Salute to Excellence Awards

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Jack H. Schonely

Jack H. Schonely spent more than 33 years in law enforcement where he dedicated his career to promoting professionalism in, and the advancement of, helicopter use in airborne law enforcement in the United States and around the world. He is a nationally recognized expert on suspect tactics and perimeter containment.

Schonely began his law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff in Berks County, Pennsylvania, before moving to Los Angeles in 1983 and joining the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). He witnessed the changes in daily police work firsthand and did exhaustive research on suspect tactics, culminating in his book, Apprehending Fleeing Suspects: Suspect Tactics and Perimeter Containment. Schonely has also been published in many industry magazines.

Working as an LAPD patrol officer, Schonely was involved in perimeter containment on a daily basis. In 1992, he became a K-9 handler within the Metropolitan Division, where he spent the next five years searching for LA’s most dangerous criminals.

He worked as a tactical flight officer in LAPD’s Air Support Division, coordinating tactical operations from a helicopter that involved foot pursuits and perimeter containments. Schonely served as chief tactical flight officer and later a command pilot, where he served until his retirement in June 2016.

Schonely's programs set the standard for tactical flight officer training and perimeter containment operations.

Schonely has participated in more than 2,000 perimeter containments during his career, and he has seen many successes and failures. He has shared this experience with thousands of U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officers and as an instructor for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association and individual agencies. His programs set the standard for tactical flight officer training and perimeter containment operations.

Carl Jones

Carl Jones is described by colleagues as “a dedicated, hardworking individual who epitomizes the type of aviation maintenance engineer you want working on your helicopter.”

During one deployment on a critical contract with a tight schedule, the combining gearbox on a PT6 Twin- Pac failed. Changing this unit is not a small job, but Jones was able to source and arrange for delivery of a replacement, remove the old unit, and install the new one, leaving time to complete the contract. To make this happen, he worked evenings and weekends until the job was done. The National Research Council’s (NRC) fly-by-wire helicopters have unique research equipment attached to the flight controls, as well as auxiliary systems such as a nonstandard 3000-psi hydraulic system. Jones is able to maintain and repair these systems and keep the helicopters operating. Jones once devised a modification to fix a problem with the pedal axis of the force-feel system on a Bell 205 fly-by-wire research system.

“Rather than sitting back happy with the status quo, Carl takes pride in his aircraft and is always looking for ways to make incremental improvements to them,” a colleague says. “Jones is a regular attendee at trade shows like those held by HAI, where he is always on the lookout for new technology to increase our capabilities.”

Jones takes pride in his aircraft and is always looking for ways to make incremental improvements to them.

Examples of this ingenuity include a new step and door roller system for NRC’s Bell 412 and a cycle counter system for the Bell 205. The cycle counter system has already paid for itself through reduced maintenance costs.

Nick Mayhes

Nick Mayhew’s commitment to improving the safety and image of the professional flight instructor is demonstrated day in and day out. In addition to his own work as a flight instructor, he strives to instill the highest level of professionalism when mentoring other flight instructors. His dedication to detail and “doing the right thing” is a testament to his character and work ethic.

As chair of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) Training Working Group, Mayhew has been instrumental in leading major projects to completion. He is a strong advocate for improving pilot performance related to autorotations and emergency procedures training. Mayhew and his team have been tenacious in advising on several FAA and industry best practices for protecting pilots and instructors while performing these maneuvers.

Mayhew also helped to breathe life into the Helicopter Certificated Flight Instructor Special Emphasis Program, which is aimed at addressing safety concerns in the industry. He has collaborated with the FAA’s Orlando Flight Standards District Office, Bristow Academy, and other Floridabased flight schools in these efforts and continues to work tirelessly to promote the program nationally.

Mayhew strives to instill the highest level of professionalism when mentoring other flight instructors.

Mayhew also led efforts to set up the “Reel Safety” library of five-minute video clips on the International Helicopter Safety Team and USHST websites. The videos help pilots better understand subjects such as autorotations, risk management, preflight planning, inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions, and emergency procedures training. He has sponsored the development of more than a dozen action-packed educational videos, with more to come in the future.

James Russell Spray

James Russell Spray’s career in aviation operations and management spans 53 years, including 42 years in executive administration. His career includes working as a helicopter pilot for Pacific Airmotive Corporation and as a helicopter flight instructor for Bell Helicopter Textron and Southern Airways, where he was responsible for the accident-free training of more than 500 pilots. He held the position of vice president of medical operations for Rocky Mountain Holdings, growing the Air Medical Services Division from seven helicopters and $3 million in revenue to more than $100 million in revenue per year with 90 aircraft. Spray later took over as chairman and CEO of Rocky Mountain.

More recently, Spray held the position of president and CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines USA, formerly Turbomeca USA, from 2003 until his retirement in late 2016. While he was with Safran, he concurrently held the positions of president and CEO of Microturbo, Inc., Turbomeca Canada, Ltd., and Sagem Avionics. During his tenure with Safran Helicopter Engines USA, the company doubled its number of employees, saw multiple facility expansions, was awarded two major military contracts, and developed or strengthened relationships with Airbus and Bell Helicopter.

For 53 years, spray has brought professionalism to the helicopter industry, ranging form flight instruction and medical operations to managemnet of some of the industry's biggest companies.

Spray has also served as chairman of the Emergency Medical Services Committee for HAI (now Air Medical Services), was the co-sponsor of the American Society of Hospital Based Emergency Air Medical Systems (now called the Association of Air Medical Services), and has been an officer and member of numerous other boards and associations.

Maria Rodriguez

When the company Maria Rodriguez flew with for several years decided to move from the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to the mainland United States, she chose to stay and open her own helicopter companies: Caribbean Buzz and Caribbean Buzz Management. As an owner/operator, Rodriguez and her husband manage a multi-aircraft operation that provides helicopter services throughout the Caribbean and yacht support operations around the globe, specializing in remote/adventure helicopter and seaplane support.

In late summer 2017, Maria’s home in the USVI was in the path of both major Caribbean hurricanes — Hurricane Irma first, followed by Hurricane Maria a few weeks later. With roads impassable after Hurricane Irma, Maria walked from the safe shelter to her home, which was battered and flooded but still standing. She hiked for an additional two hours to reach the airport. Her hangar was damaged, but the helicopters had survived unscathed. She rolled them onto the ramp and immediately began to fly support missions wherever she could. “Every evac flight started with tears,” says Maria, “but ended with smiles!"

Maria's images helped to convey the devastation, forewaring others in the hurricane's path and resulting in waves of support for the devastated islands.

As Hurricane Maria bore down upon her home again, Rodriguez moved her helicopters to a reinforced hangar in Puerto Rico. As quickly as possible after the storm passed, she returned to the USVI to again fly support missions.

In both instances, Maria documented the devastation to the islands with her camera, posting hundreds of photographs to social media. In turn, these images — often the only photos coming from the region and without compensation to Maria — were picked up by media outlets and reproduced throughout the world. Her images helped to convey the devastation sustained by her island home to millions around the world, resulting in forewarning to others in the hurricane’s path and waves of support for the devastated islands.

Christchurch Helicopters

At two minutes past midnight on November 14, 2016, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook New Zealand’s South Island. Ruptures occurred on multiple fault lines in a complex sequence that lasted for about two minutes, causing massive landslides and destroying roads and rail links.

Crews from Christchurch Helicopters were among the first to arrive in Kaikoura, a seaside tourist community that was completely cut off from the rest of the country. Thousands of residents and tourists were stranded in an area with damaged infrastructure and no way of replenishing supplies. Within six hours, Christchurch Helicopters was transporting urban search and rescue personnel to Kaikoura and starting to rescue more than 130 stranded Chinese tourists.

Chuck is known to drop everyting to focus on a specific maintenace issue, leveraging his own experiene with a significant professional network of trusted peers.

Once the damage was assessed, New Zealand Civil Defense recognized that a coordinated aerial program was necessary to deliver vital supplies, continue evacuations, and support the recovery project. In addition to working on the project, Christchurch Helicopters worked with Civil Defense to coordinate the work of several helicopter companies. Among the work completed was transportation of roughly 1,300 workers, delivery of vital cancer medications, and flying a plumber to an isolated farmhouse where a young mother was stranded with her baby and no water or sewage.

The services provided by Christchurch Helicopters and the consortium of other operators was the largest air brigade in New Zealand history. While it tested the company to its limits, the team at Christchurch Helicopters stepped up to the challenge and maximized resource use to provide the greatest level of support. Coincidentally, just a few months after the earthquake, Christchurch Helicopter crews also saved lives and property in the Port Hills fires in Christchurch.

Claude Vuichard

Claude Vuichard receives this award for his ongoing commitment to safe helicopter operations. He is best known for refining and promoting the Vuichard Recovery — a technique that trains helicopter pilots to recover from a condition known as “vortex ring state” with a minimal loss of altitude. In those conditions, the helicopter loses the ability to maintain lift and begins to descend. For more than 30 years, pilots have used the Vuichard Recovery to adjust their flight controls so that they exit the ring state by moving the aircraft to the side, thereby preserving as much altitude as possible.

For more than 30 years, pilots have used the vulchard recovery to adjust their flight controls so as to exit the vortex ring state while preserving altitude.

The significance of the Vuichard Recovery technique within the helicopter industry is widespread. The International Helicopter Safety Team and U.S. Helicopter Safety Team have both published Airmanship Bulletins supporting its use, Robinson Helicopters has integrated the technique into its safety course, and helicopter operators around the world have adopted the procedure.

Vuichard took an early retirement from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation in Switzerland to conduct safety courses worldwide. Today, he continues to teach globally and to develop new techniques to improve helicopter flight safety, dedicating his retirement to reducing helicopter accidents and saving lives. He has also set up a nonprofit organization, the Vuichard Recovery Aviation Safety Foundation (, to further assist in spreading his message of helicopter safety.

Jonathan “JR” Roebuck

Jonathan “JR” Roebuck is being honored for his work in the creation of the Remote Access Project. Quickly locating and evacuating critically ill and injured patients in the remote areas of Maine is essential to survival. With an extensive Atlantic shoreline, hundreds of coastal islands, dense forests, mountains, and extreme temperatures, LifeFlight of Maine operates in one of the most complex aviation environments in the country.

In many cases, it previously took up to eight hours for a patient to reach a hospital. Roebuck oversaw the creation of more than 120 remote access landing zones (LZs), all on private land, that provide sites where helicopters can land to assist in rescue operations. In dire situations, minutes literally make a difference between life and death, and the Remote Access Project LZs provide helicopters with space to land in remote areas.

Roebuck oversaw the creation of more than 120 remote access LZS, all on private land, that provide sites where helicopters can land to assist in rescue operations.


The importance of the LZs was proven during the rescue of an injured snowmobiler. The patient, a woman, had crashed her snowmobile into a 40-foot ravine and sustained critical injuries. Following the 911 call, responders dispatched a helicopter to the nearest Remote Access Project LZ, changing the destination during flight as more information became available. The LifeFlight of Maine helicopter landed just 50 yards from the patient, carrying medical personnel and vital emergency supplies. This would not have been possible if it were not for the strategically placed Remote Access Project LZ. The patient survived the horrific ordeal and has returned to work and snowmobiling.

Eric Bashta and Jerry Osterloh

On the night of Jan. 11, 2017, Eric Osterloh and Jerry Bashta responded to a call for assistance by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer who had stopped a suspected DUI/reckless driver. As the helicopter approached the scene, Tactical Flight Officer Osterloh observed the driver remove a rifle from the cab of his pickup truck and begin firing at the patrol officer and his vehicle.

Through the efforts of bashta and osterloh, no officers or members of the public were injured, and the suspect's girlfriend and children were also uninjured.

Osterloh immediately broadcasted a call for assistance as the suspect emptied an entire magazine, returned to the truck to reload, and fired additional rounds into the driver’s door. He then returned to his vehicle and fled. The CHP officer radioed that he was uninjured, adding that the driver also had a woman and two children in the truck.

Bashta and Osterloh pursued the truck, keeping the helicopter’s spotlight trained upon it and broadcasting its location, speed, and direction over the radio. The suspect left the freeway and entered a suburban neighborhood, stopping in front of a residence. The driver then exited the vehicle and prepared an ambush for pursuing ground officers, firing at the arriving units. Using the FLIR camera, Osterloh directed SWAT officers toward the suspect’s location.

At that point, the suspect began firing at the helicopter orbiting 600 feet overhead, shooting 60 to 80 rounds at the deputies. The deputies held position, circling the suspect, and continued to broadcast his actions and location. The suspect entered the home, then came back outside repeatedly, seeking officers to shoot. Osterloh’s updates over the radio allowed officers on the ground to advance safely. After approximately 30 minutes, a SWAT deputy witnessed the suspect exit the building and engaged him, ending the threat.

Law enforcement officers believe the suspect intended this to be a murder/suicide. Due to the efforts of Bashta and Osterloh, no officers or members of the public were injured, and the suspect’s girlfriend and children were also uninjured.

Charles “Chuck” Hagen

In the field of helicopter engine repair services, Charles “Chuck” Hagen is known and respected for his expertise, troubleshooting skills, and commitment to excellence and safety for his customers. He is known to drop everything to focus on a specific maintenance issue, leveraging his own experience with a significant professional network of trusted peers. Chuck has even been known to drive six hours to help a U.S.-based customer or fly for 15 hours to support the requirements of an international client. As a result, he is the recipient of numerous letters of gratitude from customers, and his nomination package included eight letters of support from helicopter professionals who recognize and appreciate his abilities and service to customers.

 Chuck’s career in helicopter maintenance began when he received his A&P license in 1992, followed by six years of service in the U.S. Army, working as a 68B10 turbine engine mechanic, where he worked in both depot level and line maintenance units servicing all U.S. Army turbine-powered aircraft.

He joined Aeromaritime America, Inc., part of the ITP Group, in 1996 as a technician/test cell operator, gradually working his way into higher levels of responsibility. He has served as production manager and worked in the company’s Quality Department as a representative for Return to Service.