The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has presented LifeFlight’s Dan Tyler its most prestigious accolade.
Tyler is the latest recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which acknowledges 50 years of accident and violation-free flying by an individual, their exemplary service, professionalism and devotion to aviation safety.
A native American (and an early “Rotor Torque” columnist in Australian Aviation), Tyler has amassed an impressive collection of military and civilian commendations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War, the 1999 Prince Phillip Helicopter Rescue Award for civil flying achievements.
Also, he is one of only two Australian-based pilots to receive the Helicopter Association International Pilot of the Year Award for his involvement in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race rescue in Bass Strait.
“All of those previous awards are kind of for doing ‘something stupid’ and getting away with it,” said Tyler. “Whereas this award is actually for making sure I did things right.”
Tyler began his career in helicopter rescue as pilot for the Surf Life Saving Association’s then Wales Rescue Helicopter Service in 1979. And after completing a Bachelor of Law at Sydney University, he maintained two separate career paths by working as a solicitor and a rescue pilot for almost 15 years.
“It reached the stage when I had to decide whether I was going to be a lawyer with a pilot’s licence or a pilot with a law degree – I decided to be a pilot with a law degree,” said Tyler.
“Because there was such a massive let-down from the intensity of your day-to-day life in Vietnam when you returned home, a lot of people just couldn’t get along without the adrenaline.
“I honestly believe that I was addicted to my own adrenaline and that is probably why I got into the rescue business. I was gradually able to withdraw from that need to become a very conservative pilot.”
With over 11,500 hours in the air, Tyler is now the simulation manager at the Thales LifeFlight Simulation Centre, part of LifeFlight’s training academy at Brisbane Airport. However, he maintains that the cockpit of a helicopter is where he still belongs.