Mountain Course?

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Fling Wing
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Mountain Course?

#1 Post by Fling Wing » Sat Aug 01, 2009 6:58 pm

I was talking to a helicopter pilot the other day, and I asked him if getting a 206 endorsement would be a necesity for finding a low-time job. He said that the money would be better spent on a mountain course if my goal is to fly in the rocks. I asked if a mountain course would be much benefit to a 100hr pilot with next to no real world experience, but he said that what I learn in a mountain course would stick with me and make more sense down the road.

What are your opinions on this, would a mountain course really make someone more employable, or would time in a 206 be the better way to go?

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Re: Mountain Course?

#2 Post by sky's the limit » Sat Aug 01, 2009 7:13 pm

Hey there.

Just running across the road to the ocean to cool, but will write you about this shortly - it's a topic I've just been in deep conversation about with a couple very highly placed people in some large companies - read, I have an opinion on this one too.... imagine that?

stl
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Re: Mountain Course?

#3 Post by Fling Wing » Sat Aug 01, 2009 7:19 pm

Thanks STL, perfect timing. The more thoughts I get on this the easier it is to make a final decision.

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Re: Mountain Course?

#4 Post by sky's the limit » Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:04 pm

Ok, back. Great swim in the ocean.... :mrgreen:


Now your questions.

Buying endorsements or mountain courses is a contentious issue for sure, with those of us who've been around a while recoiling at the thought of paying for either. The newer generation seems to be getting sold on these things by the flight schools in ever increasing numbers (often backed up by some operators who don't want to put the money into add-on training). This is a very unfortunate, and in my humble opinion, unnecessary turn of events.

Good operators should, and will, reward good employees with value-added training. In the case of the 206 endorsement, it is a waste of money. Don't take my word for it, but look at it objectively for a moment if you will. A flight school will charge between $900-$1000/hr for a 206, they will usually sell you at least 5hrs, some will push it as far as 10hrs. An endorsement of any kind should be easily attainable in 3hrs with the proper instruction for a pilot who's ready. I have never done one more than that, including twins such as the 212 and Twin Star, with some coming in slightly less depending on the Operator's Ops Manual requirements.

The second point to the above is that an endorsement DOES NOT allow you to work in a given helicopter in Canada - you require a PPC for that. Even though the PPC is transferable, the schools don't sell you one of those.

The knock-on to that is, once hired an Operator is required to give you X amount of training for initial, type, and PPC. This usually amounts to about 5hrs, more than enough to attain an endorsement and for the Operator to evaluate you. I personally feel that Operators requiring "endorsements" are just trying to be cheap, and the good ones understand - especially in the case of a 100hr pilot - that the time spent on an endorsement allows them to fully evaluate the candidate, and train them to their operational specifics. Do you understand the logic in this so far?

The Mountain Course - all 20hrs of it.

Your timing is actually rather good for this question, as just last month I flew a great job in the mountains with two other pilots from a company that has little mountain experience, and little training dedicated to it. One pilot was a contractor like myself, but unlike me has not spent an entire career in the hills. He has 5000+hrs, is an excellent pilot, but received a mountain course at 100hrs and has only dabbled in them since - he struggled, mightily.

We spent many hours discussing the finer points of mountain flying, and we all agreed that he is a case-in-point for NOT doing mountain courses without at least 500hrs, preferably more. The reasons for this are many:

At 100hrs it is all most people have to fly the machine, and once you add customers, weather, terrain, altitude, or advanced maneuvers, they very quickly become over-loaded to the point where they are not learning anything that will stick. This pilot is a perfect example.

The main pillar of becoming a good mountain pilot lies in flying with precision. Altitude, air speed, power, and co-oriented flight are all critical in order for the pilot to be able to correctly evaluate what is happening with the wind and aircraft performance in each and every situation. There are not blanket techniques, but tools that you use to evaluate, and low-time pilots rarely possess a level of comfort required to do all these things accurately while reserving enough mental capacity to deal with everything else, in this case learning sometimes complex maneuvers from an instructor. There are a great many Operators who don't give mountain courses to pilots under 500hrs for exactly that reason. Why the schools are pushing them can be boiled down to one factor - revenue.

BCFS is one of a very few agencies that require a mountain course, but they also require other things like total time, time on type, and applicable hours working in a specific environment. At 100hrs you have none of these things.

Once again, my advice is: Save your money, all things come in time, and with good employers.

I know it is competitive out there for positions, but in the current state of the industry it could be a considerable amount of time before you get your hands on a helicopter, and the extra money spent on endorsements and mountain courses would be much better directed elsewhere - these things will come. Your skill level at this stage of a career will erode with frightening speed, and should it be 6 months or 2 years after you get your license before finding a seat, it WILL be like starting all over again. We see it all the time with low-timers.

It is VERY easy to get caught up in the excitement and to want to spend more on training, but my advice is to certainly think long and hard about what you are spending on, and WHY. Sales pitches to low-time pilots by schools are frighteningly easy, be very selective on how you spend your money. There are a number of guys who got the WCB ride - 500hrs flight training, endorsements, mountain courses, the lot - who never find work, and can't fly their way out of a wet paper bag. If you are cut out for this, you'll figure it out pretty quickly, as will your employer. All the training in the world won't make a difference.

Hope that helps,

stl
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Re: Mountain Course?

#5 Post by Fling Wing » Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:05 pm

Wow, that's great info STL. This makes alot more sense to me, especially about a 100hr pilot having his hands full and over-filling his cup of knowledge by taking a mountain course. And I didn't know that a 206 endorsement wasn't enough to commercially operate a 206, it makes sense that a company can give you this endorsement and train you the way they need to. You confirmed my original thoughts.

Thank-you
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Re: Mountain Course?

#6 Post by snoopy » Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:53 am

Hi Fling Wing,

If I can just add a little something to STL's excellent comments...

I've been flying fixed-wing (mostly bush) for 14 years, and made the conversion (several years ago), and now the career leap (this winter), over to helicopters. Like you, I was trying to figure out the best way to make myself the most marketable as a new helicopter pilot.

In my case, I felt the most important thing was to get current, and the mountain course was a way to do that, plus add a credential to the resume. Whether you have 100 hours or 5,000 hours, you still have to demonstrate you meet the criteria for the course.

I applied for, and was fortunate enough to be awarded, a scholarship for the BCFS-approved mountain course (20 hours on the Bell 206), to which I had added an extra 5 hours for a 206 endorsement as it had been 6 years since converting my license over from fixed-wing, and I had never flown a 206. My reasoning was that I didn't want to eat into the 20 hours allotted for the mountain course, trying to re-learn how to fly a helicopter, and a new type at that.

What STL has to say re spending $$ on the mountain course is correct - as a less-than 100 hour helicopter pilot, I can say that I was in information overload during the whole course. That said, I did learn a lot, and while I doubt I will fly in the mountains right away, having the course on the resume did increase my credentials, get me current, gave me a purpose while logging 25 hours on the JetRanger, and learned me some useful tactics for confined areas, which I am sure will come in handy. When I do eventually fly in the rocks, though the mountain course is theoretically good for life, I would definitely want to take the course again, hopefully with the the benefit of some significant flying hours under my belt.

What the 206 endorsement CAN do for you (or mountain course if you have gobs of $$), is learn you how to start, and handle, the 206. On my road trip, the first company I stopped at flight checked me on the 206 as part of the interview process. They also made me write the company exams, and asked questions to see what I knew. From what I've seen and heard, many helicopter companies will do this if they are considering hiring you. Also, a proper 206 endorsement should render you pretty much ready to do a PPC ride if you're lucky enough to get hired right away - some employers would find this attractive, as they would not have to spend as much $$ getting you ready for a PPC. Though I am with STL on this - good employers should not be trying to cheap out on training and operating costs by requiring you show up already endorsed.

As a side note, bonds and buying PPCs can be the subject of hot debate, and personally, I am not generally in favour of it. However, I don't see anything wrong with stacking the deck in your favour, and if a company is likely to flight check you as part of an interview, and if you have the $$, having a few extra hours of training and time on type will give you an extra edge that may get you the job. If it is a job you really want, well...

Even though it was a month after completing the mountain course, at least I was able to demonstrate some flying skills, and a knowledge of the machine. Later, after hiring on with another company for a ground position, I had a chance to do a flight in a 206. I was again able to at least fly the machine, even though on that occasion, it had been 3 months since the check flight and 4 months since completing the mountain course. Even at that, the first lift-off was a little messy.... LOL

So, as STL says, save your $$, but depending on the company(ies) you are targeting, and particularly in this market, it might be worth your while to get an endorsement on the machine you are most likely to fly. Some will say the R-44, which may be true, but I elected to go straight for the JetRanger in the hopes of flying that.

There are many paths to get where you are going.... just remember to enjoy the ride!

Cheers,
Kirsten B.
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Re: Mountain Course?

#7 Post by sky's the limit » Sat Aug 08, 2009 9:36 pm

snoopy wrote: the most important thing was to get current, and the mountain course was a way to do that, plus add a credential to the resume.

There is a big difference between trying to maintain currency and paying very large dollars for a course of which most will pass over your head. I am all for new pilots trying to maintain a feel for things, as skills degrade very quickly at this stage - paying for endorsements or mountains courses is, imho, not the best way to go about it, notwithstanding the obvious ethical issues with it.

The credential on the resume is one thing, the knowledge and skills that come with it are quite another. I think far too many pilots and operators are beginning to look at things like mountain courses as just another box to check off on the way to the dream job/viable employee - it's not. The merits of staying current are of course valid, but once you have a course, nobody is going to give you another one when you get to the experience level where it will truly be beneficial. Some operators who are giving "approved mountain courses" are skimping on training, often reducing the hour requirement (20 hours) for the course which is akin to having a low-timer take the course. This is serious stuff, it will save your life at some point - probably countless points - in your career. You can only learn so much so fast, and if currency is the goal, then by all means go take a few hours dual to be back in the air.

Snoopy's circumstances were somewhat unique with the scholarship, but for the average person spending that money at those hours would not be the most effective use of it, contrary to what many flight schools will have you believe.

stl

PS Snoop, how's the first week treating you?
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Re: Mountain Course?

#8 Post by snoopy » Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:40 am

Amazing so far... learning lots... having fun! :smt023 :smt039
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Re: Mountain Course?

#9 Post by Cat Driver » Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:42 am

The merits of staying current are of course valid,
Learning a new skill and recurrent training are two different things completely.
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Re: Mountain Course?

#10 Post by Fling Wing » Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:15 pm

Wow Snoopy, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a scholarship for the BCFS mountain course. I guess some 206 time would be a requirement for an interview at some companies but that's still at least $5000 which could be payed for one day, but it could mean the difference between job and no job for a lowtimer. I probably won't be getting or have enough $$ for that type of training right outa the box, and Snoopy even said that he had 14 years of fixedwing time under his belt which would surely give him an advantage in learning new techniques quicker. But, if you go to a school such as Chinook or somewhere in BC wouldn't they show you the ropes of flying in the rocks even if not as much as a mountain course? That's why people train here right? You'll probably have a better chance of finding employment in BC if you've trained in BC.

As for now I've still got another year of school left and then another 1 or 2 to make the 50-75 grand for training. I've already spent about $3000 on getting my ppl and I think this is expensive :rolleyes: And I'm sure that by the time I'm ready to start training the industry will have changed even more and will hopefully be out of the recession.

Thanks for all the advice guys
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Re: Mountain Course?

#11 Post by snoopy » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:29 pm

BTW, snoopy's a girl...
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Re: Mountain Course?

#12 Post by Fling Wing » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:56 pm

Oops... my apologies Snoopy.
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