Read More: Kaman K-1200 K-Max
June 03, 2020

Rotak Helicopter Services, founded in 2016 to serve the telecommunications sector in Alaska, specializes in precision external-load ops. The company has since expanded to projects nationwide, including helping rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure after Hurricane Maria.

Starting with a Eurocopter AS350 B2, the Rotak fleet now includes a Robinson R44 and R22, one MD Helicopters MD 500D, and three Kaman K-Max helicopters, two of which are from Kaman’s reopened production line.

In this image, a newer Rotak K-Max places one of 80-plus fan units, some weighing over 5,000 lb., on the roof of the Las Vegas (Nevada) Convention Center expansion. This project turned out to be the largest number of “picks” ever conducted along the Las Vegas Strip.

Read More: Living with ADS-B
January 20, 2020

Your questions about the new FAA regulation answered.

It’s 2020, and the Jan. 1 ADS-B implementation date we’ve been talking about since 2010 has finally come and gone.

I know what you may be thinking: “not another ADS-B article.” Well, it’s not my intention to lay out another history of ADS-B or describe what you need to equip. There are countless articles and website resources about those topics (see, for example, from Fall 2018 ROTOR, “ADS-B: It’s Crunch Time,”

But if you’re like many members who’ve contacted HAI, you may still have questions about the new rule. Let’s try to address the most common ones here.

What if I fly through ADS-B Out rule airspace without the proper equipment?

I can’t speak for the FAA, but I suspect that if you fly without the proper equipment, you’ll have to answer to someone at the agency and that some type of enforcement action will certainly be a potential outcome. However, if you didn’t willfully violate the new regulation, the FAA might choose to issue you a compliance action instead. Under the FAA’s Compliance Program and the just culture that underlies it, you may be able to avoid being assessed a violation by agreeing to the terms of the compliance action, such as completing retraining or counseling, perhaps at some cost to you. (See a related story from Fall 2018 ROTOR, “After the Violation of an FAR,”

What if I need to operate in an area covered by ADS-B Out but I don’t have the equipment installed or it’s inoperative?

You may be able to get an exception from the FAA, called a deviation, to operate without ADS-B equipment under certain conditions and at certain times of day. To learn more about deviations and how to request one, check out the FAA’s Statement of Policy for Authorizations to Operators of Aircraft that are Not Equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out Equipment ( This document, published in April 2019, does a very good job of clearly explaining the policy and laying out much of its background.

The FAA’s authority to grant ADS-B Out deviations is described under Title 14 CFR 91.225(g), which states that deviation requests must be made to the “ATC [air traffic control] facility having jurisdiction over the concerned airspace.” Section 91.255(g) also specifies a couple of submission time lines based on your circumstances.

The first time line is for aircraft with inoperative ADS-B Out equipment: you’ve installed it on your aircraft, but for some reason it’s not working that day. In those situations, for operation “to the airport of ultimate destination, including any intermediate stops, or to proceed to a place where suitable repairs can be made or both, the request may be made at any time.”

The second time line applies to aircraft that aren’t equipped with ADS-B Out capability. A deviation to operate an unequipped aircraft may be requested but must be made at least one hour “before the proposed operation.” Also, these requests may not be submitted more than 24 hours prior to the proposed flight.

How do I submit a request for deviation?

The tool established by the FAA that allows you to make deviation requests is the ADS-B Deviation Authorization Pre-Flight Tool (ADAPT). The tool is Web-based and can be found on the FAA’s website at

All civil aircraft operators can use ADAPT, but the design of the tool was based on the projected needs of Part 91 operators. What this means is that the tool can be used by, for example, a Part 135 operator, but it’s not intended for routine or otherwise scheduled operations. The FAA has very clearly stated that ADAPT wasn’t designed to enable operators to skirt ADS-B Out requirements.

This all sounds complicated. How does ADAPT work?

It’s really not so bad. When you enter ADAPT, your first step will be to input your flight information in the Flight Information Entry section of the tool. You’ll recognize the section, as it looks very much like the old FAA flight plan we used for years.

The information you enter will be used in an initial analysis to determine whether you even need a deviation. If it’s determined that you do, you’ll be directed to the next Web page, where you’ll enter additional details about your intended flight before you submit your request to the FAA for consideration.

One important note: you must make sure the email address you provide is correct. That’s critical because the FAA’s official approval of your request will be delivered ONLY to that email address.

What should I expect to hear back from the FAA?

Once you’ve submitted your deviation request, you’ll get one of three responses from the FAA: approved, denied, or pending.

For an approved request, you’ll receive an email that provides the approval, plain and simple. Make sure you keep this correspondence, as it’s the official record of the request and approval.

If you receive a denied response, it simply means the flight couldn’t be approved as requested. Unfortunately, the FAA won’t be able to specify in the notice exactly why your request was denied. It may be possible to gain approval of the deviation by resubmitting your request using a different flight route, time of flight, and so on, that may be acceptable to the ATC facility with approval authority. In other circumstances, such as an inoperative transponder with altitude encoding (which should be installed for an ADAPT approval), the system may automatically deny the request every time.

Finally, if you receive a pending response, it’s just letting you know that some degree of manual review is necessary on the FAA’s part. This could be for several reasons. The bottom line for the submitter is that it will just take a little more time to receive a more definitive response.

It’s also important to note that ADAPT has been in development for quite some time, and the FAA smartly leveraged several industry professionals and associations to build and test an effective tool and to ensure its smooth launch. Our industry was an active participant in the development of the ADAPT program, a testament to the FAA’s continued commitment to sustaining strong partnerships with the aviation community. Finally, if you have ideas for improving the system, the agency has a feedback tool on its website.

What resources does the FAA have that could help me better understand and comply with ADS-B Out?

The ADAPT website offers several resources to walk you through the submission process, including a tutorial video and a user guide. In addition, the agency has assumed a very proactive outreach position, making itself available to answer questions and closely partnering with aviation groups. You’ll also see FAA ADS-B representatives at aviation industry events.

The point is, there are several great resources to help you through your ADS-B transition, and I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with them. At HAI, we’ve learned that the more you work with regulatory issues, the less complex they become. I think you’ll find the same to be true of ADAPT.

Additional Resources

From the FAA

From ROTOR magazine

Read More: Best Practices for Preflight Inspection and Cargo Security
January 20, 2020

It’s a basic task for pilots—and a fundamental part of flight safety.

The US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) has reviewed 123 fatal accidents that occurred between 2009 and 2013 to find common causal factors and develop recommendations for reducing those risks. The resulting recommendations for safety improvements are called Helicopter Safety Enhancements (H-SE) (learn more at

One of these enhancements is H-SE #28, Helicopter Final Walk-Around and Security of External Cargo. This enhancement resulted from several fatal accidents where the pilots’ failure to conduct a proper preflight inspection and walk-around were causal factors. You would think that this is Helicopter 101, but pilots are still killing themselves and others by not properly addressing this task.

H-SE #28 derives directly from 14 CFR 91.7, which states, “The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight.” An adequate preflight inspection and final walk-around are key to fulfilling this responsibility. Postflight inspection can also help to identify issues prior to the next flight.

Better guidance on how and why to conduct a proper preflight and walk-around, as well as increased attention to their importance, may mitigate such events in the future. Therefore, the USHST, with the help of helicopter operators, safety professionals, aircraft manufacturers, and the HAI Safety Working Group, has developed guidance to reinforce the basic pilot skills used in conducting these inspections.

The list is not all inclusive, and each recommendation can be expanded per pilot preference. Going back to basics may sound elementary, but refocusing on these basic tasks will help reduce helicopter accidents and save lives.

Recommended Practices for Helicopter Preflight Inspection, Final Walk-Around, and Postflight Inspection

No Rushing. Allow adequate time to conduct mission planning and preflight inspections. Don’t rush these flight-critical tasks.

No Distractions. Enforce a “no distraction” policy during preflight inspections. This includes unnecessary conversations, eating or drinking, or using technology devices for purposes not directly related to the preflight inspection.

No Interruptions. Avoid interruptions during a preflight inspection. If interrupted during a preflight, before resuming the inspection, go back at least two steps before the interruption occurred. If you can’t recall where that is, start from the beginning.

Formal Checklist. Refer to a printed or electronic checklist during preflight inspections, noting steps completed or items of concern.

Preflight Kit. Prepare and make available a preflight kit that includes all materials needed to ensure a complete inspection, including flashlights, gloves, printed or electronic copies of the preflight inspection checklist, and any other tools or materials needed to assess the aircraft, including work stands or ladders. Include the preflight kit in your tool control program.

FRAT. Update your flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) score to reflect any items of concern discovered during the preflight inspection. Operators, add a section to your FRAT that prompts pilots to include preflight items.

Pilot Briefing. The pilot in command, not just ground-operation personnel, must conduct a preflight briefing for passengers.

Solid Footing. Watch out when stepping on aircraft surfaces, even nonskid ones, particularly when they’re wet. Always use two points of contact.

Secure Aircraft. Conduct a thorough assessment of all readily accessible areas during preflight inspections. Ensure  that panels, cargo, and passenger doors are secured. During adverse weather or environmental conditions, take extra care to ensure these checks are completed.

Rotor Clearance. Ensure that both main and tail rotor covers and tie-downs are removed and securely stowed. Verify that blade-tip paths are clear of potential obstacles. Before you manually move a rotor blade, provide an audible alert so that other personnel can maintain a safe distance.

Ground-Handling Wheels. Remove and securely stow ground-handling wheels.

Fuel Cap. Always check that fuel caps are securely fastened.

Fuel Level. Use a trusted method, such as a dipstick, to visually verify your fuel level. Don’t use the aircraft fuel gauge as your sole method of verifying fuel levels.

Red Flag. Place a clear warning indicator, such as a red cover, over the cyclic or seat of the aircraft awaiting a preflight inspection. Pilots may remove it only after completing a thorough preflight and final walk-around inspection. Verify that flight control covers or other warning devices don’t indicate a grounding condition.

Flight Controls. Verify that all red flags are removed and that flight controls are in the correct position and setting before starting the aircraft. Pay particular attention to the throttle setting to prevent a hot start.

Personal Items. Ensure that all personnel secure headgear and other personal items when on the flight line.

Final Walk-around. After completing the preflight inspection, conduct a final walk-around before getting into the aircraft. A pilot or trained crew member should always be the last person to get into the aircraft.

Final Rotor Check. Before starting the aircraft, perform a final visual confirmation that the main and tail rotors are untied and tip paths are clear of any obstacles.

Postflight Inspection. Conduct a postflight inspection of aircraft, looking for fluids, unusual wear, or damage to aircraft. 

Read More: Foundation Scholarship Winner Pursues Dream of Community Service
January 20, 2020

Student pilot hopes to fly for Honolulu Fire Department one day.

Melissa Cooper was inspired to join the aviation industry after watching recruiting videos from the US Coast Guard (USCG) and realizing the aircraft and pilots depicted were an essential part of her community’s public safety efforts. But the Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, resident learned she was too short for the USCG flight training program.

Melissa didn’t let that hold her back, however. In May 2017, she continued to pursue her dream of flying by obtaining her private pilot’s license. Today, she’s working toward her commercial license with the help of the HAI Foundation’s Commercial Pilot Rating Scholarship, which she won in 2019.

Currently, as a Coast Guard reserve officer, Melissa serves as the civil aviation subject matter expert to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu, where she supports the center’s aeronautical search-and-rescue efforts. She’s also earning the flight hours needed to work for other potential employers, such as US Customs and Border Protection, the FAA, or emergency medical services organizations. Melissa would like to continue serving her community after she receives her commercial pilot’s license by flying for the Honolulu Fire Department. 

Her advice to others hoping to become helicopter pilots is to take some time getting to know the industry first. “Take an introductory flight and sit in on some ground-school lessons. Make sure it’s truly what you want to do and that you’re a committed student. 

“Flight training is fun but also challenging and very expensive,” Melissa continues. “Have a plan for your aviation goals.” 

Read More: The Return of Single-Engine IFR Helicopters
January 20, 2020

Bell and Leonardo bring IFR-capable aircraft to market.

This past summer, our industry welcomed back an old friend, one that hadn’t been seen in the US market since 1999: the single-engine helicopter certificated for flight under IFR conditions (SE-IFR). In July 2019, Leonardo received an FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) for the first SE-IFR helicopter in more than two decades, the TH-119. Less than a month later, Bell received an STC for its 407 GXi to operate under instrument flight rules.

It’s no coincidence that both of these exciting new entrants arrived so recently. These first certifications are the culmination of decades of work behind the scenes, in both technology and regulation. The paths the two manufacturers took to certification, however, are vastly different.

SE-IFR: A History

To truly understand the SE-IFR issue, it’s important to understand how we got here.

Helicopter flight rules for instrument conditions made their first appearance in the 1970s. At the time, single-engine rotorcraft conducted IFR flights regularly, well before the advent of GPS, glass cockpits, and digital autopilot systems. The rules these helicopters were certificated under, found in Appendix B of 14 CFR Part 27, Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Rotorcraft, hadn’t changed significantly since the early 1980s.

In 1999, the FAA issued AC 27-1B, Certification of Normal Category Rotorcraft. This document, which was a total revision of AC 27-1A, issued in 1997, dictated the extinction of SE-IFR rotorcraft.

AC 27-1B in essence incorporated into Part 27 numerical safety analysis methods as a way of determining OEM compliance in meeting safety standards. The advisory circular (AC) required helicopter manufacturers to prove that critical aircraft systems had an “extremely improbable” failure rate of one in 1 billion. In other words, OEMs had to demonstrate that these systems would incur only one failure in 1 billion hours of runtime. Any critical onboard system that couldn’t meet this failure rate was required to be duplicated, with redundancy providing an additional safety margin.

Overnight, single-engine IFR helicopters became cost and weight prohibitive.

In 2003, AC-1B was revised again, raising the bar even higher. This time, the AC defined loss of function of attitude, airspeed, or barometric altitude instruments, or conditions that would cause those instruments to issue hazardously misleading readings, as individually “catastrophic” when operating in instrument conditions. Industry interpretation of this change was that triple-redundant systems would now be required.

At the same time the 2003 AC was issued, Part 23 single-­engine airplane manufacturers received relief from these new requirements: SE-IFR airplanes were required to meet a probability of one in 1 million before being subject to duplicate systems. In response, new aircraft came on the scene, like the Cirrus SR-series, that deployed the latest GPS, glass cockpits, and autopilot technology. This relief wasn’t extended to the helicopter industry, however, in part because the latter was still a long way off from meeting even this lower probability requirement.

“There are several reasons why regulation changes for small light airplanes couldn’t be extended to helicopters at the time,” says Harold Summers, director of flight operations and technical services at HAI. “Helicopters aren’t inherently stable like airplanes. There also was a great deal of work needed to prove that the aircraft could be safely flown in IFR conditions without all the redundancies. The advanced, lighter technology for helicopters hadn’t yet caught up.”

Industry Asks for Change

In 2015, with support from partner associations, the helicopter industry petitioned the FAA to consider reducing certification barriers for SE-IFR helicopters. In the 16 years since the publication of AC 27-1B, a number of important technologies, including WAAS (wide area augmentation systems), GPS, cell phones, tablets, and flight planning apps, had been introduced, all available in affordable, lightweight, consumer-­friendly packages. The industry was finally in a position to meet the same one in 1 million standard as light airplanes.

In the summer of 2015, HAI, AHS International (rebranded in 2018 as the Vertical Flight Society, or VFS), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the Aircraft Electronics Association published the 14 CFR 27 Single-Engine IFR Certification Proposal, an association and industry white paper ( The proposal explicitly linked improving helicopter safety to facilitating an economically viable certification plan for SE-IFR helicopters and expanding IFR operations.

The paper referenced worldwide helicopter accidents related to flights in marginal VFR (MVFR) and inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC). The authors argued that more accidents (194), and resulting fatalities (326), occurred from 2001 to 2013 from pilots being ill-equipped for MVFR and IIMC conditions than would have occurred from the expected failure rates of SE-IFR helicopter systems.

“The lack of SE-IFR helicopters developed a dangerous culture in our industry,” explains Paul Schaaf, former HAI vice president of operations and the HAI lead for the white paper. “Pilots needed to get their instrument rating to get a job, but very few used it again if they flew single-engine operations. Few companies kept their pilots’ instrument skills strong. Add to that the pressures to get the job done if there’s any chance of VFR, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

“We argued that the probability of IIMC and controlled flight into terrain was higher than any probability of equipment failure,” Schaaf continues. “By allowing SE-IFR helicopters, we could save lives.”

The white paper addressed six key concerns with the FAA’s certification standards for SE-IFR helicopters:

  • Use one in 1 million as the failure rate that would require redundant systems in lighter SE helicopters rather than the original FAA standard rate of one in 1 billion
  • Allow generic high-intensity radiated field (HIRF) testing based on established construction techniques (ambiguities in the then-current Part 27 language required testing on a case-by-case basis each time a new piece of equipment was added)
  • Allow a single hydraulic system when aircraft can be shown through rigorous testing to be flyable without hydraulics
  • Reduce the requirement for three navigation communication systems to two
  • Reduce the requirement for dual pitot–static systems to one
  • Allow a battery to be considered as a second electrical generation system.

In 2017, the FAA released policy statement PS-ASW-27-15, Safety Continuum for Part 27 Normal Category Rotorcraft Systems and Equipment, which adopted some of the processes and concepts recommended in the white paper. With the publication of the Safety Continuum, the FAA officially recognized that safety and risk must be balanced across a wide spectrum of aircraft and operations, specifically calling out aircraft weight and propulsion type, whether passengers are flown for hire, and societal expectations as major factors in airworthiness decisions. 

The FAA saw the Safety Continuum as a way to “facilitate a more rapid incorporation of advances in technology for systems and equipment by recognizing a balanced approach between the risk and safety benefits [of] installing such technology.”

Through the FAA’s Safety Continuum process, helicopter manufacturers received relief in failure probabilities and can now request waivers from the AC 27-1B requirements by submitting issue papers. After close review, the FAA can decide whether to issue the waivers.

Read More: 5 Best Practices for Minimizing Your Helicopter’s Noise
January 20, 2020

  1.  During level flight, accelerations are quieter than decelerations, and straight flight is quieter than turning flight. These proven techniques for operating your aircraft enable pilots to fly more quietly and reduce annoyance from noise. The continued growth of helicopter aviation requires the acceptance and support of people who live and work in your communities and who are affected by helicopter noise.
  2. If turning, remember that turning away from the advancing blade (especially when decelerating) is quieter than turning into the advancing blade, and level turns are quieter than descending turns. Make a daily effort to lessen the noise impact of your aircraft on the neighborhoods below your flight path. The helicopter industry’s future financial prosperity depends on your ability to fly neighborly and minimize helicopter noise impacts. Helicopter noise, and the opposition to helicopter operations it often creates, is slowing the growth of the industry.
  3. During a descent, straight-in flight is quieter than turning flight, and steeper approaches are quieter than shallow approaches. Don’t give people living in noise-affected areas more reasons to oppose helicopter operations, and don’t provide the noise-affected population with justification to restrict your ability to provide important services to the communities you serve and to impact your livelihood as an aviation professional.
  4. If decelerating, remember that level-flight decelerations are quieter than descending or turning-flight decelerations. Fly neighborly every day, always mindful of how you can reduce the noise you are creating. The public is watching and will hold you accountable for the way you operate your aircraft. Because of social media, it’s easy for noise-affected groups to circulate audio and video of your activities—and reach millions.
  5. While maneuvering, smooth and gentle control inputs are quieter than rapid control inputs. Fly neighborly and represent your industry responsibly. One careless pilot makes us all look bad. To a noise-affected community, one unnecessarily low-flying helicopter can represent all of us. How you operate your aircraft reflects on all who fly helicopters.

The Fly Neighborly program was officially launched by HAI in February 1982 and has since gained US and international acceptance. Fly Neighborly training was developed by HAI’s Fly Neighborly / Environmental Committee (now Working Group) and provides helicopter operators with noise abatement procedures and situational awareness tools that can be used to significantly enhance operations. Fly Neighborly training is available on the FAA Safety Team website at

Read More: Zuccaro Retires as HAI President and CEO
January 20, 2020

Tenure marked by financial growth and safety advocacy.

It’s the end of an era at HAI, as the association bids farewell to its sixth president, Matthew S. Zuccaro. Matt officially retired on Jan. 15, 2020, although he will still attend HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 as a consultant for the HAI Board of Directors.

Matt joined the HAI professional staff in November 2005, after a long career as a pilot, operator, and aviation executive, including a stint as chairman of the HAI Board of Directors in 1991. As president and CEO, he was responsible for executing the vision of the HAI Board of Directors and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the association.

Since 2005, under Matt’s leadership, the association has grown HAI HELI-EXPO® into the world’s largest helicopter trade show. When HAI outgrew its headquarters, Matt led the effort to purchase a four-story office building in Alexandria, Virginia, where the association is headquartered today. Both moves were part of a strategy to provide the association with a stable financial foundation that would underwrite its membership services.

During Matt’s tenure, HAI has been a forceful advocate for its members on regulatory and legislative issues. When topics such as veterans’ flight-training benefits, air traffic control privatization, user fees, and the safe integration of drones into the airspace were debated, Matt and his team were there—frequently as the only ones representing the helicopter industry’s concerns.

HAI has also actively worked across the entire aviation spectrum to improve safety in helicopter operations. From brokering the successful launch of ADS-B services in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009, to serving as the industry co-chair of the International Helicopter Safety Foundation, to providing safety tools, education, and resources for pilots, operators, and mechanics and engineers, Matt has left no doubt that safety is a core value for HAI.

Read More: Training for IIMC Is Crucial
January 17, 2020

Practicing your instrument skills could save your life.

Despite the fact that inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) continues to be a topic at many helicopter industry safety meetings, these weather-related accidents still occur at an alarming rate. So let’s go back to basics and discuss some potential solutions to this vexing problem.

Poor visibility or instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions mostly means we can’t see outside the aircraft. We may not realize just how much we rely on visual cues from outside, but we find out very quickly when those cues are no longer there and spatial disorientation sets in. The “inadvertent” part makes IIMC even worse because we weren’t expecting the lack of visibility. As a result, we may not be prepared to respond to the situation—a very dangerous condition that leads to accidents.

The two most obvious solutions are to avoid the conditions and to hone your instrument skills. Avoiding the conditions may mean canceling the flight if there’s a significant risk or landing the helicopter as soon as poor conditions become imminent. Preflight risk assessments are very helpful in making a no-go decision.

Training for inadvertent IMC can be a little more complex and is sometimes viewed as an expensive option, but it’s a crucial one. Instrument skills are perishable: their expiration date varies by the pilot’s level of experience and ratings. Regardless of their documented expiration date, however, every pilot’s instrument skills will expire if he or she fails to practice them.

If you don’t practice often, your skills will weaken, at best. Weak skills combined with an unplanned encounter can be fatal. 

Now that we’ve established that practicing your instrument skills is crucial, how often you should do so depends on your comfort level with flying by instruments. If you have an instrument rating and are proficient with the aircraft model, mission, and environment, practicing once or twice a year may be enough. If you don’t have an instrument rating or you’re flying a new aircraft model or in an unfamiliar area, regular practice makes more sense. And it’s important to take that training seriously.

Let’s look at how to train for IMC encounters. There are several ways to practice, all with varying degrees of effectiveness. 

One good method is using a simulator that enables you to practice to all levels of instrument conditions with little or no risk to person or aircraft. Many pilots tell me that training in a simulator can be very humbling because it can show us we’re often not as proficient as we thought we were. This is especially true for IIMC. In other emergencies, such as power loss or hydraulic failure, pilots respond almost by muscle memory, because of their repeated use of the same checklist of response procedures during training. In the case of IIMC, however, muscle memory seems to fade as we lose our sight. The sudden realization that you can’t see can lead to the feeling that you suddenly don’t know what to do because you can’t see the results of what you’re doing. Are you climbing … descending … banking?

Read More: Finding Your Passion (Again)
January 17, 2020

Some life hacks to reignite your fire.

I should have been a dentist, but I love being a helicopter pilot. At times I do think about other career options I could have taken. For example, as a dentist, I could use my manual dexterity and precision within the tight confines of a patient’s mouth. I would just need to practice my one-way conversations, where I keep asking questions while jamming patients’ mouths with instruments.

Like many of you reading this, I fell in love with aviation in my youth. I remember being distracted from my high school job of cleaning a dental office by the sound of a helicopter air ambulance landing at the hospital pad just across the street. I would rush out to look up and admire the beauty and simplicity of the approach. The helicopter was magnificent, gorgeous, yet powerful and loud—I loved it. Even now, as I watch a helicopter simply hover, it blows my mind.

That passion has never left me. Being a helicopter pilot is amazing, challenging, technical, and rewarding in so many ways—whether the mission involves dousing a fast-moving vegetation fire, executing a nighttime cliff rescue, or using a longline all day to help build a power line.

As assistant chief pilot for Southern California Edison, I spend more time flying a desk than an aircraft. But making this change was a conscious decision. My priorities have shifted, and different career challenges, goals, and opportunities have arisen. What gave me the confidence to make the change? I used a few life hacks to avoid falling into the trap of career complacency.

To keep your career vibrant, first see if you need to redefine your passion. Don’t rely on what motivated you earlier in your career to motivate you now. I’m no longer that high school kid—I have different perspectives, skill sets, and values. Many people experience a shift in values over time, from the accumulation of money, titles, and promotions to the contribution of time, energy, and effort to others. Shift your focus from getting to giving, and your passion may follow.

Second, remember why you chose this career in the first place. I have three children, and watching them grow physically and mentally is an incredible gift. The awe and wonder children possess can be contagious if you let it. Helping aspiring aviators can have a similar effect. Your efforts may not only feed their passion; they may reignite your own.

Third, hang out with passionate people. I’m fortunate to have a few folks in my life who are genuine firecrackers. If I’m feeling less than 100% before seeing them, afterward I’m reinvigorated, encouraged to achieve my goals. If you’re feeling down, talk to someone who can get you excited about the future.

Finally, take action. Evaluate where you need to make changes. Are you feeling unbalanced or unequal? Identify the necessary steps for action. Just keep in mind that it’s important to differentiate between impulsive actions and well-thought-out, strategic maneuvers. This is especially important because our feelings follow our actions. 

If you don’t feel like exercising, go for a run anyway and you’ll feel better afterward. If you don’t feel like writing, just start with one paragraph and that may get you through writer’s block. If you don’t want to brush your teeth, don’t go to the dentist—wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Enough with the advice—for now, I’ll stick to being a helicopter pilot.