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Helicopter Association International (HAI) has announced that DeWitte Binkley, general manager at SureFlight in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, is the 2019 recipient of the Salute to Excellence Bell Lifetime Achievement Award.
This award, sponsored by Bell, salutes excellence in management and leadership. The award is granted to an individual for long and significant service to the international helicopter community. Nominees need not be licensed pilots. The award will be presented at HAI’s Salute to Excellence Awards luncheon at HAI Heli-Expo 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Pilots, mechanics, safety professionals — these are often the people we think about when it comes to the helicopter industry. But the truth is, most people in our industry work behind the scenes. DeWitte Binkley is one such person.
DeWitte began his aviation career as an aircraft painter in 1977 at Atlantic Aviation in Wilmington, Delaware. From there, he became an independent contractor running the Agusta Westland helicopter paint facility in Philadelphia, eventually becoming a full-time employee. While at Agusta, he worked with maintenance manager Mario Ceriani to design and mock-up the first Agusta A109 wide-body test aircraft. DeWitte actually hand-carved the first A109 mock-up.
DeWitte then moved on to Keystone Helicopter, where for 23 years he managed the paint shop. When Keystone was acquired by Sikorsky Global, he continued in that role, building relationships with aviation customers worldwide.
In 2008, DeWitte was approached by Robert Watkins, founder of Rampmaster, to consult on opening a new aviation paint shop called SureFlight. In 2009, the new venture opened, with just 3,600 square feet of hangar space and DeWitte as the general manager and first employee. Under his leadership, SureFlight has expanded to more than 34,000 square feet. It now handles avionics and interiors as well as painting, and is a certified FAA repair station.
Part of the reason for SureFlight’s success is the team that DeWitte has assembled. His goal is that customers will be delighted with the investment they are making in their aircraft, and he knows that can’t be accomplished without the right people.
Although DeWitte has high expectations for quality and detail, he never asks more of the employees he works with than he asks of himself. He treats everyone with respect, as valuable members of the team. That respect comes back to him in the form of some of the most talented, dedicated, and hardest-working people in aviation.
Despite often working 60 or more hours a week, DeWitte always seems to find time for charitable work. He has donated time and materials for painting and restoration of equipment for the Chester County Sheriff’s Department, including squad cars, a SWAT Hummer, and an emergency response trailer. DeWitte also assisted Peter Wright, Sr., in developing the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania, donating time and materials to renovate aircraft for displays.
HAI Heli-Expo, the world’s largest helicopter trade show and exhibition, will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, March 4 to 7, with the exhibit hall open March 5 to 7.