SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame recently announced former Sheridan resident Bob Hawkins has been selected as its inductee for 2021.
According to the WAHF, for more than 50 years, Hawkins operated many types of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters across Wyoming and the West. Most of his flying was in highly specialized applications, including high-altitude mountain flying, heavy-lift hauling, firefighting, long line, surveying and wildlife management.
He was co-owner of Hawkins & Powers Aviation, Inc., in Greybull, from 1992-2005 and was general manager and director of operations of Sky Aviation, in Worland, from 2005-2018. He also flew with Bighorn Airways in Sheridan.
Growing up in an aviation family, Hawkins quickly took to the skies. As a high school student, he first soloed after 11 hours of flight time in 1967, and his first helicopter solo occurred in 1975. He attended Casper College before joining the Air Force, where he served his country from 1970-1974. He was trained in corrosion control and spent most of his time with the 366th Field Maintenance Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. After his honorable discharge, he returned home to Greybull and became a pilot with the family business Hawkins & Powers.
While at Sky Aviation, he was instrumental in the purchase of four ex-military, twin-rotor, Boeing CH-46E helicopters. In 2015, two of the helicopters were converted for firefighting and heavy hauling operations. These have the distinction of being the first CH-46 helicopters to be converted from U.S. Military to civilian use.
Hawkins hauled firefighters and assisted with firefighting in Yellowstone during the 1988 fires. He had many other opportunities to fly in Yellowstone, including the wolf reintroduction program that began in the late 1990s. In 1989, Hawkins was part of a National Parks Service project to make measurements of the faces of Mount Rushmore. The dimensions of the popular national memorial were previously unknown. With a special camera mounted to his helicopter, he made several passes to take a set of photographs that were used to determine the actual measurements of the memorial. He also hauled construction equipment and fireworks to the top of the memorial. He has been part of wild horse and buffalo roundups. He frequently flew for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department conducting aerial surveys, planting fish in high mountain lakes, and net gunning and darting, and he hauled equipment to highway projects for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Hawkins also served the industry as president of the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association, and he continued a fun tradition of his father, Dan, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020, by flying Santa Clause to several Big Horn Basin communities to greet children during the holiday season.
During his flying career, Hawkins operated 19 different helicopters and 34 different airplanes. Before retiring from commercial flying on Oct. 1, 2018, and before offering his last Part 135 check ride for Sky Aviation in April 2019, he had logged nearly 21,000 hours of flight time — about 17,000 of those in a helicopter.
Hawkins was born on June 4, 1950, in Rapid City, South Dakota, and moved to Wyoming in 1964. He and wife Becky raised four children – Erik, Aaron, Daniel and Nicole.
In his retirement, Hawkins has been president of the board and director of the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting in Greybull and is restoring a 1949 Cessna 190.