Home' Collective Magazine : Heliweb Magazine March 2016 Contents
March 2016 51
50 heliweb magazine
Every month, heliweb staff will be interviewing an industry pilot.
We’ll talk to them about their career highlights, how they got into
the industry and what they want to share with other pilots in the
Meet Rick Avery
on camera, I was always impressed. Here we
were thinking we had the coolest job being
stuntmen, when here comes this machine —
blowing up sand, and demanding attention.
That interest led to him obtain his fixed wing
private, commercial, multi-engine and instrument
ratings, beginning in 1980— the very same year
he began acting and stunt work in Hollywood.
His got his first helicopter time in 1990, after
flying to movie sets with famed movie pilot Dave
Gibbs. Dave would offer him the chance at
some stick time during flights, and that ignited
the desire to pursue his rotary add-on ratings.
He obtained his helicopter certification in 2000,
with Group 3 Aviation at Van Nuys Airport
in California, flying the Schweitzer SC300.
After progressing through his rotary ratings
to CFII, in 2005, Avery was offered a job
instructing in his down time from the movie set.
As a flight instructor for Group 3 Aviation, he
flew the Schweitzer 300 and the Robinson
R44— a role he held for over ten years. In 2008,
Dave Gibbs, the chief pilot of the oldest news
helicopter company in the United States, National
Helicopters, offered Avery a job flying electronic
news gathering (ENG) work. Initially refusing the
role due to availability concerns, Avery eventually
accepted a role a year later. While flying for
National Helicopter Services, Avery also began
working in the Airbus
Helicopters AS-350 A-star
as the prevalence of camera
systems like Cineflex, Gyron,
Pictorvision and Tyler mounted cameras became
standard. That experience in turn led to movie roles
no longer on the ground doing stunts, but as an aerial
coordinator and movie pilot flying missions to get the
shots that are seen in many blockbuster movies today.
In 2012, through another close relationship with Phil
DiFiore, owner of Rotorcraft Support, Avery was
approached to fly fire contract work for Rotorcraft
Support subsidiary, Guardian Helicopters, during
the fire season when he was available. Loving the
diversity of a new role to add to his experience,
Avery completed fire training with Guardian.
He also received specialized factory training on
the Bell 206, as well as from well-known trainer
Glenn White from training company, Eurosafety,
in the AS350. Avery reported that it was some of
the most in depth training he has ever completed.
Trying to juggle the role of pilot and stunt coordinator
was not always easy. Avery once had to return
from a movie set in Panama to fly fire suppression
missions— such was Avery’s commitment to the role.
Continuing on to log nearly eight-thousand total flight
hours in his flying career, the unexpected passing of
mentor and friend Dave Gibbs left the role of Chief
Pilot open at National Helicopter Service. Avery
was offered the position, and still serves in that role
today, loving every moment of it, he says. When
asked to reflect on his career —both current and
past— Avery venerated, “If I’m not on a movie set,
I’m flying. I have been very fortunate over the years
to do both, and have had understanding bosses
that have offered me the flexibility to continue
in both fields— ones that have sometimes now
intertwined between stunt work and aviation.
I love working for National as the varied amount
of work that they do means that I could be doing
anything from tours to private charter, or shooting
a television commercial with a camera mounted
to the front of the A-star on any given day, so it
never gets boring.” National Helicopter Service
recently purchased Elite Helicopter Tours, one
of Los Angeles’ busiest tour operators, which
has added several helicopters to the fleet and
given Avery several more pilots to manage.
It is a task like everything else in his career; one that
he relishes by being able to share his knowledge
and experience with other pilots in the industry.
Avery is also the proud recipient of the 2009
Taurus World Stunt Award for his work in Batman-
The Dark Knight and several Screen Actors Guild
awards for stunt work in the Stephen Soderberg
directed film which starred Michael Douglas, Traffic.
Avery met stuntwoman Donna Keegan during the
filming of Cannonball Run 2, and the pair was wed
in 2014. You may have seen her work as Jamie Lee
Curtis’ stunt double in the movie True Lies with Arnold
Schwarzenegger, in which Keegan plays Curtis as
she is dangling from the skids of a helicopter over
the Florida Keys. Keegan keeps Avery grounded he
says. “She makes me take every Sunday off when I
am home. It gives us time to relax and be grounded.
We both work in an industry that is very fast paced.”
50 heliweb magazine
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