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has also become clear to me that a few of our peers need adult supervi- sion from time to time. One of the inherent traits of many helicopter pilots is that we gen-

erally have personalities that actually empowered us very early in our careers to jump into a machine with multiple whirring parts all held togeth- er by a few engineering concepts, bolts and rivets and drag it airborne after a little training.

Somewhere along the line this took a little courage and

perhaps simple faith. As Dr. Robert Helmreich wrote several years ago, “Although we recognized the existence of and some of the manifestations of the professional culture of pilots early in our investigations of flight crew behavior and attitudes, we did not immediately understand its potency as an influence on safety. In retrospect, the roots of a strong professional cul- ture are clear—early aviation was an extremely dangerous undertaking, for those in combat, carrying the mail, or stunt flying for awed audiences. To commit to such a hare-brained endeavor required a strong sense of per- sonal invulnerability and efficacy. The respect and envy engendered among generations of adolescents also fostered pride in being one of “the few”, to borrow Churchill’s description of Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain.


This image of personal disregard for danger and invulnerability reached its zenith with the early astronauts (all chosen from the ranks of test pilots) and was immortalized by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff (1979).’ Many of us went into aviation because it was exciting, meaningful,

challenging and it was a career that would give us our identity or at least fortify our self image.

It was stimulating work and it made us proud, espe-

cially in the emergency medical service side of helicopter aviation. Our smiles went from ear to ear when we got our solo wings and each sub- sequent rating.

Often our bravado and self confidence served us well

especially on that first solo or jumping into a new and very challenging job or aircraft transition. “Brave” was an invaluable necessity for those of us who had the opportunity to fly into combat either in the current mountainous desert environment or past steamy jungles and rice paddies. Brave and headstrong, however, aren’t always the most helpful of traits in the world of a helicopter air ambulance pilot.

Years ago, in the early days of stateside

emergency medical service piloting, just following that helicopter intense conflict in Southeast Asia, many of us began flying patients in a more peaceful yet demanding environment with the same strong work ethic and

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