Monday, January 2, 2012

Cine-Exec Part 2

Once you have been in the helicopter charter business for a while, most flight operations are pretty much the same.  Usually operated under F.A.R. rules Part 135, which is the authority for the operator to perform helicopter charter flights for passengers and cargo.  Our operation was pretty diversified, that we also did other types of flights under F.A.R. part 91 which would be general operating rules.
This would allow you to do some flights not under the strict rules of FAR 135 but with a lot of limitations.  Flight training was usually done by the newer pilots and I think in every case, I had very few positions as a pilot, where I wasn't involved in giving flight instruction at some time.  I had my fair share of taking new pilots though a training program and getting them to the point that they could qualify for a pilot's license.  I was glad that I had moved up and put this all behind me, but on this one occasion, I was called upon to train four non English speaking Japanese students.  I should clarify that and say, that one of the students could speak excellent English and the others had English classes in their homeland school, but did not use it often.  So combine the challenge of mastering the control of a helicopter with the lack of good communication, you could say I had my work cut out for me.  Everyone of our staff flight instructors was going to get a piece of the action, so I volunteered to do the first two weeks of training. Three students were in their late 20's and one student was in his mid 40's.  He also was the one that could speak English.  All of these people had some prior helicopter flight instruction in the Robinson R-22, but the remainder of the training was to be completed in the Aereospatiale AS-350 A Star.  This would be like going from a Ford Pinto to a Mercedes.  As I have stated earlier in previous post, most helicopter control functions are pretty much the same.  The biggest differences would be the turbine engine and boosted hydraulic flight controls.  Also in helicopters manufactured in the United States, the main rotor turns counterclockwise, and in the Aereospatiale, the rotor turns clockwise.  This means the pilot will have to use the right anti-torque pedal, instead of the left pedal to control the thrust on the tail rotor during higher torque/power applications.

Aereospatiale AS 350

Robinson R-22

Aereospatiale AS350 Cockpit

Robinson R-22 Cockpit

I'm not knocking the R-22, it is a fine training helicopter and the transition into turbine powered helicopters I think would have been better accomplished with more flight time in the Robinson.  The need for beginning the training in the A-Star (Aereospatiale) at an earlier time in the training program was dictated by the Japanese government.  Their license requirements are pretty much the same as the United States, but with the exception of some differences and limitations.

Flight instructing in helicopters is a real challenge to say the least.  The other issue, is that once you have graduated from the ranks of being an instructor, you just want to move on and leave the task of teaching new pilots how to fly helicopters to somebody else.  However, you don't always have a choice.  I think in time, most people can learn what's necessary in the beginning, but it can be really trying at times.  In time the learning curve will start to peak and then it's a matter of refining all the little elements of each required maneuver in the training program.  Spending time giving good ground school, is also one of the necessary steps to get the job done properly.

I spent the first two days in the classroom reviewing the flight manual, cockpit checklist and the aircraft preflight.  This was well spent time, but not always to the liking of the company, as they are most interested in flight hours which produce more revenue.

It sure worked well for me.  Each day, the students would arrive at the airport early and go over the preflight as a group and the aircraft would be clean from one end to the other.  This is one thing I found about the Japanese students, they are very serious about learning and dedicated to do the very best they can.  I flew with the students approximately one  hour at a time, but I made sure they were all on board the aircraft during the flight training.  When one student finished his flight training period, we would set down and change pilots for the next hour of training.  In that way we could get several hours of training in one day without too many stops other than for refueling the helicopter.

The two weeks time went by very quickly and the Japanese students were well on their way to completing this phase of training and I would soon be on my way back to the Los Angeles area.

Several weeks later, the training was completed and all the students passed their flight test for their pilots certificates.  This is the part I most enjoyed about being a flight instructor.  It's a good feeling  to know that you could pass on to someone else new knowledge and skill.  Besides that, I enjoyed the two weeks stay in Northern California and to have made some new international friends. More to come in the next post.............

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