For more than 50 years, Helicopter Association International (HAI) has encouraged and celebrated the highest standards of professionalism within the helicopter industry through its Salute to Excellence Awards. These awards honor those pilots, mechanics, operators, and others who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence that has enriched the international helicopter community.
The 2013 Salute to Excellence honorees were presented with their awards on March 6 during HELI-EXPO 2013 in Las Vegas.
Click here to view the 2013 Salute to Excellence Awards video.
For more information on the Salute to Excellence Awards and the nominations process, contact HAI’s Communications and Public Relations Department at 703-683-4646.
AgustaWestland Safety Award
Gregory F. Wyght
Vice President, Systems Operations, CHC Helicopter
Greg Wyght earned his commercial helicopter certificate in 1989. He then spent the next 10 years flying aerial construction, firefighting, and search and rescue missions with CHC Helicopter’s air ambulance operation — all while earning his instrument rating and air transport pilot certificate.
Since then, he has completed Air Canada’s Crew Resource Management course, Transport Canada’s Flight Safety Officer course, earned an international diploma in Safety Management from the British Safety Council, and completed several occupational health and safety–related courses.
In 2004, as corporate vice president for safety and quality at CHC, Wyght was tasked with integrating separate safety and quality management systems into a single system. What began as a meeting to roll out a safety management system program across CHC’s worldwide operations has since grown into one of the most important annual safety meetings in the industry: the CHC Safety & Quality Summit.
As a renowned expert in safety and quality management, Wyght is often invited to speak at industry conferences, including Transport Canada’s Canadian Aviation Safety Seminar, the International Helicopter Safety Symposium, the International Oil and Gas Producers Association Conference, and the Shell Aircraft Safety Seminar.
Wyght has served as co-chair of the International Helicopter Safety Team’s Joint Helicopter Safety Implementation Team, which is tasked with developing specific ways to help reduce the helicopter accident rate. He also serves on the board of directors of a faith-based, nonprofit aviation relief group.
Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award
Roy G. Fox
Roy Fox has devoted a lifetime to making sure that anyone who flies aboard a helicopter arrives at their destination safely.
Following service as a helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Army, Fox joined Bell Helicopter in 1966, where he founded Bell’s system safety engineering group and spearheaded numerous safety and survivability initiatives.
In 1992, as a result of his crash survivability studies, Fox designed and received a patent for an energy-absorbing seat that reduced the amount of energy reaching helicopter passengers or crew members during a crash, thus increasing their chances of survival.
From that year until his retirement in 2011, Fox served as Bell Helicopter’s chief of flight safety, establishing Bell’s own accident database and mining the information for accident causes that could be addressed by manufacturers.
Fox is a strong proponent of what he calls “cockpit information recorders” — cost-effective, crash-survivable camera and microphone systems that could give investigators valuable information in the wake of a crash. He refers to them as “poor-man’s flight data recorders.”
From 2005 until his retirement, Fox served on the executive committee of the International Helicopter Safety Team, an industry initiative to reduce helicopter accidents by 80 percent in 10 years.
Eurocopter Golden Hour Award
Dr. Gregory Powell, O.C.
Founder and Director Emeritus, Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS)
Dr. Gregory Powell, O.C., is the founder of Canada’s Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) and the STARS Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to safe, rapid, highly skilled air medical transport for the critically ill and injured in Alberta.
Powell and a dedicated group of volunteers created STARS in 1985. In the years since, STARS has flown more than 23,000 missions and now operates six bases throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and eastern British Columbia. Powell went on to lead the two organizations for nearly 30 years.
An acknowledged expert in the field of air medical transport, Powell has published papers on the subject in numerous medical and scientific journals. He has also been active among Canada’s emergency medicine doctors, serving as one of the first presidents of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.
Powell also served as president of the board of directors for the Association of Air Medical Services and is well known to his fellow directors for his insistence on safety and putting the patient’s needs first.
For his service to the community and his country, Powell was awarded the Order of Canada in 2006. In 2012, he was selected to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honoring his significant contributions and achievements as a Canadian. That year, he also received the Association of Air Medical Services’ Marriott-Carlson Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his leadership within the emergency medical transport community.
Excellence in Communications Award
Shawn Corwyn Coyle
Director of Training, Marinvent Corporation
Shawn Coyle has had a full career in the air, serving as a test pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, an instructor at three different test pilot schools, and an engineering test pilot for Canada’s transportation regulator, Transport Canada. Since then, he has enjoyed a whole other career as an aviation writer and speaker.
Coyle has written two widely acclaimed books on flying helicopters: Cyclic and Collective and The Art and Science of Flying Helicopters. Most recently, he published The Little Book of Autorotations. Coyle has also contributed to a number of other books and flight manuals, including the helicopter stability and control manual for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
But Coyle may be best known for his magazine articles and his speaking engagements at helicopter events. Coyle’s magazine portfolio includes contributions to Rotor & Wing, Professional Pilot, Vertical, and Pilot Magazine in the United Kingdom. He has appeared as a guest speaker at HELI-EXPO®, the CHC Safety & Quality Summit, and at the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s annual convention.
Perhaps some of the highest praise came from an aspiring helicopter pilot who said that Coyle can explain material in simple terms without “dumbing it down,” and that he “talks with you, not at you.” That aspiring pilot also noted, “Shawn just likes to share. Why else would he bother writing? He has a wealth of memories and knowledge to spread around, and they just bubble and boil out of him.”
MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award
Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA)
The Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) was established in 1968 to support, promote, and advance the use of aircraft by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Because of the incredible versatility of rotary-wing aircraft in supporting law enforcement, much of the association’s work has involved the helicopter.
ALEA is focused on safety. The organization hosts six regional safety seminars each year, as well as an annual convention that features a number of safety-related courses, including thermal imagery and tactics, helicopter pursuit tactics, airborne use of force, a tactical flight officer course, underwater emergency egress training, helicopter rescue, and aerial firefighting.
All of ALEA’s training is designed to help officers use the unique tactical advantage helicopters provide in successfully completing each mission.
With 45 years of experience, ALEA is an acknowledged expert that government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, turn to for advice and information. ALEA is instrumental in promoting helicopters and their distinct abilities that make them so useful in public safety aviation.
Pilot of the Year Award
Ruedi H. Hafen
Commercial Pilot, HTSC/Niagara Helicopters Limited
Ruedi Hafen moved to Canada from his native Switzerland as a young man in the early 1980s, hoping to build sufficient helicopter flight hours to return home and work as an alpine search and rescue pilot.
Instead, a number of decades later, Hafen is the recent owner and current chief pilot and vice president of public relations for a successful Canadian helicopter tour company near Niagara Falls. Hafen also trains routinely with the Niagara Parks Police High Angle River Team and finds himself called out several times a year on rescue missions along the treacherous upper reaches of the Niagara River.
In 2009, Hafen was called out when a man was swept over Horseshoe Falls. The man survived the fall but refused to grab hold of a rescue pole offered by a police officer aboard Hafen’s helicopter. Hafen employed an ingenious tactic to save the man’s life: by angling the helicopter, he used the rotor wash to push the man to shore, where a firefighter pulled him from the water.
In 2011, two New York state park police officers who had just rescued five stranded boaters found themselves stranded barely a thousand feet above Horseshoe Falls after their patrol boat engine failed. The U.S. side of the river was fogged in, but the Canadian side was clearing, so once again Hafen was called. Working with a police spotter, Hafen used a short-haul technique to lift the officers one at a time, depositing them safely in a nearby parking lot.
Ruedi Hafen exceeded 40,000 accident- and violation-free flight hours in 2012.
Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award
Gary Dennis Rogers
Maintenance Controller PNG, Columbia Helicopters, Inc.
Gary Rogers has been working on helicopters since joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 at the age of 17, where he served two years in Vietnam as a mechanic and crew chief.
Rogers found his true calling as a maintenance educator after leaving active duty service when, in 1973, he returned to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese airmen on how to maintain CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Rogers joined Columbia Helicopters in 1978, working in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, as well as being part of a 21-person, three-aircraft team contracted to help with famine relief in the Sudan during the mid-1980s.
Beginning in 1988, Rogers spent 11 years as part of Columbia’s Papua New Guinea operation, much of it as chief engineer. While there, he helped 28 Federal Aviation Administration–certified engineers earn required local engineering certificates. Rogers is still highly regarded by the Papua New Guinea regulators, who have asked him to teach a number of courses for local aviation maintenance technicians.
Rogers has created a vibration analysis program, maintenance procedures for engine setup on Columbia’s aircraft, and taught troubleshooting procedures to crews in the field. Rogers was also part of the team that developed Columbia’s safety management system.
For much of the past 10 years, Rogers has been responsible for continuing airworthiness training for all of Columbia’s BV 107 and Model 234 twin-rotor operations worldwide. In addition, he has worked as a troubleshooter for Columbia’s vice president of maintenance.
Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award
AST1 O’Brien Starr-Hollow and AST3 Tyler J. Gaenzle
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River
On July 21, 2012, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Oregon, received a call that a hiker had fallen on the south face of Washington State’s Mount Rainier and sustained serious injuries. In addition, there was a second hiker uninjured, but trapped.
Aviation Survival Technician First Class O’Brien Starr-Hollow and Aviation Survival Technician Third Class Tyler Gaenzle were the perfect pair for the rescue mission. Starr-Hollow had just completed a Coast Guard–funded mountaineering course, and Gaenzle had been training for an ascent of Mount Rainier.
Flying over the area, the rescue helicopter crew located and secured the first hiker. With darkness falling, the two rescue swimmers then began their search for the injured hiker, belaying each other more than 200 feet down a treacherous, near-vertical snow- and ice-covered slope.
By the time they located the hiker, the helicopter had returned to base for refueling and the rescue swimmers had to wait for a replacement while they assessed the situation. The hiker was showing signs of hypothermia. He had also suffered a broken back; a shattered left arm, left leg, and left knee; and numerous internal injuries.
Because the slope was so steep, the rescue swimmers had to strap the hiker to a back board and lower him several hundred feet farther downslope. AST3 Gaenzle fell on two occasions, including a 20-foot fall where he was forced to use his knife as a break to stop his slide.
The rescue swimmers eventually got the hiker into a litter and winched into the helicopter, where they continued to treat him en route to the hospital.
After several surgeries, the hiker made a full recovery, due mostly to the tireless and heroic actions during this six-hour rescue by AST1 Starr-Hollow and AST3 Gaenzle.
W.A. (Dub) Blessing Certified Flight Instructor of the Year Award
Sponsored by H. Ross Perot, Jr., and the Perot Family
VP/General Manager, Era Training Center LLC
Randy “Rock” Rowles is the vice president and general manager of Era Helicopters’ Training Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He has 12,500 hours in helicopters, of which more than 6,000 hours is dual instruction given.
Rowles began his aviation career young, earning his fixed-wing private pilot certificate at 17 and his commercial helicopter certificate at 18. At 24, he was tasked with developing a flight training division for his employer, a Part 135 charter operator.
As an FAA-designated pilot examiner for all helicopter certificate levels, Rowles recognized the importance of teaching students more than just how to pass a test. So, at age 30, he decided to form his own flight school — Palm Beach Helicopters in Lantana, Florida.
To ensure that pilots at his school received a complete education, Rowles tutored his instructors so they really understood what they were teaching and how to pass on the knowledge necessary to produce a safer, more proficient pilot. Although Rowles has moved on to other things, Palm Beach Helicopters continues to turn out pilots who understand safety.
In addition to his continuing work to train professional helicopter pilots, Rowles gives generously of his time, speaking on safety and training issues at helicopter conventions and conferences throughout the year.
To view previous winners, click here.