Spike on the line
Way back when, while working as a young CFI, I was tasked with the responsibility of manning the counter at the school. For a measly, eight bucks an hour I had to answer the phone, dispatch flights and greet visitors. One slow day, I was sitting on my rear reading the latest edition of Rotor&Wing, dreaming of my future, when a fellow CFI appeared and used the fax machine to send off resume to a perspective employer. When I glimpsed at his resume, I saw he had listed Bell 206 in the Aircraft Flown column. Knowing his flying background was basically the same as mine, I had to ask, “How much 206 time do you have?” He said, it was a demo flight at last years HeliExpo so “bout point-two”. I smirked and he got a little testy saying, “its logable flight time so it’s legit”! What he failed to realize is I’m not an idiot. Simply listing 206 experience without the corresponding flight hours in that specific machine gives a false impression. I guess the perspective employer thought so as well as the CFI never got a call.
Many years later, I was asked to handle a contract which required me to complete pilot staff record forms. One pilot at the operation had always ranted about his past GOM experience while he worked for the “majors”. He was often heard jabberjawing of his Bell 412 adventures. Lo and behold, when I reviewed his pilot records for the contract, he had less than 200 hours as a SIC in the 412. Listening to his stories you’d had thought otherwise.
These sorts of occurrences got me thinking, what defines experience? Just because someone says they have experience, doesn’t necessarily mean they actually do. Is experience directly related to hours in the seat? If so, which seat and how much? If not, where’s the yardstick? Moreover, how can you tell when you have legitimate, wholehearted, valid experience? This is arguably one of the most significant definitions people in this industry struggle with and while definitions may vary, read on to see if you have experience.
If you don’t talk much about your flying exploits then you’re experienced. Most experienced pilots don’t talk much. It’s weird, the more experience they gain the less they talk about it. Basically, this guy or gal has no reason to boast about the aircraft they’ve flown or where they’ve been or who they worked for because they’ve basically been-there-done-that. They know there’s no point talking about the past. Their focus is on the future. What’s next and what needs to be done to get there, cause if they don’t, it’ll be hard to pay the bills next month. On the other hand, the inexperienced gang talk too much. They are usually found in the here and now. For some, they actually move backwards getting further away from achieving their goals by talking about what they want to do instead of actually doing it. This doesn’t mean experienced pilots aren’t willing to talk about their experience. If you’re interested, just ask. Unfortunately, for the new guys they’re too busy talking when they should be listening. So if you find yourself not talking about your experience, then you’re probably experience-ed.
If you find yourself getting an out-of-the-blue phone call from an operator asking if you’re available to fly, then you’re experienced. Mind you, you may not want to fly Billybob’s Hiller UH-12A he’s parted together over the last 30 years, but think about the fun you could have flying rides at this years’ Cornfestival in Pastureville. Sure, with our current economic environment, even experienced guys aren’t getting these calls as often. However, they do get calls and get replies when resumes are sent which is another indicator of experience. If an experienced guy sends out five resumes, he’ll get four calls. The one missed call is due to the secretary misdialing the number for the CP and she somehow reached Indonesia. Pissed, the secretary tossed the resume because the CP chewed her out for the $90 wrong number.
If you can open a cowling of any make or model helicopter and know what you’re looking at, then you know what you’re doing. Every machine has the same basic components and years of prefighting provide an uncanny sense of where things are and what they do. I’m not talking about the major stuff like engines, transmission or gearboxes but rather things like, exciter boxes, elastomers, B-nuts, cannon plugs, potting compounds, vent tubes, rod ends, pick-ups, doublers, servos, couplings, etc, etc. Some new guys get dizzy when an engine cowl is opened on a 206.
If you consider the RFM as a guide and not a bible, then you most-likely have experience. If you don’t, you may find yourself one day as an AStar pilot who finds himself calling the boss to find out what you need to say to Brian Goldfarb of channel 7 news after landing in the gore point of interstate 21 and 503 freeways after a TRGB chip light indication. The boss will tell you to lie. Why? The AStar TRGB chip light indication procedure says to continue to fly and to not understand the meaning of this procedure might cause the only thing to fail is your further employment. Interpretations can vary but experienced pilots tend to interpret matters so it benefits the company. Most experienced pilots are experts in the business of, operating helicopters.
When looking down while flying, if you see homes, cars, streets, freeways, buildings and people, then your probably inexperienced. Experienced pilots see the ground as two separate categories. Desirable and undesirable. If you need this explained, then consider yourself inexperienced.
As pilots gain experience, they gain judgment. Good judgment is a result of lots of experience. In the same terms, as we get older, we supposedly get wiser and if this isn’t the case, then I’m one big dummy.