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Meet a otor


Pro RPMN: What is your current position?


I am a fire pilot for Heliqwest. I fly a B205 on a local fire contract in Southern California (Heaps Peak) for the U.S. Forest Service. RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.


My first flight was in an R22 out of Torrance, California. I remember walking up to the helicopter wondering, “Wow, is this small helicopter going to fly?” I had never seen one up close and only knew that helicopters were typically much larger. Once in the helicopter and in a hover, I was certain that this was what I would do for living. I was astounded by how it felt to just float above the earth’s surface like that. My flight took me over the coast and back to the airport. I was hooked.


RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?


Right after graduating from high school, I found a local flight school where I earned my ratings, and was lucky enough to be able to start flying tours in a H269 shortly after earning my commercial pilot’s license. Things were different when I started flying back in 1990. There were so many flight schools and so many helicopter operators and opportunities to build flight time. After a couple of years flying tours for smaller companies, I landed my first real job at National Helicopters out of Van Nuys, California, flying traffic-watch, news, and some movie production.


RPMN: When or how did you choose to fly helicopters, or did they choose you?


I had always wanted to fly helicopters since I was a little girl. I have a photo of my brother and I next to a B206 that had landed at the California Science Center for some event where


12 Nov/Dec 2020 Desiree Horton


my brother and I took classes when we were kids. Any time I saw a helicopter fly over I looked to the sky. When I graduated from high school I looked into joining the Army, but found out women could not fly into combat as this was prior to the 1993 rule change, so I went the civilian route.


RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?


With around 300 hours and Bell factory school I put myself through, I was flying tours for several small companies out of Van Nuys Airport. Heli-Tours and Orbic Helicopters both had arrangements with local tourist agencies, so I would get bus loads of up to 30-50 people several nights a week to fly over Los Angeles.


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


Before I knew that being a helicopter pilot was a possibility (as it seemed like something out of reach for a female), I thought about being a photographer or veterinarian. Both fields are dramatically different and still interest me, but I think now after doing the work I do I would have become a firefighter. I like working with like-minded people and serving the public. I love helping others and being there for people in their time of need.


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


Many years ago, I was an adrenaline junkie. I was either riding my street bikes or dirt bikes, or snowboarding. Now, I am happy hiking, walking on the beach, or taking my beach cruiser out on the bike path. I sold my home in Los Angeles a few years ago to live closer to the beach and have that beach lifestyle. I’ve slowed down and enjoy the simple things in life now. I prefer my land-based activities to be more relaxing. I get my fix of


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