Instructor Spotlight: Melanie Smith, From Combat Black Hawk Pilot to Aviation Educator  


Whether she’s leading our team of Air Methods Ascend instructors or teaching courses in flight line readiness and aviation, our Aviation Education Manager, Melanie Smith, MIM, MBA, M.Ed., draws on her impressive background and past experiences. She began her career as a US Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot serving in the Middle East and Europe. After leaving the military, she dedicated herself to education as both a motivational speaker and instructor, and she has served as an air medical aviation educator at Air Methods for the past 15 years.  

Smith leads Air Methods Ascend’s in-person training programs at the company’s headquarters in Denver, CO, bringing pilots and medical crew members together in an interactive environment to learn the fundamentals of air medical operations. The extensive classroom and simulator training programs are tailored to both rotor and fixed-wing aircraft. Smith and her team also manage Ascend’s online continuing education program.  

“The people who take my courses, many of whom are also former military, appreciate the stories, humor (sometimes dark) and command of military acronyms my experience has afforded me, making the material even more relatable,” said Smith. Her military experience, including being the first female to graduate from (or even attend) the NATO Special Forces Winter Survival School, is invaluable to her work at Air Methods and her role as an Ascend instructor. 

Following her military service, Smith became an Air Methods air ambulance pilot. She quickly inspired confidence and trust among her colleagues, progressively assuming more leadership responsibility. Air Methods’ CEO, JaeLynn Williams, honored Smith with the Impacting 100k Lives Award in 2022. Her job also led to her meeting her husband on a hospital helipad as she was transporting a patient to the hospital where he worked. 

An enthusiastic lifelong learner, Smith holds three master’s degrees, including one in education, and is currently completing her doctorate in business administration. She is a proponent for how the Air Methods Ascend program uses advances in educational concepts and state-of-the-art technologies to make the field even more accessible to people seeking careers as air medical pilots and pre-hospital, critical care, and flight clinicians – a logical path for those transitioning back to civilian life after military service.  

Air Methods salutes Melanie Smith for embodying its commitment to safety and outstanding patient care. Instructors like her, along with the Air Methods Ascend program, help more people pursue rewarding careers in emergency medical service.