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Aviation Memories Are A Pilot’s Greatest Gift


By Randy Rowles


Bell Helicopter retirees gather for lunch every Friday at the Texas Motor Speedway.


Seated L-R: Dub Blessing, Gary Hildebrandt, Bennie Shields, A. Wayne Brown, Gary Young, name withheld and Austin Rowles. Standing L-R: John Decker, Loren Doughty, Angelo Spelios, Bruce Camp, Russ Spray and Randy Rowles.


Each Friday, a group of the greatest helicopter pilots on the planet meet for lunch in Fort Worth, Texas. This group of pilots includes retired FAA inspectors, OEM test pilots, instructors, military, and even a few helicopter world record holders. They discuss past, present, and future happenings within the helicopter industry, enjoy a great meal, and then it happens: oral history lessons for those who listen. Pretty cool stuff!


Each story told by these helicopter industry historians are direct, first-person memories and experiences. Often pictures and documented artifacts from a time gone by are passed around the table for all to see and enjoy. Each story told is unique to the individual storyteller, but the experience expressed during the event is shared amongst all within the group. In the early days of helicopter flight, the do’s and don’t’s of flying a helicopter were learned through a pioneering spirit of, “Let’s see if this works.”


Randy Rowles has been an FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is currently the owner of the Helicopter Institute. He can be reached at randyrowlesdpe@gmail.com


If you have any comments or questions, please let me know at randyrowlesdpe@gmail.com


80 July/Aug 2020


With each story comes the lesson learned during a hair-raising experience that only grace and luck allowed the storyteller to live to tell.


During lunch a few months ago, I was asked by a member of this group about a helicopter-related event I was involved in. Without much thought or delay, I found myself telling a tale of my own escapades in the helicopter industry. As I told my story, I suddenly remembered who my audience was. I almost felt embarrassed as I looked around the group thinking of their experiences, and how trivial my story must be to them.


As I spoke, I felt my eyes begin to look down toward the table as I did not want to see how bored they must be. Yet, as I glanced back to the group, each person was intently listening to every word as if they were as excited as I was by the moment being described. Not only were they listening, they asked questions as they were genuinely interested in hearing my story. Then it happened. An industry pioneer said, “This reminds me of a similar situation I experienced.” With those words and the story that followed, I realized that each member continues their helicopter career vicariously through the stories and memories of each of their peers and guests at the luncheon. Being able to rekindle a memory and share that moment was special to me.


As helicopter pilots, we all share experiences that are unique to the craft we fly. Although our friends and family may look interested and listen to our tales of vertical-flight adventure, it is only those who have experienced our passion who truly understand.


Fly safe!


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