The aerial firefighting industry lost a much-loved pilot this week after veteran pilot Chip Paige was lost in a helicopter accident outside of Mesa, Arizona while ferrying his aircraft back from servicing. The crash, captured on several amateur videos, shows the aircraft appearing to lack any tail rotor control as it descended. Despite this, Paige managed to bring the aircraft down in a park in an upright position, saving the life of his passenger.

Tributes to Paige, who leaves behind fiancée Britanie and 6-year-old son, Kyle, continue to pour in on social media pages detailing Paige’s generous nature and willingness to share his experience, knowledge, and wisdom with anyone in the aviation industry that needed it.

Paige was an accomplished aerial firefighting pilot who also worked in the fixed-wing sector as the pilot of a Gulfstream. Photo by Max Jaques.

Chip Paige was an accomplished aviator, having started in helicopter aviation, flying for Helinet Aviation as a pilot/reporter for NBC, moving on later to fixed-wing aircraft as the pilot of Gulfstream jet later moving into the aerial firefighting world flying AS-350’s before purchasing his own aircraft under his company name of Pacific Aviation Holdings, a UH-1H to use for aerial firefighting missions in 2014 that he gave the name “Brutus.” 

“We met in Van Nuys in 2003. We worked together from 2011-2014 and again in 2015 on Gulfstreams. He was really becoming a well-known and respected Gulfstream Captain contract pilot. I had the pleasure of flying with him on multiple occasions and he showed some of the safest and conservative decision making I’ve seen. He had a raw ability to fly, a natural talent. 

Chip has been there for me through some pivotal moments in my life when others weren’t. He always ensured I had what I needed and that he knew how important our friendship was. I know that there will be no one to fill that void as I move forward. I won’t get the crazy Chip stories of working fires and slinging buckets. I won’t get him calling to ask about certain airports and performance questions. I will always miss him.” Said John “Max” Jaques, a close friend of Paige’s.

Paige was, by all accounts a dedicated family man, always spending as much time as possible with his son. Image supplied by Max Jaques.

As tributes to 55-year-old Paige continue to pour in, the aviation community continues to rally around Paige’s family, a fundraiser set up in his honor has raised over $22,000 in just three days since his passing.

To read this story in the magazine, click the magazine cover below to read the May/June Issue of AerialFire Magazine