Meet Randy Hansen, EAA 590242
Government Relations Director
Randy Hansen (center) at Mt. St. Helens, May 1980
My love for aviation started when my parents started taking the family to the Fullerton Municipal Airport (FUL) to watch airplanes land and take off. Many years later one of my teachers at Fullerton Junior College took me to El Mirage Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert for a flight in his Bensen Gyrocopter. While that hooked me on flying, I wasn’t able to do anything about it until graduation from college when I took the leap and joined the Army in 1972 specifically to fly helicopters.
That leap led to a great 25-year career. Flying all over the world and in the United States allowed me to visit countries I would not otherwise have visited or flown over. Some of those highlights included flying along the “hot” demilitarized border zones in Germany and Korea. In the days before night vision goggles were created, I was one of the first UH-1 helicopter instructors qualified to teach “Night Hawk” flying skills. That meant flying at night (the darker the better) with just your position lights on (in the dim position) and teaching autorotation by instructing the other pilots to wait to pull pitch until you actually could see the reflection of the skids on the ground (which was usually at +/- 8 feet above the ground). I still have dreams about those days.
I flew a VIP into a valley in Germany, then got stuck there for five days waiting for the fog to lift—the VIP got a car and drove out, but I was grounded with my helicopter. I flew one of the first search and rescue UH-1 helicopters into the Mount St. Helens’ area within two days after it blew its top. News reports of the day said that Spirit Lake was gone, but in reality that was the first (and only) time I ever flew over a very large lake that was actually boiling. I drove into East Germany right after the wall fell and noticed the true suppression that had taken place. It was as if time stood still (which it had), because their lifestyle was still based on 1935 technologies. Soon after that I began flying senior Eastern-bloc military officers in my U.S. Army UH-1. I flew an Army C-12 (Beech B-200) from Grafenwohr, Germany, to Craig Field (SEM) in Selma, Alabama, by going across the “pond” in the wintertime.
As an Army flight instructor I worked with young, less-experienced OH-58 pilots. Because flying on instruments in the OH-58 was considered to be an emergency maneuver, it took a lot of mentoring to build the confidence of pilots so they could go into instrument meteorological conditions within 100 feet of the ground and survive. This was especially true with one young pilot, and seven days after being “turned loose on the world” he was piloting the fourth OH-58 in a flight up a valley during very poor weather when the lead aircraft decided to fly over a ridgeline. Yup, you guessed it; the first three aircraft made it up and over the ridge top while his aircraft was simply gobbled up by the weather. Long story short, he did what he was trained to do: transitioned to instrument flight and made it home to fly another day. Two weeks earlier that story might have had a different ending—so as an instructor (military or civilian) I learned it is critical to strive to teach not only the basics, but also confidence in what you’re flying.
During my career I also had the privilege of assisting in the aviation security planning for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
But enough of that side of my life. At some point in my Army career I met and married a great lady from Green Bay, Wisconsin, who was more than willing to follow me around the world. Needless to say, after I left the Army, she gave me orders to proceed directly back to Green Bay—the land of butter burgers, brats, Seroogy’s Chocolates, and Packers football. I quickly learned that my Oakland Raiders shirts were not welcome in this town.
As we were settling in, I worked as a relief pilot for a brand new Green Bay EMS helicopter service called Eagle III, flying a Bell 407 helicopter. I also volunteered at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, which led to being hired at EAA as the government relations director. This May will mark my 10th anniversary of working at EAA.
My responsibilities cover a broad spectrum of areas—tall towers/obstructions; airspace reviews; airport issues; volunteer amateur-built and light-sport aircraft designated airworthiness representatives; proposed Department of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration and Customs), Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Transportation (FAA) rules; state legislative concerns (ethanol-free fuels); exemptions to allow EAA and our members to deviate safely from existing rules (International Aerobatic Club fuel reserves, Warbirds of America small N numbers, operate our B-17 and Ford Tri-Motor); airworthiness directive applicability to amateur-built aircraft; international relations with the Bahamas and Canada; and during AirVenture, the Federal Pavilion and the EAA Make-A-Wish Day. My responsibility list is a lot longer, but that gives you a flavor of what a typical day at work covers.
Hope to see you all at AirVenture 2009.