My career as a helicopter pilot
As the director of operations, Captain Andrew Masterson is responsible for a fleet of five helicopters and a team of seven pilots. Here is a brief look at how he got to where he is today.
1.How did you get into flying helicopters?
I have always had a fascination with helicopters and their remarkable versatility. However the opportunity to fly them didn’t come until I already had over 1800 fixed wing flying hours.
Sometime in mid-July 1991 I working at Cork airport’s European College of Aeronautics as a flying and ground instructor on aeroplanes. Irish Helicopters, whose main base was also at the airport, were offering sponsorships to train as co-pilots for a new search and rescue contract and I applied and was asked come for an interview and assessment. A week later I was offered the position and was back to being a flying student again but this time I was about to learn to be a helicopter pilot.
2.Working as a helicopter pilot is a risky job, have you had any close calls?
I don’t consider flying to be particularly risky once we stay within the bounds of sensible and safe flight regimes. As pilots we all know of people and of incidents where it all went wrong but if compared with the numbers of incidents on the road or in the home the actual numbers are minimal. In addition we learn from these situations and so are better able to consider how to deal with them should we find ourselves in similar future positions.
3.What is a typical day for you?
I normally arrive in the office at around 8am and spend the first hour or so clearing email and discussing the days requirements with our secretaries, engineering staff and the duty pilots. Then Captain Don Douglas, my deputy and company training captain, and I will discuss the upcoming training and administration tasks such as the six-monthly pilot proficiency check flights (we are both UAE civil aviation authority certified examiners), fire fighting and first aid and working on the roster schedule for pilots to travel for simulator work or courses.
4.What have been the highlights of your career so far?
I have been exceptionally lucky and there are many highlights including but not least having my hobby, flying, paid for since 18 years of age and still being paid to do it 30 years later. Here are just a few of my most memorable moments:
-Experiencing flying in all weathers from a storm in the Atlantic to the cool of n over the desert.
-Carrying a human heart on an ambulance flight and hearing later that the operation was a success.
-Carrying my parents and family for the first time and seeing the wonder on their faces.
-Being allowed to fly in an IHL S61N from Dublin airport in 1983 as a passenger and less than ten years later being qualified to fly that very same helicopter.