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2012 Salute to Excellence Winners

Helicopter Association International (HAI) announces the winners of the Association’s 2012 Salute to Excellence Awards, honoring those who maintain the highest traditions of the helicopter industry.

“The Salute to Excellence awards couldn’t be better named,” says HAI President Matt Zuccaro. “In an industry for which safety is so important, everyone strives to do their very best – and these awards pay tribute to those who rise above the rest.”

Salute to Excellence awards are given in nine categories: Safety, Maintenance, Law Enforcement, Medical Airlift, Humanitarian, Communications, Flight Instructor, Pilot, and Lifetime Achievement. They will be presented at the Salute to Excellence Dinner on Monday, February 13, 2012, during HELI-EXPO 2012, HAI’s annual convention and trade show, in Dallas.

The 2012 winners are:

AgustaWestland Safety Award: Gerry Block, Chairman and CEO, Sandel Avionics, Inc.

Gerry Block is the founder of and driving force behind Sandel Avionics, makers of terrain avoidance and warning systems (TAWS) for both the general aviation fixed-wing and helicopter fleets. TAWS and HTAWS have saved untold numbers of lives by helping pilots avoid controlled flight into terrain in low visibility situations.

Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award: Todd A. Smith, Director of Maintenance, Bristow Academy, Inc.

Todd Smith is the Director of Maintenance for the Bristow Academy, a helicopter flight training operation with three locations in the Southeastern United States, owned and operated by the Bristow Group. Smith oversees maintenance of some 75 aircraft by 40 technicians in all three locations. He has also established apprenticeship and mentoring programs to train the next generation of helicopter technicians, all while maintaining the highest commitment to safety, both in the shop and in the air.

MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award: James J. Greeves NREMT-P, Master Police Officer, Fairfax Co. Police Dept., Helicopter Division.

Master Police Officer/Tactical Flight Officer James J. Greeves has spent a total of 13 years and more than 4,000 flight hours in the Fairfax (Va.) County Police Department’s Helicopter Division. He is directly credited with the apprehension of 300 fleeing suspects. In addition, Officer Greeves is a qualified helicopter paramedic; he has transported some 320 patients, and is credited with saving the lives of at least two injured fellow law enforcement officers. Even during a tour with the department’s K-9 unit, Officer Greeves had the Helicopter Division in mind when he spearheaded an effort to outfit K-9 officers and their partners with infrared flashers to make them visible to helicopter crews using night vision goggles.

Eurocopter Golden Hour Award: 25th Infantry Division Huey Crew.

The crew of a restored Bell UH-1D Huey, including a number of Vietnam veterans, was pressed into service in the moments following last September’s horrific crash of the Galloping Ghost P-51 Unlimited class air racer at the Reno Air Races. The Huey was part of a static display near the course when the accident occurred. Faced with the prospect of moving mass casualties, the race organizers asked the Huey crew to help transport the injured to a local hospital. Within moments, the crew had installed the ground-handling wheels, and with the help of a crew from another static display aircraft, pushed the three ton aircraft uphill clear of the display area, fueled it, and hover-taxied over to the accident site. They transported four patients that day – two stretcher cases and two ambulatory. All four survived.

Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award: Crew of UNO-838, UTair Aviation.

Twenty members of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo are alive thanks in no small part to the crew of a UTair Mil-8 flying in support of the UN mission. Under the command of Sergey Ignatov, the crew had just arrived and shut down at Dongo Airport when the UN peacekeepers – and the helicopter – came under fire from unknown forces. Ignatov immediately began the start procedure while his crew got the UN peacekeepers, included several wounded, on board. The helicopter lifted off, continuing to take fire, including two shots that punctured fuel tanks. Losing fuel, the crew successfully diverted to another airfield that was clear of hostilities.

Excellence in Communications Award: Lyn Burks, Editor-in-Chief, Rotorcraft Pro Media Network.

Lyn Burks began his flying career as a popular and well-respected flight instructor in the South Florida market. In an effort to draw together what he saw as a disconnected community, Burks in 2001 acquired JustHelicopters.com, and in the years since has overseen its growth to now include JustHelicopters.tv (an internet video channel dedicated to rotary wing flight), VerticalReference.com, and HelicopterSalaries.com. Together, the helicopter-specific media empire demonstrates Burks’s vision, passion, and belief in a better industry for all.

W. A. (Dub) Blessing Certified Flight Instructor of the Year Award: Terry G. Cole., Captain, Era Helicopters LLC.

Terry Cole has more than 20,000 flight hours, including nearly 16,000 in helicopters, of which more than 8,000 is helicopter instruction. He has been with Era Helicopters for nearly 30 years, and has been an Instructor or Check airman on nine different airframes. He currently instructs in the AgustaWestland AW139, the Eurocopter EC225, and the Sikorsky S-61 and S-76. He has previously received the HAI Pilot Safety Award upon reaching 15,000 accident- and violation-free flight hours.

This award is generously sponsored by Ross Perot, Jr., and the Perot family.

Pilot of the Year Award: Jay Slagle, Captain, Bristow Group.

Jay Slagle is recognized with the 2012 HAI Pilot of the Year award for his efforts to successfully land an eleven ton helicopter after loss of tailrotor effectiveness. Inbound to Bristow’s Galliano Base, a Sikorsky S-92 with 18 souls aboard began an uncommanded nose-right turn as the aircraft slowed, and which worsened as power was reapplied. Recognizing an imminent emergency, Slagle and fellow Captain Chuck Melton diverted to a nearby airport with a 6,500’x100’ runway where, while maintaining 80 knots, they flew the S-92 onto the runway without an effective tailrotor, using differential braking once on the ground to bring their aircraft to a controlled stop.

Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Dee Atwood, President, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, Inc.

Michael Atwood, simply put, is one of the biggest proponents of and advocates for one of the most significant safety enhancements to be introduced into the helicopter community: night vision technology. A decade ago, night vision goggles were well known in the military, but virtually unknown in the civilian helicopter fleet. Atwood and his company, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, took a leading role in identifying and overcoming the challenges of introducing the technology by working with industry and the FAA to develop guidance and training.