Helicopter pilot had passion for flying

  • Delbert Waugh

    Delbert Waugh

Published: 10/16/2008 3:02 PM

Like the helicopters he adored, Delbert Waugh was at home in the skies.

"It was his passion. He wasn't happy unless he was flying," his son, Brad Waugh, said.

In fact, by the end of his week off from work as a pilot with Air Angels, Del, as his friends called him, was chomping at the bit to return. The pilots, who transport people to hospitals, work 12-hour shifts seven days at a time, every other week.

"By the end of that week (off) he was antsy and ready to get back," his son said.

When the helicopter he was piloting crashed Wednesday night, it was his second consecutive weekly rotation: he was filling an open spot to cover for a pilot who had quit.

Such a heavy workload though, isn't surprising in light of a lifetime of daily experience in helicopters, Brad Waugh said.

Flying was part of his father's psyche. He spent an entire career piloting helicopters for the Army, including stints in Vietnam. And when he retired from the military about 15 years ago as a U.S. Army colonel, it didn't take him long to launch a second career - flying medical transport helicopters.

Even his 69th birthday, celebrated earlier this year, provided him no reason to step away from the job he adored: He'd recently passed his physical and the FAA cleared him to fly for another six years.

"As long as the FAA would let him fly, he had no intentions of stopping or slowing down," Brad Waugh said.

His father was extremely safe, and extremely thorough, he said. The only time he ever was involved in a crash was in Vietnam, when his helicopter took gunfire and was forced to land.

Brad Waugh said his father was the sort of man who always thought about the future of others and how he could help them.

"He probably put a thousand people into the military," Waugh said.

One such soldier was formerly a troubled teen who'd had trouble with the law. The pilot sat him down, helped him work out his difficulties and played a significant role in helping him enlist. That man is now on his second or third tour in Iraq, married, and an "outstanding soldier," Brad Waugh said.

"Anybody who needed help he did everything in his power to do it," he said.

Around the Air Angels facility, Waugh was known as the man with perpetual good-nature.

"Every time I saw Del, he met me with the biggest smile, hand out to shake my hand," said Michael Dermont, Air Angels director of business development.