Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's Licen

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Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's Licen

#1 Post by BeCareful » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:10 am

This is a suggestion to all those interested in obtaining a Canadian Commercial Helicopter Pilot's Licence:

The industry seems great. There is lots of money to be made by those who can get their first job. You can work in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, on some of the most interesting jobs from the most incredible point of view. For those of you who don't want to pursue an office job, becoming a pilot seems great! The thought of flying thousands of feet above the ground, being able to hover, saving lives with medevac or search and rescue, fighting forest fires, dropping people on mountain tops, what could be better? I had this same positive attitude when I was looking into flight schools and researching job opportunities. I am writing this post in hopes of warning people who think, or are told by flight school employees, that this is the case. The reality of this industry is that finding your first job is a near impossibility.

When I was researching schools for flight training, I explored several options and thought I had done my research. I ended up being trained by a school in northern Ontario, because they have an excellent salesperson who tells you things that are untrue. If anyone tells you that purchasing time on turbine helicopters is useful they are lying, if they tell you that extras such as underwater egress, survival courses or chainsaw courses are useful they are also lying. If you're told that you will have a job upon graduation, this is in most cases a lie as well. The reality of this industry is that jobs are few and far between. You need to realize that most operators won't even look at you unless you have 2000 PIC (Pilot in Command) time, and for companies in Western Canada they want mountain experience as well. You will also be told that if you drive across the country with resumes and visit the various operators, you can pretty much be assured a job. Again, this is a flat out lie. I have driven from coast to coast several times visiting operators in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Colombia, and though people are willing to meet with you and offer advice, there are hardly any jobs. I graduated several years ago, and only 16% of graduates from my class have flown since obtaining their licences. If they tell you that hard work is what it takes to find a job, this is also a lie, it is very much luck or having a connection in the industry.

I am writing this post because I think it is a crime that flight schools can get away with what they do by lying to young people who have dreams of flight. If you are considering enrolling yourself in a flight school, I urge you to if not reconsider, explore your options. Call around to different operators in the country and see what their employment needs are at the moment. Ask them questions such as: do I need any extra training beyond the licence? Is it worth spending the extra money to learn about how to escape helicopter that is underwater? Is turbine time useful? Do you ACTUALLY favour graduates from certain schools or is that just what they're telling me? Do you think purchasing turbine time is a valuable investment?

Additionally, from what I've been hearing from the few contacts I do have in the industry, it is slowing down again. There aren't any jobs available, especially for low time pilots. You might be told by flight school employees that the boomers will be retiring and lots of jobs will be opening up, but I am still waiting for that to happen.

The reality is that there is little to no opportunity in this industry. The idea of becoming a helicopter pilot is a very exciting one, and the potential for financial security is there on paper and in the bank records of accomplished pilots, but no on the horizon for current or aspiring industry entrants. Please, please, PLEASE think long and hard before investing $50,000 - $70,000 of yours or your parents money, and before you start writing cheques to flight schools.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#2 Post by The Mole » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:31 pm

Heli- college in Langley was very open, when i was looking 14 years ago about doing my license. Lyle was honest in saying you will probably fail at getting a job flying. There is a 90% failure rate in rotary.

The best advice i got was. DO NOT get into aviation Unless you really, really, really want to. Its not a job, its professional career that comes with a crazy lifestyle.

Of the 15ish people i trained with, I only know of 5, that got jobs, and 2 where licensed engineers.

At Alpine Canmore, of the ground crew, Alpine hired 2. For the rest of us. i think there where eight. I know of 3 that are flying full time.


Thats been my experience.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#3 Post by sky's the limit » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:04 pm

BeCareful wrote:
The reality is that there is little to no opportunity in this industry. The idea of becoming a helicopter pilot is a very exciting one, and the potential for financial security is there on paper and in the bank records of accomplished pilots, but no on the horizon for current or aspiring industry entrants. Please, please, PLEASE think long and hard before investing $50,000 - $70,000 of yours or your parents money, and before you start writing cheques to flight schools.
Pretty much nailed it.

It should be kept in mind that schools are there for one reason only: To make money, they are not concerned about what happens after you graduate, and there are an awful lot of people attaining their license who are just not cut out for the career... it's not up to the schools to vet those people, that's up to employers.

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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#4 Post by helicopterray » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:20 pm

If you go out and spend $50 000 to $70 000 to get an MBA from your local university, there is no guarantee you will ever get a job that requires that degree either.

Schooling only makes you qualified for that entry level job, it does not guarantee you will get it or that there will be a job available when you graduate.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#5 Post by fish4life » Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:38 pm

Is there any ramp jobs in heli work or is that more fixed wing thing ?
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#6 Post by All Sides » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:44 pm

Please, please, PLEASE think long and hard before investing $50,000 - $70,000 of yours or your parents money, and before you start writing cheques to flight schools.[/quote]
[quote][/quote]

What sends a warning flag up here is this comment. YOUR parents hard earned money? Are you kidding me?

No question it is very difficult breaking into the industry, but people do make it into it. I finished my Commercial Fixed Wing the day the recession started in 1981, for those who were not born yet it was worse than the present economic down turn.
I spent four years pumping floats, cleaning airplanes, doing maintenance, mail and anything else to help a struggling company survive. Many of my days off I came into work to get as little as a .3 flying, and get up at 05:30 to do it. I had layoffs, worked in the oil fields in the arctic, apprenticed on airplanes and anything else to survive the recession which ended in 1985. When it ended after 4 years I had scraped enough experience to get a job on a beaver for $1500 a month. I worked 6 months with 0 days off, I was happy to have an opportunity to get a job flying.

In 1994 my ex and I (with 2 young kids) re mortgaged our house to convert to helicopters, I flew an airplane for the summer for a helicopter company to get a 206 and 500 rating. The following year I got a job making $1000 a month at 37 years old, married with two young children. 20 years later I have Sikorsky 61, Bell 214ST,212,204,205,206, Astar, Hughes 500 and a couple of Robby type ratings.

I am not looking for anyone's sympathy, its been a challenging career choice. If you really, really want it, you will have to slug it out and be innovative and tenacious about getting it. That does NOT mean working for nothing, but it might mean you will be working for very little. Jumping in your car and driving coast to coast might not do it, perhaps move to an area where there is lots of helicopter activity and pester the local operator. Even doing all of that might mean you still will never get the shot.

You said you did your research? I think you researched in the wrong areas. If you would have made the effort to talk to any active pilots, you would have known that job opportunities are rare. 95% of the pilots would have told you the reality of breaking into the industry.

Personally it doesn't sound to me like you have the will to do it, but this is for the ones that read your post who might give up because of it.

Your turn Graham. lol
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#7 Post by Golden Pilot » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:19 am

Well posted ALL SIDES.
My take on the current situation in the industry is simple, those who want to work hard to succeed in the industry generally do.

I could tell my story, but you have all heard it or similar ones before, living in a cardboard box, walking up hill to school, etc, etc.

What I have seen recently is some very promising young pilots with a tremendous talent and an incredible work ethic. They are succeeding with good old hard work and dedication.
Cry me a river, all you newly licenced pilots who can't find work. I know of several of you and the reason some are not in the PIC seat is very clear to me.
A) you probably won't find a flying seat right out of flight school, get over it....you're just not that good YET. One 100 hr kid told me that he was the BEST pilot ever in Flight school. He has never flown a revenue hour ever.
B) You are going to have to do really rotten grunt work which is far below your big pilot Ego.
c) Entry level jobs may not be located "down south" in a city with weekends and holidays off. The city's name may start with FORT or LAC
D) Chief pilots may not respond to your flashy resume, so you may have to hit the road...hard !

The last kid we hired came into my hangar in small town BC, travelling all the way out from Ontario, and we hired him on the spot, He was that GOOD in an interview. He worked ( and I mean WORK !) tirelessly on the ground for 2 years without a complaint. Now he has that 206 seat, and he will do well. He deserves it, Thanks TB, good job! You too LF, MF you guys make me proud ! You may have all had just 100 hrs when we met, but you are all the shining future of this industry.

The Industry and your Career is what YOU make it, so get out there and do it, remember that every one of the (estimated) 1,800 Commercial Rotary pilots in canada had 100 hours at one point. We all found a way, you CAN too !
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#8 Post by sky's the limit » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:38 am

All Sides wrote:Please, please, PLEASE think long and hard before investing $50,000 - $70,000 of yours or your parents money, and before you start writing cheques to flight schools.

What sends a warning flag up here is this comment. YOUR parents hard earned money? Are you kidding me?

No question it is very difficult breaking into the industry, but people do make it into it. I finished my Commercial Fixed Wing the day the recession started in 1981, for those who were not born yet it was worse than the present economic down turn.
I spent four years pumping floats, cleaning airplanes, doing maintenance, mail and anything else to help a struggling company survive. Many of my days off I came into work to get as little as a .3 flying, and get up at 05:30 to do it. I had layoffs, worked in the oil fields in the arctic, apprenticed on airplanes and anything else to survive the recession which ended in 1985. When it ended after 4 years I had scraped enough experience to get a job on a beaver for $1500 a month. I worked 6 months with 0 days off, I was happy to have an opportunity to get a job flying.

In 1994 my ex and I (with 2 young kids) re mortgaged our house to convert to helicopters, I flew an airplane for the summer for a helicopter company to get a 206 and 500 rating. The following year I got a job making $1000 a month at 37 years old, married with two young children. 20 years later I have Sikorsky 61, Bell 214ST,212,204,205,206, Astar, Hughes 500 and a couple of Robby type ratings.

I am not looking for anyone's sympathy, its been a challenging career choice. If you really, really want it, you will have to slug it out and be innovative and tenacious about getting it. That does NOT mean working for nothing, but it might mean you will be working for very little. Jumping in your car and driving coast to coast might not do it, perhaps move to an area where there is lots of helicopter activity and pester the local operator. Even doing all of that might mean you still will never get the shot.

You said you did your research? I think you researched in the wrong areas. If you would have made the effort to talk to any active pilots, you would have known that job opportunities are rare. 95% of the pilots would have told you the reality of breaking into the industry.

Personally it doesn't sound to me like you have the will to do it, but this is for the ones that read your post who might give up because of it.

Your turn Graham. lol

Great post...!

I was trying to be a little more diplomatic... but yes, I essentially agree with what you wrote here. If you want something bad enough, and have the work ethic and humility to go get it, you'll succeed. Unfortunately that doesn't describe the majority of people going through flight schools these days imho.

It's a tough, tough, row to hoe, but if you put in the work there is a good chance it'll pay off. The unfortunate part is spending that money up front to find out, but that's just the way it goes.

g
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#9 Post by North Shore » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:59 am

row to hoe
Wanted: Helicopter Pilot
Must be able to properly construct english sayings :wink:
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#10 Post by All Sides » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:16 pm

North Shore wrote:
row to hoe
Wanted: Helicopter Pilot
Must be able to properly construct english sayings :wink:
I hate to break it to you North Shore, but the saying is proper spelling and grammar...

The topic could use a little tweeking though! :wink:
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#11 Post by blue thunder » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:56 pm

Coming out of High School in 1980, I wanted to become a helicopter pilot. I'm not sure what gave me the bug, but that's what I wanted to do. I didn't have two nickels to rub together, then I heard about the flight program at Canadore College that they were giving away for just tuition. One pre-qualification-you needed your fixed wing license first to apply. Well, for the last half of grade 12, I would scoot to the London flying club any chance I could to do my fixed wing training. Sometime that year, I drove up to Canadore thinking the instructors would be fighting over me to have me as a student. Right, I pretty much got laughed out of the building. They told me that I didn't stand a 'snowflake's chance in H*ll' to get in but if I went next door and took Aircraft Engineering, I would be a sure bet to get in after I got my AME papers. That's what I ended up doing, two years of AME school and a gruelling 7 day a week apprenticeship with Lakeland Helicopters. The pay was around 800 bucks a month, but we still had enough for the odd beer or two.

When I finally wrote my AME Exams, I applied once more to the Canadore Pilot program, and as promised, they let me in without an interview. It was a good program, and when I graduated, I think I was making 1200/month, only longer hours since I could do two jobs, and still no time off. There was no such thing as a rotating schedule in those days. That summer, Lakeland grew from 3 helicopters to about 23. Pretty impressive eh? Even in my youth, I was smart enough to figure out that this wasn't possible. Soon, it was tough getting parts. I was in Drumheller alberta with two other pilots flying 15 hours a day on a 500D. I wasn't doing much flying myself, but I had the privilege of working through the night to keep the helicopter running. The Edmonton Oilers were just beginning their Stanley Cup run, and I was missing the games :-(.

Soon after, I grounded the helicopter because I could not get parts. Everyone had Lakeland on C.O.D. I had had enough and gave my two weeks notice. I was done with this industry. I ferry'd the helicopter to Calgary and they managed to get me some parts to keep it running. After 7 days, I called the office and asked if they had found a replacement for me. They said "you're not going anywhere". Wrong answer! That week I ran in to someone in Spar's hanger that was looking for a job. He was endorsed on the 500, so I told him who to call. I was done!

Anyhow, I took a construction job in Calgary. Construction wasn't booming then either, but I was getting paid a whopping 12 bucks an hour plus overtime, so I was rolling in the dough. I stuck with it, got married and divorced, then married again. I worked my butt off, and eventually bought the company I was working for. I never lost the passion for flying, so as business prospered, I bought a Rotorway Kit with a turbine conversion. Some of you may blast me for that, but with 5 young kids, if nothing else, it kept me occupied (my wife insists that I am a royal pain in the a** when I don't have something to do). I built it over 3 years, and flew about 75 hours on it. I was never comfortable with the design and cabin size. I bought a new R44 in 2007 (some may blast me for that too, but the 44 is a great helicopter if flown within it's limits). Last year, a buddy of mine was selling his 407 and asked me if I was interested. Hell ya! After some negotiation I bought it. 600 hours and Corporate interior. There is absolutely nothing practical about it, but it looks fast just sitting in the hanger. Fortunately wife # 2 supports my addiction, and with 7 seats, flying her and 5 kids wasn't a hard sell.

I keep telling people almost every day-flying for a living is one of the craziest things ever. Those who do, I commend. I have construction labourers that start at 20/Hour. They may show up on time, some may last several weeks, but since there is a shortage of labour, that's the price we pay. AN excavator operator will get between 30-36/hour. He may have a grade 2 education, but that's what they get. A foreman will earn 125-150K/year-again, no set grade level necessary, just know how to show up and work. A pilot will work for almost nothing to get the opportunity to fly (I was the same way). Flying is like an addiction that needs to be satisfied. My situation was unique, and I didn't express all this to gloat, it just turned out OK for me. Success can be attributed to luck, but if you don't create the opportunity for luck to fall on your lap, it won't. To those that persevere in aviation, I commend you. I personally know it is a tough road. To the original poster, you hit it on the head, it's a crazy business and the sales people should get kicked in the groin for selling it the way they do. Good luck out there guys and gals.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#12 Post by All Sides » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:44 pm

Great Post Blue Thunder! Nice ride too. You are a very wise man.

Oh Yeah, you must have a great lady too, the second ones are usually the best ones.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#13 Post by sky's the limit » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:27 pm

All Sides wrote:
North Shore wrote:
row to hoe
Wanted: Helicopter Pilot
Must be able to properly construct english sayings :wink:
I hate to break it to you North Shore, but the saying is proper spelling and grammar...

The topic could use a little tweeking though! :wink:

If only Forestry knew how much smarter helicopter pilots were than bomber guys, we might actually get treated a little better? ;-)

Nice try Northy, nice try. Beer on you next time I see you...!
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#14 Post by The Mole » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:45 pm

sky's the limit wrote:

If only Forestry knew how much smarter helicopter pilots were than bomber guys, we might actually get treated a little better? ;-)

Nice try Northy, nice try. Beer on you next time I see you...!


Tanker pilots are god among men, they put forest fires out...... dont ya know.......
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#15 Post by sky's the limit » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:51 pm

The Mole wrote:
sky's the limit wrote:

If only Forestry knew how much smarter helicopter pilots were than bomber guys, we might actually get treated a little better? ;-)

Nice try Northy, nice try. Beer on you next time I see you...!


Tanker pilots are god among men, they put forest fires out...... dont ya know.......

Oh, we get to see their handiwork when they leave... at least the bomber guys dropping water get away with it! Poor buggers on retardant on the other hand... lol
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#16 Post by Baja Guy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:10 am

In addition to the barriers and road blocks already mentioned above, there is another that new heli pilots need to be aware of, particularly if they think that the oil patch is going to be their entry level flying job. Contrail standards govern the experience requirements many of the oil companies adhere to.
For those who aren't familiar with Contrail, there is an excellent post at the top of the topics list in the employment forum extensively outlining the standards that were developed by the aviation consultant and pitched to the oil patch because they "SOUND SAFE". I first remember hearing the name Contrail in about 2002, but they may have been around before that, I don't know. Anyway, he was a marketing genius, and pitched his interpretation of what makes pilots safe to fly with to the entire oil and gas industry. Many bought in.
"Hey Bob, you really should set a minimum of 1500 hours for the pilots that fly your people on that pipeline patrol."
"Geez Brian, that sounds safer. Thanks."
"No problem Bob. That'll be $100,000 please."
That, my friends, is marketing genius. And that , my friends, is why you have an impenetrable barrier keeping you from that first flying job in the oil patch. The helicopter company might want to hire you, but their hands are truly tied IF their primary customers have signed onto Contrail standards.
My point being: try to research who your prospective employer's customers are. Some operators may not disclose this information, some probably will. No amount of hard work and hanger mopping is going to get you any closer to meeting the Contrail standards, and doing a 0.1 or 0.2 test flight every other day will take you 20 years to meet them.
There are a few operators who fly significant hours for oil companies but without passengers on board, and sometimes, depending on the oil company, they may allow lower time pilots to perform those jobs. An example (if I can name names) would be Airborne Energy, which is now part of Gemini, and all their pipeline patrols that they do, WITHOUT oil company reps on board. Or, same company, but pilot-operating in gas/oil fields where the pilot flies generally by him/herself maintaining the wells and field compressors.
Good luck to all out there. And, no, underwater egress training isn't going to help you fly a pipeline patrol in a 44.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#17 Post by helicopterray » Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:05 pm

Contrail has been around since the early 1990's when he was a one man show and I used to get audited regularly on the oil patch.

I think he is doing a great job. It's because of his lobbying that we get separate crew quarters between pilots/ame's, a trailer to 'rest' in between flights, and other conveniences that make life bearable in the bush.

He also goes through log books to make sure the companies aren't skipping on maintenance, flying over duty times, and things like that.

He does use data from insurance companies to set minimum pilot standards for his (oil company) customers, but it's all about safety for his customers.

I do get along well with him.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#18 Post by Freck » Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:38 pm

I near pissed my pants laughing reading ECCO's response. :lol: You need some therapy bud but man that was funny! So what you're trying to tell us is your personal experience was fairly negative?? As for the original poster life is hard. Its even harder when you expect things to be handed to you on a silver platter like most young people think things should.

I'm close to 2500hrs and right now in these economic times its even hard for 2000hr+ guys to find work. Would I recommend going for your licence right now? No! Would I blame the industry for that? Nope! Flight schools are trying to sell a product. Are they going to tell you not to do your training? Give your head a shake!

Your parents probably held you up on a pedestal and told you how great you are and now maybe someone out in the real world isn't seeing the same quality good old mom and dad saw. Thinking life should be fair is like thinking the lion won't eat you because you didn't eat him! Sounds like its time to grow up to me. :roll:
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#19 Post by CallMeMister » Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:03 pm

Hey Guys, Interesting topic.

What are you're taught on the type of Heli a new guy should do his training for CPL-H ?

Jet Ranger ? R22 ? R44 ? 300 ? AS ?

Is it worth it to go directly ( or transition ) on Jet ?


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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#20 Post by The Mole » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:33 pm

The cheapest one possible. r22/300/bell 47. Dont waste your money on more expensive aircraft.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#21 Post by sky's the limit » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:35 pm

The Mole wrote:The cheapest one possible. r22/300/bell 47. Dont waste your money on more expensive aircraft.

^This. Best advice you can get.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#22 Post by CallMeMister » Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:54 pm

sky's the limit wrote:
The Mole wrote:The cheapest one possible. r22/300/bell 47. Dont waste your money on more expensive aircraft.

^This. Best advice you can get.
So might as well go down south and do my FAA licence, since training on a 300 or R22 would cost me 310$/h ?
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#23 Post by sky's the limit » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:09 pm

No.

Cheapest AIRCRAFT, not the cheapest training.

Training pilot here with thousands of hours of industry time, or a low timer in the US? Your choice.
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#24 Post by CallMeMister » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:25 pm

sky's the limit wrote:No.

Cheapest AIRCRAFT, not the cheapest training.

Training pilot here with thousands of hours of industry time, or a low timer in the US? Your choice.

hmm, I always had some issues with people complaining about that. Yes indeed most of the FAA CFI are low timers, with little experience etc etc,

But If I find a school with a good experienced instructor, wouldn't that be as good as in Canada ?

It's also hard to believe that every instructor in Canada is better than one in the US. Why one would be more incompetent than another... or competent...

The difference is huge. TC PPL-H = 30 000 and +
FAA PPL-H = 15-20 000 $
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Re: Do som research before paying for a Helicopter Pilot's L

#25 Post by sky's the limit » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:35 pm

Listen,

It's your money, do with it as you choose. You've "always had issues?" Really? Based on what? You don't seem to understand how this works, and now are arguing that the training is the same, but WAY cheaper in the US. If you have it all figured out, then by all means go to the US and train and stop wasting our time here.

However, in the spirit of at least trying to help:

A few very experienced people here are telling you the same thing, as has been said many, many, times through numerous threads - based on reality. The simple fact of the matter is the system's are generally different. Ie. American heli instruction is like Canadian fixed wing instruction: Low timers teaching no timers. In Canada, the vast majority of rotary instructors are high time guys and girls who are very experienced in the industry and excellent at what they do. Entirely up to you what you want to get out of your training. Yes, training in Canada is significantly better on average, but do as you wish.

Again, it's your money. Go see if you can find a high-time bush pilot in the US and train with them, I wish you luck.

You answered your own question btw...
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