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“I am most proud of my contribution to acquire the HERO helicopter, the medical interior, the flight crew, and related equipment to ensure safe transport of those in need.”

Horse manure was the reason Darrel became a helicopter pilot. He smiles a little as he tells this story. He grew up in Cranbrook, B.C., and the owner of the local sawmill, Mel Bildfell, used to hire him to clean his barn on the weekends. Mel owned a helicopter, “A Bell Jet Ranger,” remembers Darrel, and when the work was done he would sometimes take the young shoveler for a spin. And that’s how the magic started.

Darrel is now the chief pilot at Phoenix Heliflight. At times he can have as many as 17 pilots working through the season. He’s come a long way from that Bell Jet Ranger, and with nearly 9,000 hours and 20 years of flying experience, he’s an important part of the tech industry in YMM. Helicopters are important to the oil sands business, but the company also takes on environmental work and firefighting jobs as and when needed. But it’s the HERO helicopter that he is most proud of.

In a region of over 60,000 km2, there was a real need for an emergency response helicopter. HERO (The Helicopter Emergency Response Organization) helps to support the 24 hour 7 day a week air ambulance service that is quite simply lifesaving. Darrel recognizes this. “I am proud of my contribution to acquire the HERO helicopter and to set it up for all eventualities, and to ensure safe transport for all those in need.”

There are some impressive resumes on the list this year. The first line on Darrel’s should read ‘Helicopter pilot who saves lives.’ That’s enough of a resume for any one man, and it’s the reason why YMM is proud to recognize him as one of the Top 50.