[header 3] Q&A with Heather Howley [/header]
Five years ago, Heather Howley decided to open Independent Helicopters, in Newburgh, NY. She recently opened a second location in Saratoga Springs. On top of owning her own company, Heather is Gold Seal Rated, Chief Helicopter pilot, with over 4500 hours of flight time. She also does power line patrols and aerial photography, tours, rides and events.
She’s a member of Girls with Wings which supports and encourages woman and girls in Aviation, Women in Aviation, the 99’s and Whirly Girls.
ROTORNATION was lucky enough to be able to get in touch with her to ask her some questions.
RN: How old were you when you decided to become a helicopter pilot, and why ?
H: 22 years old. I went for my first helicopter ride, and I was hooked! I’ve always loved to travel and I thought this was an amazing way to travel! Since I don’t need a runway to land, it gives me so much more freedom!
RN: What was your parents’ reaction?
H: My mom told me that I would die. That it was a waste of money, a waste of time. I knew that I wanted to fly though, and I wouldn’t let anyone else make the decision for me.
RN: Did you find it hard to train to become a pilot?
H: Yes. The time and money to take to do it was a lot. Hovering was really hard and I had to work really hard to do that.
RN: As you were training to become a pilot, you also had 3 different jobs, what were they ?
H: I was an emergency vet tech. I worked at stem cell research facility., I was an office manager at a aero space company, I was an office manager at a jewelry store, I tutored.
RN: Why did you decide to open your own flight school?
H: When I became a flight instructor I felt like the students weren’t coming first and that wasn’t right. So in order to make sure that students were being put first, I decided that I could not only do that, but it would be something I could enjoy doing.
RN: Where did the name “Independent helicopters” come from?
H: I had the opportunity to become an Independent contractor, when I began flying. Then as I got busier and busier, I knew that Independent Helicopters was the name of my company. It represents my independent side.
RN: Did you ever have any “famous” people on board?
RN: Any anecdotes to share about a specific passenger?
H: Flying in a helicopter is very different then in an airplane. I often describe it to people like a magic carpet ride. I often do rides for young girls to encourage them to be involved with Aviation. This one little girl I took up with her father. She was about 5 or 6 years old. She started off very excited, but then started screaming (through the headset mind you), at the top of her lungs. Then after we took off, she calmed down and was loving it. She left saying she wanted to be a pilot just like me. It was touching to know that I made such an impact on that little girl’s life, in just a few moments.
RN: Is there any event or project you participated in that was really cool for any specific reason?
H: I really enjoy some of the commercial work I’ve done! Some of these include; Discovery channel, Shoots for letterman show, Power line patrol, Geological surveys & Aerial photography.
RN: Do you feel like it is harder to operate a business, as a woman?
H: Absolutely you always have to prove yourself. No one thinks you are good enough or capable… until they fly with me!! Then they always say I’m such an amazing pilot. It’s makes me a better pilot because I go above and beyond to be better.
RN: Any advice to women out there that would like to be a helicopter pilot?
H: Don’t give up. Don’t ever think you aren’t good enough. Don’t feel obligated to fit in. be proud of your gender and what you have accomplished.
RN: Where do you see your business in 10 years?
H: 4 or more locations, all over the country. With an amazing 141 school to help veterans. An established and prospering commercial side including charter and utility services. I want people to think of Independent Helicopters when they think of helicopters, not only as a resource for helicopters, but also how we can make a dramatic impact on people’s lives.[pullquote left]“Never stop believing in your dreams and surround yourself with those that believe in you, even when you doubt yourself. And hold your head up high!!” – Heather Howley[/pullquote]