Five questions: Samantha ‘Sam’ Poirier

EMS helicopter pilot

When her sister was in an accident, Samantha “Sam” Poirier was flying agriculture helicopters in Washington. The call changed her life.
Five Questions
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“My sister was in a terrible ATV accident in 2016. An EMS helicopter and crew saved her life, and I knew at that time, that is what I had to do. I was a pilot; I had the ability to help someone—the way that helicopter and crew helped save my sister’s life. I focused my career goals toward gaining the hours and experiences to become an EMS pilot. Now, I work at the same base, with the same crew, and fly the same helicopter that saved my sister’s life four years ago.” Poirier is the first female pilot at UCHealth LifeLine, flying for REACH Air Medical Services at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. She has logged more than 3,000 flight hours.

How did you get started in aviation? While I always had a passion for aviation, I truly didn’t get started until I was 24. I began going to school for air traffic control. My professor encouraged us to take an intro flight to see what it was like to be talking on the radio and flying. Once I took my intro flight I was hooked! I sold my horse, whom I loved dearly, to pay for flight school.

What were your biggest challenges? I’m sure this is a common answer, but funding was a big challenge in the beginning. Without wanting to go into thousands of dollars of debt, I paid for most of my ratings out of pocket. I was able to get a few scholarships, but flying helicopters is expensive! I worked two to three jobs, night jobs, moved wherever I needed to and did whatever it took to fund my schooling. I moved all over to gain experience wherever I could. From sleeping in a tent being a camp cook in Alaska, to Texas, to Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota, Washington, Idaho.

Favorite aircraft? I’m super partial to the [MD Helicopters] MD500D. It’s just a little powerhouse in a small package. So nimble, agile, and you can fit it almost anywhere. But since I started flying the [Eurocopter] AS350B3e, I am loving this helicopter. It is user friendly, safe, and a Cadillac. From the doors, the avionics, dual hydraulics, it’s such an amazing combo of technology and power.

Favorite aviation activity? Heli-fishing. I had the opportunity to take my Robinson R44II heli-fishing and camping on the Snake River, as well as heli-fishing with biologists in Alaska, and it was so much fun. I also really enjoy ferry flights. Flight planning, and seeing new FBOs and meeting fellow aviators is always fun. I had the opportunity to ferry an AS350B3 from Colorado to California. It was stressful at times because of the weather, but it was such a fun experience.

Advice for students? Just keep pushing through! Just keep doing something every day toward getting your ratings. While you are starting out sometimes it is hard to see the final product. But I promise, the reward is so worth it.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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