Athens Flying Week 2015 officially kicks off today! The air show and aviation event is now in its fourth year.
Athens Flying Week (AFW) starts off with a conference then ends with a weekend air show that lasts for two days at the Tatoi Airport on September 12 and 13. Athens Flying Week is the major event for #avgeeks in Greece and has successfully opened up the world of aviation to the Greek public. It’s also an annual meeting point for professional aviators.
One of the professional aviators behind AFW is Captain George M. Hiotakis, Team Manager Wizard Heli Solo Display. Hiotakis earned a private airplane licence and a commercial helicopter licence. He has flown VIP clients for over a decade on AugustaA109 helicopters. He is one of the few pilots that have been trained and rated at the AgustaWestland Training Center in Milan. Before his career began in the aviation industry, Hiotakis graduated from Webster University in Missouri with three degrees in management marketing, computer science and psychology.
He sat down with All About Aviation.gr recently to tell us about what’s new at AFW this year and what it really takes to be the team manager for one of the most impressive Greek aviation aerobatic pilot shows to date!
All About Aviation.gr: This will be the Fourth Annual Athens Flying Week! Congratulations! Tell us what is new.
This year, I decided to change camp. I have been a member of the organizing committee and head of the VIP section of Athens Flying Week for 2013 and 2014. Since January 2015, I have had the pleasure to assume the position of Team Manager of Wizard Heli Solo Display.
Our pilot Dimitris Ververelis is the first civil Greek helicopter aerobatic pilot. The team is there to give him all the support and assistance he might need in order to always perform his stunts with precision and maximum safety. I have the feeling that, despite the difficult economic situation, Athens Flying Week 2015 will be as good as the previous ones because I know that the people organizing it are very dedicated to this cause.
All About Aviation.gr: What exactly is your role as team manager ?
Much of my duties revolve around our pilot Dimitris. If you ask me to count how many times we communicate during the day, I will have a hard time answering you. We talk constantly and exchange ideas and information about everything that may be relative and irrelative to the team but always relative to aviation and aviation safety.
We spend hours planning and putting on paper his aerobatic maneuvers. Then comes performing them, timing them, judging them and back to square one again. We do this over and over again until the outcome is breathtaking to the public and 100 percent safe for the pilot. Only then we will consider ourselves happy. It is a painstaking process and I need to stress here the important input of our chief mechanic Elias Koudounakos. Elias is always fine tuning the machine, and he is the one who gives the last “go” before Dimitris and I go out on the field. At times I feel like I am managing a Formula-1 team, and it feels amazing!
My job also requires human resource management and paperwork. Someone has to do the dirty work of the team … and that is the team manager. LOL. The spirit of the team must always be up and positive, so I encourage and welcome new ideas, brainstorming and creativity. Perfection, in my opinion, can be achieved only by team effort, and our kind sponsors want perfection as much as we do.
All About Aviation.gr: You hold a commercial helicopter pilot license and a private airplane license. Has this helped you with your job?
I have graduated with university majors: marketing management, computer science and psychology and two pilot licenses indeed. I know now that there is no way I could have carried out this job without them.
Also, our pilot Dimitris and I speak the same language and see the same things while planning and training. It would be practically impossible to communicate without the prerequisite of a helicopter flying background.
A couple of months ago, during training, a crazy idea emerged and we performed a little sketch for our mechanics. I tried to tame the helicopter while Dimitris was flying. All of a sudden the helicopter became a pet which I took out for a walk on leash and I “played fetch” with it. It was hilarious and all the impromptu spectators loved it. So did our sponsors who saw it on video. I hope we can perform it at the next airshow we will be participating, because I am sure the public would love it too. Here’s a clip of the video: