Helicopter industry mourns loss of Shawn Coyle

Avatar for Vertical MagBy Vertical Mag | July 5, 2021

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, seconds.

The helicopter community is mourning the loss of renowned author and test pilot Shawn Coyle, who died on June 19, 2021.

Shawn Coyle 427 Squadron
Coyle served in 427 Squadron during his time in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Here, he accepts a trophy on behalf of his crew for the “Collective Challenge,” an annual precision flying competition among the RCAF’s tactical helicopter squadrons. Photo courtesy of 427 Squadron Association

Coyle’s passing was announced on the Facebook page of the 427 Squadron Association, a group for current and former members of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 427 Squadron. Coyle, who graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a degree in civil engineering, was posted to the squadron in 1975, shortly after earning his wings. He served a full tour with the squadron before being posted to the Empire Test Pilots Course at Boscombe Downs in the U.K. in 1979, according to the association’s obituary.

Coyle served with a number of organizations as a test pilot and instructor, including Canada’s Aerospace and Engineering Test Establishment, Bell Helicopter, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, International Test Pilots School, Transport Canada, and National Test Pilot School. A prolific writer, he contributed to multiple aviation magazines and authored books including Cyclic and Collective — essential reading for every helicopter pilot — and received Helicopter Association International’s Excellence in Communications Award in 2013. He was also regularly called upon as an expert witness for accident analysis.

Shawn Coyle
Shawn Coyle’s regular contributions to Vertical included columns and pilot reports. Mike Reyno Photo

“For decades, Shawn shared his incredible technical wisdom, experience and insight on rotorcraft with the helicopter world,” said Vertical publisher Mike Reyno. “It was because of Shawn’s wealth of knowledge that he came to Vertical to write on the technical fundamentals of flying helicopters through his regular column, ‘Torque Talk,’ which appeared within the pages of Vertical for nearly 10 years. He also wrote many pilot reports on a number of different helicopters that he flew.

“Shawn’s passing is a great loss to the helicopter community. His passion was to share his technical knowledge with others so that he could make the industry a safer place. We will never know all of the contributions that Shawn made to the helicopter industry over the decades of his career, but it is fitting to know that through his writing, he will continue to educate and instill his wisdom in the next generation of helicopter pilots.”

Matt Johnson, a helicopter flight instructor and designated pilot examiner who worked with Coyle in a consulting business, praised Coyle’s “unique ability to explain difficult concepts in a pragmatic way.”

“Shawn was more than a colleague; he was a mentor and father figure to me for many years,” Johnson said. “While his writings and teachings will live on for years to come, his sense of humor and passion for passing on knowledge will be sorely missed by many.”

In lieu of flowers, mourners are requested to consider a donation in Coyle’s name to the Shuttleworth Trust; Canada Aviation and Space Museum, which contains one of the many planes that he flew; or the McClure Miller Respite House.

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