It was late spring of 2013 and I was having a discussion with a member of Helicopter Maintenance magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board. We were talking about whether or not there was something we could do to promote recognition of truly exceptionally A&P/AME professionals in the helicopter industry. There just did not seem to be much happening in that regard.

From that conversation, we took the question and posed it to the entire Advisory Board. Before long, we had many different thoughts, questions and ideas. We got it all boiled down to a list of criteria that had to be met, and the concept of a person being placed in nomination by someone else writing a letter about them. The suggested criteria used in judging the nominees were professionalism, communication skills, mentoring, innovation, willingness to learn and involvement with professional organizations/programs.

The award is specifically for helicopter maintenance professionals. This includes A&Ps/AMEs, avionics technicians who might or might not be A&P/AMEs, and any other non-managerial helicopter maintenance professionals. Supervisors who actually perform maintenance are eligible to be nominated. The award is for individuals that have at least three years’ experience working on helicopters and who are currently employed in the helicopter industry in a maintenance capacity. The award is not for DOMs or employees of Helicopter Maintenance magazine or the Helicopter Maintenance magazine Advisory Board.

The nominee can work for a federal (non-military), state or city helicopter flight organization. This can be a publicly-traded company or private enterprise.

The timeline for the award was Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013. The nominations were coming in and our list of corporate sponsors was growing. Now the Advisory Board had the tough job in that they graded the nominees. I deliberately stayed out of the grading process. It was close, but in the end the winner was Derek Weeden of Dyncorp International in McClellan, CA.


Weeden has 30 years experience working on helicopters. After serving six years in the U.S. Army, mostly in the Air Cavalry, Weeden spent about a year working for a crop duster in central California. Then in his own words, he was “fortunate enough to get a job working as a contractor on Air Force HH-1Hs at Hill AFB in Ogden, UT.” After three years there, he heard through the grapevine that a facility was being created to maintain the California Department of Forestry’s fleet of UH-IF helicopters, as well as building their replacements. That was a fleet of modified UH-1Hs, later called Super Hueys. He was happy to be accepted at the beginning of that important project, and has remained there for the last 23 years.

After accepting the award, Weeden said the following: “A big thank you to Helicopter Maintenance magazine and the sponsors listed on the awards banner for this award, and to the magazine’s editorial Advisory Board for selecting me as the 2013 winner. A very special thank you to my boss, Jeff Cavarra, for surprising me by nominating me for the award, because until Fred Polak, editor of Helicopter Maintenance magazine called me, I had no idea that I had even been nominated, let alone chosen as the winner!

“I hope this award is given annually for a long time, so all the deserving mechanics who are out there quietly working away can have the chance to be recognized. Last but not least, thanks to the dedicated crew I work with everyday, which almost always make me look good. And of course to my wife Becky, who has been married to a helicopter mechanic for 30 years, and that has not always been easy.”

Weeden received a trophy and check for his professionalism, dedication and commitment. The $8,000 check would not have been possible without great corporate sponsorship. Helicopter Maintenance magazine gives special thanks to these companies for their belief in the recognition of truly exceptional helicopter maintenance professionals.

To cap all this off, Jim Freeman, President of Helicopter Specialties Inc., who was a sponsor for the 2013 award, presented Helicopter Maintenance magazine with a check for the 2014 Helicopter Mechanic of the Year Award.

It appears that we are off and running for the 2014 Helicopter Mechanic of the Year Award. It will be presented at Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, FL. The Helicopter Maintenance magazine staff and its Advisory Board have been discussing some minor changes to the nominating procedure. The end result is to make it easier on those doing the nominating. We expect to start the 2014 award contest in June this year, so look for information in our June/July issue, and of course on our Web site at