HAI Salute to Excellence Award Winners
Lawrence D. Bell Memorial Award
Neill Osborne, ERA Helicopters president and COO, has been active in the helicopter industry for more than 40 years and holds an ATP for rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft. A former U.S. Army pilot, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for service in Vietnam. He held management positions at PHI and Air Logistics. Under his leadership since 1995, Era Helicopters developed the first Part 135 flight operational quality assurance program and one of the first safety management systems adopted by a U.S. operator. He was an HAI board member from 1993 to 1997 and chairman in 1998.
Eurocopter Golden-Hour Award
The Chicago Fire Department Air Sea Rescue is recognized for its actions on April 18, 2008, when the unit responded to a call that a child was blown into Lake Michigan by a gust of wind. Rescue divers dropped into the lake from a helicopter and located the child still in his stroller on the lake bottom. They resuscitated the child en route to the hospital and he made a full recovery after four months of intensive care. (See story page 26.)
Honorary Lifetime Member Award
HAI names W. “Dub” Blessing and Dennis Nichols as honorary lifetime members. Blessing amassed more than 19,000 flight hours in a 50-year career, from his start as a Marine Corps engine mechanic to certified flight instructor, to personal pilot for H. Ross Perot. In 1982 he helped plan and execute Ross Perot Jr.’s record-breaking around-the-world helicopter flight. In 1985, he was the first recipient of HAI’s Outstanding Certified Flight Instructor award. Nichols graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961 and as a naval jet pilot accomplished more than 500 carrier landings in his first tour. He later was a founder and president of Arnav Systems, and became the first American at the helm of the U.S. subsidiary of engine manufacturer Turbomeca. He is also a past president of the Helicopter Foundation International.
Aviation Maintenance Technician
David Vogel, senior technical representative for American Eurocopter, Grand Prairie, Texas, has 32 years’ experience in the rotorcraft industry. He earned his A&P in 1974 and began his career with Carson Helicopters, maintaining its S-55s, S-58s and S-61s. After a stop at MBB Helicopter, he joined American Eurocopter in 1992. As senior technical support engineer, he is responsible for providing support to 600 customers and 17 field reps.
Helicopter Maintenance Award
Rich Higgins, helicopter crew chief for Cablevision Systems, Farmingdale, N.Y., began his aviation career in 1982, working at Island Helicopter, where he became inspector/records manager for more than 35 aircraft. Higgins is currently Cablevision’s lead crew chief for the Sikorsky S-76, which flies more than 600 hours and 2,000 cycles per year. Working on models from the B to the C++, the helicopters under his care have an availability rating of 99.6 percent.
Excellence in Communication Award
James McKenna, former editor-in-chief of Rotor & Wing, has reported on aviation for three decades. A long-time proponent of safer helicopter practices, he has also been an advocate for greater integration of helicopter use in emergency response operations. Nominated for the award prior to leaving Rotor & Wing, McKenna is presently the director of communications operations at Bell Helicopter.
MD Helicopters Law Enforcement
Flight Crew Air 101, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Modesto, Calif., is honored for quick thinking and reaction relating to an assault that took place on a roadway. As the first unit on the scene, the crew landed in an adjacent field and the tactical flight officer intervened, fatally shooting the suspect when he refused to cease the assault. The victim of the assault later died of injuries.
Robert E. Trimble Award
Honoring pilots who have displayed exceptional ability in mountain flying, this year’s award is given to Djoko Prasetyo, PT Airfast Indonesia, Jakarta. In three decades, Prasetyo accumulated more than 18,000 flying hours, at least 10,000 involving accident-free high-altitude operations. He provides high-altitude training for his company and for the Indonesian army. In 1995, he executed a mountain-top landing at 14,500 feet in an effort to retrieve the remains of American and Australian World War II flight crews.
AgustaWestland Community Service
David Nichols, M.D., owner, president and managing director of White Stone Family Practice, White Stone, Va., has been a senior aviation medical examiner for 29 years. He took his first helicopter flight at age 49 and eight months later earned his helicopter pilot certificate. Since then he has logged more than 1,000 hours. “Dr. Copter” flies his Robinson R44 to isolated Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay once a week to provide medical care to the island’s more than 600 residents.
Joe Mashman Safety Award
Tony Cramp, senior advisor for air safety and global projects for Shell Aircraft International, Rotterdam, Netherlands, was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, rising to command a warship and a naval air squadron. He has led safety initiatives in the petroleum and gas production industry, including guidelines for seismic helicopter support. As part of the Helicopter Safety Advisory Council he spearheaded development and publication of a helideck marking plan for use in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pilot of the Year
Tom Brooks, Canadian Helicopters Ltd., Smithers, British Columbia, logged more than 23,500 flying hours in a 30-plus-year career. A CHL employee since 1984, Brooks is base manager and flight instructor at the company’s flight school and is experienced in cargo transport, aerial fire attack and search and rescue. He is a former winner of HAI’s Pilot Safety Award, achieving 20,000 consecutive accident- and violation-free flight hours.
Outstanding CFI Award
Kevin Brandt, a senior flight instructor for Bell Helicopter, Fort Worth, Texas, since 1996, has logged more than 10,000 accident- and violation-free hours and more than 4,450 hours of instruction to more than 2,000 students. He has 15 years of aeromedical flying, five years of offshore flying experience and is a licensed A&P mechanic. He is a former recipient of HAI’s Pilot Safety Award.
Aviation Repair Specialist Award
Jeffery Peabody, maintenance technician for Air Logistics of Alaska, based in Fairbanks, has been in the helicopter maintenance industry since 1973 when he began with Jelco. After a stop at Anchorage Helicopter Services where he became lead mechanic on the Sikorsky S-58T, he joined his current employer in 1988 as an aircraft mechanic, Bell 212 instructor and customer airport liaison officer. In 2005, he became the company’s senior maintenance instructor responsible for mechanic training.