Corey Brekke, selected for HAI’s 2020 Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award, began his aviation career in Montana, where he obtained his A&P license in 1991. He subsequently worked for eight years as the sole mechanic on a Hughes 500 that was based on a 350-foot tuna boat in the South Pacific.
Columbia Helicopters hired Brekke in 2000, and after just five days on the job, he departed for Alaska as the fourth man on a logging crew working on a Columbia Vertol 107-II. He advanced to assistant crew chief in a year, due to his can-do attitude, work ethic, reliability, technical knowledge, skill set, and ability to lead and get along with a crew. In 2003, he was promoted to crew chief.
In 2011, Columbia received a contract to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, delivering four Vertol 107-IIs and a 234 Chinook. Brekke worked as a senior crew chief and was later promoted to Afghanistan maintenance supervisor. Columbia’s fleet in Afghanistan grew rapidly over the next eight years, due in part to Brekke’s leadership and direction. The company now operates 12 aircraft in the country.
Brekke was promoted to Afghanistan maintenance manager in 2018, and his new role with Columbia required him to focus on managing maintenance resources to support the military’s missions. Instead of using traditional small maintenance teams assigned to specific aircraft, he transitioned the teams to shift work, a change that requires some members to work 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. in support of daily flight operations. The remaining mechanics work the night shift, performing aircraft inspections, repairs, component changes, and fleet-health improvements, among other tasks. These actions enable all 12 Columbia aircraft to be fully mission-capable each day to meet the customer’s requests.
The Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award, sponsored by Rolls-Royce, recognizes an individual for longstanding excellence in the performance of helicopter maintenance, maintenance instruction, or supervision, or a single significant and distinct contribution to helicopter maintenance.