Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Helicopter pilot a little 'iffy' about heights

Becky Nicolls is the first female pilot to join the crew in flying the ShandsCair 2 helicopter, as seen at the Marion County Fire Rescue Station No. 30 in Summerfield on Wednesday.

"The Beckster," who is a little "iffy" about heights, may be at the controls the next time you see the gleaming ShandsCair 2 helicopter streaking across the sky. 

 Becky Nicolls, 34, known to some as "the Beckster," didn't let a fear of heights stop her from working hard for two years to qualify to fly a helicopter on her own.

"After about 1,000 hours flight time, I worked as a helicopter flight instructor," Nicolls said.

After that, she worked oil rig shuttle flights and endured the effects of Hurricane Katrina while living in the New Orleans area, then gave helicopter tours of the Las Vegas area.

"Right now I have about 3,000 overall flight hours in helicopters," she said.

In May, she joined the four-pilot ShandsCair 2 team based at Marion County Fire Rescue Station 30 in Summerfield, after being contacted and hired by Arizona-based patient transportation contractor Med-Trans.

Nicolls describes herself as "adventurous yet cautious" and "systematic" when it comes to flying.

"I like to mountain bike, but not sky dive," she said. "I'm a little scared of heights, like tall ladders."

Nicolls, a native of the Cheyenne, Wyo., area, said she decided helicopter flight was for her after a half-hour introductory ride in Denver, Colo., about 10 years ago. She said after being an instructor and shuttle pilot, and giving the tours, however, what she really wanted to do was work in emergency medical services.

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