ever fly an airplane again, let alone a helicopter.  So, young readers: Don’t always take “No” as the final answer!

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

Nine years after being told about the path and saying I wanted to fly USCG helicopters; I was qualified in the HH-65A Dauphin as a co-pilot in 1992.  That goal was reached; but I so much value – and want to remind others in their career to see – the reward in pursuing the goal.  I loved my path; it was hard work with many experiences.  If I had never reached my goal, I was still way ahead of so many others.  I loved it and I suppose I chose helicopters in retrospect.  But I had many players along the way who supported me.  Helis have been good to me.

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

Late in my career in the USCG, I decided to hang up the blue flight suit and my officer uniform and return to my entrepreneurial roots.  While tossing about in the Bering Sea one day, the idea of my company came to my head.  Now, I mark our 15th year in business.  I started with a B206B3 on charter back home.  It took thousands of hours of planning, faith in the plan, support from family, and business sense to pull it off.

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

We had a total tail-rotor gearbox failure in slow flight over trees in our company’s JetRanger that destroyed the helicopter.  Dozens of trees were killed, but we all walked away.  Afterwards, I was thrust back out of helicopters for a few years.  My business was destroyed for what we could see at the time, and I had to make a go of it doing many things.  None fit me really, and three years later I was back flying for an EMS vendor while I resurrected my business into what it is today.  I earned the equivalence of a doctoral degree in life and business through these events.  But I have always known that my USCG career got in the way of my ski bum career.  That is where I intend to retire to some day.

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

Ah…skiing, duh!  My family is really my off time.  My crash taught me what is important – and what isn’t.  Life is grand and the people that populate the earth are the flavor of life.  But skiing, traveling, exploring, biking, and outdoor activities are where I am when I can … with family or friends ideally.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I have enjoyed many small things – and also stepped on cow pies along the way – but I try to learn from each event.  Establishing my business and growing it, making jobs for others, and no one getting hurt in the process would be my answer.  Or looking at it in another form, building something that is mine, and loving what I do everyday, is a great career accomplishment.

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

Of course!  I believe you have to, to grow as a professional tradesman, especially in aviation.  However, you must recognize it early enough not to do permanent harm.  I have had enough happen to stay reminded of my mortality, and my responsibility to continually fight complacency and making mistakes.  We are humans, we who take machines into the air over others and over harsh terrain.  We better never forget that basic fact. 

My best learning moment, shall we say, was getting myself over a cloud layer with sucker holes that were closing.  I tried to descend down through them too late, and hadn’t left myself enough exits from my circumstances.  We came out all right over level terrain, without hitting anything or loosing our bearings.  I have had recall dreams of that day many times over.  It’s God’s way of reminding me who I am! 

My other prime mover event was when our two-pilot crew, after saving one life and finding another lost diver, got too close to Humbug Mountain on the Oregon coast in a USCG Dauphin at night.  I had lost a classmate in a similar incident just two years before, 120 miles south on the California coast.  Nose mount radar for terrain avoidance was common in those days, but it was severely limited in tight maneuvering flight.

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

Be a PROFESSIONAL!  If you don’t really know what that means, research it, look at other industries’ definitions, other people’s definitions; but become one!  Be overtly professional and show your employers, or prospective employers, how deep it is set into you to be one.  Don’t just walk and talk it; invest continually in being one.  It takes a lot to be a professional, and it is broad in scope.

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

I may be slanted as an employer and business owner, but I feel it’s essential to have an ‘industry staff’ of professionals at all levels to carry us forward, to reduce accidents, costs, and public relations harms, while increasing business potential, productivity, and outcomes.  If we accept status quo or let the talent pool dwindle, we are accepting mediocrity and the eventual decline of our usefulness to society.

Posted in: Human Interest

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