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Meet a otor

Pro Heather Howley

RPMN: What is your current position?

I’m the president, CEO, and chief pilot of Independent Helicopters, LLC, in New York state.

RPMN: Tell me about your fi rst fl ight.

As a helicopter pilot, there are many “fi rst” fl ights. It was summer and I was fl ying the L4 for the fi rst time. It was also my fi rst turbine fl ight. We had fl own the Hudson River Corridor, then over Central Park enroute to LaGuardia for the fi rst time. Your fi rst time seeing Manhattan while fl ying is not only breathtaking, but it is an experience that lasts a lifetime. You could call that my fi rst fl ight; it was the moment the realization that I was fl ying helicopters for a living really took hold.

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

The fi rst job I had was as a CFI for a company that went out of business. My second job was with a company that changed ownership. My business, Independent Helicopters, started with $25, a lease agreement with Matt Spitzer, and a positive attitude. So, you could say I have had three starts. Independent Helicopters was where it

all 8 really started. I hit the ground May 2015

running with no safety net and never looked back.

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fl y helicopters? Or did they choose you?

It was July 2005, a beautiful San Diego afternoon. I received an opportunity to go for a ride in a helicopter. At the time I was a full-time research technician in a lab conducting stem cell research. Taking an afternoon to hop in a helicopter was a welcome break. The pilot, a friend, and I went up in an R44, and I sat in the front. After taking off we fl ew into a canyon. One steep climb up a rock face and I was hooked for life! I would say that helicopters absolutely chose me, but I certainly chose to live a life that most people only dream of.

RPMN: Where did you get your start fl ying commercially?

My fi rst commercial assignments were fl ying left-seat as copilot with Dan Wentz. He and I would fl y celebrity charter from Stewart Airport to the helipads in New York, or to Bradley Airport for 135 operations in a Bell 206 L4. He was defi nitely one of the best people I have fl own with, and the type of pilot we should all aspire to be.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?

Even though I enjoyed research at the time, it is likely that I would be miserable after 10 years in a lab. At this point, there is nothing else I’d enjoy more; I will always be involved with helicopters in some way. Every day this career presents itself as a privilege, and I am grateful for my abilities and my business. Seeing the world from a helicopter never gets old—and that is a phrase I say on a daily basis!

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off ?

I have days off ? When did I get those? As the CEO and chief pilot, I rarely have time to myself. On the rare occasions that there is bad weather and we’re not catching up on other things, I spend time with family, paint, visit

galleries, dinner in Manhattan,

breakfast in Woodstock, and spend time with my copilot and black Lab, Lucy.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

I could say it is being a 32-year- old woman who owns a successful

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