Brian Patrick McMahon, president and founder of McMahon Helicopter Services, Inc. and cofounder of the Michigan Helicopter Association, passed away February 9. He was 63. As an entrepreneur, innovator, inventor, professional aviator, and flight instructor, Brian was recognized by many as a pioneer in helicopter aviation.
Brian became involved with helicopters during service as a door-gunner/crew chief with the United States Army in Vietnam. His actions earned him a Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
In 1980, Brian founded McMahon Helicopter Services, Inc., which started primarily to mitigate lost production time for automakers throughout the Great Lakes region. More than 33 years later, McMahon Helicopter Services continues to provide unparalleled, critical transportation services.
In addition to flying, Brian had a passion for film production, and in 1985, he cofounded Aerial Films, Inc. Brian, along with his teams at McMahon Helicopters and Aerial Films, developed and patented camera systems and mounts that continue to set the standard in aerial production today. He personally held two U.S. patents, flew in numerous feature films and television shows, and shot countless live productions of major events across the United States.
In the early 1990s, Brian changed the way the world watched live television events with development of a gyrostabilized camera system called the “GyroCam.” The GyroCam allowed camera operators to capture steady shots from the air without compromising the length of the camera lens or the aerodynamics of the helicopter.
Brian’s developments and years of dedication helped transform television news from what he called “I Missed It News” to “Eyewitness News.” He often referred to this technological transformation as “the GyroCam Revolution,” as it tremendously improved the way media was delivered from the air and how breaking news was brought to the television.
Aerial Films was reorganized as Gyrocam Systems LLC in the early 2000s and acquired by Lockheed Martin in 2007.
“It was my distinct honor and privilege to meet and work with Brian regarding the Michigan Helicopter Association’s activities last year at the FAA Great Lakes Aviation Symposium,” says HAI President Matt Zuccaro. “His passing notes a loss to the helicopter industry of a passionate and dedicated individual who has worked tirelessly over many years to enhance the safety and operational efficiency of our community. The thoughts and prayers of HAI and its members are with Brian’s family and friends.”
Brian is survived by his wife, Linda; children Nicholas, Nathaniel, James, and Kristen; and grandchildren James, Jr., Amelia, Penelope, Lillian, Evelyn, Benjamin, and Harry. Brian also leaves his siblings Lee, Mike, Peggy, Nancy, Judee, Paul, and Jamie. He was preceded in death by his brother Steve and sister Maureen.
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