Rotorcraft Report: HAI Honors Distinguished Crowd With Awards of Excellence

By Staff Writer | February 1, 2005
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HAI has named the recipients of its annual Awards of Excellence, to be presented at Heli-Expo 2005 in Anaheim, Calif.

Winners of the Life Time Achievement awards are Jack Real, chairman emeritus of Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., and Wesley G. Lematta, founder and chairman of Columbia Helicopters, Inc. in Portland, Ore.

During his career, Real worked for aviation industry giants such as Lockheed, Hughes and McDonnell Douglas. In 1937, he went to work for Lockheed, where he spent his time designing, developing and testing aircraft such as the B-14 Hudson Bomber, the Constellation, Lockheed models 286 and 475, and the Cheyenne helicopter.


In 1960, he became chief of engineering flight test, and two years later was named chief engineer of research, development, and testing. In 1965, he became vice president and general manager for the AH-56A Cheyenne helicopter project. By 1968, he was responsible for all rotary-wing programs at Lockheed.

He left Lockheed in 1971 to become senior vice president of aviation for Howard Hughes Corp. In 1979, he became president of Hughes Helicopters, where he guided the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter program. In 1984, McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co. bought Hughes Helicopters, and Real remained as president and CEO until his 1987 retirement.

Real was influential in relocating the Hughes Flying Boat, the "Spruce Goose," to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, where he served as president from 1995 until 2001. Today, he is chairman emeritus.

Lematta founded Columbia Helicopters in 1957, working with a single helicopter at the Troutdale, Ore. Airport. For the most part, his first year of operation was much like that of other early helicopter entrepreneurs, spent giving rides at county fairs and doing odd lift jobs.

In September 1958, Wes gained national recognition when he saved the lives of 17 seamen off the Coos Bay, Ore. coast in a courageous and dramatic rescue effort. Lifting the sailors one at a time from the sinking U.S. Army Corps of Engineer dredge Rossel in high winds, he accomplished the largest single-handed helicopter rescue at sea, a historical record that still stands.

Today, approaching 50 years of operations, Columbia Helicopters operates globally from headquarters at Aurora State Airport in Aurora, Ore. His fleet includes 16 Boeing/Kawasaki Vertol 107-II helicopters, seven Boeing 234 Chinooks, two Hughes 500s and two King Air fixed-wing aircraft. Over the course of his career, he developed a number of innovations that helped to transform and expand the helicopter industry. He proved the helicopter useful for logging by developing a process to make it a sustainable operation. He is also responsible for developing the Direct Visual Observational Control method for helicopters in construction work.

During his long association with HAI, Lematta has served on the HAI board of directors. He received the Lawrence D. Bell Memorial Award in 1990, and the HAI Operators Safety Award multiple times.

Elling Halvorson, chairman of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, Inc. in Grand Canyon, Ariz., is the recipient of the 2004 Bell Memorial Award. Created in 1971, the award honors a recipient's excellence in management and long and significant service to the helicopter industry.

Halvorson began his business career in 1957 as owner of Elling Halvorson, Inc., a general contracting firm. His first major project was constructing a 2-mi. tramway system on a 10,400-ft. mountain peak in the Sierra Nevada to link a transcontinental microwave system from New York to Los Angeles. At that time, he purchased his first helicopter. Later he pioneered the unconventional use of a helicopter in the construction of a water pipeline across the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Visitor requests for helicopter rides led to him to offer sightseeing helicopter flights, which launched Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters.

An innovative entrepreneur, Halvorson has invested in and founded a multitude of highly successful companies, to include Grand Canyon Airlines and Rainier Heli-Lift, Inc., a logging and heavy lift company operating in North and South America. Halvorson's fleet consists of 60 helicopters, of which forty operate from his state-of-the art heliport at the Grand Canyon.

HAI's 2004 Pilot of the Year Award goes to Thomas A. "Bud" Roberts, rotor-wing pilot for Evergreen Helicopters International, Inc. in Galveston, Texas. Roberts has been a pilot with Evergreen since May of 1999. He is an offshore Bell 212 pilot, transporting oil-rig crews to and from platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. During the summer, he flies a 212 on firefighting missions in Alaska. On Aug. 14, 2004, Roberts was called upon to perform duties above and beyond his normal firefighting routine.

Jennifer Buswell was filling a water tank at a riverbank dirt launch on the Knik River as she often did, and her two sons were waiting in her truck attached to the tank trailer. The bank beneath her gave way, sending truck, trailer, and family into the frigid water. Buswell was able to grab two-year-old Ryan, but three-year-old Clifford was swept away.

Roberts, along with Norm McDonald and Kris Anderson of the Alaska state Forest Service, was called on by the Mat-Su Borough Dispatch to help. The borough's river rescue team would have taken more than an hour to arrive.

Roberts flew to the scene in 5 min. and landed on a nearby gravel bar to assess the situation. Although the mission was outside the interagency guidelines, Roberts and McDonald formulated a plan to accomplish the rescue.

They placed two other forestry workers about 500 ft. down river as secondary rescue personnel and returned to retrieve Buswell. With Anderson operating the radios and monitoring traffic, Roberts maneuvered the helicopter in for a vertical rescue in the wild water of the Knik.

As Roberts hovered with the skids just above the trailer, McDonald stepped out onto the skid and picked up Ryan and delivered him to medics waiting on the gravel bar. They returned and replicated the procedure to rescue Buswell. They then resumed the search for Clifford until low fuel forced them to return to the Palmer airport.

Clifford's body was found hours later 1.5-mi away.

Other recipients of the 2004 HAI Awards of Excellence include:

Aviation Repair Specialist Award--Luis F. Garcia, director of maintenance for Papillon Airways Inc. in Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Igor I. Sikorsky Award for Humanitarian Service--The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept. Air Rescue 5 Program of Long Beach, Calif.

Agusta Community Service Award--Stephen M. Hickok, president, Hickok & Associates, Inc. of Orange Beach, Ala.

Eurocopter Golden Hour Award--County Rescue Services of Green Bay, Wis. and the crew of Eagle III: George E. Miller, senior pilot and director of operations; Lt. Shaun Stamnes, air medical coordinator, and Michael P. Orlando, emergency medical technician.

Joe Mashman Safety Award--Timothy C. Tucker, chief instructor, Robinson Helicopter Co. Safety Course

Outstanding Certified Flight Instructor Award--Randal L. Bechtel, chief flight instructor and owner of Flight Check Ltd. of Fort Worth, Texas.

Aviation Maintenance Technician Award--Richard (Rick) Barnett, Gulf Coast maintenance manager for Air Logistics, LLC of New Iberia, La.

Excellence in Communications Award--Claire ap Rees, managing editor of Avia Press Associates of Somerset, England.

Helicopter Maintenance Award--John Kiesler, vice president of maintenance and operations for Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. in McMinnville, Ore.

MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award--Lt. Craig Neubecker, pilot; Lt. Shawn Koch, co-pilot, and Avionics Electronics Tech 1st Class William Greer of HITRON Jacksonville, U.S. Coast Guard, for a night-time intercept of a high-speed boat carrying 6,083 lb. of pure, uncut cocaine with a street value of $194.6 million.

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