Lifetime Achievement Award
Sponsored by Bell
Pilot, Maintenance Technician, Industry Professional
Helicopter Association International (HAI) is pleased to announce Michael Hynes, a 65-year veteran of the aviation industry, is the 2021 recipient of the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, sponsored by Bell, salutes excellence in management and leadership and is granted to an individual for long and significant service to the international helicopter community.
An airplane ride nearly 80 years ago ignited a fire in Michael Hynes that led to a 65-year aviation career.
Impassioned by that childhood ride, he joined the US Air Force when he was 17 to become an aircraft mechanic. He was stationed at Palm Beach Air Force Base after graduation and immediately joined the base Aero Club, eventually earning his airplane commercial certificate with a flight instructor rating.
In the first few years after leaving the Air Force, Hynes and a partner established a thriving airplane flight school and Hynes started a fixed-base operation, aircraft maintenance shop, and charter service, which was one of the first Learjet corporate operators.
In the 1960s, after hearing about a Bell helicopter that achieved a top speed of over 150 kt, Hynes saw potential in adding helicopters to his school. He acquired a Brantly B-2 helicopter in 1967 and taught himself to fly it, earning his commercial and flight instructor certificates in 1968. Hynes then formed one of Florida’s first GI Bill helicopter flight schools.
Not long after, he formed Brantly Operators, a maintenance and parts resource for the more than 350 Brantly helicopters in use. He transported parts in his Learjet from Wichita, Kansas, where Brantly Helicopter Corp. had relocated after being purchased by Learjet.
Hynes’s ties to Brantly soon led to him securing ownership of the two Brantly type certificates, a vast parts inventory, and full production tooling in 1971 when Learjet filed for bankruptcy. Hynes moved his Brantly operation to Frederick, Oklahoma, and created a new company, Hynes Aviation Industries. During those years, he received FAA production certification for the redeveloped helicopter, now called the Brantly-Hynes B-2. He also designed and tested fly-by-wire artificial intelligence systems for drones and remotely piloted vehicles (RPV). The Hynes H-5T, based on Hynes’s changes to the Brantly Model 305, won a multimillion-dollar Army RPV contract in 1984.
At the same time, Hynes operated his now Oklahoma-based flight school, assisting former Vietnamese military helicopter pilots to transition to successful piloting careers in the United States using Hynes aircraft. He was appointed as a designated pilot examiner to support the training and has since administered more than 800 airplane and helicopter flight exams to pilots from 38 countries.
Aviation has had its ups and downs for Hynes. He had backed a production loan for his US Army contract himself, and when payments from the army fell behind, he was forced into bankruptcy and had to sell his Hynes Aviation Industries assets.
Undaunted, he changed course and attended college, achieving his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. In addition to teaching high school and adult career and technical education courses, he has also taught at Western Oklahoma State College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Altus Air Force Base campus. Hynes was appointed director of aviation education programs at the College of the Ozarks in 2003, where he worked and continued to perform consulting tasks for others in the aviation community until retirement.
Throughout his six and a half decades in aviation, Hynes has built 16,500 flight hours in 314 types of aircraft. He is one of the few individuals awarded both the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award and its Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
Today, Hynes focuses on future generations. Now semiretired, he currently oversees a $450,000 trust fund that provides annual scholarships for students interested in aviation and focuses on inspiring future aviation enthusiasts.
Sponsored by BLR Aerospace
Neo Aik Sia
Rotorcraft Industry Professional
Neo Aik Sia was destined for aviation at an early age. Fascinated with aircraft, he joined the Junior Flying Club in 1972 in his native Singapore before he could even drive a car. He later earned his private pilot airplane rating six months after graduating from high school.
Neo was drafted into the Singapore National Service shortly after school. Seeing an opportunity to stay in aviation, he opted to leave the service three months later to enlist full time with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as a pilot officer. Once in the RSAF, he found his calling in safety programs.
Throughout his 29-year career at the RSAF, Neo progressively advanced through the ranks in areas where he could champion safety and implement safety programs. Throughout his service, he held positions including head of accident prevention, senior staff director and lecturer, director of operational development, senior pilot, and squadron commander.
While serving in the highest’s safety positions in the Air Force, Neo was responsible for all RSAF aircraft, maintenance, and ground safety and accident prevention programs. He developed and implemented a safety management system (SMS) in 2000 that has since proven its effectiveness through reduced accidents and incidents. He has taken this experience with him since retiring from the RSAF, helping develop and refine SMS programs for civilian organizations.
After migrating to U.S. in the early 2000s, Neo obtained his FAA airline transport pilot (ATP), ground instructor, and advanced instrument ground instructor certificates. He later worked with Air Methods flying medevac, search and rescue, and maintenance test flight missions in multiple locations across the U.S.
In 2016, Neo was hired as the safety, quality, and standards manager for Vision Technology – Aviation Academy of America, a national and international airline flight training academy in San Antonio, Texas. While there, he developed and implemented SMS and quality assurance system programs aimed at achieving and sustaining a zero-accident record. When an incident occurred, he conducted investigations and, with the findings, developed and implemented changes in maintenance, operations, and training.
Most recently, Neo served as Blue Hawaiian Helicopters’ regional safety director. In this role, he was responsible for promoting safety and implementing the FAA SMS and the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) across Blue Hawaiian’s companies. He was also appointed as an FAA Safety Team (FAAST) representative. He concurrently prepared the companies for external audits by the Tour Operators Program of Safety (TOPS) and by STARR Aviation’s loss control consultant.
Throughout his career, Neo is recognized for developing safety roadmaps for a top-down identification of threats, hazards, and risk mitigation programs to safeguard operations.
Neo’s passion is driven by the belief that all accidents are preventable. He focuses on and mentors members of the industry on the need to understand accident causation, human factors, SMS, and the incredible importance of adopting safety excellence and safety culture as a way of life to eliminate accidents.
“I believe building a positive safety culture by changing mindset, attitude, and behavior is the biggest challenge of implementing a safety program,” Neo says. “Without a positive culture, the program is often implemented robotically with minimal effort. I emphasize the need to embrace safety at all levels. With total safety as a lifestyle, we all benefit – ourselves, our families, and our organizations.”
Pilot of the Year Award
Sponsored by ROTOR Magazine
LCDR Robert McCabe
Pilot, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Lieutenant Commander Robert McCabe didn’t set out to be a helicopter pilot. He joined the USCG with a general desire to be involved in active humanitarian and search and rescue work. While assigned to a ship in Astoria, Oregon, he was inspired watching the MH-60T Jayhawks perform multiple harrowing rescues. He changed his focus and attended flight school after his first USCG tour.
McCabe returned to Astoria in 2012 as an MH-60T pilot. After that tour, he was stationed in Sitka, Alaska, before his current assignment at USCG Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Today, McCabe stands alert duty for missions across New England from New York to Maine. He has accumulated more than 2,700 helicopter hours and countless successful rescue missions. In addition to pilot-in-command, he is also an instructor pilot and flight examiner, instructing and mentoring junior pilots and crewmembers.
On the evening of Nov. 24, 2019, his skills and experience were put into practice. The fishing vessel Leonardo had suddenly and unexpectedly capsized 24 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard, throwing all four crewmembers into the 50-degree water.
Once on scene, McCabe’s crew found a lone survivor in a life raft among the debris field in 10-foot seas and 30-knot winds. The severely hypothermic survivor was hoisted aboard and successfully stabilized. During the rescue, the sun set and a squall with sleet came in, reducing visibility to a quarter mile and raising the seas to 15-foot-waves.
Rather than a typical search altitude of 300 feet, McCabe directed the other pilot to fly a low 80-foot air taxi to continue searching the debris field for remaining Leonardo crewmembers. With their focus mostly outside the aircraft searching the rough water with spotlights in flying sleet, both pilots became disoriented.
The aircraft started to bank 40 degrees, simultaneously pitching more than between 14 degrees nose up, and rapidly slowing while descending.
“The visual inputs we were getting were inconsistent,” McCabe said. “The sleet gave that Star Wars warp speed illusion in the searchlight beam, making us feel we were flying at 50 kts. The waves gave us the sensation were drifting right. Neither was right. I soon realized we had ‘the leans.’”
Within 10 seconds of becoming disoriented, McCabe recognized it. He announced the aircraft’s state and immediately coached the flying pilot through a successful instrument takeoff to stable flight. McCabe’s situational awareness, decisiveness, and assertiveness were instrumental in leading the crew to avoid a near catastrophic situation.
“Admitting disorientation, then the transition from it to correction is very, very difficult,” he recalls. “It’s extremely difficult to convince yourself to trust your instruments and make the correct inputs. That experience really brought home that we as a community need to fess up and do everything we can to learn from our mistakes.”
When McCabe returned, he provided a detailed description of the event to the air station’s safety department. With the support of the USCG’s Aviation Logistics Center, the flight data monitoring system data was used to create an animation of the flight for training. This effort resulted in USCG-wide policy recommendations including standardizing training on night vision goggle illusions, developing a manual addressing aeromedical factors of flight, and adding a discussion of spatial disorientation to every annual check-ride.
Sponsored by Rolls-Royce
David Wayne Fox
David Wayne Fox has been around aircraft since he was old enough to toddle. Some of his most cherished memories are accompanying his mechanic father to the airport. His dad was his inspiration as they built kit airplanes together and performed other maintenance work on Bell 47s.
As a teen in 1970, David landed his first paying aviation job as a mechanic’s helper working on Bell 47s. Three years later he joined the U.S. Army and worked as a crew chief, maintaining OH-58, UH-1, and AH-1G helicopters and serving a tour in Korea.
When he returned, David relied on his on-the-job training and self-study to achieve his A&P certificates. Not long after, he earned his private and commercial helicopter certificates.
In 1980, he and a friend founded Helitrans Company Inc.– a Part 135 operator and Part 145 repair station supporting the oil and gas industry off the Gulf Coast of Texas. He served as both the director of maintenance and chief inspector, having received his inspection authorization from the FAA.
For 20 years, Helitrans operated with a perfect safety record. The company did not have any accidents, incidents, violations, or forced landings.
“My proudest accomplishment is Helitrans’ record,” David says. “I believe in having good people working for you and maintaining and operating the aircraft properly to manufacturer recommendations are to credit for that. I was very serious about following the rules and not cutting corners. Money is not everything. Sometimes people lose sight of that.”
David sold Helitrans in 2000 and enjoyed semi-retirement as he did a little maintenance and consulting work before Bell invited him to be a ground school and simulator instructor at the Customer Training Academy for their light helicopters in 2001. For that position, he earned his certified flight instructor rating.
David became a fixture at Bell, not just at the training center, but also within the accident investigation and legal departments. He was also the go-to expert for Bell owners and operators around the world. He would teach every system on the aircraft, sharing his stories and anecdotes to help solidify student knowledge while engaging them to learn. He developed an astronomical list of connections and still gets calls from people around the world when they’re stuck on a maintenance challenge.
“I’ve been doing this so long, chances are I’ve seen some of the more obscure or unique issues with these aircraft and may have a way to help,” he says.
While at Bell, David was instrumental in developing the Bell 407GX and GXi courses as well as leading and standardizing instruction for light helicopters.
David retired from Bell in 2020 and now works part time for the Helicopter Institute in Ft. Worth, Texas, providing pilot training. He also still moonlights as a mechanic, providing maintenance for select clients.
These days, the most rewarding work for David is mentoring younger mechanics. He believes it’s important for the older generation to share their wealth of knowledge and skills, as well as their experience and values.
“It’s important to mentor these younger people,” he says. “This is what my dad did with me. He mentored me on how to do things correctly to ensure when you send an aircraft out, it will come back. Part of that is emphasizing the importance of following the manufacturers manuals and maintenance recommendations and developing a good working relationship with your local FAA inspectors.”
Law Enforcement Award
Sponsored by MD Helicopters
Officer John Cooper
Safety and Training Officer, Columbia Division of Police
While John Cooper earned his private pilot single engine land rating in his teens, it was helicopters that truly captured his imagination.
Using money from his full-time paper route and helping scrap Army surplus helicopters for a helicopter operator in Maryland, Cooper earned his private helicopter add-on certificate in an Enstrom in the late 1970s. His training then came to a halt as he sought the funds and a path to a helicopter pilot career.
Cooper’s big break came in 1988 when he was hired by the Columbus Division of Police in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Police’s robust helicopter aviation unit trained officers to fly. Cooper served as a street officer until he was accepted into the aviation unit in 1991. There he earned his commercial helicopter certificate and flew as a helicopter tactical pilot. A few years later, he earned his certified flight instructor rating. In 1996, he became the unit’s safety and training officer.
Today, at 57, Cooper is the both Columbus Police’s longest serving pilot in the aviation unit and its longest serving safety and training officer. He’s built 5,900 hours in helicopters, with 3,500 of them being instruction given. During his 30-year career with the unit, he’s also made significant strides to strengthen and build its safety programs and has become an FAA helicopter designated pilot examiner.
In his position, Cooper has two main responsibilities. The first is maintaining and overseeing safety standards for the department’s well-recognized heliport. The second is overseeing all unit pilot training.
In 1999, Cooper helped the Columbus Police become the first police department to achieve Public Safety Aviation Accreditation Commission (PSAAC) accreditation. He’s since successfully achieved reaccreditation in 2012. Columbia Police awarded him its Medal of Merit for both.
The Columbus Police employ 21 pilots who fly the unit’s five aircraft, one Bell 407GXi and four MD530F helicopters. Cooper provides primary, recurrent, and transition training to each of them, ensuring every pilot meets rigorous FAA and departmental standards, including two check rides a year.
At Columbus Police, new additions to the aviation unit come with everything from no flight experience to full certificates. Cooper helps each gain the experience needed to eventually receive pilot-in-command status on the aircraft, with particular emphasis on safety.
“I’m big on safety,” he says. “I put a lot of emphasis on emergency procedures too. We’ve had four engine failures and the pilots put the aircraft down safely in some very confined areas. I’ve had pilots come to me after and thank me for the training. That emphasized for me how important emergency procedures are.”
To increase safety, Cooper helped establish an integrated training system for the department, something for which he again achieved the department’s Medal of Merit. He applied for a grant and added a helicopter ATD to his training equipment to allow for inadvertent instrument metrological conditions (IIMC) training. He developed established decision models based on realistic scenarios and put all the pilots through them. He also invites local air traffic controllers to participate in instrument and IIMC training, acting as ATC to add to the realism.
“I love training,” he says. “I love getting into people’s minds and bringing that understanding. I like taking something complex, breaking it down, and making it easily digestible. That’s what any instructor should be doing.”
Humanitarian Service Award
Sponsored by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company
California National Guard 40th Combat Aviation Brigade CH-47 and UH-60 Blackhawk Crews
On the evening of Sept. 5, 2020, the rapidly growing Creek Fire in the Sierra Nevada Forest northeast of Fresno had surrounded a large group of campers, hikers, and residents, leaving no avenue for escape.
Without the assets to reach these stranded people, the Madera County Sheriff called for support from the California National Guard 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. The most deployed unit of the California National Guard, the 40th also provides considerable support to Cal Fire during the state’s ever growing fire seasons, employing its CH-47 Chinooks and Blackhawk helicopters for transport and water bucket drops.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5) Kipp Goding was at home when he got the call for help from his brigade commander. There was a situation developing near the Mammoth Pools Reservoir, the commander told Goding. People needed to be airlifted to safety.
Goding, a Black Hawk pilot in command based out of Fresno, California, began calling down his phone tree to quickly put together a crew that included pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Irvin Hernandez, and crew chief Warrant Officer 1 Ge Xiong. At the same time the brigade commander had reached Chinook pilot in command CW5 Joseph Rosamond, who then started calling to pull together a his Stockton, California-based crew – pilot CW2 Brady Hlebain, flight engineer Sgt. George Esquivel and flight engineer Sgt. Cameron Powell.
What followed was a harrowing night that tested the limits of the crews and aircraft alike. An inferno fueled by bone dry vegetation, bark beetle-killed trees, and strong winds, the Creek Fire was unpredictable and creating so much smoke the pilots couldn’t see to fly through it.
After navigating around closed Cal Fire airspace due to active tanker drops, the helicopters were forced to wait an hour until sunset when night vision goggles (NVGs) gave them the advantage to see through the smoke.
Rosamond’s Chinook arrived first, landing on a concrete boat ramp at the reservoir’s edge as the fire burned all around. The flight engineers triaged people, prioritizing those with the worst injuries.
“These people were in flip flops and Bermuda shorts, dressed to enjoy the Labor Day weekend,” Goding recalls. “They had burns, broken bones, difficulty breathing, and bad scrapes.”
The two helicopters each flew three flights, rescuing a total of 242 people and a significant number of pets from the blaze.
“It was really brutal,” Goding said. “We’d return to Fresno, refuel, and head back. In that time, the fire was in a new position. During the day the wind made it jump over vegetation, leaving green spots. After sunset, the wind died down a bit and the fire started burning those previously unburned areas. As a result, we were forced to find a new route to the reservoir each time we returned. No two trips were the same route.”
The crews pushed the limits of the aircraft in the high altitude and fire-fueled temperature. Each aircraft reached maximum weight at some point during the night, yet mechanics back at Fresno inspected the aircraft and gave the green light to continue.
“In many ways this was much worse than flying in combat,” Goding recalls. “In combat, you don’t see people shooting at you. You focus on the job. In the Creek Fire, you saw the wall of smoke and flames. You were flying into it and seeing the terror on people’s faces. We did the job, just as any of our guard members would. I really want to emphasize that. We may be the ones that did this job, but we’re all doing these jobs every day.”
Sponsored by ROTOR Magazine
University of Maryland UAS Test Site Team, led by director Matt Scassero
Dr. Joseph Scalea, University of Maryland Medical Center
On the night of April 19, 2019, 44-year-old nursing assistant Trina Glispy waited at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), prepped for kidney transplant surgery as her new kidney prepared to take flight. In her eighth year of dialysis for kidney failure, she was beginning o lose hope. Destiny had another plan.
When Glispy learned she had a match, she was also offered a very specially opportunity. The kidney could be delivered to the hospital by drone – a medical first that would pave the way for faster organ delivery. Excited by the chance to make a difference, Glispy agreed to the delivery option.
As Glispy was prepped, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) team, led by University of Maryland UAS Test Site Director Matt Scassero and UMMC Dr. Joseph Scalea, awaited the arrival of the kidney from the Living Legacy Foundation, Maryland’s organ procurement organization. Once secured, the kidney launched in a custom UAS, complete with real time monitoring equipment. It flew 2.8 miles in 9.52 minutes at 300 feet to the rooftop helipad at UMMC, beating the time a car would have made the trip in traffic. It landed smoothly with all organ monitor readings in the green and was soon on its way to the operating room for Glispy.
The idea of organ transport by UAS was born two and a half years earlier. Dr. Scalea approached Scassero after hearing about a fixed wing drone test his team had conducted carrying medical equipment across the Chesapeake Bay and asked if the same could be done for an organ.
“I was excited about the idea and challenge,” Scassero recalls. “This project was a lot more than a drone flight. We needed to develop a drone with redundancies to reduce risk and identify how to track the state of the organ while it was in transit.”
Scassero’s team embraced the challenge. The drone was built from scratch with multiple redundancies all the way down to a parachute system that could be deployed either automatically or manually to protect the organ.
The team also designed the first ever organ monitoring system. The system tracks the state of the organ in transport in real time – recording and uploading temperature, pressure and vibrations to the cloud for live monitoring. What’s more, upon landing, medical staff can remove the onboard SD card to review the same data.
“Nothing like this had ever been developed before,” Scassero says. “Currently an organ is tested after harvest then again after arrival before transplant to ensure it is still viable. With our monitoring systm, we discovered the kidney we flew remained well within the parameters; I’d even say better than it would have in a car or helicopter. The hope is one day this monitoring technology will replace the need for that second biopsy.”
Glispy is doing very well and has returned to many of her former activities. The technology that made that possible for her has also flourished. Members of the original team partnered with an investor to found MissionGO, a company that is developing and expanding this technology and increasing organ donation efficiency through a new software product.
True to the initiative that supported their research, the University of Maryland team is doing good.
W.A. “Dub” Blessing Flight Instructor of the Year Award
Sponsored by Hill Air, Corp.
Assistant Chief Flight Instructor/Pilot; HeliStream
Soft spoken and standing at only 5’6”, Nobuyuki Kosuge is hardly an imposing individual. However, his soft spoken demeaner and dedication to safe, skilled helicopter flight have made an immense impact on countless pilots during the last two decades.
Born in Japan, Kosuge grew up near a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force airbase, sparking his life-long interest in aviation. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Kanda Gaigo University in Chiba, Japan, but never lost sight of his flying dreams despite the barriers in Japan.
Not long after college, Kosuge visited Southern California on vacation and took his first helicopter flight. He was hooked. In 2001, he enrolled in HeliStream in Costa Mesa, California, and began a six-year journey of obtaining visas, changing schools (and transferring a visa) when one went bankrupt, and applying for a green card. His hard work, and support of those around him, paid off. By 2007, Kosuge had earned his private and commercial certificates, instrument and flight instructor ratings, flight instructor experience in the U.S., ground instruction experience in Japan, and green card sponsorship by HeliStream.
Kosuge began at HeliStream as a primary instructor. His professionalism and work ethic soon led to a promotion to instruct for HeliStream’s Customs and Border Protection Rotor Wing Qualification Course (RWQC), a program he now manages along with a myriad of initial qualification courses for other agencies, including Orange County Sheriff, Riverside County Sheriff, Ontario Police, and Anaheim Police Department. He has qualified dozens of law enforcement pilots through these programs.
Today, Kosuge serves as HeliStream’s assistant chief flight instructor and FAA Part 135 check pilot. He has built more than 10,600 flight hours in 11 aircraft models, with more than 9,000 hours of instruction given. While he no longer provides initial flight instruction, he remains very active with HeliStream’s students providing stage checks and sharing his knowledge as students progress.
“To see our students progress is very satisfying,” Kosuge says. “I enjoy seeing them through each stage as they build their skills and transform into professional pilots.”
Kosuge also runs the company’s transition and recurrent training in the MD500 and AS350, allowing him to provide instrument proficiency checks for many of HeliStream’s law enforcement customers.
One of the company’s part 135 line pilots since 2008, Kosuge also flies a number of utility, photography, charter, and tour flights and serves as a maintenance check pilot. He was also instrumental in developing HeliStream’s Safety Management System.
While many flight instructors may have moved on to different careers by the time they achieve so much experience, Kosuge is happy to stay in the training arena.
“I really enjoy HeliStream itself as a multiple mission company,” he says. “I started with initial instruction, but as they get more missions and support work in utility, firefighting, and other commercial work, I get to expand by skills and still instruct. The variety makes this a very attractive company.”
HeliStream sees Kosuge as one of their biggest assets, both due to his work ethic and also the skill he can share with students.
“Nobu’s abilities as a professional flight instructor are exemplary,” shares HeliStream Chief Financial Officer Barbara Perrin. “He teaches by example, holding himself to the highest standards of professionalism. His students naturally learn from his well-developed and safe habit patterns.”
Excellence in Communication
Sponsored by Lightspeed Aviation
Vice President, Commercial Strategy and Business Development for Global Commercial and Military Systems; Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company
The daughter of an Army helicopter pilot, Jeanette Eaton grew up around aircraft and often attended air shows with her dad. Yet her parents didn’t suggest she too take to the skies. Her mom inspired her to attend college while her dad emphasized the benefits of engineering.
Aviation had other ideas. The defining moment in Eaton’s early career path was the day she interviewed with Sikorsky and toured a CH-53 Super Stallion shortly after receiving her electrical engineering degree.
“I was maybe 21 and I was so overwhelmed and impressed with the helicopter,” she recalls. “The engineering, the power, the missions this aircraft could do. It was all so inspiring. I knew right then and there I wanted to work for Sikorsky and work on helicopters.”
Eaton spent the first 17 years of her career at Sikorsky. Participating in the leadership development program, she steadily gained skills, knowledge, and expertise across a variety of positions while earning master’s degree in manufacturing engineering and an MBA with a focus on manufacturing management as well as a master’s in executive management from Harvard Business School.
Even with all that knowledge and experience, her passion continued to evolve. Through the leadership development program, she discovered she really enjoyed sales. She loved working with, getting to know, and sharing the stories of her customers. She was a natural communicator and thrived off sharing her passion.
Her mentor encouraged her to obtain her FAA ratings in order to increase her credibility and marketability as an aircraft sales representative. Eaton earned her commercial instrument single engine land certificate and landed a job at Bell as a sales manager. Bell helped her add her commercial helicopter certificate and that’s when Eaton really hit her stride.
“I can honestly say some of my most treasured experiences have come from cross country trips across the U.S. in helicopters,” she says. “Those experiences are truly the source of my passion, working with the customers and flying. We all need to be ambassadors to aviation.”
Ten years later Sikorsky recruited her back as director of marketing and she was soon promoted into commercial sales. Today Eaton is responsible for strategy and business development for Sikorsky’s products around the world, supporting customers while also finding ways to grow the customer base. Yet, at the same time she is focusing on giving back.
“Part of my job, one of the things I love to do, is celebrate and recognize our customers and help share their stories,” she says. “As a salesperson, I also feel we have to give back to the community.”
Eaton is very active in volunteer activities that promote aviation and expose the next generation to aviation careers. She volunteers with the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council and the Whirly-Girls and also donates her time to talk to youth about STEM and aviation careers through the Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, Civil Air Patrol, local schools, and other organizations.
“When I think back to my past, I am thankful for those who inspired me,” she says. “I feel if you’re not exposed to something, you don’t know it exists or is possible for you. It’s important to teach them to open themselves to new opportunities. Looking back, the things that made the biggest impact and helped me find my passion were when I said ‘yes’ to opportunities, even when I was a little afraid to do it. I talk to them about saying ‘yes,’ and finding their passion, as that passion will lead to their authenticity and success.”