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Read More: BLR Aerospace Safety Award
August 28, 2018

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.

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 (www.vrasf.org), to further assist in spreading his message of helicopter safety.

Read More: Leonardo Humanitarian Service Award
August 28, 2018

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.

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.

Read More: Appareo Pilot of the Year Award
August 28, 2018

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!"

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.

Read More: Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award
August 28, 2018

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.

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.

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