Melissa Brizzi ‘15 joins Coast Guard crew for practice missions from Tampa Bay


Melissa Brizzi took another step towards her journey to join the United States Coast Guard when she boarded a Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter with three service members for a 2 ½ mission around the Tampa Bay region. The mission was a part of the pilot’s annual requirements to complete certain minimum tasks.

During the trip that originated out of the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater, Melissa wore the similar garb as the seamen, complete with flight suit, helmet, boots, and gloves. The team circled around Pinellas County several times, which included aerial views of Admiral Farragut Academy. According to Melissa, the pilot – a cousin of Farragut alumnus Zach Patterson – practiced several touch-and-go maneuvers on the runway at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. The crew also did exercises over the Gulf of Mexico that included hovering 80 feet in the air for rescue simulations, engine failures and autorotations.

Autorotations refer to a descending maneuver where the engine is disengaged from the main rotor system to recover from engine malfunction or failure. Melissa said the pilot practiced this maneuver four times and dropped 1,000 feet before recovering. It took five seconds of drop time and a couple seconds of recovery.

“It felt like the Tower of Terror at Disney World where you just drop suddenly and you feel like your stomach is coming up through you,” said Melissa, who will begin attending the Coast Guard Academy in the fall. “It was pretty exciting. I could see myself pursuing a career as a helicopter pilot now.”