Meet a otor

Pro RPMN: What is your current position?

I am the regulatory compliance manager at Coptersafety in Helsinki, Finland, which means that I manage and direct all aspects of Coptersafety’s FAA training programs as well as our FAA Level D full- flight simulator qualifications. We operate H125, H145, AW139, and AW169 full flight simulators. Coptersafety is the largest independent simulator training center in the world. We provide helicopter-specific initial training and type ratings, recurrent training, and specialty tailored


programs in our simulators for customers around the world. My family and I moved to Finland about three years ago from Canada after I left my previous position of nine-plus years with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, where I held positions as a maintenance test pilot, site manager, and field service representative.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight.

I joined the U.S. Army in 1995, and a few short months later found myself on my first assignment in the Republic of Korea as a UH-60A Black Hawk crew chief. There were a few other soldiers that had arrived together in Korea from initial Black Hawk training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, so my company commander organized a training flight to give us our first taste of a flight in a helicopter. My first flight as a helicopter pilot was a few years later at Fort Rucker, Alabama, after attending the

12 July/Aug 2020

I grew up in Austin, Texas, and every year my parents would take my sister and me out to Bergstrom Air Force Base (now a commercial international airport) to watch the air shows from the time I was a little kid. I remember watching the Thunderbirds scream overhead, sitting in the static display aircraft on the tarmac, and talking to all the pilots standing proud next to their flying machines, and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. Years later, when I decided to join the military and started talking to the recruiters, they sold me on being a helicopter mechanic as my avenue to get into aviation. I’ve been told since, I wasn’t the only one they sold that story to.

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you?

I knew heading into the Army that I wanted to fly. Sitting in the back of a Black Hawk

U. S. Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School and starting flight school in the TH-67 (civilian Bell 206B3). The flight instructors there at Ft. Rucker made it all look so easy on the first day in the helicopter. They are flipping switches, pressing buttons, making radio calls, and I was about a mile behind the aircraft when the instructor looked at me and said, “It’s all yours; take the controls!”

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters?

Matt Presnal

every day made me even more sure that I wanted to be up front. After getting to Korea, I immediately started working on getting my applications to Warrant Officer Candidate School and flight school put together. Once accepted, everyone goes through initial training in helicopters first, and gets to put in a “wish list” of aircraft they would like to go on to advanced training in. I asked for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and was lucky enough to get my first choice of both aircraft and assignment location in Germany with the 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry, more commonly known as “Quarterhorse.”

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially?

When I left the military, my first commercial flying position was flying television news in Cleveland, Ohio. I found it was a valuable transition to commercial flying and let me build my confidence in the commercial realm after so many years of being an OH-58D scout pilot in the Army. From there I transitioned into a HEMS position in Durango, Colorado, which I found both extremely rewarding as well as challenging at times. Rewarding, in the sense of working with first responders and making some great friends along the way. It was also beautiful flying there in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, but it did come with some challenging conditions and scenarios at times.

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