Helicopter Association International (HAI) has revealed the winners of its Salute to Excellence Awards. Those honored include, among others, the crews who mounted the largest marine helicopter rescue and one of the world’s foremost experts on rotor blade maintenance.
The Salute to Excellence Awards recognize those who, through either a single act or a lifetime of service and dedication, exemplify the best of the helicopter industry. The nine categories run the gamut from communications, law enforcement, safety, and maintenance to humanitarian service and lifetime achievement.
Lightspeed Aviation Excellence in Communications Award
Randy Padfield recently retired as the chief operating officer of Aviation International News (AIN), having also served as the publication’s managing editor. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a 9,000-hour pilot with airline transport pilot certificates for rotorcraft and multiengine fixed-wing aircraft. Most of his time is in helicopters.
Padfield flew Sikorsky HH-3E search-and-rescue helicopters while in the Air Force and is credited with seven saves. Once back in the civilian workforce, he flew Sikorsky S-61s, Bell 212s, and Aerospatiale AS332Ls in the North Sea oil fields. He also began writing for a number of aviation publications. Padfield joined AIN as a full-time editor in 1993, where he was often called upon to fly and review civil and military helicopters.
Padfield is also the author of several books, including “Learning to Fly Helicopters,” a new edition of which was recently published with updated content.
W.A. “Dub” Blessing Award for Flight Instructor of the Year
Capt. João Bosco Ferreira has been a helicopter instructor since his time in the Brazilian Air Force in the 1970s and 1980s. After attending helicopter flight test-pilot school in France in 1981, Bosco returned to Brazil as chief of the Flight Test Division for the Brazilian Air Force’s Center of Aeronautical Technology, charged with creating the Brazilian Flight Test course.
In 1990, Bosco joined Helibras, the Brazilian subsidiary of Aerospatiale Helicopters (now Airbus Helicopters), as technical director. There, he established the company’s flight test department, which included emergency procedures testing for experienced pilots.
A few years later, he established his own flight school, which places heavy emphasis on emergency procedures training — especially autorotations. Bosco has approximately 12,500 flight hours and has logged 32,500 “full-down” autorotations (autorotations to the ground). He says that translates to approximately 400 flight hours in autorotation alone.
Bosco has trained more than 2,300 pilots — many of them for multiple certifications. He is recognized as a role model for the Brazilian helicopter community.
Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award
Troy Lewis is the area training manager for engine manufacturer Turbomeca USA. During 20-plus years at Turbomeca, he trained thousands of aviation maintenance technicians annually, both at the company’s Arlington, Texas, training center and at customers’ maintenance facilities.
Lewis began his aviation maintenance career in 1986 with Arlington, Texas–based Inter-Turbine Company as a quality control inspector. He then joined Turbomeca’s Quality Department. During his tenure there, he was instrumental in establishing a number of programs that have saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He became a customer training instructor in 2008 and in 2014 was named lead instructor. As lead instructor, in addition to his regular teaching duties, Lewis is responsible for instructor audits, recurrent training and qualifications, and for mentoring instructors in Turbomeca’s training network.
MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award
Lt. Pat Lawrence is the chief pilot and commander of the Michigan State Police aviation unit. He has been instrumental in rebuilding that unit, which was hard hit by the economic downturn of the late 2000s. Once a unit with five helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft, it shrank after 2008 to just two helicopters and three pilots — at a time when crime in the state’s three biggest cities was soaring.
Working with what he had, Lawrence established a schedule to patrol Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw on a nightly basis. Lawrence himself flew more than 1,000 hours patrolling the cities and flying other missions, including search and rescue, marijuana eradication, and disaster response. A flight instructor in both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, Lawrence trained two new pilots in 2014 and established a tactical flight officer training program.
In addition to his law enforcement responsibilities, Lawrence lobbied state lawmakers to expand the state police aviation unit. He took the governor and several state legislators on flights to show them firsthand the need for aviation assets. Lawrence’s efforts were finally rewarded in 2015 when the Michigan legislature approved and purchased a third helicopter.
Airbus Helicopters Golden Hour Award
Eileen Frazer is the executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), an organization dedicated to improving the safety of both air- and ground-based medical transportation, which she both founded and has led for the past 25 years.
In the mid-1980s, Frazer was an emergency room nurse and chaired the safety committee of what is now the Association of Air Medical Services. The committee drafted criteria for peer review safety audits to address a growing number of air ambulance accidents. But Frazer and the committee felt the audits should be performed by an independent organization. So in 1988 and 1989, Frazer did a feasibility study, modelling her proposed organization on the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health-Care Organizations, which accredits hospitals.
Today, there are 184 CAMTS-accredited air ambulance programs in six countries around the world. CAMTS completes, on average, 75 new or reaccreditation applications every year and processes approximately 100 progress reports as operations correct deficiencies found during audits.
BLR Aerospace Safety Award
Boston Area Helicopter IFR Infrastructure Team: Downtown Boston poses a unique challenge for air ambulance operator Boston MedFlight, with five hospitals interspersed among skyscrapers and other vertical obstacles, and all located three miles or less from Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Recognizing the benefits for their patients of point-in-space GPS approaches to the hospitals, Boston MedFlight joined with the FAA and private industry to form a working group to address the complex details involved in such a project. Having these approaches means that critically ill or injured patients can be flown directly to the hospitals in all weather conditions, saving vital time during bad weather over ground transport.
Over the course of six years, the Infrastructure Team designed the instrument approaches and got them certified by the FAA. That proved to be the easier part of the task. After certification, the team had to work with air traffic controllers to train them on the new procedures and ensure that helicopters landing at or departing from the hospitals have minimal impact on arrivals and departures at Logan — one of the nation’s busiest airports.
The FAA gave final approval and authorization to begin using the new procedures on Oct. 14, 2015.
Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award
Mutliple Units, Italian Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard: On Dec. 28, 2014, fire broke out aboard the seagoing ferry Norman Atlantic, en route with nearly 500 passengers plus crew from Greece to Italy. By morning, the fire was out of control and the ship was adrift in heavy seas and gale-force winds.
Over the course of the next three days, five helicopter units from the Italian Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard mounted what is believed to be the largest marine helicopter-rescue mission ever attempted. When it was done, although a dozen people lost their lives, more than 420 passengers and crew were airlifted from the Norman Atlantic to nearby ships taking part in the rescue effort.
Units involved include: the Italian Coast Guard’s 2nd Nucleo Aereo; the Italian Navy’s Gruppo Elicotteri 1 and Gruppo Elicotteri 3; and the Italian Air Force’s 15th Stormo 84th Centro CSAR and 15th Stormo 85th Centro CSAR.
Appareo Pilot of the Year Award
Jason Laing is a 6,400-hour freelance helicopter pilot with more than 5,000 hours of mountain flying. Operating from his home base in New Zealand, Laing has flown commercial, tourism, and search-and-rescue missions in New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica, Kashmir (India), and Nepal. He is a highly respected high-altitude pilot who is often called upon for difficult mountain rescues.
In April 2014, there was a huge avalanche at 19,000 feet on Mt. Everest, between Base Camp and Camp 1, trapping between 20 and 30 climbers. Operating near the limits of his helicopter, Laing landed twice to carry out seriously injured survivors. He then flew an additional 15 sorties and, using a long line, extracted additional survivors and casualties.
A year later, in April 2015, a huge earthquake strong enough to move all of Mt. Everest two inches struck, cutting off communication with hundreds of rural communities. The day after the quake, Laing was tasked to fly to one such village, where he found the village destroyed with some 500 lives lost. Laing returned to base and raised the alarm to begin a major rescue effort. Next, he was sent to Mt. Everest’s Camps 1 and 2, where some 140 climbers had been trapped by a collapsed icefall.
In addition to the Salute to Excellence Appareo Pilot of the Year Award, Laing has been honored with the Kumar Khadga Bickram Adventurous Award from the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Diploma for Outstanding Airmanship.
Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award
Dana Kerrick has served the aviation industry for more than five and a half decades as a military and civilian maintenance specialist, civilian pilot, flight instructor, air taxi operator, pioneer in helicopter rotor blade composites, and frequent instructor for courses to renew helicopter inspection authorization (IA). He recently retired as vice president and cofounder of International Aviation Composites, Ltd. (IAC), capping a 56-year career in aviation.
Kerrick is recognized throughout the industry as one of the foremost experts in rotor blade maintenance and has written extensively for numerous maintenance and aviation publications. Kerrick’s course on rotor blade preventive maintenance has been part of the HAI Rotor Safety Challenge since its inception at HAI HELI-EXPO 2013 in Las Vegas.
Kerrick began his aviation career in the U.S. Air Force working on B-52s. He reentered the civilian workforce in 1970 but didn’t discover helicopters until he turned 40. He is a pilot of both airplanes and rotorcraft, and is an FAA-approved IA renewal instructor.
In Kerrick’s tenure in the helicopter world, he has seen rotor blades evolve from carefully matched wooden blades, to metal-skinned blades, to today’s composite blades. One of his fellow IAC cofounders said of Kerrick that he will be most remembered for “his relentless dedication to the education of pilots and mechanics on the maintenance of their rotor blades.”
The Salute to Excellence Awards will be presented during HAI HELI-EXPO 2016, the world’s largest trade show and exhibition dedicated to vertical aviation, will be held in the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Feb. 29-March 3.