Canadian Ian Mitchell says his inspiration for becoming a helicopter pilot came from his father, who was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was also one of the directors of the Canadian International Airshow in Toronto.
“I grew up around aviation and have been around aeroplanes and helicopters for as long as I can remember,” Mr Mitchell said.
“I was one of those little boys who built plastic model aeroplanes and had them hanging from his bedroom ceiling,”
He is now employed as a helicopter pilot, flying to offshore oil rigs on the Persian Gulf from the company’s main base in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Mr Mitchell started taking flying lessons at the age of 16 while in high school in Canada. He obtained his private pilot’s licence and his commercial pilot’s licence, and at age 19, got his first job working as an aeroplane pilot in northern Canada.
Later that same year, Mr Mitchell studied at an aviation college in Canada and began flying helicopters when he was 21.
In 1997, the opportunity arose to fly Bell412s, 15-seater, twin-engine helicopters, to offshore oil platforms in the Persian Gulf, out of Doha, Qatar. Mr Mitchell said he jumped at the opportunity and has never looked back.
He has been in his current job since 1999, and has his home in Phuket. Helicopter pilots often work a-six-week-on, six-week-off schedule.
“Travelling back and forth to the Caribbean from the Middle East became gruelling. Tired of crossing so many time zones, I made a right turn at the airport in New Delhi one night, instead of a left. A couple aeroplane rides later, I found myself in Phuket. I haven’t been back to the Caribbean since. After several years of living on the island, I decided to build a home here with my wife,” he said.
Mr Mitchell said the most interesting part of flying helicopters, especially the larger types like the AW139, is the mix of technology and the jobs with which the crew are tasked.
“Every day and every flight is different,” he said.
“Without a doubt the most difficult part of the job for a pilot is the extensive time spent away from family and friends.
“Flying aeroplanes and especially larger helicopters, has given me the opportunity to live and work anywhere in the world. So I’m very fortunate,” he said.