Shawn Coyle, Test Pilot, Author
Shawn Corwyn Coyle, 71, passed away on June 19, after a few years of declining health, according to the 427 Squadron Association, of which he was a member. Coyle was born into a military family on June 8, 1950, in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, and primarily grew up in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and North Bay, Ontario. Coyle always had an interest in flying, and he was awarded his private pilot’s wings in 1967 through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. He attended Royal Roads Military College (RRMC) and Royal Military College (RMC) from 1969 to 1973, obtained a degree in civil engineering, and completed his flight training on the Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighter in 1974. He then converted to helicopters and was posted to No. 427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron the following year, flying the Bell CH-135 Twin Huey and Bell CH-136 Kiowa. Coyle spent a full tour with 427 before pursing test flying. He was posted to the Empire Test Pilots’ School at Boscombe Down in the UK in 1979 as an engineering test pilot on Chinook, Gazelle, Wessex, Scout, Lynx and Sea King helicopters. He stayed on as an exchange officer until 1982 when he was posted to Canada’s Aerospace and Engineering Test Establishment (AETE).
Coyle left the Canadian Forces in 1984 to serve as a test pilot for Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, and then instructed from 1985 to 1989 at the US Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland. From 1989 to 1992 he was the Principal Rotary Wing Instructor at the International Test Pilots School in Cranfield, England. Coyle remained in the UK as an Independent Aviation Consultant until 1995, then came back to Canada as an Engineering Test Pilot at Transport Canada until 2001. He then assumed branch chief responsibilities for the helicopter program at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California, until 2004. He subsequently had short stints as an emergency medical services (EMS) pilot in Mojave, as Director of Flight Operations at Agusta (now Leonardo) in Philadelphia, and as Director of Certification at AeroSimulators Group in Belgium and the US until 2007. In 2007, he created his own Aviation Consulting Company, Eagle Eye Solutions, LLC. During his career, Coyle flew 55 different types of helicopters, logging more than 7,400 hours of flight time.
In addition, Coyle and two other RMC classmates founded Aeroserve Technologies, Ltd., in 1997; they and their company were inducted into NASA’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2009 for the successful commercialization of their Airtab vortex generator. Airtabs were originally conceived to improve the transportation of the Space Shuttle on the Boeing 747, and are now widely employed in the trucking business worldwide.
Coyle joined VFS in 1983, and was a member of the Gold Circle Club. He wrote extensively on aviation-related topics and was often called upon for accident analysis and expert testimony. In addition, he published six major books on helicopter related topics including: 40 Years Afore the Mast, Volumes 1 and 2; Cyclic and Collective; The Little Book of Autorotations; and Helicopter Aerodynamics, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, which featured all of Ray Prouty’s columns for Rotor & Wing and Vertiflite magazines.
He also wrote extensively for Vertical magazine, writing on the technical fundamentals of flying helicopters through his regular column, “Torque Talk,” which appeared in their magazine for nearly 10 years. Coyle also wrote many pilot reports on a number of different helicopters that he flew. “For decades, Shawn shared his incredible technical wisdom, experience and insight on rotorcraft with the helicopter world,” said Vertical publisher Mike Reyno. He also received the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Excellence in Communication Award in 2013. (Photo by Mike Reyno)
Society Update: In Memoriam, Vertiflite, September/October 2021