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Mountain Ridge Helicopters Helicopter Flight Training Higher Ground Helicopters Flight Academy Ocean ColoHeliops 702 Helicopters Helicopter Flight Training

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By Lyn Burks

Super Bowl Sunday, 2008. A day that will go down in infamy. Not so much because the NY Giants beat the New England Patriots 17 - 14. That was a well deserved end to a great season. However, for those who remember, it was during that football game when the owner of the largest helicopter school in the world sent an email to everyone in the organization indicating that Silver State Helicopters was officially shut down. It was a house of cards destined to fall, and fall it did. Tens of millions of dollars disappeared, thousands of students left holding loans, and hundreds of CFI’s instantly out of work. This single event was not only a black spot on our industry, but it had a ripple effect that knocked the helicopter training industry back into the stone-ages.

Fast forward to the fall of 2008, when the U.S. financial markets collapsed, the nail was driven into the coffin of many schools when funding sources completely dried up. In the two years following the collapse, I saw at least 15 schools become victims of circumstance and go out of business.
At some point in late 2010, I began to see a shift in strategy among helicopter schools. They were not only scouring the earth for paths to new revenue streams, they were inventing new products and programs out of thin air. Colleges, Part 141, VA money, and specialty training programs became the saviors of most schools operating in a tough market, and it’s still true to this day. Many odd and interesting training programs have surfaced over the last couple of years and I thought I would share a small sampling of them.

Filling the 100 Hour Gap


For example, Mountain Ridge Helicopters in Logan, Utah has been providing traditional Private Pilot through ATP flight training for the last 5 years. They are located north of Salt Lake City in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Operating R22’s in 7000+ density altitudes, they are focused on providing a safe, controlled, and cost effective learning environment in mountainous terrain.

The owners of Mountain Ridge also operate a commercial outfit that performs fire fighting, heli skiing, game management and utility operations, so it is safe to say that they have personal knowledge of the skills required to be successful the real world. As a result of this experience, they also recognize that a gap exists between what good flight schools are producing, and what the commercial world is demanding.  The historical model has been for flight schools to cost effectively train pilots to meet the PTS minimums, while the commercial industry was burdened with training those pilots for real world operations.

While Mountain Ridge Helicopters has enjoyed a very successful placement rate of their students into the industry, they realize the challenges flight school graduates face in securing those highly competitive first jobs.  Many new CFI’s attempt to differentiate themselves with another 100 hours of time building.  While that can be effective, it is typically done in straight and level cross-country flight, with little additional skill acquisition.

Mountain Ridge has introduced a creative new program that provides a low cost option to secure those additional 100 hours, while safely gaining advanced skills that assist in getting that first CFI position and ultimately differentiate them in the commercial market.

Part I of the course is an Introduction to Mountain Ridge Helicopters' standards. It includes 25 hours of flight with a CFII performing autorotations; off-airport confined and pinnacle landings at altitudes above 5000 feet, and advanced emergency procedures.  Part II is 50 hours of complex Scenario Based Training (SBT) involving mountain cross-country, night flying, and complex Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) drills with an instructor on board.   Part III of the course has two options.  Option A involves 25 hours of additional training on Advanced Maneuvers including touchdown and zero speed autorotations, and an introductory Mountain Flying course.  Option B involves the same, doing the last 15 hours of that time in a turbine helicopter with an introduction to External Load and Vertical Reference.

The cost of the 100-hour Career Advancement Course piston option is an all-inclusive $18,000.  This works out to be a $100 an hour less than the industry average training cost for piston helicopters.  The turbine option is an additional $7,000 but is still less per hour than the average training costs for an R44.   The training is done one-on-one, and is customized to the individual pilot’s strengths and weaknesses.  With an average schedule consisting of one-day flight and one night flight each day, the program could be completed in 4-6 weeks.
 
Bottom line, the goal of this course is to produce a safer and more competent pilot that can secure that first CFI position and more easily transition into the commercial market.  www.mountainridgeheli.com

Police Helicopter Pilot Aircrew Course


In 2003, Leo Bell (15 year police veteran and founder of California Aviation Services, Inc. (CAS)) entered into a contract with the City of Fontana, Ca, to provide a complete aviation unit for helicopter police patrol.  The original purpose was to have a 2 year program which would enable Fontana’s police department to learn helicopter operations, aircraft management, helicopter tactical operations, etc from the experienced group at CAS.  The initial two-year program was intended to end in 2005 with Fontana purchasing their own helicopter and starting on their own.  However, the economical police helicopter contract was so successful the City of Fontana decided to keep Leo Bell’s police helicopter operation serving the city for an additional seven years.
 
California Aviation Services will now place the fully equipped Robinson R-44II Police Helicopter into full-time service at the flight school in Riverside CA.  The company has gained FAA Part 141 Approval for its Commercial Helicopter Pilot Courses and has a specialized “Police Helicopter Pilot Aircrew Course” that will be integrated into the program.  The R-44 helicopter will be utilized by civilian and police pilot trainees along with an experienced flight instructor onboard.

The local communities will gain benefit from the success of the California Aviation and Fontana relationship over the years.  The experienced staff at California Aviation Services will be instructing new pilots from throughout the country utilizing the aircraft formerly supplied to Fontana.  The flights will be in coordination with several local police agencies allowing hands on police pilot experience for the pilot trainees.  The communities and police departments will have the aircraft free of charge when students are conducting the training.
California Aviation Services, Inc is a leader in professional flight training and is one of very few law enforcement specialists in the helicopter industry.  FAA approved flight training courses are offered in Riverside CA. www.californiaaviationservices.com

NVG Training

In May 2010, Mauna Loa Helicopters established an alliance with Night Flight Concepts to offer Night Vision Goggle Training to their students.  MLH was impressed with Night Flight Concepts and the training curriculum they had created.  Using their guidance MLH was able to create an NVG program that will provide each of their students with the possibility of receiving the training required to be able to act as PIC during an NVG flight.

Mauna Loa Helicopters chose to offer this advance training in an effort to stay on the leading edge of the training industry.  Night flying is an integral part of each students training and with the addition of the NVGs, improves the level of safety for everyone involved.  Now, Mauna Loa Helicopters is looking forward to providing this training not only to their students and customers in Hawaii, but to customers around the entire Pacific Rim.

“The impact our NVG program has had on our capabilities as a training school is profound.  I am thankful to be involved in such a process.”  Noah Haydn-Myer, Chief Pilot Mauna Loa Helicopters. www.maunaloahelicopters.com

HeliPal Course


In a spin-off from the fixed wing world’s “Pinch Hitter” program, Palm Beach Helicopters developed a unique course named “Heli-Pal”.  The course was designed for helicopter passengers to better understand and participate in the flight with minor tasks.  While pilot incapacitation is rare, as a passenger that has participated in the course, you will be better equipped to react in an emergency situation by utilizing specific maneuvers covered in the course to get the aircraft safely on the ground.
 
Of course they can’t teach everything there is to know about flying in this 2 day course, but participants will come away with a better sense of flying fundamentals.  They will learn how to fly straight and level, make turns, and climb and descend.  Participants will also be introduce to navigation, communication, instruments and decision-making. While the course is primarily geared toward private owners and passengers, this is an excellent course for aviation crewmembers as well.
 
The course runs for 2 days and includes ground instruction, simulator instruction and 2 hours of Robinson R44 flight time for $1495.00 per person. Bring the family and spend a week in sunny south Florida enjoying all the amenities. Beautiful coastline and beaches, Disney World, Sea World, Miami Sea Aquarium, Busch Gardens and many more. Accommodations are priced right for summer guests. www.palmbeachhelicopters.com

Banner Towing


With a new banner-towing program, Ocean Helicopters has found a new way to turn training in to something fun and marketable for both the student and the school. Helicopter banners are completely different than a traditional airplane banner, as they are towed from under the helicopter on a “long-line”.  These banners are part of the HOBS banner towing system from the UK.  Identifying a demand for larger banners than can be traditionally towed by an airplane, Heli Banners LTD in the UK designed the HOBS banners specifically for helicopters.

Ocean Helicopters offers a unique banner-towing segment as one component of its Part 133 External Load Training Program.  The idea is simple and utilizes the same skills that you use when you are flying any type of long line by vertical reference.  The banners range in size from 5,000 sq ft. to 50,000 sq ft. There are a few steps to getting the banner airborne. First, they are laid out across an empty field. Next, once the long line is attached to the hook on the aircraft, the pilot brings the helicopter into an out of ground effect hover over the banner. Finally, the pilot slowly lifts the banner off the ground while gradually accelerating to 30 knots and continues to climb. Once the entire banner breaks free of the ground, it gracefully flies below and behind the helicopter. These banners are used in over 27 countries and are a great way to advertise!  They are larger and easier to read than an airplane banner. So in the flight training market, Ocean Helicopters is happy to offer something more than just flying the pattern at their office in West Palm Beach, Florida. www.oceanhelicopters.com
 

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