CAE USA Defense & Security
Current Job: I’m the international business development lead for Europe and NATO for CAE USA Defense & Security in Arlington, Texas. I cover all domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber) and advise on any rotary training opportunities globally.
First Aviation Job: I joined the UK Royal Navy (RN) as a pilot in 1977 at age 18, and after training on the Chipmunk, Bulldog, Gazelle, and Sea King Mk.2, I was appointed to 824 Naval Air Squadron “A Flight” in 1980 (a flight of two Sea King Mk.2 antisubmarine aircraft). We embarked on various Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and deployed around the globe supporting and protecting the RN fleet.
Favorite Helicopter: My favorite must be the Sea King. I flew this aircraft throughout my 28-year career with the Royal Navy, and it always served me well. Fun to fly by day or night, reliable and versatile, the Sea King helped me “keep it in the green.”
How did you decide to pursue a career in helicopter aviation?
I’ve been fascinated by helicopters since I was 4 years old. My mother would drive me to school and cut through this very narrow road capable of only single-lane traffic. At the time, I decided I would widen the lane when I was older and able. I had the idea that I would transport the bricks and material by helicopter and land on the back of “lorries.” My path to joining the navy as an aviator was born.
How did you reach your current position?
When I left the navy in 2005, we moved my family to Florida, where my American wife, Kathy, had lived. I worked as the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA, predecessor to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA) chief flying instructor for Helicopter Adventures Inc. When Bristow Helicopters purchased the flight school in 2007, I was promoted to general manager (GM) for the Bristow Academy, Titusville, Florida, campus.
I remained at the academy until 2016, when I was recruited to Arlington, Texas, by L-3 Communications, which offered me a position I couldn’t refuse, to set up and run the company’s simulation training center. I worked as the center’s GM and as a senior program manager with L-3 Link Simulation & Training, which became L3Harris, until CAE acquired the business in 2021, and I was moved to business development.
What are your career goals?
My career goals are to support my family and safely reach retirement. Safety is the operative word! I’ve always had a passion for promoting aviation safety. I’ve been involved with the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and the US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) since 2007. In 2019, I was honored to be asked to take on the role of industry cochair for the USHST. This meant continuing the Helicopter Safety Enhancement (H-SE) work we had underway and working with the USHST Steering Committee looking for new approaches to influence the industry to “keep it in the green!”
What advice would you give someone pursuing your path?
I learned a great deal about safety, discipline, and the importance of friendships from my time in the military. I learned to be a safe and effective team member, always be respectful, do the right thing even if you think nobody is watching, never cut corners, and keep asking questions. In the air, you should set personal minimums and abide by them; never say, “Hey, watch this.” And stay away from quick and impulsive actions. Lastly, believe that we can achieve zero accidents, so that you can go home to your family every evening.
Who inspires or has inspired you?
I’ve always admired Winston Churchill, who has influenced my approach [to leadership]. Good leaders listen to ideas generated by their teams, admit when they’re wrong, and never ask a subordinate to perform a task they couldn’t or wouldn’t perform themselves. They always know their team and how to use their experience and talents. When they say no, they’re prepared to explain why. Last, but certainly not least, good leaders maintain [a positive attitude] and never stop giving authentic praise to their team.
Tell us about your most memorable helicopter ride.
My most memorable flight was on the evening of Oct. 1, 1982, when I was a young SAR [search-and-rescue] first pilot on 819 Naval Air Squadron. We were called out from Prestwick, Scotland, to pick up a guy with a broken back off the Isle of Arran. The man had been in a nasty car accident. It was dark with strong winds and low clouds—typical SAR weather.
We picked up the casualty and set off to Southern General Hospital low level and transited up the Firth of Clyde and then along the River Clyde into Glasgow. However, when we reached the Erskine Bridge (a suspension bridge over the Clyde) we saw the top of the bridge in cloud cover. Without an IFR route into the hospital, we slowed down and discussed our options among the crew before deciding to safely fly under the bridge (and under the power lines on the other side) to deliver the patient safely to the hospital … which we did and then flew the reverse route out. I was glad nobody was fishing from the bridge that night!
What challenges you about helicopter aviation?
Getting everybody on the same page when it comes to safety. (See the answer to the next question!)
What do you think is the biggest threat to the helicopter industry?
Safety culture … or the lack of it! The industry has such variation in the interpretation of the rules that it generates different approaches to mitigating risk. Many people are stuck in their ways and don’t accept when there may be a safer way of approaching a risk using newer technologies, for example. If we want to achieve the vision of zero accidents, our safety culture needs to be taught to all [from the beginning] and reflect a more considered approach to mitigate the inherent risks of operating our vertically capable machines.
Complete this sentence: I know I picked the right career when …
… back in 1979, I was authorized to fly a Gazelle HT1 solo for 1:30 for the first time down to 100 ft. above ground level in the low-level military environment. I was just 20 years old, and although I had achieved a civil private pilot license (airplane) at 17, this was entirely different flying altogether. I will always look back on that memorable flight knowing I was on the right path.
Complete this sentence: I love my job, except when …
… my boss or organization doesn’t share my safety values and I don’t feel I can say no without consequences, retaliation, and repercussions. We must be able to work in an environment of just culture if we are to improve safety in the industry.