Helicopters, Sharks and Maui: The Unique Passions of Maverick Helicopters’ Brad Blucher
By Kent Coules, Publisher
“I saw ‘Jaws’ when I was 10 years old. From that point forward I was petrified of sharks.”
So says Maverick Helicopters’ Chief Pilot Brad Blucher. “It wasn’t just that I was afraid to swim in the ocean. You couldn’t keep me in a swimming pool.”
Fast forward a few years and Blucher is skydiving out of C-130 military cargo planes, chasing 33-foot gunboats. He also parachuted out of the massive fliers as a Special Warfare Combat Crewman in the United States Navy. “SWCCs, or ‘Swics’, as we were known, are like Navy SEALs, except that we were highly specialized, and therefore less well known outside the military.”
“Parachuting into the ocean wasn’t easy. I had not conquered my phobia of sharks at that point in my life.”
More on that later. Let’s talk helicopters.
Spectacular pilot's eye view over Moloka‘i's fish ponds
“Looking back, my love of helicopters goes way back to when I was a kid,” said Blucher. “There’s a picture of me standing in front of a helicopter at eight years old. But I didn’t take my first ride until after SWCC school. Ironically, the first time I rode in a helicopter I had to parachute out of it as part of my training.”
During that ride, he sat between the two pilots. As soon as they hit “hover”, Blucher was smitten. He spent five more years in the Navy, repelling and parachuting out of helicopters, but he knew what he wanted to do when he exited the Navy: “I was going to fly helicopters.”
After completing flight school in Prescott, Arizona, Blucher became an instructor. Once he compiled enough hours, he landed his dream job: flying for Maverick Helicopters.
“There were two reasons why Maverick Helicopters was my dream job. The first was their safety record. Maverick’s reputation has always been first and foremost safety, and their reputation is well earned. The second was less practical: I wanted to fly their EC130s.”
Flying by Keopuka Rock, aka Jurassic Rock, featured in the movie 'Jurassic Park'
“Planes fly themselves most of the time,” says Blucher. “Helicopters do not. They are a lot more challenging and demanding. Pilots are never, ever on ‘cruise control’ in a helicopter. For me, that makes it more fun. And that fun translates to our guests when they’re seeing Maui from the air. And much of the most spectacular scenery on this incredible island can only be seen by air.”
Was there another reason for Blucher to come to Maui, besides say, Maverick EC130s and…well…Maui itself?
“At some point, I knew that I had to face my fear of sharks head on. So I started SCUBA diving, with the expressed purpose of encountering sharks. I dove all over the world for four years before encountering my first one—a Thresher Shark—in the Philippines. From there, it was game on. I’ve swum with Great Whites, out of the cages, in Mexico for five days, and Tigers in the Bahamas for four. I now have a love and admiration of sharks almost equal to helicopters!”
Anyone interesting that you’ve taken up in a Maverick Helicopter?
“I was a huge Seinfeld fan. I’m still waiting for Jerry to book a tour, but six months ago I piloted ‘Kramer,’ Michael Richards, out to Hana. He was a delight to have on board.
“I also got to take Bon Jovi and his family on a Grand Canyon tour. That was a privilege. More recently, I hosted Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, and Panic At the Disco front man Brendon Yeary.”
Lastly, your favorite Maui tour?
“Definitely the ‘Molokai Voyage’, showing the West Maui mountains with spectacular waterfalls and the Molokai’s north shore with the world’s tallest sea cliffs, my favorite part of Hawai‘i.”
Well, that and the shark-infested waters.
View from the Molokai Voyage tour
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