U.S. Virgin Islands Pilot Receives HAI’s Salute to Excellence Appareo Pilot of the Year Award

Helicopter Association International (HAI) recently announced that Maria Rodriguez of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), a pilot for Caribbean Buzz, is the 2018 winner of HAI’s Salute to Excellence Appareo Pilot of

the Year Award. The award

recognizes an outstanding single feat performed by a helicopter pilot during the year or extraordinary professionalism over time.

When the company Rodriguez flew for several years ago decided to move from USVI to the mainland United States, she chose to stay and open her own helicopter companies —

Caribbean Buzz and Caribbean Buzz Management. As Hurricane Maria bore down upon

As an owner/operator, Rodriguez and her husband manage a multi-aircraft operation that provides helicopter services throughout the Caribbean and yacht support operations around the globe, specializing in remote/adventure helicopter and seaplane support. This was a busy year for Caribbean Buzz. She even flew former U.S. President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year.

In late summer 2017, Rodriguez’s home of USVI was in the path of both major Caribbean hurricanes — Hurricane Irma first, followed by Hurricane Maria a few weeks later. With roads impassable after Hurricane Irma, she walked from a safe shelter to her home, which was battered and flooded but still standing. She hiked for an additional two hours to reach the airport. Her hangar was damaged, but the helicopters had survived unscathed. She rolled them onto

immediately began to fly support missions wherever she could.

the ramp and “Every

evac flight started with tears,” Rodriguez says, “but ended with smiles!”

her home again, Rodriguez moved her helicopters to a reinforced hangar in Puerto Rico. As quickly as possible after the storm passed, she returned to the USVI to again fly support missions.

In both instances, Rodriguez documented the devastation to her islands with her camera, posting hundreds of photographs to social media. In turn, these images — often the only photos coming from the region and without compensation to Rodriguez — were picked up by media outlets and reproduced throughout the world. Her images helped to convey the devastation suffered by her island home to millions around the world, resulting in forewarning to others in the hurricane’s path and waves of support for the devastated islands.

Rodriguez does not seek the spotlight; she simply continues to serve her community through flight and photographs. She returns daily to the cockpit, flying support and relief missions (for 28 straight days at one point) and is still flying and filming today to support those in need.

Erickson Contracted to Build Two Additional S-64E Aircranes for the Korea Forest Service

Erickson Incorporated was recently contracted by the Korea Forest Service to build two new Aircranes to supplement the Forest Service’s firefighting capability. These aircraft are in addition to a previously ordered S64E Aircrane currently under construction at Erickson and due to be delivered in Q3 2018. The Forest Aviation Headquarters, a subsidiary of the Korea Forest Service, has ordered two additional S-64E models equipped with firefighting tanks, sea snorkels, foam cannons, glass cockpit, composite main rotor blades and NVG capability. The S-64 Aircrane is well-known in Korea and has a strong reputation for being the most efficient firefighting aircraft in its existing fleet.

“This was a global competition, and we were competing with manufacturers from around the world,” said Douglas Kitani, CEO and director of Erickson “We are pleased to bring the work and jobs to our Southern Oregon facility and apply Erickson’s unique skillset to augment Korea’s firefighting capabilities.”

KFS was the first foreign government to purchase S-64s from Erickson in 2001, and to date it has operated five Aircranes in Korea while maintaining a contract for parts and service support.

26 Jan/Feb 2018

This new contract brings the total number of orders for the KFS Aircrane fleet to eight, with the expectation of delivering the seventh and eighth aircraft by the end of 2019. The contract award decision was based on the superior performance and reliability of the Aircrane, Erickson’s attention to customer support, and the relationship of trust that has been built with the Korean Forest Service over the past 20 years.

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