Helicopter Association International
2022 Salute to Excellence Awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dwayne Williams
Helicopter pilot Dwayne William has enjoyed a long and storied career in the industry. Since learning to fly in 1965 with the U.S. Army, he’s accrued more than 16,000 hours of accident-free flight time and 57 years of experience flying combat, offshore oil support, flight training, and test pilot operations.
Williams’ career began with a tour in Vietnam, followed by two years as an instructor pilot at Ft. Wolters, Texas. After leaving the Army, he joined Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), where he flew offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for almost five years.
In 1974, Williams was offered the opportunity to train Iranian Army pilots in Esfahan, Iran, for Bell Helicopter International. There he put his military standardization and instructor pilot skill to strong use, soon becoming the chief pilot for the advanced flight training program until it ended in 1979.
Upon returning to the U.S., Williams joined Bell Helicopter Textron as a production test pilot, demonstration pilot, and international delivery pilot. During this period, he traveled to virtually every corner of the globe promoting Bell and its products. He later joined Bell’s experimental test pilot staff at Bell’s Flight Research Center and became Bell’s chief pilot in 2000.
Williams had the unique opportunity to be the first to fly a number of Bell aircraft, including the 206L3, 400, AH-4BW Cobra, and 230. He was also a test pilot on the first Bell-Augusta Model 609 commercial tiltrotor flight. His exemplary flying skills enabled him to become the company’s first acrobatic pilot as well as the demonstration pilot for the 680-rotor system on the Bell 222, performing loops and rolls as part of the standard flight demonstration. Williams also served as a test pilot for flights on the Bell XV-15 tiltrotor, the forerunner of the Marines V-22 tiltrotor aircraft. During this time Williams was also delegated as a designated engineering representative (DER) flight test pilot by the FAA.
Not long after retiring from Bell in 2005, Williams accepted the position of chief pilot, director of flight operations at MD Helicopters where he directed helicopter production and delivery flights as well as pilot and maintenance training. While there he served on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Advisory Council, hosting helicopter students visiting the MD factory and supporting them during their training as a mentor and advisor. As a part of this service, he developed an MD 530 transition scholarship for the school’s top helicopter student pilot graduate every year.
In 2013, Williams accepted the chief test pilot position at Marenco, the designer, developer, and producer for the first Swiss-made helicopter – the SH-09. There he had the honor of performing the aircraft’s first test flight.
In 2015, Williams received the FAA’s highest honor for a pilot, the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award, which recognizes 50 years of safe flight with no accidents on a pilot’s record.
Today, Williams serves as chief test pilot and certification pilot for AeroDynamix, Inc. a company that designs NVG-compatible cockpits.
Through all of these positions and experiences, Williams has left his mark across the industry. His multiple nominations for the award mentioned his dedication, friendliness, honesty, leadership, extraordinary skill, and desire to support others in their journey.
“I have always thought of myself as just a pilot,” Williams says. “I’ve taken this very seriously. In the world of test flying, the truth is you are responsible for everyone that flies in that aircraft after you. It’s a big responsibility and its difficult. I have a strong work ethic and always aimed to do my very best. I always told the engineers the truth, whether they’d like it or not. To now be recognized by the industry and so many peers for doing a job the way I felt it should be done is really very humbling. It’s not just a measure of your skill, it is a reflection of your entire career. I’m honored.”