May Spotlight Pilot: Leigh Coates
Each month we want to highlight a special pilot with an interesting story to tell. Whether they are becoming avid pilots before the age of 18 or flying helicopters over the rugged Alaskan backcountry, these aviators are truly piloting their own adventure. This month we are highlighting Leigh Coates! Traveling the world by helicopter, Leigh is a commercial helicopter pilot, CFI, ferry pilot, advanced safety and mountain training H125,130/Bell505/MD500/+Former Chief Pilot/CoFounder VS Helicopters, and Gravity Jetsuit pilot. Below are some fun fact about Leigh!
Hometown: I’ve lived all over the world…too many to call one my hometown…currently Valdez, Alaska
Home airport: PAVD
Ratings/ endorsements: Commercial, Instrument, CFI, CFII Rotorcraft-Helicopter, external load 133 and OAS Carded, Chief Pilot and Company Checkairman, Private ASEL, Gravity Jetsuit Pilot race team
Dream aircraft: Anything that flies…current obsession aerobatics: Edge, MX2, Stearman, BO105
Fun fact: I decided to become a helicopter pilot over a couple of beers at a party. I told my best friend about it and we both walked into our local helicopter school the next day…both of us are now professional commercial helicopter pilots.
What is the FO product you can’t go without?
I need the bush pilot flashlight and the Waypoint backpack
What is your most memorable flight?
What is your most memorable flight? The delivery flight of my brand new Bell 505 helicopter from Mirable (Montreal) Canada, to Alaska….the long way. We spent 2 1/2 months and flew all the way south along the east coast hitting every interesting spot along the way…Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty, Kitty Hawk, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic…and then turned around to check out the west coast of Florida, the gulf coast along the southern US…Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Washington and on up through BC Canada and finally to Alaska…visiting friends along the way and seeking out every fun spot to land that I could find.
What does “Pilot Your Own Adventure” mean to you?
When I was 16 years old and asked my Grandfather to help me pay for flight lessons, he told me no, and that I would feel better about it if I did it all on my own. I was devastated at the time, but he was right…when there is a will, there is a way. I worked 3 jobs while in High School, and paid for my own flight lessons. Once I got my pilot’s license and proved to myself that I could do it…, then I knew that I could do anything…that ANYTHING is possible. That’s what Pilot Your Own Adventure means to me: Anything, and I mean ANYTHING is possible as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.