Tony Sousa was born November 11, 1967, to Ed Sousa and Sharon Lundahl in Chico, California, and grew up between Chico, Orland, and Capay. He attended Corning High School and Butte Community College. He married Rachelle Sousa, and they raised their two sons, Connor and Carson, in Red Bluff.
Tony wanted to be a pilot since he took an aerial course at Butte College. He decided to be a helicopter pilot after his first discovery flight with Air Shasta Rotor & Wing, Inc. He was not going to be an average helicopter pilot; he was going to be the A+ pilot. He achieved top scores on all his exams. He also became a flight instructor to help train future pilots. Tony was pivotal in implementing the CAL FIRE Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) training program in 2022. He was the first night vision goggles HLCO pilot qualified by CAL FIRE. He trained and mentored a huge brotherhood of fellow aviators to provide the HLCO service to the state of California. He was proud and humbled to be part of the CAL FIRE brotherhood and working for Air Shasta Rotor & Wing, Inc. He made some great friends who miss him dearly.
Tony was dedicated to his different careers. He worked on a dairy for ten years, working seven days a week with two days off and attending college. He started his own business, with his dad’s help, and became a custom harvester. They worked side by side for 30 years. Tony also worked for a company that fabricated and sold go-karts, and he raced the karts he built. He was always experimenting to make the karts better and faster and won multiple Outlaw Kart Open Championships over his career. He loved mentoring young drivers, including his sons. Tony was passionate and determined to be successful at whatever he set his mind to.
Tony was a loving husband for 28 years and a proud father to his sons. He went on hikes, dinners, and weekend trips wherever his wife wanted to go. He shared his passions with his sons—racing, mountain biking, snow skiing, water skiing, and completing a triathlon. He cheered his sons on in their sporting events, teaching them work ethics, how to operate and repair farm equipment and vehicles. He loved hanging out with his sons. Wrestling with the boys was a favorite pastime until one day they were able to pin him down. They would dare each other to do crazy things and have a great belly laugh telling the stories years later.
Tony’s last time home, he was talking about his job as a pilot, and he told his wife, “I love what I do.” Words cannot express the hero that we lost. His loss will be felt for life.