David Fox, who has a maintenance and training career spanning five decades, was honored with the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Maintenance Excellence Award.
The Rolls-Royce-sponsored award, part of the HAI Salute to Excellence program, “recognizes an individual for longstanding excellence in rotorcraft maintenance, maintenance instruction or supervision, or a single significant contribution to rotorcraft maintenance,” HAI said.
Fox retired in 2020 after spending nearly 20 years with Bell and currently provides pilot training on a part-time basis for the Helicopter Institute in Fort Worth, Texas, and occasionally moonlights as a mechanic for select clients.
His interest in aviation was cultivated over a lifetime, accompanying his father, who was a mechanic, to the airport when he was a child. They built kit airplanes together and performed maintenance on Bell 47s. As a teen in 1970, he was hired as a mechanic’s helper on Bell 47 helicopters. He ultimately joined the U.S. Army, becoming a crew chief and maintaining OH-58, UH-1, and AH-1G helicopters while serving a tour in Korea.
After his service, Fox achieved his A&P and private and commercial helicopter certificates. In 1980, he joined forces with a friend to found Helitrans, a Part 135 operator and Part 145 repair station supporting the oil and gas industry off the Gulf Coast of Texas. He was director of maintenance and chief inspector for the company and achieved a perfect safety record—without any accidents, incidents, violations, or forced landings—over his 20 years there.
“My proudest accomplishment is Helitrans’s record,” Fox said. “Having good people working for you and maintaining and operating the aircraft properly to manufacturer recommendations are to credit for that.”
He sold the business in 2000, initially entering “semi-retirement” while doing some maintenance and consulting work. However, in 2001 Bell asked Fox to come on board as a light helicopter ground school and simulator instructor at the Customer Training Academy.
“David became a fixture at Bell, not just at the training center, but also within the accident investigation and legal departments,” HAI said. “He was also the go-to expert for Bell owners and operators around the world on all things related to their aircraft’s operation, performance, and maintenance.”
Fox helped develop the Bell 407GX and GXi initial pilot transition courses as well as led and standardized pilot instruction for light helicopters.