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Helicopter pilot: Samantha ‘Sam’ PoirierHelicopter pilot: Samantha ‘Sam’ Poirier

Hard work plus a little fun makes this helicopter pilot happy

When her sister was in an accident, Samantha “Sam” Poirier was flying helicopters in Washington. The call changed her life.

e.moon Photography“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 focused my career goals toward gaining the hours and experience 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 was recently promoted to the lead pilot position at REACH 30’s Medical Center of the Rockies, at UCHealth in Loveland, Colorado.

Poirier says she always had a passion for aviation but without role models or contacts in her life, she wasn’t sure how to get started. She began by going to school for air traffic control but when a professor suggested an introductory flight, “I was hooked!” She sold her horse, which she loved dearly, to pay for flight school.

Once she found her passion, it was finding funding that proved her biggest challenge. “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, 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.”

While flying EMS is serious and challenging work, Poirier finds time to enjoy the pleasure of helicopter flying. She cites heli-fishing as a favorite activity and recently took a part-time job in West Texas flying helicopter hog hunts.

“I had the opportunity to take my Robinson R44 II heli-fishing and camping on the Snake River, as well as heli-fishing with biologists in Alaska, and it was so much fun,” she says. “And I am pretty sure I am the first female pilot to be flying hog hunts, too. As far as the company, I’m the only female flying for them too. I love it! It is so much fun.”

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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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