Francis Meyrick

Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual Ch.2B-1 Potential Employers

Posted on October 7, 2009

Ch.2B-1 “Potential Employers “


You still see websites today, posting information which is totally out of date. Some times ‘years out of date’.
This then is the ‘rough start’ of a chapter which tries to address that issue. I will need help to do so, as I am out of the tuna helicopter business since 2000.

Hansen Helicopters – Guam

Ph: 011-671-6499580
John Walker and Marvin Reed
The preferred -courteous- method is to email your resume first, with references, and contact numbers for referees.
(rather than hang on the phone)

Comments: a large company, with some 30 helicopters today, so I’ve been told. They are a long, well established company.
I have visited their hangar many times, and they have a good maintenance set up that I can see. When a bird leaves their hangar, after a thorough check out, I’d be happy to fly it. John Walker was the second pilot ever hired by Vern Hansen, and knows the tuna helicopter business out of Guam very well indeed. When I was Chief Pilot with Tropic Helicopters, I had occasions to visit with John Walker. We helped each other with parts supply and the like. I found him at all times to be very courteous and professional towards me.
I don’t know their exact hiring requirements, but I understand they are similar to those of Tropic Helicopters listed below.
If you are a pilot, expect some stiff competition. This is an opportunity to build a lot of turbine helicopter time.
If you are an A+P certified mechanic, especially with turbine helicopter time, they will be very happy to talk to you.
I’ve known newly minted mechanics in the past, who got on with Hansen Helicopters. Hansen gave them a few months in the shop, checked them out, after which they got sent out. That seemed to work very well for everybody.
Kudos: in the nineties’ there was a rash of tuna helicopter companies owing pilot huge amounts of back pay. Hansen stood apart from that, and paid their pilots and mechanics in a timely manner. They could easily have delayed payments, and played the old “Well, you are a subcontractor, not an employee ” trick. They didn’t. That is why today, if you search the bulletin boards in Cyberspace, you will find some former Hansen people dead hostile to Hansen (probably especially the ones who got fired for doing something stupid), and others very, very positive and loyal.
Kudos: Hansen know the game very well. They have seen lots and lots of little pilots and mechanics come through.
If you give them 100%, keep your bird clean, fly sensibly, and get along with the customer, I think you will find Hansen will be very anxious to keep you, and keep you happy. Don’t mess with them, they have been at it too long, know the game too well, and have zero tolerance.
Contention: High accident and fatality rate. Former Vietnam pilots have said the accident rate is higher than Vietnam. Many former tuna pilots have expressed frustration that the company hides their previous accidents, does not publish causes, does not provide guidance for new pilots and mechanics, and hides behind a convenient abdication of all responsibility on the purported basis that pilots are sub-contractors, not employees. There are two sides to this story. At least. Probably many more.

Tropic Helicopters – Ponpei

011-691-3201256 (or 1784, or 3942)
Barry Jones and Ron Barr
The preferred -courteous- method is to email your resume first, with references, and contact numbers for referees.
(rather than hang on the phone)

Disclaimer: Here and elsewhere I clearly state that I worked for Tropic, and I was their Chief Pilot for a year. Also, Ron Barr is an old friend. I have no commercial ties with them today, nor any incentive to lie through my teeth.

Comments: with some 20 helicopters, Tropic is nowhere near as long established as Hansen, but as the junior company, is ‘hard snapping at the heels’ of Hansen. They are actively looking to buy more helicopters. The owner is Barry Jones, about as laid back and unflappable an Australian as you can find. I found him dead honorable to work with. No problem. Ron Barr is a highly experienced mechanic, one of the best in the field. They don’t have quite as deep pockets as Hansen Helicopters does, but I wouldn’t ever worry about getting your money. It might occasionally be a little late due to cash flow gyrations, but you will get it.
Kudos: Ron and I have both known pilots and friends who got killed, and I am absolutely 100% positive that if Ron says a helicopter is good to go, then it’s “good to go “. I’d fly it. It will not leave the hangar otherwise.
Kudos: An energetic, up and coming company, competing aggressively in an arena that has left many helicopter operators in the dust.
Allegations of poor maintenance, vigorously refuted by the company.

Update on pay and flight hours preferred:
Ron and I talked at length on the phone yesterday, 10/6/2009. He voiced the same problems that I had, many years ago. Nothing much changes, it seems.
1) shortage of mechanic resumes. Stacks and stacks of pilots, very few qualified mechanics applications. A and P’s welcome!
2) Insurance requirements are driving the industry. Ron told me the insurance underwriters recently visited their maintenance hangar, as part of their normal procedures, inspected schedules, records and equipment, and gave Tropic a “thumbs up ” clean bill of health.
Preferred flight hours:
1500 Total Time
250 Turbine time
250 over water time

Contract: 12 months preferred, very occasionally, 6 months.
A $10,000 bonus after 1 year.
Pay: $3,600 per month (pilot or mechanic) in the first year. Rises to $3,900 per month in the second year.
If you are dual rated, as a pilot-mechanic, expect $4,600 a month starting. $10,000 bonus after 1 year.
Don’t bother to ask if you do not have an A and P license, or equivalent, they will NOT send you out as pilot-mechanic no matter how good you say you are.

Update on accidents: Contrary to what you will read on the Internet, Ron is adamant that none of their recent accidents, over the past few years, have been traced to poor maintenance. Their concern is to point out to potential pilots the pitfalls of ‘pilot error’. He specifically endorses the comments about the risks associated with ‘herding’, which I described in detail in Chapter 3-F (Herding).
Note these two passages:

If you start whipping around doing three or four consecutive 360 degree spinning turns in the hover…. you’re asking for trouble. You are going to get dizzy. You are low. You may ‘lose the vertical’. That’s bad. That means your tail rotor at times may be whipping down to close to the waves. If that sucker even touches… there is evidence (stories by survivors) that the resultant forces tend to roll the helicopter instantly along the longitudinal axis. You won’t just yaw. You’ll roll as well. Nasty. Very nasty.

There is yet another reason to be super cautious. If you spin around, faster and faster, you can get into some situations where the efficiency of the tail rotor is reduced or even lost! Think of some of the turbulence you’re generating, and some of the vortices and the odd angles of attack! Is this a smart area to start experimenting in, I ask myself?

Update on Ponpei accident:
Tropic suffered a tragic fatal accident on the island of Ponpei several years ago, and the photo of the smashed helicopter crumpled sadly against a wall received wide adverse publicity. Ron and I talked about this at length. The caution here is flying low and fast over calm, slightly misty water. Then hitting cables coming back onshore! Again, this is an area addressed in this manual. Beware, low flight over calm water. Beware of “blue out “!

I will update this section as and when I have more information. Present and former tuna pilots and mechanics are warmly invited to post their comments and experiences below. Let’s try and help our fellow pilots and mechanics.

I have lifted some other numbers off various sites. I have no clue if these companies are still in business or not. Updates, anybody? Please?

October 6, 2010 Aha! here comes “anybody “! Thanks, Jean Paul!


Hi Moggy,

I have read you articles in and it’s a real pleasure to know that someone finally gives some directions in the tuna boat industry for “first tripers “…
Your written ability and sens of humor makes the reading easy and enjoyable.

I have been for several years working as tuna helo pilot myself mostly in the eastern pacific (Mexico, Panama, Ecuador) working generally with the dolphins (porpoises) and I did some trips as well with an US company in American Samoa.
After almost 8 years working as pilot in the fishing industry, I went to Canada doing another type of jobs in helicopter during the summer seasons.
Athough I am not completly involved with tuna-boat companies now, I do one or two trips if I can, during the winter season.
For a newcomer who wants to work with companies in the eastern pacific, speaking Spanish is not mandatory, but highly appreciated.
In this side of the pacific there are not pilot/mechanic, but a pilot and a mechanic. Apparently, so far I know, the pilots in the eastern pacific fly much more than in the western pacific.
In average 5 to 6 hours a day who can goes up to 10 or even 12 hours a day!….
We work with logs, breezers and of course dolphin’s school.
I can give you some info about companies working in South America
All the phone numbers in Mexico you posted in your directory are tatally out of date. So far I know:


HELI-TUNA, Ensenada, (no longer in business)

PESQUERA NAIR (R44) moves to Mazatlan, keep the same name but with new manager and personel (I don’t have the phone #, I would try to get it)

PESQUERA AKALAN, Ensenada, (Bell47)
Sr Guillermo Ramirez: 52 646 176 0533

BAJA-HELICOPTERS, Ensenada, (Bell47/R22)
Sr Yvan Ptanick: 52 646 177 4131

HELISASE, Ensenada (R22/R44)
Sr Sergio Sanchez: 52 646 173 3222 cel:52 646 171 7128
(tuna-boats and spaying/crop dusting)

ph: 52 646 176 5577


Sr Juan Daniel Roja
ph: 507 391 4932/4933

Sr Salvador Pulice
cel: 507 667 39076

I hope this, will help a little bit




I have other addresses and phone numbers of some companies.


Sr Cesar Tauil
ph: 507 315 1365
fx: 507 315 0320

Sr “Wicho “
ph: 507 232 8639



Sr Juan Arbelaez
(big company with around 15 to 20 helicopters)


Mr Rod Price
ph: +64 21 40 05 23


contact Vivian at this ph # in Guam: +671 929 6850

And this is what info I had, which Jean Paul says is out of date:

Helicopteros De David Randy Stettmeier (507)7758899 or 7758839
Helipan Mr. Thomas Exemberger, ( R-22, R-44
(507) 2261236 / 2637982 (507) 2261039
Pesqueros Atlantica H-500 (507) 2649944 (507) 2649900
NO LONGER IN BUSINESS (Donair Mr. Don Underwood. Numbers are in Arizona, USA. B-47 (602) 8660730 (602) 9421070 NO LONGER IN BUSINESS)
Helicoptero Pacifico Mr. Ray Kinkaid R-22, R-44, H-500, B-206 (507) 2637281 (507) 2696133

Aviatun Sra. Francis Graterol or co.owner Sr. Francisco Ortisi R-22 (58) 69471610 (58) 69471610
Pezatun Sr. Louis Garcia R-22, R-44, H-500 (58) 93312495 (58) 93334741
Venepesca R-22, H-500 (58) 93331610
Aeroatun Sr. Cesar Taguil R-22, R-44 (58) 93322674 / 93312644 (58) 93310477
Cannavo H-500 (58) 93334425

Heli Tuna Sr. Olivera B-47 (52) 61746676 (52) 61746676
Heli Albatross Sr. Tony Aguire B-47 (52) 67601425
Maratun Sr. Osvaldo Perez B-47 (52) 33366767
Pesca Azteca Sr. Arnold Del Rio or Sr. Escobar B-206 (52) 69821844 (52) 69851011
Pespero Nair Sr. Louis Castillo B-47, H-500 (52) 61781070 (52) 61783003
Pespero Akalan Sr. Guiellrmo Ramirez B-47 (52) 61762402

Atlantic Corp. Sr. Paco Garcia R-44 (593) 5622286 (593) 5620304

Colombia Cartagena Sra. Maria Luisa or Sr. Carlos Zarate R-22, R-44 (575) 6686306 (575) 6685648



Input from Jo Smith

Chapter 2 -B Your Job Offer: PAY? HOW MUCH and WHEN?
(Will you be an employee or a sub-contractor?)

How did this chapter in the Tuna Manual save(or improve) my life ?
Well for one thing, it really opened my eyes to know what I was getting into, financially speaking.
On the front end of a helicopter pilots career, a job like tuna spotting is an excellent opportunity to build hours to get a better and higher paying job.
The only other upside I can think of is taking a job on the tuna fishing grounds as a last resort to having no job at all.
Maybe a very adventurous pilot would be eager for the opportunity to lead a spartan ship life, and have a chance to tour the South Pacific.
If you grew up in America, you are inundated from a young age with multimedia images of lush immaculate tropical island paradises.
And not to say I regret having seen and visited the places a tuna spotter’s life takes you, because I don’t
But all my notions of untouched island utopias were toppled to harsh reality. They are tropical. They are islands. You can imagine a time maybe not so far removed from now when they were pristine.
But they are not so pristine now.
So what would the motivation be now ?
The pay is good, but I’m not sure that’s enough of a motivation in and of itself. And you’ll never get rich materially.
You may find a way to be rich in body, mind and spirit, but that will take a lot of work, effort, commitment, and discipline.
You will most certainly have your share of time.
If you have experience in the tuna fishing grounds and you stay, chances are you are a loner and for whatever reason are not tied to any relationships that are important enough for you to be there for.
A guy, or gal, who is getting on in age and finding themselves less and less employable elsewhere might also find this occupation attractive.
If all else fails for my retirement, I might go back.
I already mentioned a tuna spotter pilot I met out there over 70.
I could see myself in that position under the right circumstances.
But if I do find myself under those circumstances, I’m going to ask myself, what am I doing under there ?

Joseph Smith

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 7, 2015, 12:45 pm

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2 responses to “Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual Ch.2B-1 Potential Employers”

  1. I am sure a lot of pilots and engineers on the look out for a job on this particular field will appreciate the info above.Thanks Moggy for the courtesy.Valuable info that clears out a lot of the animosity found on the internet.

  2. There’s a whole bunch of companies in Mexico and South America.
    I don’t know anything much about them. The site would be a good place to search. I imagine you would need to speak Spanish.
    Anybody know more?

    PS: has translated quite a bit of "Moggy’s Tuna Manual" into Spanish for the benefit of our South American colleagues! This is a voluntary project…!  Calidro Morello is looking for Spanish speaking pilots and mechanics to help with this.

    They too, know what it’s like to have fatal accidents in the tuna helicopter industry.

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