Michael Yip , director of maintenance for Becker Helicopter Services, an Australian helicopter pilot academy based at Sunshine Coast airport in Queensland, is the recipient of the 2024 Salute to Excellence maintenance award. Presented by Rolls-Royce, it recognises an individual for longstanding excellence in rotorcraft maintenance, maintenance instruction or supervision, or for a single significant contribution to rotorcraft maintenance. It will be presented at HAI Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California.
Yip's career began in 1977 when he enrolled as an apprentice to obtain a certificate of aircraft maintenance from Australia's government-run Technical and Further Education programme in Sydney. He's since built a more than 40 year career as a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer, A&P mechanic, chief engineer, maintenance controller, head of aircraft maintenance control and director of maintenance.
Yip joined Becker Helicopter Services in 2009 and over the past decade plus has developed a reputation across the rotorcraft industry for his maintenance and management skills, as well as his ability to strengthen teams and increase safety margins. He has achieved these feats while overseeing a team of more than 50 full time engineers and maintaining a fleet of 20 Bell 206 JetRangers. He has achieved a remarkable 98 per cent availability rate under Australia's IFR and night-vision imaging system standards.
One of Yip's stand-out achievements is his innovative way of strengthening relationships between pilots and engineers. "His programmes are designed to cross-train staff and facilitate direct interactions, which have led to a more cohesive, efficient and safe working environment," says Becker co-founder, chief pilot and executive director Mike Becker.
Yip's contributions to the Becker team include a monthly pilot maintenance programme that culminates in a company barbecue to help foster a sense of community and open communication among all staff. He has also organised in-house safety programmes and industry-wide safety initiatives. For instance, Yip included the company's engineers in night-vision goggles training to improve both maintenance and operational effectiveness. His proactive approach to safety management systems includes encouraging his staff to actively contribute to the company's SMS programme, which helps create a culture in which safety is a collective responsibility.
On the regulatory front, Yip has been a voice of reason and an agent for positive change. He has worked meticulously with local and international regulatory bodies to fine tune the wording and intent of regulations, ensuring they are both current and operationally practical. His work has resulted in amendments to existing rules and regulations, marking him as a true industry influencer.
"My philosophy is to take all the experience, information from mentors and all the good things about the industry, recognising the less-than-positive outcomes that have affected me in some way, and work to make life easier for the company and my teams," Yip says. "I do that by implementing certain processes to help everyone do their job better. A big part of that is investing in your team. An efficient, profitable operation is possible with a well-resourced team. I advocate for what the people who work for me need. If you support them and give them what they need to succeed, and also encourage them to help support everyone else along the way, you have an efficient, profitable and fun operation where everyone likes to get together at the pub at the end of the day."
On a more personal note, Yip takes very seriously his role as a mentor to future aviation professionals. He has trained 10 apprentices over the past decade, the majority of whom have remained in the industry, often in advanced positions. Some have even gone on to start their own aviation businesses, attesting to the quality of training and mentorship they received under Yip's guidance.
Yip is deeply dedicated to his family, both at home and at work. He invites employees' families to participate in staff celebrations and awards vouchers for family activities in recognition of work performance, emphasising the importance of the family's contribution to the work/life balance.