Jim Hood performed the highest altitude rescue by a helicopter in Canada’s history when he plucked three stranded and desperate climbers from a point approximately 18,000 feet up on that country’s Mount Logan in May of 2005. He was awarded the Carnegie Medal in December of 2007.
While his heroic act was certainly not run-of-the-mill, each climber was rescued on a separate mission starting at a staging area some 12,500 feet lower down, and Jim was working in unfamiliar terrain, he was asked to help because he had a lot of experience with similar situations. He regularly performs high-altitude rescues on Alaska’s Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, among other duties, and was there when he received the call alerting him to the Mount Logan situation. It took him several hours and stops for fuel along the way to fly his Aerospatiale Lama helicopter, the “Denali Lama,” from Mount McKinley to Mount Logan in Yukon Territory.
Jim was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and from an early age he had an interest in helicopters. In the mid 1980’s he secured his pilot’s license. A few years later found him ferrying corporate executives and other high profile individuals from and to various points in the greater New York City area. He soon tired of wearing a tie and coat and the “May I take your bag, sir” requirements of the job, so he switched his “beeper for a Buck knife” and returned west and settling in Wyoming.
Over the intervening years, Jim and his helicopters have ferried supplies and workers to oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, dropped equipment for building power lines in rugged mountain terrain, and plucked cut trees from areas inaccessible to conventional logging equipment. He essentially now operates on a four-four-four schedule; four months in Denali, four months in Wyoming “splashing trees,” his lingo for firefighting forest fires with a helicopter, and four months resting and relaxing. He loves flying “working” helicopters, meaning he’s always manipulating something attached to his helicopter: a rescue basket, a water bucket for forest fire fighting, or a sling attached to a piece of heavy equipment. Flying paying passengers provides no pleasure, and certainly no challenge.
Jim was rather casual in describing his Mount Logan rescue, although he did concede that at that altitude, with just enough fuel to get to the point of the rescues and return to a base camp, and with the light fading, there was no margin for error.