Nearly two and a half decades ago, as a fledgling commercial pilot, I had the opportunity to fly with HelicopterHelmet.com founder Ron Abbott while he was working as a flight instructor in South Florida. Even then, his can-do, entrepreneurial spirit was noticeable. As the decades have gone by, that same spirit assists him in growing several businesses in a very competitive market.
Abbott began his career in Army Special Operations where his “get it done” mentality was recognized and cultivated. After the Army he went to a civilian flight school and became a certified flight instructor. As his career in the helicopter industry progressed, he went on to fly approximately 22,000 hours in sectors such as ENG, sling-load, HAA, tours, tuna boats, utility, firefighting and offshore oil support (his true flying love).
While flying for Air Evac Lifeteam in 1997 Abbott determined that he had a need for a helmet. He bought his first helmet at an army surplus shop, then proceeded to tear it down with the intent of refurbishing and customizing it for his own use. When other pilots saw the improvements he made, they were so impressed that they began asking him to refurbish helmets for them. Realizing there might be a market for helmet refurbs, Abbott began buying used helmets, breaking them down, and customizing them to meet pilots’ needs. [Read More...]
A military multi-role helicopter at an economical price: This is an apt description of the Bell 407MRH (Multi-Role Helicopter). Built upon a ‘green’ commercial Bell 407GXP airframe, the 407MRH covers a range of military missions without customers having to buy military-specific aircraft to do the job.
Designed by NorthStar Aviation of Dubai (NorthStar), the Bell 407MRH is commercially modified from its ‘green’ state by Southeast Aerospace (Southeast or SEA) at its integration/maintenance hangars in Melbourne, Florida. (Southeast is an aircraft modification, MRO, and parts supplier based at Orlando Melbourne International Airport.)
The first two aircraft were designated as prototypes and all commercial and military modifications were completed by SEA at its facility in Melbourne. With Department of State approval the aircraft were exported as military aircraft to the UAE. On the remaining aircraft SEA incorporated all the commercial modifications in Melbourne and exported the aircraft to the UAE as commercial aircraft. The military modifications were then installed by Northstar in the UAE utilizing SEA work instructions and modification kits. The modifications kits contained all of the electrical and structural components required to perform these military modifications. [Read More...]
Multi role helicopters
Every second, a Pratt & Whitney Canada powered aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world. When listening to Irene Makris discuss the aviation industry from a 30,000-foot overview, as her discourse periodically dives down into details, one gets the distinct impression that the Pratt & Whitney Canada vice president of marketing well knows where each of those takeoffs and landings in the last few minutes occurred. Still, Makris stays on-message with clear, direct answers, befitting an executive with the requisite resume that gives one the opportunity to earn such senior responsibility: an engineering degree, an MBA, engineering, quality auditing, and service and operational experience at Honeywell and GE, maintenance, repair and overhaul program management, supply chain management, vice president of supply chain, and an extensive breadth of knowledge gained while serving as executive assistant to the president of Pratt & Whitney Canada.
Yet, despite those business bona fides, Irene Makris began as, and remains, an engineer at heart: studying pure and applied science in college prior to her engineering degree at McGill University in Montreal. Makris recalls when her enthusiasm grew for the engineering side of her alma mater’s campus. “I wasn’t totally convinced I wanted to major in mechanical engineering. My brother was in engineering at McGill. He was making things fly, building and powering cars, and designing bicycles. It fascinated me. Engineering became my passion and I stuck with it.” [Read More...]
Pratt & Whitney Canada
RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?
In 1968, shortly before high school graduation, a group of us were sitting around drinking beer. Around beer number three, my friend said to the group, “We are not going to get into college, are we?”
Since there was still a college deferment from the draft and we were poor kids, we said “No.”
After beer number four, he asked, “If we don’t get into college, we’re going to get drafted, aren’t we?” We said “Yes.”
After beer number five, he said “If we get drafted, we are going to Vietnam, right?”
We said, “yes.”
After beer number six, he asked, “When we go to Vietnam, do you want to walk or do you want to fly?”
I said, “I am too lazy to walk!” and he said, “Good, I made an appointment for us tomorrow with the Army recruiter.
One of us had a medical deferment, another was color blind and he became an Army helicopter tech inspector, and three of us became helicopter pilots.
None of us died in Vietnam. [Read More...]
meet a rotorcraft pro
On December 22, 2016 a State District Court judge in Austin upheld a ruling, giving the State of Texas the right to regulate fees paid to air ambulances for transporting patients covered by Workers' Compensation Insurance. On the surface it doesn’t look like that ruling affects the American HAA (Helicopter Air Ambulance) industry, but it could prove to change the fabric of the industry. The ruling has the potential to create a negative ripple effect in our industry, if successfully argued and used as a precedent in other State class-action lawsuits currently filed against for-profit HAA providers.
Air medical companies have legally operated under the umbrella of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act. This Act was originally crafted to remove government control of airfares as a way to promote healthy competition. This gave the consumer a choice of which airline they patronize based on a price they would be willing to pay. Air ambulance patients do not have a choice -- and are not told what the air ambulance company will charge until after the transport, which is the core of the legal argument.
In July 2015, over a dozen clients in Oklahoma City were billed thousands of dollars for an air ambulance transport. The clients asked a judge to certify a lawsuit as a class action, naming several air ambulance companies in that suit. The claim: “They’re making profit margins [of] in excess of 750%, huge profit margins they’re trying to get from the average public.” [Read More...]
My Two Cents
Variations on the methods used to conduct a maneuver during a Checkride really isn’t that uncommon. However, lately one maneuver seems to have more variations than others, and in many cases, with the applicant not understanding why.
The Maximum Performance Takeoff and Climb is seemingly a simple maneuver. It requires the pilot to perform a more vertical takeoff profile due to some obstacle that may be in the proposed takeoff path. Pre-takeoff planning is essential to include weight and balance, performance, and departure path; all critical to the safe, effective usage of this procedure. Each element is evaluated during the examination holistically so the Examiner may gain insight into the Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM), including Risk Assessment (RA) and Mitigation of the proposed departure. [Read More...]
Helicopter Flight Training
Throughout the past few years, privately-owned and -operated aerial firefighters have continued to demonstrate their rapid response to the nation’s most destructive wildland fires, due largely to ongoing investments—with their own funds—in newer, more capable aircraft.
Many, in fact, are operating under US Forest Service (USFS) exclusive use, multi-year contracts that have helped to put the industry on a pathway to modernization. For example, the fixed-wing operators of large air tankers are moving from USFS “Next Gen 2.0 contracts” issued in 2016, toward “Next Gen 3.0” contracts that will be awarded in 2017 and implemented in 2018. By that year, the Next Gen 3.0 contracts mandate the complete transition from legacy, World War II and Korean War Era piston-engine aircraft, to newer, turbine-powered equipment. For the industry, this is a major accomplishment, considering that only six years ago there were no modern large tankers, while today there are 21. The USFS has a stated goal of a fleet of 22-28 new generation tankers, and the contractual vehicles are in place to meet that. [Read More...]
Helicopter Forestry Fire Fighting
US Forest Service
Columbia Helicopters’ inception came from the vision of Wes Lematta, while sitting in a foxhole in the Philippines during WWII watching fighter pilots fly overhead. Wes knew those pilots were headed back to a hot shower and hot food, and thought, “Wow...they really got this figured out!” Following the war, he drove a truck and worked as a longshoreman until he heard there was a need for helicopter pilots. Using his GI Bill educational benefits, he learned to fly from Dean Johnson in McMinnville, Oregon. Wes then started Columbia Helicopters in 1957 with one helicopter and a plan to promote the versatility of helicopters.
“And he did just that,” states Steve Bandy, Sr. Vice President of Operations. He goes on to say, “While flying personnel to a dredge off the coast of Oregon, Wes spotted another dredge (William T. Rossell) that was sinking. The damaged dredge had been struck by a freighter at the mouth of Coos Bay and there were people on it needing to be rescued. Wes single-handedly saved 15 crew members’ lives that day by hovering close to the sinking ship, allowing the crew members to grab onto the skids, and returning them safely to shore”. This incident changed Wes Lematta’s vision of what helicopters were capable of doing. [Read More...]
For those brave hearts who do not associate optionally-piloted helicopters and UAVs with The Terminator movies’ computer-controlled human-hunters, the idea of using unmanned aircraft to help people makes good sense.
Apparently the engineers at Lockheed Martin are not haunted by visions of Skynet; at least not while on the job. This is because Lockheed Martin recently proved just how powerful a team of UAVs and ‘optionally manned’ helicopters can be for fighting fires and rescuing people.
Specifically, the company staged a demonstration on November 8, 2016 which showed that a quartet of UAVs and optionally-manned, autonomously-controlled helicopters can perform effectively in the location and airborne attack of fires, followed by airlifting personnel from the fire scene – all without having an actual firefighter at the scene. (For the record, an autonomously-controlled helicopter combines the aircraft’s own suite of onboard sensors and flying control modes with human-directed flight plans, mission instructions and direct interventions; usually done from a remote location using the aircraft’s visual and other real-time sensor data to inform the human pilot.) [Read More...]
As President and CEO for Columbia Helicopters, an aircraft manufacturing and operator company based in Aurora, Oregon, Jim Rankin has a strong passion for what he does every day. Jim comes from an extensive, 25-year background in the airline industry and finds the change to the rotary wing industry exciting.
Roads Much Traveled
Jim ventured into aviation when he was studying business as an undergraduate at Carroll College, a small liberal arts school in the State of Wisconsin. In his senior year at Carroll, IBM hired him to work full-time in the summer and part-time during the school year. While finishing college and working for IBM, Jim began taking flying lessons and received his pilot’s license the day after he graduated from college. That set the path for where his career would eventually take him.
“I stayed at IBM for a time but really fell in love with flying, so I ended up leaving about six months later and going to flight school full-time earning my commercial, instrument and CFI licenses, and then started instructing.” Not long after, Jim landed his first airline job where he flew Beechcraft 1900s for Skyway Airlines, and eventually became Chief Pilot and Director of Operations.
Jim accepted a pilot position with Skyway’s parent company, Midwest Express Airlines and flew to many East Coast cities like Boston, New York, Washington, Orlando, and Atlanta, and some West Coast destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. After upgrading to Captain on the MD-80, he learned that Skyway, the Midwest subsidiary airline he initially started his flying career with, was looking for a president, “…and they asked me if I would go over there on an interim basis while they began a search for a new president. After about 6 months, they asked if I wanted to take the president’s position full-time. I had found that I really enjoyed the business aspects of aviation, so I gladly agreed. Since I had made captain on the MD-80s, I felt I had accomplished what I wanted to do on the flying side and I saw a new and interesting career direction managing airlines. Having a more normal schedule was also appealing as my wife and I were just starting our family.” It was at this juncture in his career that Jim went back to graduate school and received his MBA – 10 years after he’d started as a first officer on the Beech 1900.
In 2006, Jim joined Air Wisconsin Airlines, an American Eagle carrier, as CEO. Air Wisconsin started as a branded airline in the 60’s, but over time, it had turned into a fee-for-departure airline. ”When I came onboard, they were flying for US Airways, and after US Airways merged with American, we became an American Eagle carrier flying roughly 500 flights a day mostly on the East Coast. I stayed there from 2006 until I came to Columbia Helicopters in 2014.” [Read More...]