Helicopter pilot was beloved jack of all trades

Joshua Hawley

Joshua Hawley wore many hats throughout his life.

Hawley’s life tragically came to an end at the age of 42 when he was killed in a helicopter crash in St. Charles Parish on Dec. 14. The crash happened around 12:35 p.m., the helicopter crashing into the I-10 high-rise at the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Hawley, the pilot, was the only person onboard the aircraft, a Bell 407 helicopter. The pilot was apparently traveling to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport from Gonzales to pick up three passengers. There were no casualties on the highway.

There was heavy fog in the area when the helicopter reportedly hit an Entergy transmission line, then crashed onto the highway.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have announced they are investigating the accident.

He was a helicopter pilot and instructor, a paramedic, mechanic, IT expert, electrician and volunteer firefighter. He was a Marine. And he was a father to three children, ages 7, 4 and 3.

“He wanted to do everything,” said Hawley’s brother, David. “He was so ambitious. Early in his life, he didn’t do real well in school. And I think some of that was that restlessness about him – he was always wanting to be on to the next big thing. Something new, something different … and he would just take it up and learn all about it. He was very intellegent in that way where you can just pick something new up and do it. He really could accomplish anything.”

Hawley was a resident of Denham Springs, but he grew up in Prairieville and graduated from St. Amant High School in 1997. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent 13 years as an aircraft mechanic. He also volunteered as a paramedic during his time in service.

He was not the only pilot in his family. His father was an airline pilot, while brother David was a fellow private pilot. Seven years ago, Hawley himself joined the pilot ranks and even opened his own company, Airspeed Flight Service.

“He loved flying,” David said. “Being a pilot was what he wanted to do. He was a pilot, and when I say that, it sounds flippant and obvious, but I truly mean it. Avaiation was a passion Josh and I shared. To be a pilot, it’s not just manipulating a joystick … you have to be a master of mind, body and machine. A lot goes into that, more than people realize.

“Josh studied it a lot. He tried to be the best and he loved that challenge, what it was to fly and be the pilot.”

A GoFundMe has been set up for Hawley’s family (titled Josh Hawley Memorial Fund). It has thus far raised almost $95,000.

“That’s been really encouraging, so many people having reached out,” David said. “It goes to show how many lives he’s touched. And a lot of people have reached out since the accident and talked about how he’s helped their lives.”

David said the fundraiser will be a huge help for Josh’s family, who were already dealing with the damage inflicted upon their home post Hurricane Ida prior to the tragedy.

“It’s going to be huge support,” David said.

He said coping with the loss has been a day to day experience after what he called a true shock to the system.

“It was a very public tragedy,” David said. “It took a couple of days for it to feel real at all. We remember Josh and enjoy the time we had with him. We were all in a good place with Josh. I don’t think anyone has any regrets … the toughest part is those three boys, knowing they have to grow up without a father. We’ll all rally around them and help provide that support in Josh’s absence.”


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