Embracing disruption and navigating change as one of the world’s leading helicopter pilots
Jerry Grayson’s extraordinary career as a helicopter pilot has seen him work in some of the most challenging environments around the world. With his resilience and quick-thinking, Jerry was able to carve a successful career for himself even when his entire field was disrupted by the advent of drones. He is the perfect speaker for discussing drones and digital disruption, risk management, teamwork, and leadership.
Jerry joined the Fleet Air Arm at just 17, making him the youngest helicopter pilot to ever serve in the Royal Navy. As a search and rescue pilot, he had to navigate stressful and highly dangerous missions to save lives out at sea. Across his 2500 hours of flight and 120 rescue missions, Jerry and his crew have managed to save over 70 lives.
Most notably in the infamous Fastnet Race, Jerry played a crucial role in saving desperate sailors from their sinking yachts. In another mission, he was tasked with rescuing a seriously ill crewman from a nuclear-armed submarine, made more difficult by the cat-and-mouse game with the Soviet Navy.
After eight years, Jerry had demonstrated his bravery and work ethic as the most decorated peacetime naval pilot in history. He was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC) by the Queen for outstanding gallantry in search and rescue.
Since retiring from the Navy, Jerry worked as the leading aerial film director for some of the world’s biggest blockbusters in entertainment. He set up a production company that specialises in helicopter footage, and was heavily involved in the production of projects like Planet Earth, Black Hawk Down, and the James Bond film A View to a Kill. He also wrote, directed and shot the IMAX film The Earth Wins, covering the aftermath of some of the planet’s worst natural disasters across four continents.
Jerry has also contributed to the world of live sports, starting with the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984. Soon after, he became a staple in sports broadcasting when he commanded the entire airspace for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games in Doha, the Athens Olympics, and South Africa Soccer World Cup.
He also supplied the aerial filming unit for the F1 Motor Racing Grand Prix at Melbourne, UK, Brazil and South Korea, as well as for the worldwide broadcast of all motor races between 2010 and 2013. He even documented Mark Webber’s final race in F1, which he described as “heart-stopping”.
Jerry’s incredible career faced significant disruption in 2015 when drones became more prevalent. With its portable and remote capabilities, drones were a much more convenient method of capturing aerial footage than traditional helicopter shots. Realising the need to adapt quickly, Jerry embraced the disruption and helped his team understand the new technology to improve on their production quality.
An internationally recognised flight expert across manned and unmanned flight, Jerry continues to share his expertise with a range of organisations, including The Royal Australian Navy, the Defence Science & Technology Group, and the WA Department of Fire & Emergency Services. He also presents to a range of businesses and institutes, such as Optus, Metro Trains, Sword Active Risk, Bendigo Kangan Institute and Melbourne Grammar.
He has chaired and presented keynotes for The International Drone Expo in the USA, the Drone Zone at the Australian International Airshow, and London’s Commercial UAV Conference.
Jerry has also written two books, 'Rescue Pilot' and 'Film Pilot: From James Bond to Hurricane Katrina', giving readers an in-depth behind the scenes look at some of his most career-defining moments as a helicopter pilot.
Whether it’s dangerous rescue missions like the infamous Fastnet Yacht Race, covering live events like the Olympics, or filming major productions like Black Hawk Down, Jerry Grayson’s career is a story of resilience and determination. He draws on personal anecdotes to inspire his audiences to navigate change and embrace disruption throughout their professional lives.