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Meet A Rotorcraft Pro - Finn Thirud

Posted 291 days ago ago by jhadmin

What is your current position?

I'm an ATP-rated freelance contract pilot, after flying for 20 years with oil & gas, medevac, aerial work, and other types of missions, which took me to America, Africa, Greenland, Scandinavia, and lastly to the Middle East.

Tell me about your first flight.

It was in a small single-engine airplane with a cadet from the Royal Norwegian Air Force. He took up two soldiers and myself on a really bumpy day over a fjord in Norway. I was terrified as I used to have a fear of heights, but kept quiet as I didn't want to get a reputation on the airbase where I served that had almost a thousand soldiers. However, my passion for flying just grew, despite my fears. 

How did you get your start in helicopters?

A good friend from the military persuaded me that helicopters were much more fun than airplanes. I flew over the pond to California where I did an introductory flight towards the San Francisco Bay. The typical bay fog prevented us from flying out to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, but it was still a spectacular flight and the second time I ever sat in a helicopter - this time a Schweizer S-300CB. The first time was as a passenger in a military Bell 412. I also want to say that without the invaluable help from my parents, my career would have looked much different.

When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?

I think it chose me. When I was three to four years old, my parents had a friend who flew Hueys in the Norwegian military. He sometimes broke formation and came to circle over our house. I think that made me start dreaming. When I served myself, my commanding officer and I were both dreaming of becoming pilots. After we both were looking at different civilian flight schools, he suggested I try helicopters. We ended up betting on who got to fly solo first. He beat me by a couple of months. He ended up in the North Sea, while I went the aerial work way.

Where did you get your start flying commercially?

My first job was as a CFI/CFII in the Midwest flying for a one-man operation. The great thing was that I got to do lots of short tour flights in a 1974 Enstrom F-28A that taught me power management, which is still beneficial for me today. I also flew a few ENG flights in a Robinson R22 with a local TV station. What a brave camera guy I had!

If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?

I think I would be a sailor like my grandfather. He was always my hero, although he spent most of his sailing years during WW2 hunted by German submarines.

What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

My family means everything to me, and I am trying to show my kids how to succeed in whatever they want to do - unless they want to go into extreme sports like base jumping. I also have plans on competing in triathlons and other long-endurance sports. Another dream I have is to be a programmer and help scientists with their research by making their work easier. Nobel prize - here we go! But, seriously, I believe in automation and the advancement of technology. Just look at how the helicopter as a technological invention has done for the world.

Have you ever had an "Oh, crap!" moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened?

One incident that comes to mind was the time I flew boat photos in a Robinson R22. The photographer wanted shots from three sides of the boat. During one pass I tightened the turn too quickly with full left pedal and too much left cyclic. As we came around the backside, I misjudged the wind, lost translational lift, and ended up HOGE only about 30 feet to 40 feet above the ocean. I quickly pulled maximum manifold pressure, pitched down a few degrees, and waited anxiously to regain ETL, which the helicopter did only 10 feet above the waves. "Great flying!" the photographer cried out. With a heart rate of over 200, I was not able to utter a single word.

If you could give only one piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be?

Never ever give up! My father gave me those words in form of a well-known drawing of a bird trying to swallow a frog, which was choking the bird. Not giving up works when you've been turned down for a job you applied for, trying to get out of a dangerous situation, or standing by your decision when others are trying to persuade you to do something you are uncomfortable doing.

In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?

The digital technology, already used in airplanes, for example like glass cockpits, flight management systems, digital engine controls, etc. I understand that it can be hard and intimidating for pilots who are not so savvy with the digital world. On the other hand, I see operators spending too much allotted simulator training time trying to teach too much automation not absolutely required for a specific operation. Stick-and-rudder skills can easily be forgotten.

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