Meet the Contributors

By Staff Writer | December 1, 2007

CLAUDIO AGOSTINI, R&W’s Latin America correspondent since mid-1999, is participating in development of a helicopter sub-group of the São Paulo Federation of Industries’ Aviation Working Group and the organization of a new, all-helicopter business and safety event to be held in São Paulo, Brazil next year. He is based in São Paulo, which has more than 300 helicopters and 160 elevated helipads.

LEE BENSON is the retired senior pilot for the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Before he was named senior pilot, Lee ran the aviation section’s safety and training programs, including organizing the section’s yearly safety meeting with other public agencies and the press.

SHANNON BOWER (left) and STEVE COLBY developed a keen friendship and a shared vision for the helicopter industry after meeting at R&W’s 2003 Emergency Response Conference in Jacksonville, Fla. Their concept of team photojournalism brought them together, at the invite of John Piasecki, to write about and photograph the X-49A Speedhawk. Steve was introduced to that bird in 1999 when it was an initial contender for the U.S. Air Force Personnel Recovery Vehicle (now CSAR-X) contract.


KEITH CIANFRANI contributes this month’s Safety Watch column. A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, master aviator, and Army instructor pilot, he is rated in both fixed- and rotary-wing. While at the U.S. Army Safety Center, he was an advisor to the director of Army safety and served as an aviation safety officer and accident investigator. He authored many aviation safety articles in the center’s Flight Fax magazine. He holds a master’s in aerospace safety from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Keith is a certificated flight instructor and has flown commercial aircraft for more than 20 years in and around the New York City area. A risk-management instructor, he teaches at Drexel University and at The Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson.

We welcome PAT GRAY this month as a contributor to our Offshore Notebook. He has been involved in Gulf of Mexico helicopter operations for 20-plus years. Prior to that, he was in Vietnam in 1958 as a young paratrooper. While there, he flew with a French aero club and earned a Vietnamese pilot’s license. He returned in 1964 as an Army gunship pilot with the Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter Co., the first armed helicopter unit deployed in combat. He retired from the Army Reserve as a chief warrant officer 4, with more than 30 years active and reserve service. His civil helicopter experience covers crop dusting and Alaska bush, corporate, pipeline, and offshore flying. He holds unlimited air transport pilot fixed- and rotary-wing ratings. He had been active in aviation for 50 years and misses the camaraderie of fellow pilots and envies all the technological advances the industry has made over the last 10-15 years.

ERNIE STEPHENS began flying in the 1980s, earning his commercial pilot’s license and starting an aerial photography company as a sideline. In his regular job as a county police officer, he was transferred to the department’s new aviation unit, where he served as the sergeant in charge and chief pilot until his retirement in 2006. In addition to R&W, Ernie (aka "Werewolf") writes for our sister publication, Aviation Maintenance. He enjoys meeting our readers and flying a variety of helicopters.

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