As an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Tim Tucker, over the course of five decades, has helped to certify thousands of new helicopter pilots. His many contributions to helicopter flight have earned him numerous accolades and awards.
Tucker has been, and continues to be, a driving force behind Robinson Helicopter's world-renown pilot safety programs.
Tim Tucker's notable helicopter career began in 1969 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont. In 1970, Tucker enlisted in the United States Army, where he entered the Warrant Officer Program. He trained in the TH-55 Osage, essentially the military counterpart to the Hughes 269.
Following his basic helicopter training, Tucker was deployed to Vietnam where he was assigned to fly the Bell UH-1, nicknamed the "Huey". Tucker honed his flying skills on the Huey as it was an aircraft that was used extensively for military operations. For the next 27 years, Tucker taught many pilots to fly these workhorse helicopters. He is still very fond of this aircraft and is quick to name it his favorite helicopter. "There's no question the Army's UH-1 has a place in my heart I can't replace. It's always gotten me home," Tucker reflected.
Robinson Helicopter Company's enduring impact on the civil helicopter industry is matched only by its commitment to helicopter flight safety.
In 1973, Tim Tucker received his FAA helicopter flight instructor certificate. In 1976, he along with several partners, opened Pacific Wing and Rotor (PWR), a Los Angeles-area flight school. As luck would have it, he read a Los Angeles Times article about Frank Robinson's early-stage development of the R22 prototype. This innovative 2-seat aircraft was originally designed to be an affordable personal helicopter.
Tucker immediately knew the R22 would be a valuable asset to his flight school. After careful consideration, he placed an order for the first helicopter to come off Robinson's production line. Serial numbers 001 and 002 were used for FAA certification (serial number 001 crashed in the ocean during testing and serial number 002 currently hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). In 1979, Tucker took delivery of serial number 003 and immediately added the helicopter to PWR's flight line. The aircraft received a lot of interest from instructors and students alike and before long, Tucker's flight school had 10 R22s in its fleet.
The economical R22 had great appeal. This hard working helicopter was the smallest and least expensive helicopter on the market at that time. The R22's introduction was truly a "right place, right time" story of success.
In the summer of 1982, impressed with Robinson Helicopter's growth and having met with Frank Robinson on several occasions, Tucker decided to accept an offer from Robinson to be the company's experimental and production test pilot.
The R22s popularity grew quickly, particularly among flight schools. By 1982 it had become the primary helicopter used for training in the United States. Frank Robinson became concerned with what he believed to be a deficiency in training standards. In December of 1982, he along with Tucker developed and launched Robinson's safety course, which was officially approved by the FAA as a Flight Instructor Refresher course. Initially the course was intended only for instructors as the goal was to improve the quality of training and elevate training standards. "We felt that make and model experience was one of the most important attributes of a flight instructor in helicopters, especially in a small helicopter like the R22," said Tucker. The course was later opened to all rated pilots.
In addition to being the Chief Safety Course instructor, Tucker authored the Robinson Helicopter Flight Training Guide along with the R22, R44, and R66 Maneuver Guides.
Many overseas customers who purchased Robinson Helicopter's R22s and R44s were unable to attend Robinson Helicopter's factory-based Pilot Safety Course. In response, Tim Tucker developed pilot safety courses that he taught abroad and were geared to the specific flight environments of its customers.
Each foreign course is based on the factory's Pilot Safety Course, and each attendee receives a Robinson Helicopter Company Overseas Certificate of Completion. To date, Tim Tucker has conducted more than 120 pilot safety courses in 31 countries, on six continents. Because each course involves actual flying time, he has been issued 17 foreign pilot licenses.
During Tim Tucker's 50+ years in the aviation industry, he has amassed over 22,000 flight hours, over 22,000 of those hours having been spent behind the sticks of a helicopter, including 9,000 hours of instruction. Based on this alone, it is clear that Tim Tucker has profoundly and positively influenced multiple generations of new helicopter pilots.
Tim Tucker's 20,000+ helicopter flight hours and his long-standing focus on pilot safety make him an excellent FAA DPE for helicopters. Since 1984, he has served in that capacity, and has conducted more than 8,000 FAA practical tests.
Tucker regularly conducts FAA pilot certification tests in Robinson Helicopter's R22, R44, and R66 aircraft. In addition, he is authorized to evaluate pilot candidates in 12 other helicopter makes and models.
Tim Tucker has made major contributions to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team. This collaborative government and industry group is dedicated to improving helicopter safety. In addition to serving on the organization's Steering Committee, Tucker is a USHST/Robinson member of the FAA's Helicopter Airmen Certification Standards Working Group.
Tim Tucker's extensive career in the helicopter industry has earned him many well-deserved awards. In appreciation for his actions as a U.S. Army pilot, he received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Bronze Star. Over Tucker's long army career, he was also awarded 28 Air Medals and five Certificates of Achievement.
As a civilian, Tucker was named the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Flight Instructor of the Year in 2000, and in 2005 HAI presented Tucker with its Joseph L. Mashman Safety Award. Throughout his career, the FAA has presented Tim Tucker with four Certificates of Recognition, and in 2020 Tucker received the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
Looking back at his 50+ years in the helicopter industry, Tim Tucker reflects on a remarkable career that began with the purchase of his first R22. "Little did I know that that first R22 and the man responsible for it would go on to transform the helicopter world, and I've been on board for the entire ride."