Face of Defense: Army Helicopter Pilot Teaches New Generation of Aviators
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois, 633rd Air Base Wing
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Oct. 10, 2017 — “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
From a young age, Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bill Basabilbaso, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade knew he wanted to be a helicopter pilot.
Basabilbaso came to the U.S. with his family from Argentina at age 8. Today, after 32 years of military service, he relies on experiences and lessons from those who inspired him to teach the new generation of CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots here at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
In 1978, Basabilbaso joined the U.S. Navy, spending the latter part of his three-year enlistment on an aircraft carrier. After six years in the civilian sector, in 1987, he decided to apply to the U.S. Army warrant officer flight training program — a childhood dream.
In 1989, Basabilbaso graduated flight school and was appointed as a warrant officer in 1991.
‘There’s Nothing Else I Would Rather Do’
“There’s nothing else I would rather do,” Basabilbaso said. “My role models were the Vietnam-era warrant officers who taught me how to fly. As a young pilot and officer, they were who I looked up to.”
Upon flying countless missions in places ranging from France to Iraq, his passion nurtured a desire to train as an instructor pilot.
As a reservist, he trains pilots here during the week as a member of the Fort Eustis Air Safety Institute, and he also trains pilots during drill weekends.
Basabilbaso helps hone new pilots’ skills to ensure the safety and security of aviators and crews.
“The hardest part is having to constantly study because things never remain the same,” Basabilbaso said. “Manipulating the controls is the easy part — anyone can be taught to do that. Studying, constant learning, good judgement and experience are what make you a pilot. We need to keep inspiring young, agile minds to be the next generation.”
According to his students, the vital information the veteran pilot imparts to them could be the difference between life and death. He consistently reminds his apprentices to stay 10 steps ahead of the game while in the cockpit to anticipate changes or handle emergencies.
Emphasis on Safety
“He is all about the Army regulations,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Smith, Bravo Company, 5th General Support Aviation Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment flight engineer. “He places emphasis on safety while teaching new pilots to hone their skills as aviators.”
Having flown with the instructor pilot since 2003, Smith said new pilots who progress through Basabilbaso’s training graduate as well-versed Chinook aviators.
“The love of flying keeps him coming to work every day,” Smith said. “Where else can you get paid to do something that you have such a passion for? I think he falls into that mold pretty well.”
Each flight Basabilbaso conducts provides him with a different mix of emotions, depending on his surroundings and the mission at hand. But no matter what, he said he is always overcome with excitement while piloting an aircraft.
The once young boy from Argentina with a dream of flying found his place in a nation that allowed him to experience the world. Now he prides himself in protecting that nation, giving back to fellow countrymen who fueled his desire to serve.
“There’s nothing like flying in the U.S.,” Basabilbaso said. “The people you meet when stopping for fuel or at a temporary duty station are like no others; genuine Americans who never fail to thank us for what we do.”