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


I rarely have an entire day off. There is always something going on or a crisis to figure out. If there is any free time, I love spending it with my family. They sacrificed so much early on, but always supported me throughout the aviation industry’s ups and downs. I missed so much of our children growing up, and they never complained.


RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?


It was getting into and graduating Army flight school at 19 years of age. The Army gave me a solid aviation foundation to build upon. I have met and worked with some of the best in our business. It has worked out well for me, and I still enjoy flying and teaching.


RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh, crap!” moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened?


Yes indeed! I had a catastrophic engine failure over the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Bahamas. I was able to inflate the floats during the autorotation and land in waves 8 feet to 10 feet high. Within seconds the helicopter rolled upside down, but the floats kept it from sinking. An air rescue helicopter (from the same place I now work) came and lowered a diver, Manny Gelabert, 17 hours later to rescue me. A rescue boat from the Coast Guard picked us up. To this day, I can still hear music from the movie Jaws playing in my head.


RPMN: If you could give only one piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be?


Control the things that you have control over. If something is out of your control, then the risk is not worth the reward. Never compromise safety, weather, maintenance, and—most importantly—your integrity.


RPMN: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment?


I believe the unmanned aircraft/drone industry is here to stay. We have to find a way to safely operate in the same airspace with them. The helicopter industry will


lose some business to drones, but other opportunities will become available as well. There will always be a need for helicopters, and a greater need for professional pilots to fly them. We have to fly smarter and safer to maintain our place in the sky.


Do you know someone who would be a good subject for Meet a Rotorcraft Pro? Email your suggestion to the editor-in-chief:


lyn.burks@rotorcraftpro.com.


PEOPLE MAKE IT POSSIBLE


“As a lead, it’s important that I provide guidance and support for the people I supervise, and our crews out in the field. With operations worldwide and our unique expertise in helicopter flight and maintenance, we never have a dull week.”


Leo is an Avionics Lead Technician. After 8 years in the Army National Guard he used the GI Bill to earn associate degrees in Electronic Technology and Avionics, graduating in 2001. He’s been with Columbia Helicopters ever since.


“Seeing a product we fix get an aircraft back online is so rewarding. We are a family here; it takes all of us working together to keep Columbia moving forward. It just doesn’t get much better than that.”


Leo E. Keelan, one of over 800 proud employees that make Columbia Helicopters special.


Experience to fly, Knowledge to Maintain.


Read Leo’s full story and others at colheli.com/ourstory/faces.


rotorcraftpro.com


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