KSLA Salutes: Serving in the skies

Cody McNeely is Metro Aviation’s lead pilot for Life Air Rescue and flies helicopters for the Army National Guard
Updated: Aug. 22, 2019 at 9:14 AM CDT
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ARKLATEX (KSLA) — If a major crash happens in the ArkLaTex and someone needs to be flown to a hospital, Cody McNeely might be piloting that helicopter.

“I joined the military on a wild hair and I started driving tanks for a living." he said. "Got out, went to college became an officer and came back to fly helicopters.”

McNeely has five different degrees, multiple certifications for helicopters and airplanes and is EMS certified.

It was in 1996 when the Jefferson, Texas, native decided he wanted to join the Army.

“I was blind as a bat, believe it or not. I couldn’t read my watch from right here," McNeely explained.

"And I had LASIK surgery, came out, and I was one of the first groups to have an exception to policy letter, and came back in to fly helicopters.”

Now that his vision wasn’t holding him back, McNeely was finally able to live out his dream of flying.

“It’s great,” he said. "There’s no traffic; that’s one reason to smile. And it’s the closest thing I think you can get to real true freedom and be at a job at the same time and get paid to do it.”

These days, if he’s not flying Blackhawks with the National Guard, he’s in a Life Air Rescue helicopter transporting the injured to area hospitals.

“I worry about what’s in front of me and the here and now is what we call it in aviation," he explained.

"The events that come up, we take care of those events, watch for traffic, birds, talk to the approaching towers and let them do what they need to do.”

(Source: Cody McNeely)
(Source: Cody McNeely)

McNeely’s traveled all across the world and even spent 15 years serving as a firefighter before joining Metro Aviation as Life Air Rescue’s lead pilot.

Along with helping those in need, he loves the view most don’t get to see.

“You may think that you know how to get to work by the road; but when you get in the air, it’s a whole new venue."

And while McNeely is enjoying this new path in his life, he’s grateful the Army help lead him there.

“As long as I’m healthy enough to do it, I’m going to hope to get another 20."

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