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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Emily Winter Hiller

Friday's Fabulous Flyer --- She's beyond fabulous!

"If you want to talk helicopters, I'm your lady!"

Before we read all about this incredible woman, Emily has offered to become part of our December 5th Fly It Forward event, by taking women and girls on a helicopter ride! Because of the "huge" expense of operating this incredible machine, her company allowed her to take the helicopter, but they'll need $20 a passenger to help with fuel. She can take 3 people up at a time. This is a chance of a lifetime!  Emily will be at Renton Airport from 10 to 4 pm.

Her job? She's a CFII, Tour, Photo, and Ferry Pilot for Helicopters Northwest, Inc.

Helicopters Northwest is based at Boeing field, but they have satellite offices at Gig Harbor, Bremerton and Paine Field in Everett. With 9  CFI/CFIIs and 65 helicopters, they offer in-house financing for up to the full cost of professional helicopter flight training. They also offer tours around the Greater Seattle. Emily says, "year-round, 7 days a week, you can fly our helicopters flying all over the country!"

This amazing woman is the face of courage, beauty, adventure and talent.

Today she lives in Issiquah, WA, with her husband and two dogs, but she grew up in Northern Vermont. Growing up in Northern Vermont there hadn't been a lot of opportunities for general aviation, being the closest airport was two hours away. Besides, being a pilot wasn't her initial interest anyway. After high school, she went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada and graduated with a degree in Biochemistry. She spent a couple years in corporate pharmaceutical research, then moved to the Rockies, but soon ended up back in Vermont.  This time she became involved in a sled dog training and touring business. This was something that she "had" always wanted to do.

Emily took care of 50-120 dogs for three years. Then she drove 30 of them 4500 miles from Vermont to Alaska, where she lived on a glacier for the summer, giving dogsled rides to cruise ship tourists.  The only way in and out of the glaciers for her weekly shower and supplies was by helicopter. Passion strikes everywhere.

Despite her love for her dogs, sledding was not a viable career. And by the end of the 6 months she was hooked on helicopters. "They include all the facets of a career I could truly love: technically challenging, remote locations, inspiring views, quick-thinking, multi-tasking, independence, interesting people, no offices!!!... all of it."

What did she do?

Emily moved to Seattle in 2006, upon the advice of the pilots she'd met that summer. She'd never been to Seattle. She knew no one. No family. No friends. But within 6 months she was settled in her new city waitressing at a fancy restaurant, and had obtained financing for her flight training.

Her only goal: To become a helicopter pilot.

Choosing the smallest flight school she could--- opposite of the large University she'd attended in Canada--- Emily had the great fortune to receive her Private, Commercial and CFI training from the Chief Pilot at Helicopters Northwest, Doug Skeem, who has nearly 20 years of teaching experience.  She flew 4 days a week, studied upward of 2 hours a day, every day, and in 18 months she was a Commercial/Instrument Rated Helicopter Pilot and CFI!

Along her journey Emily met her soon to be husband, also a commercial helicopter pilot. She finished her CFII in May of 2009. She got married in June, 2009. And she started working for Helicopter Northwest in July, 2009.

She has over 1000 hours in helicopters now!

Her dream? To return to Alaska one day.

"I absolutely LOVE teaching and flying tours, which we do a lot of at Helicopters Northwest. I currently have about 10 students at all levels, of those are 2 women student pilots who are doing GREAT! Being a woman in helicopters is usually an advantage, as we tend to be smaller and have a lighter control touch from the start. Helicopters are extremely sensitive to fly and since they are typically not very large, weight is a big deal for commercial operators-- smaller pilot is better! My women helicopter pilot friends are flying all over the country doing everything from utility to news to offshore to hospital flying. Although we are few and far between we tend to stick tightly together. I am a member of both the Whirly-Girls and the 99s and do everything I can to get women who are interested in flying into the air. I can't imagine my life without flying!"

Emily can be reached most easily at chiller03 at gmail dot com and you can always find her at Helicopters Northwest, Inc. on Boeing field, 9-6 p.m. Mon-Sat and most Sundays too.  Except next Sunday, December 5th, you'll find her at BEFA, Boeing Employees Flying Association, 840 West Perimeter Road, giving $20 Helicopter rides to the ladies!

Emily, you are an amazing woman! You prove that dreams can be sparked anywhere -- even on a glacier. And they all can come true if you have the courage to go for it, and do it full throttle.

I'm really looking forward to meeting you!

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. Wow! Great story, I've always wanted to do helicopters, too. I have a now have a future heli CFI in mind :)

  2. Vic... I was thinking the same thing!

  3. A helicopter now! How many flying machines are we up to now for Sunday? I probably have a few of my coworkers showing up and a few others.
    Hoping the fog forecast is true that it's gone by 10am. :-)

  4. Fog gone by 10! Mother Nature is a woman...she's on our side. Great on the friends!

    Plane status... 4 fixed gear. 1 float plane. 1 Helicopter. More to come I hope!

  5. Wow , this is my niece and and truly is terrific !

  6. True about Mother Nature! I guess use guys just have "Father Time" and he's often not very generous.

  7. Father Time... oh, he is a thief for sure!!!

  8. Terrific story. I'm doing my part by trying to teach my daughters to fly (but unfortunately they don't seem to have been bitten by the bug that bit me at age 5).

    I do wonder however, why Emily Hiller is flying Bells and Robinsons - no Hillers in sight?

    And next time you are in Dallas, let me know. Being FB friends now, it would be nice to have actually met!

  9. Hope you have a great day and a big turn out. Mike.

  10. Amazing woman. Can't wait to meet her and see her in action Sunday.

  11. Wow and I thought I heard some great stories!!! I wish I could meet Emily for myself!! You girls are doing an amazing job so far, I really hope the 5th of Dec. event litteraly takes off!!!

  12. Thank you DB. I will definitely let you know. This was a very fast trip. Love to meet you too!
    Wish you could bring your daughter!

  13. Mike... Thank you!!

    Linda... I can't wait to meet her too.

    JD... Thanks so much for your encouragement! I'm thinking we'll have a huge crowd!

  14. Sent this to a couple hundred of our closest friends. Fly Safe, Em. Love, Mom & Dad

    P.S. The Bernie pearls are a nice touch.

  15. Got to take a ride with Emily today! Really cool woman (what great adventures she's had!), and the ride (my first in a helicopter) was a blast! Thanks so much for organizing this event! (Look at all my exclamation marks!) :)

  16. Thanks Mom and Dad! Proud parents you should be.

    Linda, I am so glad you got to take a great flight with Emily!

  17. i was one of the lucky ones that received this from your mom emily!! so glad she sent it to me you've done amazing! glad you've found your passion! hope to see you over the holidays!

  18. Laura, I'm glad you had a great time. Mom gave tickets? Wow!

  19. I think you probably slept well last night Karlene, as well as the pilots! I think the passengers may have been up all night from excitement. My coworkers were talking about it as I walked into the office this morning. Definitely had a positive impression on them all!


  20. I didn't sleep. By the time I arrived home, I spent hours going through pictures and posting them. Then writing. Bed by 3. Oh.. I could have slept well. Tonight. I'm still excited!

  21. Now Emily is flying in and out of the Grand Canyon for Papillon Helicopters out of Boulder City, Nevada (near Las Vegas). Kevin and I flew with her in February and it was worth every $$$!!! Go Emily!


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