Manage episode 286318628 series 169835
Richard (Rick) Howell started spinning spanners on aircraft in 1960 as a QANTAS apprentice. Since then he has flown all through Australia and PNG including a 29 year run as a pilot for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Rick and his twin brother John both started in aviation at the same time which presented a number of interesting scenarios as their careers intersected and they were mistaken for each other.
As an aircraft maintainer Rick worked on 6 week field tours throughout Australia before working in Bouganville where he spent 7 months initially. At this time the Bell 47 and its variants was the light utility workhorse of the Australian helicopter fleet. Rick gained his fixed wing licence and built up experience flying in PNG before cross training onto helicopters.
That fixed wing experience in PNG later proved useful flying Bell 47s at 12-13’000 feet resupplying radio sites and dealing with the challenge of operations in the PNG highlands.
Other roles came Rick’s way over time and he spent 1976 through to 1988 with NSW National Parks. Here Rick was constantly touring around New South Wales supporting scientists and rangers. Bush fire response also became a key role before Government started to use more and more civil machines.
The ABC news helicopter pilot position may well have been the most prized gig in the country and once there (or at many of the other station news pilot positions) turn over was very low. Rick landed the job and spent 29 years seeing all parts of Australia covering news, supporting documentaries and generally having a great time! Quite often he and the media team would cross-hire helicopters from the destination when the station helicopter couldn’t be spared for the length of time.
One of the big yearly events that the ABC covered and that Rick got to know well was the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Launching out of Sydney harbour on Boxing Day the sailing fleet would be shadowed by the news helicopters down the coast to Tasmania. In the early days yachts would radio in their position to race coordinators and may have doctored their actual positions as a tactical advantage over competitors. That added an element of challenge for Rick and others locating them 50NM offshore in a single engine news helicopter
Unfortunately in recent years Australian TV stations have been winding back their helicopter investments and the ABC sold off their aircraft and closed the aerial support section down. Rick is still active flying in the Sydney area supporting aerial fire spotting and he filmed the 2020/21 night fireworks over Sydney Harbour.
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The post RWS 96 – What I’ve Been Doing for the Last 60 Years with Richard Howell appeared first on The Rotary Wing Show Podcast.