About Kevin McDonald

Having received a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Kevin McDonald was commissioned into the United States Navy as an ensign in 1982. Two years later, he graduated at the top of his Navy flight school class and spent the next eight years flying as a naval aviator, logging most of his time in helicopters. In 1992, during the drawdown that followed the First Gulf War, he left the Navy and became a public-safety pilot for Travis County STAR Flight in Austin, Texas. As a native Texan, Kevin was a perfect fit for STAR Flight; and his literary background made him the perfect person to document the tragedy and triumph he would witness from the cockpit of his helicopter. By the time his career ended in 2012, he had flown more missions, logged more hours, and completed more rescues than any pilot in the history of the program. Now retired, he lives in Austin with his wife, Nancy, who was by his side for most of his thirty-five-year flying career.

In 2012, the Travis County Commissioners Court passed the following proclamation, honoring his service:

WHEREAS, in May of 2000, after Kevin McDonald and his crew, with a patient onboard, suffered an engine failure on short final to a confined helipad, placing the aircrew in a highly vulnerable position, Kevin skillfully waived off his approach, avoided the large array of high-tension power lines in front of him, and landed the crippled aircraft on one engine at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. His outstanding piloting skills were directly responsible for saving the lives of four crewmembers and a patient;

WHEREAS, in November of 2001, after Kevin flew numerous rescue missions in torrential rain squalls throughout the night, effecting the rescue of 15 persons who had become trapped in deadly flood waters, he and his crew were awarded the Rotor & Wing Helicopter Heroism Award, as well as the Higgins and Langley Memorial Swiftwater Rescue Award. The story was aired nationally on the Weather Channel’s Storm Stories series;

WHEREAS, in April of 2009, Kevin and his crew performed an extraordinary moving rescue on the Lampasas River, during which he was forced to maneuver over bridges and power lines with the rescue swimmer suspended below the helicopter. His piloting skills and excellent coordination with his crew, in a very dynamic and challenging situation, resulted in the saving of two lives;

WHEREAS, in his twenty-year career at STAR Flight, Kevin has:

  • Flown 3,752 hours in four different aircraft types,
  • Transported more than 2300 patients,
  • Rescued more than 130 persons during floods and other dangerous emergencies,
  • Performed more than 1000 firefighting water drops in Central Texas,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Travis County Commissioners Court commends Kevin McDonald for his brave, life-saving actions during medical emergencies, floods, fires and numerous situations that required a skilled pilot. His service to the citizens of Travis County and Central Texas is measured not only by statistics, but also by lives and property saved. We thank him for his years of dedicated service.

After reading Kevin’s book, Life Inside the Dead Man’s Curve, Igor Sikorsky, noted aviation historian and son of the man who invented the helicopter, had this to say:

Kevin’s work is a warm, compassionate story of helicopters in rescue missions. I only wish my father could have read it, as it brought Father’s passion for the helicopter as an instrument for saving lives into reality. The author spent thirty-five years and logged more than eleven thousand hours of flight time as a naval aviator and public-safety helicopter pilot. Kevin’s is an admirable story of a life well lived.