A sought-after high-altitude pilot, a team that improved IFR procedures for Boston HEMS and members of the largest maritime rescue ever recorded are among the rotorcraft industry professionals recognized this year by Helicopter Assn. International.
HAI’s Salute to Excellence Awards “recognize those who, through either a single act or a lifetime of service and dedication, exemplify the best of the helicopter industry,” with categories ranging from communications, law enforcement, safety, and maintenance and humanitarian service.
Jason Laing, a New Zealand-born freelance helicopter pilot, is the recipient of the Appareo Pilot of the Year Award for his experience in high-altitude rescues. Laing has logged 6,400 hr of flight time, 5,000 of which was in mountain flying—and he frequently has been called upon to demonstrate his skills. After an April 2014 avalanche at 19,000 ft on Mt. Everest, Laing landed twice to rescue seriously injured survivors, flew an additional 15 sorties and used a long line to extract additional survivors and casualties. After an earthquake the following year, he was called upon again to fly to a rural Everest community cut off from the outside world and later rescued climbers trapped by a collapsed icefall.
The BLR Aerospace Safety Award goes to the Boston Area Helicopter IFR Infrastructure Team. This working group of FAA and private industry representatives and members of Boston MedFlight formed to address the challenges of hospital helicopter flights in the dense urban area of downtown Boston. Over six years, the team proposed, designed, helped certify and trained air traffic controllers on a set of new point-in-space GPS approaches to five area hospitals, the use of which the FAA authorized on Oct. 14, 2015. This means “critically ill or injured patients can be flown directly to the hospitals in all weather conditions, saving vital time during bad weather over ground transport,” said HAI.
A number of military aviation units are receiving the Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award for having rescued more than 420 passengers from the seagoing ferry Norman Atlantic after it caught fire Dec. 28, 2014. This was considered the largest marine helicopter rescue mission on record. The units include: the Italian coast guard’s 2nd Nucleo Aereo; the Italian navy’s Gruppo Elicotteri 1 and Gruppo Elicotteri 3; and the 84th and 85th combat search and rescue centers of the Italian air force’s 15th Stormo.
The HAI plans to present these and six other awards at the annual Salute to Excellence dinner on March 2 during Heli-Expo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.