Maintaining Balance in a Vertical World

August 18, 2017 | Author: T.J. Pope

I spend a lot of my time strapped into flying machines. I often travel on commercial airlines to visit Honeywell customers and tell them about our exterior lighting solutions for all kinds of aircraft – including helicopters. It’s a fun story to tell, because we have the best, most complete line of lighting products in the world (If I do say so myself!).

Then there’s my weekend job. For the last eight years I’ve been a proud member of the Indiana National Guard, which lets me fly Black Hawk helicopters one weekend each month and for a couple of weeks in the summer. I’m grateful that Honeywell gives me the opportunity to continue to serve in the Guard while I also pursue a busy career in marketing and product management.

It isn’t always easy to balance the two and keep up with my busy young family. For example, I recently had Guard training two weekends in a row, with a distributor visit in California and a company meeting in Phoenix sandwiched in between. That’s a lot of time spent on aircraft and in briefing rooms and meeting rooms while using the phone and social media to stay in touch with my family. So I’m also grateful to my wife and kids for their patience and support.

The Indiana Guard is a great organization and my combat aviation brigade has a critical mission. We support the governor in case he has to call out the guard to handle a national disaster or another emergency that threatens public safety. We also have a wartime mission of supporting ground troops in the field when called upon.

Helo Pilots

Flying a helicopter is a unique experience. There are so many things you can do in a helicopter that you can’t do in a fixed-wing aircraft to stretch the laws of aerodynamics. There’s a sense of freedom, because you get the feeling you can fly anywhere you want to go, but there’s also a sense of control because the helicopter is so responsive.

My first close encounter with a helicopter was after I graduated from West Point in 2000 and reported to Army Aviation School at Ft. Rucker, Ala. I didn’t sleep much the night before my first flight and I’d been warned not to eat too much, for reasons I could only imagine!

My heart beat wildly as I climbed into the TH-67 Creek for the first time. My instructor pilot handed me a shiny nickel because this was my first helicopter flight, an event known in the Army as the “Nickel Ride,” which I think alludes to the cost of riding one of those toy helicopters, ponies or firetrucks in front of the supermarket.

Then we were off on a ride I will never forget. After about 15 minutes, the IP let me take the controls and was actually flying a helicopter for the first time! Just as I felt I was getting the hang of flying, it was time to land. The instructor guided me through the landing procedures and my heart beat even faster as I watched the ground approach. But I managed to set the aircraft down gently. I was hooked for life.

I went on to an exciting active duty career, which included flying missions in Iraq. One of my most vivid memories occurred during a mission over downtown Baghdad, transporting a team of Navy Seals. One of my engines caught fire and we had to turn around and head back to base. It was a pretty stressful situation, but we made it back just fine.

That incident gave me insight that helps me stay balanced in my personal and professional life. When the going gets tough, I just remind myself that at least my butt isn’t on fire! It really helps put things in perspective.

TJ Pope

T.J. Pope

T.J. Pope is Marketing and Product Management director for Honeywell’s Lighting business, which is based in Urbana, Ohio.

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