Nearly every student helicopter pilot longs for the day when he or she hits the start switch and produces the sweet, roaring whine of a turbine engine spooling up. Students at Van Nevel Helicopters Academy in Century, Fla. don’t have to wait for that.
From the beginning, the academy trains its students in an all-turbine fleet made up of Rolls-Royce 250-powered FH1100 helicopters. Training at the FH1100 factory school, as well as an enhanced curriculum, is intended to give graduates an advantage in obtaining a career position as a helicopter pilot.
According to Cedric Van Nevel, the director and chief instructor of the academy, the program is off to a great start, with additional expansions ahead in the near future. As of late last year, there were eight full-time students enrolled in the school, with three additional students enrolled part-time. The full-time students were enrolled in Van Nevel’s Professional Pilot Training Program. Two were reported to be on track to receive their certificated flight instructor ratings before the end of 2006, which would allow the academy to accommodate the enrollment expansion planned for the first part of this year.
In 2007, Van Nevel hopes to enroll 20-25 students to begin the next initial training class, which would start between mid-January and mid-February. Two more FH1100s are to be added to the school’s current total of three aircraft by April. By that time, two more students should receive CFI ratings, bringing the total to five instructors.
Van Nevel said ratios of two instructors per aircraft and four to five students per instructor is just the beginning. More students will have to progress to the CFI level and become instructors at the school in order for the academy to continue an optimum level of performance throughout 2007.
With additional aircraft and another round of student enrollments planned for the second half of 2007, Van Nevel said, the academy offers an excellent opportunity for future students to obtain the necessary skills and flight hours required for future employment in the helicopter industry while instructing at the school.
As an enhancement to the academy’s curriculum, night-vision goggle (NVG) training is to be added to the professional pilot program. It would comprise an additional 5-10 hr. Van Nevel said the school plans instruction using Northrop-Grumman’s M949 aviator’s NVGs, which are used by both civilian and military flight services, as well as other helicopter manufacturers in their factory-based training.
Tuition for the all-turbine professional pilot program is comparable to many piston-based programs, Van Nevel said. The academy continues to pursue financing programs to assist students with obtaining their complete ratings. The school offers loans from Pilot Finance up to $20,000, he said, and several students have received career-training loans from the SLM Financial Corp. (Sallie Mae).
To augment financing options, Van Nevel is negotiating for in-house financing with a lender, which should be completed by mid-year.
German military pilot trainees have racked up more than 30,000 hr on the service’s fleet of EC135s.
The German army has been operating 14 EC135 trainers since 2000 for advanced flight training for all parts of the German military, with contract maintenance and service support from Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH.
Roughly 6-8 classes of new army, air force and navy pilots go through the German Army Air Corps School in Bückeburg, northeast of Frankfurt, each year.
After completing initial training in a BO105, trainees then learn to fly in the most demanding conditions, including day and night flight, low-level flight, flying in mountainous regions and under IFR flight conditions. Successful trainees go on to fly the CH-53G, UH-1D, Mk.41, and Mk.88, as well as the newest weapons systems, the NH90 and Tiger.
The training concept relies, in part due to capacity and cost constraints, on high-tech EC135 simulators as well as the EC135 itself, with pilots gaining up to 60 percent of the required flying time in the Bückeburg simulator center. These simulators are also operated under a cooperative agreement.
With this training concept, according to Eurocopter, it is the first full system-support provider in the history of the German army. This maintenance and support concept offers a combination of a flexible personnel structure, high availability and reduced operating costs, which allow the service and company to react to changes in training-mission requirements rapidly.