Nicholas Koukoutsakis

Nicholas Koukoutsakis


Flight Time1000 hrs
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I knew I had found my passion the first day I flew in a Fire Rescue helicopter for Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. Banking low between the mountains opened my eyes to the possibilities of aviation beyond flying for commercial airlines. As a recent grad of Environmental Studies at UCSB, I rerouted my career plans from the National Park Service into the cockpit.

Funding was the next hurdle in my journey to becoming a pilot, so I joined a Hotshot Crew based out of Rocky Mountain National Park. I worked in a dynamic high-risk environment as a part of a tight knit, highly skilled team of twenty wildland firefighters. We did everything necessary to protect life and property as a part of Incident Management Teams all over the western United States and Canada. I developed my leadership abilities and embodied the team spirit and mission working as a highly trained professional. I honed my ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions, both environmental and operational, and built endurance for long, strenuous days. This trial by fire prepared me for challenges to come and provided a strong foundation to grow upon.

I spent most of the past three years as a professional pilot towing and flying gliders in the Rocky Mountains. The volatile conditions require intense focus and quick reaction time. Flying in high density altitudes, convective thunderstorms, and mountain wave generated rotors topped off with landing a tailwheel on a dirt runway always kept me on my toes. As a glider pilot, I learned all about using free energy in mountain environments to soar. I developed contacts with accomplished mentors who have graciously shared their years of wisdom. These experiences drove me to join our local glider club’s board of directors two years ago to provide leadership in navigating the fear and uncertainty of the unfolding pandemic. We crafted policies around the incomplete information provided and managed to come out of the summer stronger than before, building a long-term plan for our six aircraft fleet.

Last year, Twin Otter International recruited me from the local airport to join their team. Our operations take us from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean and everywhere in between. As a lead pilot, I hold sole responsibility for planning and executing logistics while practicing strong crew resource management. Flying a twin turboprop pushes me to continuously fine-tune my craft, often operating at max gross at high altitude in the heat of summer, and completing hand-flying survey missions under tight environmental constraints. I’m constantly looking to sharpen my skills, and hungry to learn and grow as a pilot and a person.