Products, Training

Editor’s Notebook

By James T. McKenna | April 1, 2005
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More Good News, Some Sad News

I happily reported last month that Ray Prouty, the legendary purveyor of aerodynamics insight and wisdom, is again writing for Rotor & Wing, fielding questions from readers on how aircraft, their pilots and the forces around them interact. As I expected, you, our readers, have seized that opportunity, and questions and suggestions of topics for Ray to address have been rolling in. Look for the first of his answers in an upcoming issue.

When it rains, as they say, it pours, and this month another experienced, well-respected writer returns to the pages of R&W.


Shawn Coyle for years wrote on technical aspects of rotorcraft life, including pilot reports and, among other stories, the status of former Soviet Bloc helicopter manufacturers after the Cold War. His writing combines a great deal of technical and flying insight with a wry sense of humor. When I asked for some biographical information, his e-mailed reply began "I started life at an early age . . ."

Shawn began flying at age 17, and earned his pilot's license before he had his driver's license. He joined the Canadian Air Force, graduated from the Royal Military College and began flying UH-1Ns for the air force. He was selected to go to Boscombe Down in Britain to attend the Empire Test Pilot School, which has been training flight test professionals since World War I. He remained in the United Kingdom on an exchange tour at the British flight test center at Farnborough, during which he flew all the helicopters in the British fleet at the time.

Shawn then returned to Canada, spending two years at the air force's flight test center at Cold Lake, Alberta, before joining Bell Helicopter for a short stint in Fort Worth, Texas. From there he went to Pax River for a stint as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He returned to Cranfield, England to join the faculty as chief helicopter instructor of the original International Test Pilot School (which is now out of business). That was followed by a period of contract flying. He then worked for Transport Canada as an engineering test pilot, doing certification flying on the Bell 407, 430 and 427.

Shawn moved to Mojave, Calif., where he served as chief helicopter instructor of the National Test Pilot School. He now flies EMS for Mercy Air in Mojave. Shawn has 5,600 hr. total flight time in 50 different types of helicopters. He also has written Cyclic and Collective, the long-awaited revision of the book Art and Science of Flying Helicopters on how to understand and fly helicopters.

Shawn will serve as technology editor for R&W and pen a new column, "Tech Talk," in which he will discuss the technical nature of rotorcraft flight. The first column, appearing in this issue, reviews the differences between the stimuli you experience while practicing engine-out emergency procedures and those that confront you in a real emergency.

In future columns, Shawn plans to discuss--among other topics--power available for turbine engines, performance relating to different helicopter missions, tips on hovering, digital engine controls, engine governors and common myths about helicopters. If you have suggestions for other topics or questions for Shawn, send them to me at and I'll pass them on.

While we celebrate additions to the ranks of R&W, we must note a recent loss for the helicopter industry.

In early March, Nick Lappos left Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Connecticut for warmer pastures with Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah, Ga. Nick had headed Sikorsky's efforts to persuade the U.S. Navy that the S-92 was the best helicopter to fly the U.S. president. The loss of that competition to the Team US101 partnership of AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter Textron and Lockheed Martin apparently was enough to persuade Nick that 32 years at Sikorsky was long enough. He will now focus on the fixed-wing world, taking on responsibility (as Gulfstream's vice president of government programs) for the acquisition and use of aircraft bearing that distinguished name by all government and military customers.

There is no doubt that Nick will find great success in his new endeavors, and we wish him the best. But we do so knowing Gulfstream's gain is the helicopter industry's loss.

As program manager for the S-92, Nick played a key role in bringing that impressive aircraft to market. Having spent most of his career in research and development, Nick served as a test pilot, as Sikorsky's chief pilot for R&D and director of test engineering for the company's West Palm Beach, Fla., flight-test center. He was a flight instructor for various Sikorsky models and helped train the flight crews for several heads of state, including that of the president of the United States.

Gulfstream's announcement of his move calls Nick "a recognized leader in the aerospace industry," and of that there is no doubt. He is a fellow of the American Helicopter Society, an honor granted for outstanding achievement in the vertical flight industry, and a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. That group awarded him the Ray E. Tenhoff Award for the most outstanding presentation to its annual symposium. AHS' prestigious Frederick L. Feinberg Award, presented for most outstanding achievement as a pilot, is a great honor for anyone in rotorcraft. Nick has won three.

Some influential people in rotorcraft inside and outside Sikorsky describe Nick as a "go-to" guy. It's clear why. The short time in which I've known Nick professionally convinced me that he was one of the most compelling and convincing advocates this industry had. His shoes will be hard to fill.

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