For most of the past 21 years, Trey Williamson has spent time either working as a pilot or participating in flight training. As a Med-Trans Corp. line pilot, he works seven days on and seven days off in 12-hour shifts as he flies a medical helicopter that provides services to medical systems such as Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.
What drew you to this job and how did you become a medical helicopter pilot?
My father was an Army pilot in Vietnam, so from a very young age I was exposed to aviation. I think the biggest draw was several members of my family flew in the military and hearing their many stories about the freedom of flying. [For example], I had a great Uncle Cooke, who we all called Haas, who flew a Corsair in World War II. When he told stories about flying, you could see the excitement in his eyes and the love he had for flying.
I retired from the military in 2018 and had a few flying jobs before becoming a medical helicopter pilot, including flying a law enforcement helicopter, working as a test pilot for FlightSafety International and developing electric aircraft for UPS. My last position did not involve a lot of flying, which I missed a great deal. When an opportunity arose for a helicopter pilot here in Greenville working for Med-Trans, I jumped on this chance to get back in the cockpit and have not looked back since.
What kind of training goes into doing your job?
Each pilot who works as a medical helicopter pilot has at a minimum an FAA commercial rotary-wing pilot license and must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Read, speak, write and understand English.
- Hold an FAA-issued private pilot certificate.
- Possess at least a valid second-class medical certificate.
- Obtain 150 hours of flight experience and 30 hours of ground instruction.
- Pass an FAA knowledge and flight test.
As medical helicopter pilots, we are also required to have a minimum of 2,000 flight hours to be considered for this job.
Each pilot must be checked out in the particular aircraft we will be flying. This is a two-week course at our corporate headquarters, where we have ground school and a flight portion focused on the aircraft we will use in our operation. Once we arrive at our base, we are required to do monthly, quarterly and annual training. We also have to do a yearly “check ride,” where an instructor pilot will evaluate our aircraft knowledge and flying skills.
What would you say is the greatest misconception about your job?
I would say that flying is easy. It is a skill [that] takes time and training to acquire. Many people think it is relatively easy to do.
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