After years away, Pittsford native comes back home for Rochester airshow demonstration

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — With the A.P. Property Services Rochester Airshow just a day away, dozens of teams were preparing aircrafts all day Friday. The pilots come from far and wide — but one of them is a Pittsford native.

“It has been about four or five years since I’ve been back to Rochester,” Lt. Christian Toscano said. “I grew up in Pittsford, New York […] graduated from Sutherland High School in 2014.”

Toscano is a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. He and co-pilot Lt. Will Colomb fly the MH-65 Dolphin Rescue Helicopter for Air Station Detroit.

“The MH-65 Dolphin is our short-range search-and-rescue in the Coast Guard,” Colomb said. “It has about two and a half hours to three hours of flight time. And works great for the Great Lakes.”

That exact type of aircraft is what got Toscano interested in aviation in the first place. Back in 2009, a 13-year-old Toscano saw an MH-65 Dolphin perform a search-and-rescue demonstration at the Rochester airshow.

“Oh, I loved it,” he said. “You know, something great about airshows is how close and personal the actual public can get to these aircrafts. We let people climb in, see what it’s like, and actually sit in the aircraft. I remember doing that, and uh, from there I was like, I definitely want to be a pilot.”

Fourteen years later, he did just that. But the aircraft he flies isn’t the exact same thing – the Coast Guard is always upgrading its equipment. The latest change they have planned is a state-of-the-art computer screen to replace their dozens of buttons, gauges, and dials spanning the length of the cockpit.

“Right now we spend a lot of time worrying about all the gauges and dials,” Colomb said. “[The new screen] will have moving maps on them, it’ll have all the engines on it. We’ll actually be able to have video footage on our hoist cam.”

That hoist cam looks at the equipment — like their large metal basket that brings the survivors up to the helicopter — used in their rescue missions. Both days of the airshow, Toscano, Colomb, and the rest of their four-person team will be doing a demonstration search-and-rescue drill. But how do you demonstrate a water rescue when you’re on the flat, dry ground of an airport?

“When we come to these kinds of airshows, we modify a little bit,” Colomb said, laughing. “So we’re having one of our small boat stations bring one of their boats out and their crew. They’re going to come out — with the winds depending — pop some smoke off, light a flare.”

The helicopter will then fly over the crowd, hovering above the person with the flare. They drop down a large metal basket with padded handles for the survivor to climb into.

“Then we’re going to bring them back up, and then we’re going to do a couple more laps to show the public what we can do with the helicopter,” Colomb finished.

The rest of the airshow, Toscano, Colomb, and several other members of the Coast Guard will spend their time giving tours of the MH-65 Dolphin.

“My favorite part is seeing the kids,” Colomb said. “The faces on them when they get to come in the helicopter, touch a few things. Look at the helicopter and just see their faces light up and be interested in aviation, is really rewarding.”

While Rochester is a special stop for Toscano, it’s just one on a long list for the Detroit-based team. They go to a handful of shows a year, from Cleveland to Milwaukee to London, Canada.

“We go all over to kind of show the public what we do and how we save lives,” Toscano said.

The airshow is open to the public Saturday through Sunday evening.