For 55 years, Helicopter Association International (HAI) has encouraged and celebrated the highest standards of professionalism within vertical aviation through its Salute to Excellence Awards. The awards honor those pilots, maintenance technicians, operators, safety professionals, and others who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence that has enriched vertical aviation.

HAI congratulates the 2016 Salute to Excellence honorees for their contributions to the international rotorcraft community. These men, women, and organizations are examples of the very best in vertical aviation.

R. Randall Padfield recently retired as the chief operating officer of Aviation International News (AIN), having also served as the publication’s editor-in-chief. 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 “Jolly Green Giant” combat 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 Super Pumas in the North Sea oil fields, as well as corporate helicopters in the United States.

He also began writing for a number of aviation publications. Padfield joined AIN as a full-time editor in 1993.

His field experience made him the ideal choice to fly and review helicopters for AIN. He was often called upon to cover rotorcraft issues for AIN’s various publications and served for many years as the editor of its HAI HELI-EXPO convention news.

Padfield has also written four books, including To Fly Like a Bird, a biography of helicopter industry pioneer Joe Mashman. He is the author of the highly regarded Learning to Fly Helicopters, which he recently updated to include significant technological advances since the first edition was published, as well as new FAA regulations and testing requirements.

In the foreword to Learning to Fly Helicopters, fellow aviation journalist William Garvey wrote of Padfield, “Over the years, I have come to admire Randy’s special ability to convey both the technical and practical aspects of rotary-wing flight. Anyone truly interested in mastering these extraordinary flying machines would be well served to spend some time taking in what an aviator who achieved that level years ago has to give.”

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. In that role, he was charged with creating the Brazilian flight-test course.

In 1990, Bosco joined the Brazilian subsidiary of what is now Airbus Helicopters as technical director. There, he established the company’s Flight Test Department and later developed emergency procedures testing for both experienced company pilots and for pilots training on newly purchased helicopters.

A few years later, he established his own flight school, which places heavy emphasis on emergency procedures — especially autorotations. Bosco has approximately 12,500 flight hours and has logged 32,500 “full-down” autorotations. He says that translates to approximately 400 flight hours in autorotation alone.

Bosco has trained hundreds of pilots, many of them for multiple certifications. He works with international students from neighboring South American nations and from Angola, a Portuguese-speaking West African nation. He also provides training for several law enforcement aviation units in Brazil. Bosco is recognized as a role model for the Brazilian helicopter community. 

Troy Lewis is the area training manager for engine manufacturer Turbomeca- USA. During more than two decades there, he has trained thousands of aviation maintenance technicians each year.

Lewis began his aviation maintenance career in 1986 as a quality control inspector for the Inter-Turbine Company. He later joined Turbomeca’s Quality Department, where he was instrumental in creating 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. In that role, Lewis not only taught, but was responsible for instructor audits, recurrent training and qualifications, and for mentoring instructors in Turbomeca’s training network.

Lewis’s energy, drive to excel, and willingness to help students makes everyone around him strive for excellence as well. He displays an ability to instruct, communicate, listen, and deliver information to students in a way that is professional, clear, and accurate, and that fits each student’s working level. By doing so, Lewis has made them safer, better technicians.

His commitment to excellence and safety is a reminder that safety in the air begins in the hangar. Maintenance technicians are key players in a safe operation, and it all starts with excellent instruction.

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 Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw, the state’s three biggest cities, was soaring. Working with what he had, Lawrence established a schedule to patrol the three cities on a nightly basis.

By the end of 2014, the three cities saw a 28 percent drop in violent crime. Lawrence himself flew more than a thousand hours patrolling the cities and flying other missions, including search and rescue, marijuana eradication, and disaster response.

Lawrence took a hands-on approach to restoring the unit. 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 duties, 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. His efforts were finally rewarded last year when the Michigan Legislature approved and purchased a third helicopter.

Lawrence also has an eye on the future and new technology. He was instrumental in obtaining the FAA’s first authorization allowing a law enforcement agency to use unmanned aircraft statewide.

Eileen Frazer, RN, CMTE, is the executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), an organization dedicated to improving safety in air and ground medical transportation, which she founded and has led for 25 years.

In the mid-1980s, Frazer was an emergency room nurse and chair of the safety committee of what is now the Association of Air Medical Services. To address air ambulance accidents, the committee drafted criteria for peer-review safety audits. Frazer and the committee, however, believed the audits should be performed by an independent organization.

So in 1988 and 1989, Frazer conducted a feasibility study, modeling her proposed organization on the Joint Commission, the highly regarded group that accredits hospitals, laboratories, and health care providers and services.

CAMTS was officially launched in 1990 as the Commission on Accreditation of Air Medical Services, and Frazer spent much of the next two years writing the accreditation standards and testing the audit process. The organization conducted its first official audit in February 1992.

In 1997, the commission expanded its focus to include ground medical transport and changed its name to the current Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services. Today, there are some 175 CAMTS-accredited air ambulance programs in the United States and five other countries.

According to Richard Morley, program director for West Michigan Air Care, during his 29 years in the industry, “I have not encountered another individual more dedicated to, and focused on, the goals of improving both the care provided to our patients and the safety of the crews transporting and treating those patients.”

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 3 miles or less from Boston’s Logan International Airport (KBOS).

Recognizing the benefits of point-in-space GPS approaches to the hospitals for their patients, Boston MedFlight joined with the FAA and private industry to form a working group, the Boston Area Helicopter IFR Infrastructure Team, to address the complex details involved in such a project.

Over the course of six full years, the infrastructure team designed the instrument approaches and got them certified by the FAA. 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.

Designing and certifying the approaches 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 October 14, 2015. This project showcases the best efforts of government and private industry working cooperatively at the local level to enhance safety and improve the lives of people in their community.

On December 28, 2014, fire broke out aboard the seagoing ferry Norman Atlantic, en route from Greece to Italy with nearly 500 passengers plus crew on board. 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 helicopterrescue mission ever attempted.

Because of the tight confines on the ferry’s upper decks, only one helicopter at a time could perform hoist operations.

Crews flew day and night for three days, ferrying the rescued to nearby ships. In the case of one squadron, 40 of the more than 86 hours its helicopters flew were at night.

When it was done, although a dozen people lost their lives, more than 420 passengers and crew were airlifted safely from the Norman Atlantic. In recognizing the crews, Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, said, “The extraordinary dedication of these operational units and, above all, using the helicopters that allow for this rescue at sea made it possible for those victims to live.

“This operation — so full of dedication, of tenacity, and determination of our men and women — allowed us to avoid an even larger disaster.”

New Zealand–born Jason Andrew 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, and Nepal. He is a highly respected highaltitude pilot who is often called upon for difficult mountain rescues.

In April 2014, a huge avalanche at 19,000 feet on Mount Everest, between Base Camp and Camp One, trapped between 20 and 30 climbers.

Operating near the performance 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 because of the instability of the terrain at the landing site, hoisted additional survivors and casualties out.

The mission is considered the largest high-altitude helicopter rescue operation ever performed in the Himalayas.

A year later, in April 2015, a powerful earthquake strong enough to move all of Mount 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 Mount Everest’s Camps One and Two, where some 140 climbers had been trapped by a collapsed icefall.

Laing has previously been honored with the Kumar Khadga Bickram Adventurous Award from the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Diploma for outstanding airmanship.

Dana H. Kerrick has served the aviation industry for more than 5½ decades as a military and civilian maintenance specialist, civilian pilot, flight instructor, air taxi operator, and pioneer in helicopter rotor-blade composites. He recently retired as vice president and co-founder of International Aviation Composites (IAC).

Kerrick is recognized throughout the industry as one of the foremost experts in rotor-blade inspection, maintenance, and repair. He has written extensively for numerous maintenance and aviation publications and his course on rotor-blade preventive maintenance has been part of the 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 inspection authority renewal instructor.

Outside of work, Kerrick volunteered as part of the San Joaquin County, California, Sheriff’s Air Posse for 40 years, flying both helicopters and airplanes in support of department operations.

Early in Kerrick’s civilian aviation career, he was the flight instructor for the founder of Composite Technology, Inc. (CTI), who eventually convinced Kerrick to come work for the company. He stayed with CTI from 1981 until 1992, when he left to found IAC with two friends, Randy Stevens and Herman Bevelhimer.

During his time in the helicopter world, Kerrick has seen rotor blades evolve from carefully matched wooden blades, to metal-skinned blades, to today’s composite blades.

Reflecting on his success in the industry, Kerrick says, “I always tried to find the most talented people and learn from them everything they were willing to share.”

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