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Legacy: James Wisecup By Joanna Dodder Nellans


Former Helicopter Association International (HAI) Board of Directors chair James Wisecup never stopped learning. When he retired as assistant chief pilot for Air Methods in 2019, he had just earned a bachelor’s in aviation science from Southern Utah University.


“Jim was a highly respected member of the rotorcraft community, and we will miss his knowledge and leadership,” HAI president and CEO James Viola said. “He was an advocate for safe flying, training, and mentorship, and he was always willing to share his experience and passion for flying.”


Growing up knowing he wanted to be a pilot, Wisecup quit college to sign up for service in Vietnam so he could learn to fly helicopters. He served with the Comancheros in the 101st Airborne Division and was shot down three times, earning several decorations including a Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and multiple Air Medals.


After flying for the U.S. Department of Interior and then the offshore oil industry, in 1987 he began serving the rest of his civilian career in the HAA sector.


“It felt like the right place to make a difference – helping pilots to be better pilots, our managers to be better managers, and my check airmen to be better check airmen,” Wisecup explained in a 2018 interview with HAI’s Rotor magazine. “Because if we can help each other, it’s a whole lot easier.”


Wisecup also was active in Southern Utah University’s College of Aerospace Sciences and Technology. He served as Aviation Advisory Board chair, advanced flight instructor, and FAA designated pilot examiner while mentoring hundreds of pilots. College representatives estimate Wisecup performed approximately 700 check rides with its students since 2013.


“Jim was generous with his time and experience, measuring his success by the people he was able to teach, mentor, and support,” Wisecup’s obituary stated. “He was a tireless advocate for aviation safety, pioneering the use of night vision for civil aviation, among many other initiatives across the industry.”


Just a month before his July 30, 2020, death at age 71, Wisecup was honored with the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise. His willingness to share all of that expertise is his professional legacy.


“I have been in the helicopter industry for 29 years and it seems like every time I was at an event or educational conference, Jim was there,” reminisced Lyn Burks, Rotorcraft Pro editor/owner. “Always the consummate mentor and educator, he was consistently willing to share his vast experience with younger pilots and encourage them to reach their aviation goals. Jim’s wisdom and easygoing style was a model for many of us, and he will be missed by all who knew him.”


72 Nov/Dec 2020


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