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...]
In it’s third year, Rotorcraft Pro’s annual U.S. Pilot Salary & Benefits Survey was initially launched in an effort to monitor and report trends on the salaries of pilots in the industry. Traditional surveys were sent directly to employers via snail-mail in ballot form, then collected and tabulated. This old method did provide interesting results, but because employers are reluctant to reveal the exact salaries and benefits they provide, the sampling could be rather small and probably wasn’t always representative of the larger whole.
Modern web technologies have given us the ability to survey actual pilots and their employers thus generating more participation throughout the industry. As in previous years, this year’s survey had excellent participation and we have obtained some of the latest information on helicopter pilots:
~ What are their qualifications?
~ What do they fly?
~ In what sector do they fly?
~ What ratings do they have?
~ How much do they make?
~ What type benefits do they receive?
We think you’ll find the answers to these questions revealing. The goal was for Rotorcraft Pro to interact with our readers in the industry by focusing on two main questions:
~ How much do helicopter pilots make within the industry?
~ How much are you worth? [Read More...]
2017 Salary Survey Report
Helicopter crashes can happen on any kind of flight, including short corporate helicopter jumps from city to city. “Let’s say you are flying from Toronto to Ottawa, Canada,” said David Arama, director of the WSC Survival School in Cloyne, Ontario, and author of the new survival book, ‘How To Start a Fire With Water’. “This is an hour-long flight path that passes over Algonquin Provincial Park: If your helicopter goes down there, you need to be prepared to survive in a wilderness situation!”
Similar risks exist for American pilots flying across natural preserves and forested mountains; even in the heavily urbanized Eastern Seaboard. Add the post-crash challenges of unexpectedly landing on water – risks that exist even for helicopters hopping across New York City – and planning to survive after a crash should be a priority for all helicopter pilots.
Unfortunately, “90 percent of helicopter pilots do not take survival preparations seriously,” said Arama. “They often fly with inadequate safety training and equipment; lacking anything beyond a car-quality first aid kit, and not knowing if their aircraft’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) is functioning properly. Should a crash occur, these pilots are utterly unprepared to survive until help arrives -- especially if they land in an hard-to-access area in bad weather where assistance can take days to get through.” [Read More...]
Helicopter Survival Gear
RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time? I thought about this for a while and came up with a number of different things, but decided on this: If you look at the statistics for helicopter accidents, it's normally a low percentage that are caused by mechanical issues. To me, this means that you can trace the other accidents to a decision that the pilot made at some point. Even if it's weather related, the pilot still chose to fly. I always try to fly with that in the back of my mind. It means that, for the most part, you are in control of your own destiny. This is a good thing but won't be the moment you forget it. Remember, if something goes wrong today, it's probably because of a decision you made! [Read More...]
meet a rotorcraft pro
Have you ever accidentally done a loop in a helicopter on a moonless night at 1,000 feet on downwind leg to an airport because the pilot flying lost spatial orientation? I have. The sudden and abrupt transition from controlled flight to uncontrolled flight, when the pilot “lost it,” then fighting for control, took me as much by surprise as it did the poor pilot.
He was an airline transport pilot with more than 5,000 hours in the aircraft. He wasn’t new to instrument flying, having logged hundreds of hours of actual instrument time using NVGs in a Blackhawk working for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Colombia.
Luckily, this “flight” took place in a $14 million, Level D, full-motion Bell 412 flight simulator in Dubai that I was operating as a flight simulator instructor, flight examiner, and CRM assessor for Abu Dhabi Aviation. To test my pilot’s hand-flying skills, I had given him an autopilot failure on downwind, which caused him to have to fly the machine into dark nothingness.
Because I have seen several experienced pilots “lose it” in the sim, it’s caused me to come to the realization of how important it is to have a plan of action before one does go into inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC). This brings me to the topic of line-oriented flight training, or LOFT. [Read More...]
Line - Oriented Flight Training
Do helicopters come to mind when you think of Italian style, design, and luxury? Maybe not, but Mecaer Aviation Group (MAG) is changing that.
The company headquartered in Monteprandone, Italy, with facilities across the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Canada, and Russia, offers integrated systems for helicopters, general aviation, and business aircraft. Basic trainer systems are also offered for flight control, landing gear, and actuation systems. In addition, the certified company performs completions and modifications, as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services. MAG owns over 60 supplemental type certificates (STCs), and has the ability to write their own STCs under FAA and EASA regulations. [Read More...]
A few months ago, I was conducting a commercial pilot practical test for an applicant in the South Florida area. At the beginning of the exam, the applicant held up his copy of the FAA practical test standards (PTS) next to his face and took a selfie with his phone. He then proceeded to request I “hold on a minute” so that he could post the picture on Facebook. At the time, I didn’t really mind as this moment was significant to him. Maybe it was his way of calming his nerves: no harm, no foul.
The ground portion of the exam was going well as we proceeded into the performance planning portion of the scenario. We were a little over an hour into the exam, so I offered the applicant an opportunity for a short break. He accepted and proceeded to step outside. After a few minutes, I decided to walk to the FBO for a cup of coffee. As I walked outside, the applicant was holding his phone up with a selfie stick to conduct a live video on social media about the exam. To my surprise, he decided it was a good idea to turn the camera in my direction and introduce me into his video efforts. I waved in the direction of the camera and kept walking. To be clear, I was now getting annoyed by this activity. [Read More...]
With a new year comes a hunger for the new and different. Rotorcraft Pro presents a fresh look at which helicopters and equipment are under development as we start 2017. [Read More...]
Helicopter Event Coverage