Tonight at its Salute to Excellence banquet and awards ceremony, now in its 49th year, HAI honors individuals and organizations in the international helicopter community for outstanding achievement. The association announced the winners of this year’s awards in December. The festivities start at 8 p.m. at Hilton Americas-Houston.
Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award
Robert “Bob” Peterson has worked for Portland, Ore.-based Columbia Helicopters as a hydraulics systems specialist for nearly 40 years. Drafted into the military in 1963, he spent five years in the Air Force working on the hydraulic systems of nearly every aircraft in its inventory. After leaving the service, he earned his A&P mechanic certificate before joining Columbia in 1972. He was soon promoted to hydraulic shop chief, a position he would hold for more than 30 years. Under his supervision, numerous component wear factors improved 100 percent, a factor that has contributed to Columbia’s high mission availability rate. He is currently the hydraulic systems specialist in the company’s maintenance marketing group.
AgustaWestland Safety Award
Terry Palmer, FlightSafety International manager of rotorcraft programs, is a former pilot and instructor. A past board member of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) representing the joint helicopter safety implementation team (JHSIT) and a member of HAI’s Safety and Air Medical Committees, she has worked with a variety of organizations in the promotion of helicopter safety and simulator training. She is a cofounder of the annual PalMatt Aviation Safety and Risk Management Symposium, presented to the insurance industry, and for five years managed the annual Helicopter Safety Forum at FlightSafety International’s DFW location.
W.A. (Dub) Blessing Certified Flight Instructor of the Year Award
John Read has served as a check airman and flight instructor at Omniflight Helicopters since 1990 and has transitioned hundreds of pilots into various models for VFR and IFR EMS flight duty. He was the principal FAA contact during the establishment of the terminal en route procedures for helicopter GPS instrument approaches. Along with developing his company’s flight and ground training programs, he also established and maintained a database of pilot records for hundreds of the company’s employees. Read has had an accident- and incident-free flight career, which dates back to 1968, and has earned 19 pilot proficiency awards from the FAA.
Excellence in Communication Award
Ken Swartz, a 35-year rotorcraft journalism veteran, began his career in high school, contributing helicopter stories to the UK-based Aviation News. Upon the launch of Helicopter International in 1977, he was named North American editor, a title he would hold for the next 32 years, and was also the leading editorial contributor to Canada’s Helicopters Magazine, which covers that country’s burgeoning rotorcraft industry. Last year he formed Aeromedia Partners to provide marketing and media relations services to the aviation industry, and he was appointed vice chairman of the Canadian Air & Space Museum in Toronto.
Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award (two winners)
John Agor, president and cofounder of helicopter charter, management and maintenance provider Associated Air Group (AAG), began his rotorcraft career nearly 50 years ago in the U.S. Army, with tours in Europe and Vietnam. He served as a helicopter flight instructor until 1989 when he helped form AAG. Agor remained president 10 years later when the company was purchased by Sikorsky. That same year AAG created the industry’s first fractional helicopter ownership program. In 2001, following the destruction of the World Trade Center, he offered the use of the company’s fleet to FEMA as a rescue and recovery resource. In 2005, AAG again supplied helicopters and crews in support of Hurricane Katrina recovery operations.
Timothy Wahlberg, chairman of Evergreen International Aviation and a former chairman of HAI, began his nearly 50-year aviation career in 1963 as a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Army. Following service duty, he returned to college, received his A&P mechanic certificate and joined Evergreen Helicopters in 1969 as a mechanic. In his 40 years with the McMinnville, Ore.-based company, Wahlberg has served in numerous roles including Evergreen Helicopters director of maintenance, director of operations at Evergreen Air Center, vice president for maintenance and later, president of Evergreen International Airlines. He was named as the head of Evergreen’s parent company in 2006.
MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award
The New Zealand Police Air Support Unit (ASU) began in 1988 as Operation Eagle, a three-month trial program evaluating the use of a helicopter to fight crime in Auckland. Based on the success of that mission, the unit recently celebrated its 21st anniversary. Located primarily in the Auckland area, the unit, which consists of a sergeant and seven tactical flight officers, is also used throughout the entire country and covers an area of more than 100,000 square miles. The ASU primarily flies in support of police operations but also serves other needs including fire, air ambulance, coast guard, customs and defense.
Pilot of the Year Award
Earl Palmer began his rotorcraft career in 1964 graduating at the top of his class at the U.S. Army’s helicopter school at Fort Rucker. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam before being rotated stateside to serve as an instructor. After leaving the Army, he went on to hone his mountain flying skills as chief pilot for Colorado-based Skychoppers before joining the U.S. Forest Service for tours of duty in Alaska and Idaho, where he developed the load calculation forms that the Forest Service uses today. Currently the chief pilot for Hillcrest Aircraft in Lewiston, Idaho, Palmer has amassed more than 13,000 helicopter flight hours and has flown firefighting operations every year since 1967.