By S.L. Fuller | December 20, 2017
Russ Spray spent 53 years working with helicopters. He announced his retirement in 2016 from Turbomeca/Safran Helicopter Engines USA, where he served as its president and CEO. For his work, he is being awarded Helicopter Association International’s (HAI) Salute to Excellence Bell Lifetime Achievement Award.
Spray took one ride in a helicopter was hooked after that. His uncle, a retired pilot for Trans World Airlines, urged Spray to take a $5 ride in a Hughes 269 in 1963. By age 18, he had his private pilot's license, became a ground school instructor. He then received his commercial pilot and certificated fliht instructor license. Spray spent the early part of his career flying under contract for Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., KNBC-TV and the Associated Press. He also spent more than seven years as a contract insturcotr for the U.S. Army.
HAI said 42 years of Spray’s career was spend in executive administration. He also worked as a helicopter pilot for Pacific Airmotive Corporation and as a helicopter flight instructor for Bell Helicopter and Southern Airways. He trained more than 500 pilots, accident free, according to HAI. Spray was also VP of medical operations for Rocky Mountain Holdings, and grew the air medical services division from seven helicopters and $3 million in revenue to more than $100 million in revenue per year with 90 aircraft. He later became the company’s CEO.
Spray started working at Safran in 2003, and would go on to serve as the company’s president and CEO of Microturbo, Inc., Turbomeca Canada, Ltd. and Sagem Avionics. At Safran Helicopter Engines USA, the company doubled its number of employees, saw multiple facility expansions, was awarded two major military contracts, and developed or strengthened relationships with Airbus and Bell, according to HAI. Spray also served as chairman of the Emergency Medical Services Committee for HAI (now Air Medical Services), was the co-sponsor of the American Society of Hospital Based Emergency Air Medicals Systems (now called the Association of Air Medical Services), among positions with other boards and associations.
Other accolades includes HAI’s Golden Hour award for his contributions to air ambulance safety, and the Medal of Honor of the Order of St. Michael for his contributions to U.S. Army aviation. Spray will formally receive HAI’s Lifetime Achievement Award during Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas.