In my years as owner and editor in chief of Rotorcraft Pro, I’ve never used my platform to share anything personal about myself outside of my helicopter related experiences. But as I crossed the threshold into another new year, I had the urge to reflect on my life, the people in it, and my small place in this industry. My take away—gratitude. I feel blessed more than I deserve, that’s for certain.
Because I rarely talk about it, very few people know that I was raised in a poor, single-parent, drug-infested household in south Chicago. Money, food, and clothes were sparse. In 1980, at the age of 13, my mother committed suicide by overdose while I was in the home. It was a tough time for my younger brother and I. We were then relocated to South Florida to live with a dad that we had not seen in years. Conditions were not a whole lot better as we lived in a detached garage behind someone’s home and slept on mattresses on the floor by night, but food was plentiful, which was a plus. The biggest benefit was that it was this event and move that caused me, in 8th grade, to meet my awesome wife, Lynnette, who I am still with to this day.
By the age of 17, with no money and no prospects for college, I was ready to leave it all behind and carve my own path, so I joined the U.S. Marines and celebrated my 18th birthday while on the rifle range at Parris Island Marine Corps boot camp. The Marines changed my life. They gave me a fresh start, which led to education, becoming a firefighter, then a helicopter pilot, and an entrepreneur.
At the age of 51, I’ve been fortunate to have lived a couple lifetimes through career, business, travel, and missionary work. Most of my career life though, has been wrapped in the helicopter industry as a working pilot and a creator of things that benefit the industry and the people in it. I feel like I am the least likely person to have been given the opportunities I have had to grow and succeed in this great helicopter industry.
For example, I currently fly the AW169 helicopter and own Rotorcraft Pro magazine. Both are blessings from God and the people around me, and I’m amazed everyday that I get to do it. I’ve had people trust me and give me flying opportunities that have been career changing. I’ve asked helicopter industry professionals to help me with related projects and they willingly assist. I ask my team and contributors at Rotorcraft Pro to give me their best and they deliver. I ask our customers to invest in us when they become media partners with Rotorcraft Pro and they do. I ask my family to let me traipse around the globe visiting helicopter operators and they encourage me to forge on.
In my 28 years in this industry, I have met the nut jobs, the negative-nellies, and the snake oil salesman, I know they exist. However, 98% of the people I have encountered and do business with are decent, hard-working, generous people. After all these years, I just wanted to openly share my sense of gratitude to those people and businesses in the helicopter industry who have contributed in one way or another to any of our successes!