Maxim Sotnikov (RUS): Helicopter Pilot

Maxim Sotnikov 2012 002

Although Maxim Sotnikov learned to fly helicopters only 6 years ago, he is already one of the world’s best pilots and will be one to watch at the 14th FAI World Helicopter Championship that will take place at Drakino Airfield, Russia, from 22 to 26 August 2012.

Date of birth

17 October 1957


«Zvezdniy Gorodok» (from the Russian words «Zvezda» - «Star» and «Gorodok» - «Small town, village»), training centre for cosmonauts in the region of Moscow.

Current location

Moscow Region


Head of a building company

Type of helicopter used at the 14th FAI World Helicopter Championship

Robinson R-44

Hours of flying per year 

About 300 hours

Best results

Winner of the Open German Helicopter Championship 2009 and 2011; Winner of the Open Swiss Helicopter Championship 2010; Winner of the Russian Helicopter Championship 2011.

How did you become a helicopter pilot? 

I very much wanted to fly since I was a child, but I became a nuclear physicist. I only had the possibility to learn to fly when I was 48 years old.

Where and what was your most memorable flying experience?

  1. In the Open Championship of Switzerland in 2010 our crew took all the first places in all exercises.
  2. In the Open Championship of Germany in 2011 on Exercise of No. 1 "Navigation" received 300 points from 300 possible (0 penalty points).
  3. The 2011 Russian Championship was achieved by the very best result in the final task where only 3 points separated first from second. We won it with a difference of 3 points to take the first place.

You will be competing with Aleh Puajukas as a co-pilot/navigator – how long have you been flying together and what is his best quality? 

We have been flying together for 3 years. Oleg is very a good pilot as well as a very hardworking navigator. I have learned a lot from him.

How do you prepare for the 14th FAI World Helicopter Championship ?

Our trainings sessions are always supervised by our coaches who are all experts in the helicopter sport world: Sergey Druy, Vasily Golovkin, George Arbuzov.

Once every two or three weeks we pit our skills against other teams in various navigation training exercises drawn up by our trainers. These exercises - although not necessarily the same as the tasks flown during competitions - help us improve and supplement our skills. One of them consists of the pilots being given the overall dimensions of a search zone without being specified where on the map the targets are. We then have a limited time to understand how the search zone is arranged and how to find the targets, the winning crew being the one who find the largest number of them.

What else do you do to improve your skills and get ready for important competitions ?

When we train at a low height, we often use cameras to record videos of our flights that we can analyse once back on the ground.

We also try to participate in as many competitions as possible to gain confidence, improve our mental strength to be competitive regardless of the wind strength or the weather conditions.

Before the competitions we repeat each exercise hundreds of times until our movements become automatic. It is also crucial to make sure that the first flight is the best, even in training, as in competition the best flight should be the first one.

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