With over four decades in the helicopter industry and clocking in around 14,000 flying hours, whilst holding positions as a Pilot, Chief Pilot, Founder, Manager, Business Developer to Director, it’s fair to say that Stan Rose, Executive Director of TOPS, has a fair amount of experience under his belt.
Let’s not forget to mention his volunteering experience and board positions, and moving from flight school, through to the frontlines of War, to maintenance school, through to air medical and medical on the ground, oil production, and safety management!
With a noteworthy career to date, Stan has certainly seen some changes during his time, and he continues to educate, influence and improve the way we work and operate in the helicopter industry.
21, Young, and a Top Gun
Off the back of the college deferment in America during the Vietnam War, Stan went to flight school and then joined the army, where, at the time, the mortality rate for helicopter pilots was over 50%, and Air Cavalry was deemed the new theory. During his time serving in Vietnam, he lead his team as the oldest member (at the tender age of 20!), and chartered Generals, including one of a four star status, two US Senators. He also flew the backwaters with the Long Range Recon Patrol, and Charlie Company of the 75th Rangers. After racking up 1,200 hours of experience, he finished his tour when he had only been 21 years old for six weeks.
Too Many Pilots, not enough Jobs…
After serving in Vietnam, he spent some time with the U.S. Army Reserves and attended the Maintenance Officer/Test Pilot school, before moving on to civil. There weren’t a lot of jobs available at the time, so this is where services such as tour operators and air charter services were created. Stan proactively worked with the police department and flew for the only civilian burn center in the world at the time, the Crozier-Chester Burn Center. “I took the helicopter up to New York City and met airliners coming in from all over the world to bring people to this.”
In between his time flying air medicine, he flew people and equipment out to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, where an estimated half of the helicopters in the United States working in the Gulf. Stan estimates around 600 at the time!
Safety and Landing
After his stint in the Gulf, he went back into medicine, and had a tally of 14,000 hours in the air. At the same time, he started taking on more responsibility on the ground, and running medical programs for hospitals. He recalls a vivid memory that stays front of mind to this day, where he was in between managing medical programs and flying, and couldn’t remember if he had refueled his aircraft. This was the moment when he decided to make the switch and stay grounded, and take on more management responsibilities and safety initiatives.
So – What’s Changed?
When the Vietnam veterans returned home, they all had clocked between 1,000 and 1,200 hours, and so this became ‘the norm’ – the standard per se – a requirement of 1,200 hours to get a job.
Today, for pilots who are in training, and those pilots who are already working in the industry, we still talk about using the unit of hours as a measure of ones’ experience.
But is this really the most accurate measure?
Stan reflects on his time while he was in flight school and compares it to today’s standards. “I don’t think that you have to have 1,000 hours to be an experienced pilot.” he says, “In reality, most of the people who make it to 1,000 hours are flight instructors, who fly the same course over and over again. I often joke that even a 1,000 hour pilot today only has the same 100 hours ten times over!
I would rather have somebody that went out and got some experience, doing a variety of different things, you know, so it’s a fundamental question, and I think we need to fix it,
because hours themselves are not a proper measure.”
Education is Experience; Experience is Education
From Vietnam to the Gulf of Mexico, through to New York and beyond, Stan’s extensive first- hand experience sees his helicopter safety presentations a popular choice for attendees. “I can do talks that are interesting to the average pilot, not just preaching aviation theory,” he says, “and I also talk about the mistakes that we can all make, and how to avoid them.”
His experiences also give him great oversight on the industry and sees areas where we can improve as a whole. “Our pilots are starting at a disadvantage because they have some stuff to learn, even after they get their commercial license. It’s not enough to just count on the number of hours a pilot has.” Stan says, “We have to develop a legitimate way to train our pilots, so they have the actual experience they need, in case there’s an emergency.”
TOPS – leading from the top
With Stan’s vision and experience, the industry is in safe hands. “In the old days, we had to do that simply by flight hours. But, you know, we know that you can do classroom education, and you can do simulator training and new concepts such as mission-specific training. And, you know, we need to adopt, all those things, so that we make our industry as safe as possible.”
Safety in our industry is paramount. It’s been instilled in the way Stan works right from the beginning of his career in the aviation industry, and he wants to continue to positively influence and change the way the next generation thinks and learns, so that “they come up just believing that’s the way it works – they’ve never seen it any other way.”
This is also what TOPS strives to achieve, through education, effective training, working collaboratively towards mitigating the risk and continue making the heli tour operator industry a safer place to operate in.
To find out how to become a TOPS member, contact to us today.