I’m Wryan, I grew up in Texas but moved away to join the Coast Guard after high school and have been moving around every few years since. I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2012 and began my military flight training the same year, I’ve been flying ever since! These days I fly helicopters for the US Coast Guard.
How did you get into flying helicopters?
Flying helicopters is something I always thought I would love to do, and I found I had a passion for Search and Rescue (SAR) during my time as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. So, I took a chance after high school and signed on for 6 years of training (4 at the Coast Guard Academy and 2 at flight school) in order to be able to do this job, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made!
What’s been your most enjoyable time as a pilot?
It’s really impossible to pick just one experience or aspect of the job. Every flight is different, every SAR case is unique with its own challenges, and almost every flight is rewarding in its own way. To me, the best part of the job is the people and the experiences you share.
I have the honour of working with some of the best folks in the world and I cherish the time we spend together flying and solving problems, the camaraderie you build with your crew is unsurpassed. But it’s not just your fellow aircrew, it’s also the people you save. To be able to fly out into a nasty situation and help someone out who is having a bad day is incredibly rewarding, but it’s even better when you’re able to look back into the cabin and see the happiness in their facial expressions as they know they are now safe and headed home.
Once you passed your exams, how did your career begin and continue?
All new Coast Guard aviators show up to their first station with a solid foundation of how to fly, thanks to great training at Navy flight school and the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL. However, there’s much more to learn. On average, it takes pilots another two years and at least 700 total military flight hours of on the job training to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to become the Pilot In Command of a Coast Guard helicopter.
How do you recommend someone to get a job like yours?
First, join the Coast Guard and work hard to get a coveted spot in flight training. From there, continue to work hard every day to pass the various stages of training within flight school, and continue working hard once you show up to your air station to begin learning how to be an effective Coast Guard pilot.
What have you found the most difficult about trying to make a career in this industry and why?
Military training can be difficult regardless of the field you choose, and pilot training on top of that can be a challenge as well. Thankfully, I’ve had awesome mentors that have invested their time in my education, and that has made all the difference.
With the current job you have, how many hours do you fly a year?
I’ve been averaging around 300-400 hrs a year.
Can you list the aircrafts you have flown, and which one has been your favourite?
I have flown a handful of Cessna’s, a DA-20, RV-12, L-39, a couple of Piper float planes, and a PT19 once. In the military, we started with the T-6B, then once I progressed to helicopters, we learned in the TH-57B/C (Bell Jet Ranger equivalent), and then finally the MH-60T Jayhawk, my current aircraft. I have also flown the MH-65D a couple times, but was never designated in the helicopter. I am only certified to fly the MH-60T in my capacity as a Coast Guard pilot.
Do you have any long-term goals as a helicopter pilot?
I’m always striving to become a better pilot, whether that be technical knowledge, pure flying skill, or the ability to be an effective member of the helicopter crew. I also hope to become an instructor pilot, and in a few years, I’ll be moving to a new air station where I’ll focus on learning the new area of operations.
Any advice you’d give to aspiring pilots?
Just keeping working towards your goal! Often it can be overwhelming as you begin or work through your journey to become a pilot, but if it’s something that you want to do just take it one day at a time and you’ll get there eventually.
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