Another helicopter flight training school, High Desert Helicopters, opened in Utah last month. The company took delivery of its first Schweizer 300C in May, with a second 300C delivery slated for July. High Desert Helicopters currently has six students, but expects to increase its enrollment substantially in the coming months and years. "The market's good for helicopter training right now. There's a shortage of flight schools," said the company's founder and chief instructor, Russ Buttars.
The state of Utah has at least three helicopter flight training schools—Silver State Helicopters, Universal Helicopters and Upper Limit—all in the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Still, Buttars said, there's plenty of room for a new upstart like High Desert Helicopters.
"It's the [300C] helicopter that distinguishes us" as a company, he explained. "It's bigger and more versatile [than the ubiquitous Robinson R22] for different types of training." This includes external load training, which High Desert Helicopters soon intends to offer its students.
The company's training syllabus also is distinguished by its training environment. Utah is notable for its mountainous, high desert terrain, which reaches 5,000 ft. AGL, Buttars said. He noted that in the summer, density altitude can reach 9,000 ft. AGL.
The new flight school offers instrument flight training "to increase the proficiency of the pilot and give him an edge in the industry." According to Buttars, instrument flight training is not that common. However, it's required in certain market segments like the offshore oil business. Although the company's first 300C is only equipped for VFR flight training, the second helo will be IFR ready, he said.
From Military Helo to Civilian Airline
Pan Am International Flight Academy has developed a program designed specifically to train military helicopter pilots leaving the service to transition into air transport pilots. Chuck Glass, vice president and executive director, career pilot division, said that planning for the program began two years ago based on what was anticipated to be a growing need. However, the events overseas disrupted that growth when helicopter pilots were called into service. "We went into the FARs and looked for and identified ways to reduce the time and money required for helicopter pilots to become qualified as airline pilots," he said.
The course is available to ex-military pilots as well as pilots from the various para-military forces such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency and Border Patrol, he said. To qualify, the pilot must be current and fully rated.
Each student will have his (or her) own instructor, with the course work tailored to the individual needs. "Each student will have a senior instructor who realizes that the student is already a professional pilot, so the training will be based on the individual's strengths and weaknesses," Glass said.
The student will come out of the academy with at least a commercial/instrument rating, plus at least 100 hrs. multi-engine fixed wing time to meet the minimum required to be hired by a regional carrier. Students can also earn their instructor rating, which would guarantee them a job as an instructor at the academy, he said. Cost for the course will vary depending on what the student needs, and will take from four to five months. The school will assist students in getting any necessary loans through the Key Bank.
Glass said that student enrollment is currently somewhat slow since the military is hanging on to its helicopter pilots. However, they anticipate a big crush of students this fall when the military is expected to release a large number of pilots from active duty.
The course is being offered at two of the Pan Am International Flight Academy sites: St. Lucie County Airport, Fort Pierce, Fla., and Deer Valley Airport, Phoenix, Ariz.
CASA Accredits Australian Helo Trainer
GeoSim Technologies of Queensland, Australia, has secured accreditation for its Rotor Wing Synthetic Trainer from the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The company boasts that it is the first locally manufactured, commercial helicopter trainer to achieve CASA accreditation in Australia, and the first commercial helicopter trainer in the world to achieve accreditation using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004.
GeoSim received an FSD2, Category-B, Synthetic Trainer Certificate. The company's generic, helicopter part-task trainer has cockpit high-end, computer-based graphics and a visualization system which incorporates rear-projection onto a 8.2-ft. (2.5-m.) screen. The system allows for enhanced familiarization and procedural preparation, special mission introduction, recurrent training, and both VFR and IFR flights.
These capabilities combine to give an "uncanny feeling of flight at a very affordable price," said the company's managing director, Charles du Plessis.
"Helicopters are very expensive to operate, and, because of their capabilities, tend to conduct missions with significantly higher risk than fixed-wing aircraft," added GeoSim director Paul Bredereck. "Most operators have to constantly balance the high cost of training with an even higher cost of not training."
GeoSim now plans to commercialize the trainer. Systems can be delivered within eight weeks said Graeme Brooke, the company's technical director.
CAE SimuFlite Offering S-76 Maintenance Training
CAE SimuFlite has announced that it will begin offering S-76 maintenance training this fall through its Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas training center. SimuFlite provides simulation pilot and maintenance training on more than 45 aircraft. However, the S-76 is the first and only rotary-wing aircraft that the company supports.
"We got into the S-76 training business last year with our simulator. It looks like a good viable market for us," said the company's sales director, Bill Dolny. "We have some fleet mix opportunities that we can get into with our fixed-wing customers, who also operate rotorcraft."
Most of SimuFlite's corporate customers are located in highly crowded urban areas, where traffic congestion is a formidable problem. The companies use rotorcraft for business travel. "The S-76 was well used in that market. It was one of the more popular aircraft."
SimuFlite's S-76 Level-D simulator features a Honeywell SPZ-7600 digital flight control system, Universal UNS-1D flight management system, GPS, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, TCAS II, and moving map display.
Dolny declined to say what share of the maintenance training is done in the simulator. However, he acknowledged that because of increasing aircraft automation and computerization, much more training can be done in a simulator today than in the past.
From the factories
Robinson Expanding Safety Course
Robinson Helicopters has increased its safety training courses from one a month to 18 per year, and is considering expanding that to 24 per year, according to its president and founder, Frank Robinson.
The courses are three and a half days long, consisting primarily of classroom work plus 1.5 hr. of flight time to train on emergency procedures. Robinson started the safety courses in 1982 solely for instructor pilots, giving them a better grounding in emergency procedures and safety aspects of the Robinson helicopter which they could then, in turn, teach their students. The course teaches causes of accidents, causes of emergencies and how to recover from emergencies when they occur,
The course has now grown to where it is roughly 50/50 instructors and regular pilots, with every class having 60 students.
Robinson said that a new classroom building is scheduled for completion later this year. The question yet to be answered, however, is whether to increase the number of classes from 18 to 24 per year, or continue with 18 classes per year but increase the number of students per class. He noted, however, that 60 students is already "an awful lot of students for one class."
Schweizer Starts New Training Program
Schweizer Aircraft has introduced a new program for transition and recurrency training in its 300C, 300CBi and 333 helicopters. The training will be conducted both in the Schweizer Training Center, Elmira, N.Y. and at customers' sites. The new training program consists of four core courses, to include: 300C/CBi initial transition, 300C/CBi recurrent training, 333 initial transition and 333 recurrent training. Schweizer said that the courses provide a standardized training approach aimed towards reducing insurance premiums for the operators.
Schweizer is also preparing to offer a night-vision operations course for law enforcement and military customers designed to give them proficiency in flying with night-vision goggles.
MD Helicopters Planning Advanced Instructor Training
MD Helicopters expects to begin a new advanced recurrency training program for instructor pilots on the MD900 Explorer.
Ada Charles, manager of the company's training department, said that they are now talking to customers to help format the training curricula for the course. Current planning is to review case studies of incidents and accidents to determine what went wrong, what could have been done to prevent it going wrong, what was done during the incident/accident and what should have been done. Once the course format is developed, it just needs to be signed off by upper management, Charles said. Projected start up time is this summer, she said.
The training department is also looking for new customers. Charles noted that there are some 2,500 aircraft in the OH-6/MD500 family, allowing for a lot of new and recurrent training. The Mesa, Ariz.-based company currently trains roughly 400 students per year, and is on track to train the same number this year, she said.
Eurocopter Expanding Training Capabilities
American Eurocopter is planning to add night-vision goggle training to its current training program, according to Del Livingston, senior director, flight operations and training. Initially planned for late last year, the NVG training program is being pushed into later this year to meet FAA requirements and get the aircraft modified and certified, he said. Eurocopter will use both an EC120 and AS350B2 for the program. The aircraft will be modified for night-vision work as they go in for regular maintenance, he said. The NVG course will be headed by Paul Osterman.
Livingston said that they have added an AS350B3 trainer to the training fleet, which currently consists of an AS350B2, AS350BA, AS355 and an EC120. He is also working with the main Eurocopter headquarters in Marignane, France on researching the feasibility of getting flight training devices either for the AS350B3 and/or the EC135. "We're looking at what would make the most business sense."