HAI Announces Recipients of 2011 "Salute to Excellence" Awards

Alexandria, VA, Feb. 11, 2011– Helicopter Association International is proud to announce the winners of its "Salute to Excellence" awards, who will be honored at an awards dinner in Orlando, Fla. on March 7, 2011 during HELI-EXPO 2011, the world's largest trade show dedicated to the international helicopter community.

This year's presentations will mark HAI's 50th anniversary of saluting excellence by honoring the bravery, skill, devotion and community service of members of the international helicopter community. The first Pilot of the Year Award, HAI's oldest honor, was presented for 1960 to Don Carson of Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.

"Since helicopters first flew, this industry's members have been using exceptional skill and dedication to aid and support the public greater good," HAI President Matt Zuccaro said. "The latest honorees continue that outstanding tradition. We and our award sponsors applaud their efforts, which go above and beyond."

Those honorees are:

Pilot of the Year Award: Lt. Audie Andry, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, for demonstrating exceptional airmanship and decisive action in landing his Sikorsky HH-60J (with five other crewmembers aboard) safely aboard the USCG Cutter Healy after it suffered a main-transmission input failure while in a 40-foot hover 100 feet from the ship at night. This award honors "an outstanding single feat performed by a helicopter pilot during the year or extraordinary professionalism over a period of time."

Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award: The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter 6605, Air Station New Orleans, La.–Lt. Cdr. Thomas G. Hickey, aircraft commander; Lt. Cdr. Craig Murray, copilot; flight mechanic/hoist operator and Avionics Electrical Technician 2nd Class Scott Lloyd, and Aviation Survival Technician Chief Petty Officer Kurt Peterson (rescue swimmer). This Eurocopter MH-65C was the first to arrive at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig after its explosion April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico; its crew assumed on-scene command of rescue and recovery efforts there. After an initial search, 6605 lowered Peterson to the Offshore Supply Vessel Damon B. Bankston, where he took charge of a makeshift medical team and triaged 115 survivors. The crew remaining on 6605 flew five of those survivors to safety. This award honors those who best demonstrate the value of helicopters to society by saving lives, protecting property and aiding those in distress.

Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael C. "Mike" Hurst. Currently chief pilot for PHI, Hurst has over his 40-year career left an indelible mark on the world of aviation, aeronautics and safety management within the U.S. and around the world. This award salutes excellence in management and leadership and is presented to an individual who is recognized for long and significant service to the international helicopter community.

Eurocopter Golden Hour Award: Capt. Daniel Aufdenblatten of Switzerland's Air Zermatt, rescue specialist Richard Lehner and Capt. Sabin Basnyat of Nepal's Fishtail Air. On April 29, 2010, a newly formed helicopter rescue team of Air Zermatt and Fishtail Air carried out what was arguably the highest longline rescue in history, evacuating three climbers from 22,800 feet (6,950 meters) up on Nepal's Mount Annapurna. This award recognizes the efforts of those who, through a particular activity or contributions over time to the air medical industry, advanced the use of helicopters in the vital mission of air medical transport.

W. A. (Dub) Blessing Certified Flight Instructor of the Year Award: Lawrence "Larry" Graves, chief pilot for AgustaWestland in Philadelphia. He is honored for providing, in the words of one nominator, "the highest standard of professional instruction to international and U.S. helicopter pilots" for more than 30 years. This award recognizes superlative contributions by a helicopter flight instructor in upholding high standards of excellence.

AgustaWestland Safety Award: Keith Johnson, Airborne Law Enforcement Association. Johnson has volunteered hundreds of hours to support helicopter safety initiatives through the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, the HAI Safety Committee and the International Helicopter Safety Team (for which he chairs the Safety Management System working group). This award acknowledges outstanding contributions in the promotion of safety and safety awareness throughout the international helicopter community.

Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance Award: Aviation Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Nicholas H. Baisden, U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station New Orleans, for his exceptional leadership in guiding 72 mechanics assigned temporarily to Air Station New Orleans to support the Coast Guard's aerial response to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. This award recognizes an individual who has distinguished himself or herself by longstanding excellence in the performance of helicopter maintenance or a single, significant and distinct contribution to helicopter maintenance.

MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award: The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter 6597, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) Aviation Detachment 10-01–Lt. Cdr. Robert G. Workman, Capt. Joseph T. Baker, Lt. j.g. Matthew J. Van Ginkel, Avionics Electrical Technician 3rd Class Kimberly N. Dechmerowski, Aviation Maintenance Technician 1st Class Thomas J. Masell, Avionics Electrical Technician 1st Class Joseph D. Paulson, Aviation Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Brian M. Dugal and Aviation Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Jacob S. Dickson. Deployed to the USCG Cutter Sherman as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South in the waters off the southeastern U.S., this crew interdicted six vessels engaged in illegal drug smuggling and accomplished "the unprecedented feat of stopping four vessels in one mission," according to the nominator. This award recognizes those who have contributed to the promotion and advancement of helicopters in support of law enforcement activities.

Excellence in Communications Award: Guy R. Maher of Vertical magazine and Lanier Media. A widely known and respected aviation photojournalist, Maher has spent 30 years providing a vital and unique firsthand perspective on the industry, while tangibly promoting a focus on safety. This award is given to the individual or organization achieving the most creative and distinct dissemination of information about the helicopter.

HAI is a professional trade association representing 3,000 plus members, in 74 nations, who safely operate more than 5,000 helicopters approximately 2.3 million hours each year. HAI is dedicated to the promotion of the helicopter as a safe, effective method of commerce, and to the advancement of the international helicopter community.

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