by Jennifer Mabe
Igor I. Sikorsky Award for
F or 45 years, the Helicopter
“Salute to Excellence” awards
All Participants in the Hurricane
Katrina Rescue and Relief Effort
have recognized outstanding
achievement in the civil heli- Immediately following the storm,
copter industry. HAI’s “Salute U.S. Coast Guard helicopters were
to Excellence” awards cover a airlifting victims, surrounded by
toxic floodwater, from rooftops.
range of current and historical Civilian helicopter operators,
industry achievements. By including many HAI members, soon
acknowledging the exceptional followed, offering relief and assis-
merit of individuals or organi- tance in any way they could. For
zations, HAI’s “Salute to many, the helicopter was the only
Excellence” awards encourage option for rescue.
continued attainment of the Helicopters were also used to
evacuate critically ill hospital
highest standards of profes-
patients from medical facilities that
sionalism in the helicopter were flooded or without power,
industry. often having to land on rooftops,
decks, and parking garages.
Helicopter crews also rescued elder-
ly patients from nursing homes and
convalescent centers, as well as pre-
mature infants, who needed critical
20 SPRING 2006
HAI photos by Lagniappe Studios
equipment, such as heart monitors
and oxygen tanks.
Helicopters were instrumental in
airlifting food, water, supplies, fuel,
law enforcement officials, firefight-
ers, and relief workers into the
flooded region. They helped local
utility companies with power line
repair. Helicopters were critical in
the levee repair, reconstruction,
damage assessments, and, of course,
Helicopters played a vital role in
the rescue and relief operations in
Alabama, Louisiana, and
Mississippi. Even now, they contin-
ue to play a vital role in the recon-
struction efforts. To many victims of
the deadly storm, the helicopters
and their crews were the ultimate
Those who participated in the Hurricane Katrina rescue and relief effort stood for
heroes. The events associated with
recognition and were met with a standing ovation from those in attendance.
this relief effort were truly some of
the helicopter industry's finest
hours and clearly demonstrated that
helicopters save lives.
SPRING 2006 21
Aviation The Joe Mashman
Maintenance Safety Award:
Technician Award: David S. Whyte;
Robert A. Jones; Vice President
Aviation (retired), Alpine
Maintenance Helicopters Ltd.,
Technician, Air Kelowna, British
Logistics of Alaska, Columbia, Canada
HAI Board Chairman Tim Wahlberg (right) Alex Holliday accepted for Mr. Whyte.
presented the awards personally.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robert Jones worked in David Whyte began his flying career as a spray pilot for
Alaska, on the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline project, as a heli- Okanagan Helicopters, and was the first resident base
copter mechanic and also as Chief Inspector for Anchorage manager for Okanagan's arctic operations in Inuvik,
Helicopters, the predecessor of Air Logistics of Alaska, Inc. Northwest Territories. He was involved in introducing the
He has an extensive history with helicopters, and has Bell JetRanger to the Canadian arctic.
worked in remote field locations, performed offshore, As a base manager in St. Johns, Newfoundland, he pio-
power line construction, geological survey, and line mainte- neered their offshore IFR operations, using S-61s in
nance from a fixed base. Canada's inhospitable east coast environment. He also led
Jones has worked in a range of environments and terrain, Okanagan's international activities as Chief Check and
including the north slope of Alaska, on tuna boats in the Training Pilot in Singapore and served as Chief Pilot in
Pacific Ocean, in the jungles of Indonesia, and in the desert Perth, Australia, flying S-61s and S-76s in the VFR and
of Australia. He currently works, on a seasonal basis, in a IFR environments.
remote location of northern Alaska. Whyte purchased Alpine Helicopters Ltd. with Pat Aldous
Jones has been involved in the helicopter industry for the in 1988. Whyte took control of, and set new standards for
past four decades, contributing to the industry by perform- safe helicopter skiing operations. Whyte and Aldous built
ing exemplary work behind the scenes, regardless of the dif- Alpine Helicopters into one of the world's largest, most suc-
ficult environments or complex tasks. He can be counted on cessful, and safest heli-ski operations. Whyte is responsible
to get the job done, and bring the helicopter home in better for setting the operational standards, which make heli-skiing
condition than when it left. the successful, safe business that it is.
Whyte has also spent 15 years on HAI's Safety
Aviation Repair Committee. He has been involved in many projects that
Specialist Award: have come to exemplify the committee's contribution to the
Bruce Currier; association and to the helicopter industry. Whyte was one
Vice President of of the authors of the Safety Manual and was part of the
Avionics, group that established HAI's Platinum Program of Safety.
Evergreen Whyte's knowledge, unassuming leadership, and practical
Helicopters, Inc., approach to the helicopter industry has made a great
McMinnville, impact on those who know him. His legacy will be a posi-
Oregon tive influence for years to come.
Bruce Currier has been one of Evergreen's lead avion- Outstanding
ics engineers since 1975. He has been on every continent Certified Flight
with Evergreen, supporting Evergreen's missions. He has Instructor Award:
completed sophisticated STC's and difficult, complex Ric Juve Forns;
engineering wiring diagrams many times, helping Senior Flight
Evergreen stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Instructor, Bell
Currier is often sent to remote, inaccessible areas to per- Helicopter, Fort
form major engineering changes, from structural Worth, Texas
upgrades to difficult rewiring projects.
Currier is a graduate of the University of Oregon. He
also received an advanced degree in avionics and engi- Ric Forns has been a flight instructor for 35 years, with
neering from the Military College of Armed Forces. He 10,000 hours of flight instruction, and over 3,000 stu-
served with the U.S. Air Force for eight years, where he dents. He has amassed more than 22,000 accident- and
traveled the world, supporting various military missions violation-free flight hours. His flying career began in the
as an Avionics Technician in research and development. U.S. Army at Fort Wolters, Texas, and continued with
Currier is a dedicated engineer who completes his advanced training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and service
projects in an efficient and timely manner, and he has with the 114th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam.
consistently impressed Evergreen's management. Forns has instructed at the Bell Helicopter Training
Currier's years of excellent maintenance performance Facility for the past 15 years. He speaks fluent Spanish,
qualify him to be the Aviation Repair Specialist of 2005. and has hundreds of flight instruction hours with
22 SPRING 2006
Spanish-speaking pilots. Forns has worked as a flight an average of $40,000 in scholarships each year to female
instructor in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, pilots. They are currently the helicopter industry's largest
Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, scholarship fund.
Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan,
Philippines, Iran, Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Eurocopter
Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Belgium. Golden Hour
He is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor, and has con- Award:
ducted safety seminars on various human factors and fly- Robert
ing topics for many audiences. McMullan;
In addition to the Outstanding CFI award, Forns has Chief Pilot, West
earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, Michigan Air
the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf, the Meritorious Service Care, Kalamazoo,
Medal, the Air Medal, the National Defense Service Michigan
Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of
Vietnam Campaign Medal. Robert McMullan began his aviation career flying with
For seven years, Forns conducted recurrent training the U.S. Army in the mid-1960s. He served two tours of
with members of the Tucson Police Air Support Unit, in duty in Vietnam, where he was a pioneer in the use of the
Tucson, Arizona. Forn's teaching style works well with helicopter as a weapons platform. He served as an instruc-
both beginners and experienced pilots. He is able to stim- tor pilot and maintenance officer. Additionally, he served
ulate the students' thinking, allowing his students to assim- as a civilian instructor for six years at Fort Rucker,
ilate information, and apply it to their flying skills. He is a Alabama, where he taught tactics and instrument flight.
successful instructor because he can communicate with his McMullan has worked in the Emergency Medical
students and make the lessons relevant to them. Services (EMS) helicopter industry for 20 years. In 1985,
McMullan began working for Vanderbilt Lifeflight of
Agusta Nashville, Tennessee. He then worked for Huntsville
Community Medflight, in Huntsville, Alabama, where he continued to
Service award: serve those members of the community in need of EMS
Whirly-Girls helicopters. In 1989, while the Director of Operations,
International McMullan was instrumental in purchasing an AS365N heli-
copter to replace the AS350 they had been operating since
1985. The upgrade elevated the program to an IFR capa-
ble aircraft with twin-engine reliability.
In 1990, McMullan began working as the Director of
President Teen Corey accepted the award. Flight Operations at Borgess Inflight in Kalamazoo,
Michigan. In 1993, Borgess Inflight merged with Bronson
The Whirly-Girls is a non-profit, educational, and chari- Careflight to become West Michigan Air Care. McMullan
table organization dedicated to advancing women in heli- was named Director of Flight Operations of the new pro-
copter aviation. The Whirly-Girls was founded in 1955 by gram. He obtained a new Air Carrier certificate under
Jean Ross Howard Phelan. Originally at its creation, there FAR Part 135 for the organization.
were 13 members. There are now 1,362 members from 43 McMullan continues to explore new information and
countries. Whirly-Girls includes corporate, commercial equipment, in order to provide the safest and most consistent
and military pilots, flight school managers and instructors, service possible. He still approaches flying with the expecta-
mechanics, heliport designers, flight surgeons, air traffic tion that he can learn something new and he shares this
controllers, attorneys, paralegals, airport managers, busi- information with his peers for the betterment of all pilots.
ness owners, cattle ranchers, aeronautical engineers, test
pilots, administrative assistants, owners, operators, avia- Excellence in
tion pioneers, and pathfinders. Communications
The organization's goals are: (1) to promote the accept- Award: William
ance of rotorcraft in their local communities through Wagstaff; Senior
increasing public awareness of rotorcraft utility and versa- Editor, Aviation
tility; (2) to promote the advancement of women in rotor- International
craft aviation through scholarship awards, public presenta- News, Midland
tions, press releases, magazine articles, and displays in avi- Park, New Jersey
ation museums; (3) to provide, through the organization's
web site, information about employment opportunities for William Wagstaff’s wife, Debbie Leary, and
women in the helicopter industry; and (4) to encourage son, Sam, accepted the award.
the development of helipads.
This past April, the Whirly-Girls celebrated their 50th William Wagstaff, who passed away in February 2004,
anniversary. The celebration took place at the Mayflower is being honored posthumously for his dedication to cov-
Hotel, in Washington, D.C., where the very first Whirly- ering the helicopter industry. This award is given to the
Girl meeting was held in 1955. The Whirly-Girls award print or broadcast journalist achieving the most creative
SPRING 2006 23
and distinct dissemination of information regarding the MD HELICOPTERS
helicopter industry. LAW ENFORCE-
An avid aviation enthusiast, Wagstaff was a full-time MENT AWARD:
editor for Aviation International News, from 1988 to 2003, Captain Don R.
where he specialized in rotary-wing coverage. He wrote Roby;
numerous articles on a multitude of subjects, ranging Baltimore
from pilot medical issues to aerial firefighting. His County Police
monthly column on rotorcraft always dealt with subjects Department,
most important to people in the helicopter industry. Towson,
Wagstaff was also the editor of AIN Reports, an online Maryland
newsletter, which was published from 2000 to 2001.
Wagstaff was the inspiration for one of the characters Captain Don R. Roby has been a member of the
in the Conan the Barbarian comic books series, having Baltimore County Police Department for the past 25 years.
gone to school with the original artist who drew them. From 1993 to 2001, Roby served as the Aviation Unit
He worked tirelessly to investigate a story and to pro- Commander. He led the unit through its transition from the
vide a balanced viewpoint. His work displayed a pro- Hughes TH-55A helicopter to the turbine-powered Bell
found knowledge of the industry and his eloquent writ- OH-58. Under Roby's leadership, the unit increased its
ings captured the attention of many industry readers. He operating hours from 500 hours per year to over 2,000
always tried to portray the helicopter in a positive light. hours per year, and its number of personnel, equipment,
and aircraft. Currently, Roby is a Captain and precinct com-
Helicopter mander for the North Point Precinct.
Maintenance After being transferred from the Aviation Unit
Award: Commander post, Roby continued to stay involved in many
Gary Grage; aviation organizations, doing so on his own time and at his
Senior Technical own expense. He is currently the Vice-Chairman of the
Advisor, International Association of Chiefs of Police Aviation
Columbia Committee, a member of HAI's Government Services
Helicopters, Inc., Committee, President of the Mid-Atlantic Helicopter
Portland, Oregon Association, Secretary of the Airborne Law Enforcement
Accreditation Commission, and serves on the ALEA's
Gary Grage began his career in the U.S. Air Force. In Public Aircraft Issues Committee. Roby has also actively
1972, he began working for Columbia Helicopters Inc. (CHI) represented law enforcement at the Defense Logistics
as a Structural Repair Mechanic. In 1974, he was promoted Agency, Law Enforcement Support Office, regarding mili-
to the position of Shop Chief for the CHI Structures tary excess aircraft, parts, aircraft disposal issues, and con-
Department. Grage supervised all structural maintenance, tinued airworthiness matters.
repair, and modification activities to the CHI fleet. Roby has represented law enforcement aviation on issues
After managing the Structures Shop for six years, CHI concerning public aircraft at the national and international
asked Grage to head up the Research and Development/ levels. He has frequently presented at various conferences
Special Projects Group. Grage was now responsible for the and seminars, on public aircraft issues and airborne law
development and coordination of the certification of enforcement issues. He has been an instructor for the
numerous aircraft modifications. He was also instrumental ALEA for the past seven years. He instructs students in the
in the introduction of the BV234, the S-76, and the AS332C Unit Manager's Course and various other topics. In addi-
to the CHI fleet. In 2001, Grage was promoted to Vice tion, he has presented at the International Association of
President of Maintenance. Chiefs of Police International Conference and Exposition.
Currently, Grage is the Senior Technical Advisor, provid- Roby is truly deserving of the MD Helicopters Law
ing technical support of "legacy" issues regarding aircraft, Enforcement Award, because of his dedication and contri-
aircraft components, special equipment, and ground sup- butions to the aviation law enforcement field.
port equipment. He also serves as the principle contact
between CHI and the Boeing Design Engineering and Lawrence D. Bell
Service Engineering Departments. He was responsible for Memorial Award:
coordinating the 107 and 234 Type Certificates transfer Dr. Walter B.
from Boeing to Columbia. He provided onsite support at Comeaux;
Boeing-Philadelphia for the transfer of the data required Lafayette,
for the Type Certificate transfers. As part of the Type Louisiana
Certificate transfers, he provided technical assistance with
the expansion of CHI's part manufacturing capabilities.
Under his leadership, the CHI Maintenance and Repair
Overhaul organization attained an AS9100 quality rating.
Grage's accomplishments and professionalism reflect great From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Dr. Walter B.
credit upon himself, Columbia Helicopters, and the helicop- Comeaux generously contributed his personal time and
ter industry. medical expertise for the benefit of the entire helicopter
24 SPRING 2006
community, through active and regular participation in al fire work and seismic oil exploration. When not fighting
HAI. During this time, Dr. Comeaux served as fires for Hillcrest, Quackenbush flies heli-skiing operations
Chairman of HAI's Safety Committee, and then became in the Ruby Mountains with Helicopter Express, of Atlanta,
a Special Advisor to HAI's Board of Directors, where he Georgia. He also flies heli-skiing operations for the Wasatch
served for 10 years. Powerbirds, near Salt Lake City, Utah. The terrain in the
Dr. Comeaux was a major contributor to the original Wasatch and Ruby Mountains is extremely rugged, with
HAI Safety Manual, which was approved by the Board in most of the heli-skiing drop-off landing spots in the 9,000 to
1985. In 1993, he was awarded the Joe Mashman Safety 11,000-foot altitude range.
Award, and is an HAI Honorary Lifetime Member. Quackenbush has logged over 16,000 total flight hours in
Dr. Comeaux's medical career spans 58 years, includ- mountainous terrain in the western United States, over
ing his time as a senior aviation medical examiner for the 13,000 of those hours in helicopters. He flies with a demon-
FAA. As a flight surgeon for Petroleum Helicopters, Inc., strated commitment to safety, and HAI is proud to present
Dr. Comeaux initiated the company's original drug him with the Robert E. Trimble Memorial Award.
Dr. Comeaux has long been committed to safety in the Pilot of the Year
helicopter industry, and works tirelessly to promote safe- Award: John
ty. Although many in the industry complain that higher Holland;
safety standards are more expensive, Dr. Comeaux Regional Aviation
always responds with, "If you think safety is expensive, Director, Air
try an accident." Methods
Robert E. Trimble Macon, Georgia
Quackenbush; During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, John
Pilot, Hillcrest Holland was instrumental in the evacuation of patients and
Aircraft Company, staff at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. When
Lewiston, Idaho, LifeNet, a division of Air Methods, received a request from
and Helicopter the hospital to assist with air medical evacuations, they
Express, Atlanta, assigned Holland to recon the situation, setup aircraft stag-
Mr. Gale Wilson accepted on John Georgia ing at off-site locations for air assets as needed, and manage
Quackenbush’s behalf. the helicopter traffic and helipad procedures.
Holland stayed on the helipad, until the last person was
After graduating from the University of Washington in evacuated, 60 hours later. Patients were carried through the
1967, John Quackenbush enlisted in the U.S. Marine hospital, then into the parking garage, where they were
Corps. He attended Officer Candidate School, and transferred to pickup trucks and driven to the roof, and
became a helicopter pilot. He earned his U.S. Army wings loaded onto helicopters. Holland put out a radio "mayday"
and secondary flight training at Fort Stewart-Hunter, call for all helicopters in the area to respond to the hospital.
Georgia. While at Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Ana, Several civilian helicopters responded to evacuate the
California, Quackenbush was designated a Naval Aviator. patients. Holland also called some of his many military con-
He served in Vietnam as a Pilot-In-Command, flying a tacts, and CH-47s, UH-1s, and Black Hawk helicopters flew
Boeing CH-46D. Quackenbush returned to Santa Ana in to help. Hospital staff loaded patients in helicopters rang-
and served as a NATOPS check pilot. Promoted to ing from a Robinson R-44 to a Chinook.
Captain, he served as Operations Officer for the 3rd Holland worked under extremely difficult, and some-
Marine Air Wing. times dangerous, conditions to keep the evacuation pro-
For a time, Quackenbush operated an aircraft leasing gressing. He worked tirelessly to ensure that the helicop-
and charter company. He then flew for Columbia ters could safely land and takeoff and, in general, were
Helicopters in logging operations along the Oregon- able to perform their mission. He coordinated the
California border. Later, he went to work for the largest patient evacuation from a hospital in history.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources, per- Holland began his aviation career in 1969, when he
forming firefighting duties. He also flew for Sky Choppers enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private. He served with the
in Provo, Utah under a U.S. Forest Service firefighting Army for 30 years, achieving the ranks of Chief Warrant
contract. Quackenbush became Chief Pilot with Inter- Officer 3 and Colonel. During his Army career, he direct-
Valley Aviation in Oregon, and then rotary-wing operator, ed and supported aviation, safety, logistics, and occupa-
and Chief Pilot for Ben Johnson Helicopters, in Joseph, tional health organizations worldwide. He has logged over
Oregon. He was part of operations that included fire work, 9,700 hours of flight time. Holland is a graduate of Embry
predator control, seismic exploration, snow surveys, and Riddle Aeronautical University and the U.S. Army
other commercial work. Quackenbush also worked for Life Command and General Staff Course.
Flight of St. Patrick Hospital, in Missoula, Montana.
In 1984, he went to work as a line pilot for Hillcrest
Aircraft Company, in Lewiston, Idaho, performing season- Jennifer Mabe is the Public Relations Assistant for HAI.
SPRING 2006 25