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Helicopter Search and Rescue, Safety Excellence Award, and 1,000 Hours Incident Free Helicopter Flying for One Pilot

Ben Lewis, CFI-I, Flight Instructor, Guidance Aviation and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) Search and Rescue (SAR) Pilot, has already experienced a good summer as things go for helicopter pilots. Lewis flies for both Guidance Aviation and YCSO, logging some serious flying time in Robinson R44 helicopters.

Recently, Lewis was the recipient of the quarterly Safety Excellence Award from Guidance Aviation while also just logging 1,000 hours of incident free flying.

To top that off, on June 02, 2013,
the YCSO Search and Rescue
helicopter, “Rescue 1”, piloted by Lewis, coordinated with YCSO ground personnel to save more lives.

Report from YCSO:
“On June 1, 2013, at approximately 10:45 PM, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office personnel were notified regarding 2 hikers possibly lost in the Pine Mountain area. The Pine Mountain trailhead is located at Salt Flats near Dugas, Arizona. The reporting party explained he had seen the 2 men earlier in the day around 3:45PM and realized they had not returned to camp. His concern for their welfare resulted in a call to YCSO. He told dispatchers the pair was wearing only t-shirts with short pants and carrying a small supply of water.

Just before 1 AM on June 2, the wife of one of the missing hikers called YCSO. Deputies were given a cell phone number to contact the hikers. About 20 minutes later, deputies spoke briefly with one of the missing hikers on the only cell phone in their possession. Deputies confirmed the hikers, who were aged 23 and 24 from the Phoenix area, were lost with no food or warm clothing, and a cell phone battery about to expire. Fortunately, neither hiker had medical conditions. Due to darkness, the pair was unable to locate a known trail. The initial cell phone call allowed dispatchers to gather GPS coordinates for their current location. These coordinates were updated throughout the night and it was determined the pair was well over 2 miles from where their vehicle had been parked.

As daylight broke, attempts to reach the hikers by cell phone failed. It was assumed the battery had expired and as a result, no further GPS coordinates would be available. The Forest Patrol deputy called out the Backcountry Unit from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Response Team (YCSRT) for ground searching along with the deployment of Rescue 1 Helicopter.

Just after 10 AM, Rescue 1 Helicopter was overhead and by 10:25 AM, the Rescue 1 crew located both hikers and provided exact GPS coordinates to the Backcountry team. The missing hikers were eventually contacted on the ground and escorted to base camp. Neither hiker required medical attention.

Lessons learned — Avoid starting a hike later in the day when nightfall is expected soon. If lost, it is generally best to remain stationary and let rescue teams come to you. In this case, last know GPS coordinates were not accurate because the hikers continued to move after the latest available reading in an attempt to “self-rescue.” A cell phone can truly be a lifeline and is only as good as its battery, so charge the battery fully before leaving. Consider an additional cell phone or back-up battery. Take time to plan the hike – Stay on the main trail. A late start could mean an overnight stay in the outdoors if you become lost. Consider bringing extra clothing, matches, water, first aid supplies, and a light source.” – YCSO

Our hats go off to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) and the great work they do.  And, of course, great job to Ben Lewis, dispatch, and maintenance for all the work the team does to keep the aircraft flying and saving lives!

Related Links:
Big Bug News
Helicopter Search and Rescue Pilots Save Lives
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO)

Guidance Aviation provides high altitude helicopter and fixed wing flight training utilizing the newest aircraft and best equipment available. For more information, go to or

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