Salute to Excellence Awards

View current and previous award nominees

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.

John W. Williams’s career as a certificated flight instructor (CFI) spanned more than 35 years, all with Bell Helicopter. Following military service that ended in the 1970s, Williams first joined Bell as a production test pilot. He also worked in the Experimental Flight Test Department before becoming a CFI at the Bell Flight Academy, where he trained countless pilots in 19 countries.

As a flight instructor, Williams is known for stressing safety both in the helicopter and on the ground.

As an instructor, he was known for stressing safety both in the helicopter and on the ground. He later became pilot training safety manager for Bell and was a Part 141 night-vision goggle instructor. Of Williams’s 12,500 flight hours, more than 4,000 hours were earned during flight training. Williams received multiple nominations and letters of recommendation for this award, including one from the namesake of the award, W.A. “Dub” Blessing.

Williams has also led an extraordinary career away from the training department. He participated as a U.S. Precision Helicopter Team pilot (Bell Crew) in the World Helicopter Championships in the U.S.S.R. in 1978, and again in 1981 in Poland, where the team won the gold medal for the first time. He currently holds five international helicopter speed records, including the Around the World (westbound) record with Ron Bower. He is a lifetime member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was president of the Helicopter Club of America.

Frank Colucci

During the course of his 35-year career, Frank Colucci has authored more than 1,000 feature articles, including stories and leadership profiles for nearly every issue of Vertiflite. He has written in depth about rotorcraft design and testing, civil and military operations, manufacturing and materials, avionics integration, flight simulation, and other rotorcraft industry topics.

Colucci combines his rotorcraft expertise and passion for writing to create articles that both represent and inform the industry.

Colucci has contributed articles on rotorcraft and aviation technology to numerous industry publications, including Avionics, Rotor & Wing, Helicopter World, and Defence Helicopter, as well as the Sikorsky Archives newsletter. He also wrote for Wings, Airpower, and AIR International magazines, creating seminal works on numerous vertical flight development programs. Colucci authored an early design history of the AH-64 Apache and served as an editor for AHS’s forthcoming book on 75 years of AHS International history. He also contributed significant amounts of material for the society’s website.

Colucci’s nominations included praise for his style of writing. “His articles stand the test of time,” wrote one nominator. “They are noteworthy for their accuracy, excellent writing, and clarity of thought that allow the reader to see the subject through intelligent eyes.” Another nominator praised his ability to explain complex, technical material to a wide range of readers —— from college students to the world’s leading technical experts.