Read More: HFI Scholarships Make Dreams Come True
August 30, 2019

As a child, Sayaka Pereira would spend hours staring at the sky, observing the clouds and dreaming about flying. Once she was old enough to decide on a career path, she knew she wanted to study aviation. Her goal was to become a helicopter pilot.

Pereira moved to California and started her training. Initially, it was slow going as she struggled to pay for lessons. She didn’t let her slow start deter her: “No matter how long it takes, no matter what others may say, never give up your dream!”

Pereira is currently pursuing both her commercial and instrument ratings. To help her complete her training more efficiently, she applied for and won a 2019 Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship offered by Helicopter Foundation International (HFI).

Before getting her private rating, Pereira wasn’t aware of all the opportunities that existed in our industry for financial aid, as well as the robust network available to her through aviation clubs, nonprofit organizations, and online forums. “I didn’t know there were some really supportive aviation communities out there! Compared to other countries, the United States actually offers some of the best and most cost-efficient aviation training programs. However, it is still a very difficult process to become a pilot—­physically, financially, and emotionally.” Building a strong network of mentors was critical to her success.

Read More: "Don't Let Anything Get in Your Way"
May 20, 2019

Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) scholarship winner Cory Oestreich’s desire to be in aviation started at a young age. Fascinated by the television show M*A*S*H, he loved to watch the helicopters.

As he grew older, that interest caused him to pursue a career in aviation. After Oestreich graduated high school, he attended a fixed-wing flight training program for two years at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

Realizing that his passion was for aviation maintenance, he transferred his credits to a two-year aviation maintenance technology (AMT) program at the Helena College University of Montana. He graduated in December 2017 with an Associate’s in Applied Science degree in AMT.

Oestreich participated in a couple of helicopter discovery flights and logged some flight hours with Hillsboro Aviation in Oregon. This led to a job with the US Forest Service helitack crew, Central Montana Helitack. He was a wildland firefighter as well as a helicopter crew member. Being in this position helped him make connections and build his network with a variety of helicopter companies.

Realizing the importance of continuing his training, Oestreich applied for and won the HFI Bill Sanderson AMT Scholarship. He used his scholarship to attend the Safran Arriel 2B/2B1 and 2D turboshaft engine maintenance course.

He is looking forward to continuing his training and plans to obtain his second-line maintenance qualification through Safran, as well as attend Airbus Helicopters factory training. Oestreich’s ultimate goal is to work for a helicopter air ambulance company.

When asked about his advice to those still working on their certification, he says, “Maintain an open mind first and foremost, and network whenever possible! Be willing to take less desirable jobs to eventually work your way up. Lastly, if aviation is what you want, just dive in headfirst and go for it. Don’t let anything get in your way.”

Read More: Pilot Finds True Calling in Maintenance
February 28, 2019

Growing up in Westfield Center, Ohio, HFI scholarship winner Derek Galla was fortunate enough to live next door to a pilot for Continental Express. They forged a friendship playing flight simulator games together.

Galla even had the opportunity to tour the training facility where his neighbor worked and to fly a full­motion Embraer ERJ145 flight simulator. This really sparked his interest in aviation and is ultimately what led Galla to pursue his private pilot license.

Once he obtained his pilot rating, Galla realized that although he was passionate about aviation, maintaining aircraft was his true calling: “I enjoy working with my hands and the challenge of troubleshooting.” He looked forward to seeing a helicopter that he worked on all day take off, knowing that his work helped make that happen.

Galla enrolled in the Aviation Mainte­nance Technology program at MIAT College of Technology in Canton, Michigan. To offset the expense of his training, he applied for and won an HFI Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarship. He completed his training in October 2018.

With demand for aviation maintenance professionals at an all-time high, Galla is glad he pursued his A&P license. “My advice to others is to look into and experience the different career paths (pilot, mechanic, air traffic controller, airport management). See where you will be the happiest. Don’t just go with a high-paying career that you will be miserable in. You want to wake up every day excited to go to work.”  

Galla looks forward to continuing his training and obtaining his inspection authorization (IA) and nondestructive testing (NDT) certifications and training, as well as a bachelor’s degree. His ultimate goal is to attain a leadership role by becoming a director of maintenance. 

Read More: Military Pilot Makes Career Move to Civilian AMT
November 13, 2018

Doug Sena’s experience and passion are what made him stand out as an applicant for Helicopter Foundation International’s (HFI) 2018 Bill Sanderson Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Scholarship. This scholarship is offered by HAI’s Technical Committee to promote the choice of helicopter maintenance as a career. Each AMT scholarship winner gets the opportunity to attend a course in helicopter airframe or engine maintenance offered by manufacturers.

After joining the US Army in May 1985, Sena attended flight school and then the UH-60 Black Hawk transition course in 1986. He was assigned to both the 5th Squadron, 17th US Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. Once he left active service in 1991, he entered the corporate world, becoming a senior scientist working for a Fortune 500 company developing packaging materials.

Read More: Coming Back Home to Aviation
August 03, 2018

Austin Rowles has been around aviation professionals practically his entire life. When he was very young, his father started a flight school called Palm Beach Helicopters.

“My family rode out three hurricanes [in Palm Beach County, Florida], and after one of those hurricanes destroyed the office, we rebuilt there. Every major event that has occurred in my life has been in some way, shape, or form caused by aviation.”

After high school, Rowles decided to major in computer science. Though his love of computers still runs deep, after a year of study in that field he decided to come back to his roots and pursue his other passion, aviation.

“A combination of watching my father pour his blood, sweat, and tears into this industry, and seeing my brother’s father-in-law work as a maintenance technician drove me to come back home.”

Rowles applied for and won a 2018 HFI Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarship. He is working on his airframe and powerplant certifications and will finish his private pilot rating this summer. In addition, he has been working with his brother’s father-in-law at his shop on Meacham Airfield in Fort Worth, Texas. Rowles has done everything from a full four-phase inspection of a King Air C90 to fabricating instrument panels for multiple Cessna models.

“This industry revolves around a single word: networking.”

Rowles’s ultimate career goal is to eventually run his own Part 147 school that concentrates on the rotorcraft side of the aviation industry. “I believe rotorcraft are heavily neglected in our current schools, and I hope to be a driving force to fix that.”

When asked what advice he would give others considering a career in aviation, Rowles says, “This industry revolves around a single word: networking. Skill is always important — you should always strive to be the best at whatever it is you want to do — but when you’re shooting for that director of maintenance position at that popular company you’ve always wanted to work for, it helps to know the right people.

“Go to as many meet-ups as you can. Write names down and never forget a face. There are so many wonderful people in this industry, so it’s a pleasure just getting to know everyone.”

Read More: An Accidental Calling
May 13, 2018

Kirstie McLean stumbled into the helicopter industry by accident. She had been working in the gift shop of a helicopter tour company in her hometown of Las Vegas, but the more she learned about the industry, the more she wanted to be a part of it. She moved to the maintenance department in 2015 and decided to get her airframe and powerplant (A&P) certification and further her career in aviation maintenance.

McLean is a recipient of Helicopter Foundation International’s 2018 Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarship. “I first applied for the scholarship to receive some assistance with my student loan,” McLean says. “But my main goal was to get my name out in the helicopter industry, an industry that I have grown to absolutely love.”

McLean is currently enrolled at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) in Las Vegas. She will receive her A&P certification by the end of 2018 and plans to get her inspection authorization once she has met the requirements.

Currently a maintenance program specialist at Sundance Helicopters, McLean has been with the company for six years. She started in the records department and quickly transitioned to the role of maintenance planner before earning her current position. She audits Sundance’s Maintenance Information System to ensure tasks such as service life limit, time between overhaul, operating time limits, airworthiness directives, and service bulletins are tracking correctly.

In addition, she has had the opportunity to write an Approved Aircraft Inspection Program for the AS350 B2. She has worked on all the company’s aircraft, including the AS350 B2, EC130 B4, and EC130 T2 helicopters; and the Cessna 208 Caravan fixed-wing aircraft.

Once she completes her training at AIM, McLean plans to add even more helicopter models to her repertoire. “There are so many helicopter models I have never worked on. Our parent company, Air Methods, has a wide variety of aircraft such as the Bell 206 and the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin.”

When asked what her advice would be to those just entering the industry, McLean says, “Learn ALL aspects of this industry. Don’t just settle with gaining floor experience. Get involved in the compliance/quality-control side of things, and you will be an asset to any company who hires you. This industry has brought me further than I ever imagined. I’m very excited about where the future will take me.”