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R22 vs. High Altitude Experience / EMS Prep


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In a previous thread, I mentioned EMS is my end goal. In an attempt to set myself up as well as possible to reach that goal, I'm seeing many EMS job postings mention altitude (5000'+) experience being preferred. However, most CFI jobs appear to want R22 experience. I was recently informed (I could have misunderstood) that R22s and high altitude don't mix because of their air density limitations. Does that mean R22 training at high altitude is limited essentially to desert/arid climates in the southwest? Or do schools at low altitude with nearby mountains spend most of their time in the mountains at altitude? It seems logical that in that type of location, any time spent practicing at the airport or in the pattern would not be counted as high altitude time. I very well could have misunderstood and welcome any corrections.

 

To summarize, I'm looking for a school that offers (other than the obvious safety and quality training requirements):

 

• Mostly R22 hours

• Mostly high altitude hours

• A track record of hiring quality students

• Accepts student loans

• Near a decent size city for part-time employment while training

• Relatively few missed flying days a year or time per day due to weather/climate. I want some experience with weather of course, but not so much that it drags out my training significantly.

 

My other question is in regard to the 200 - 300 hour gap. One school I spoke with said they have one helicopter on more expensive insurance that allows for 200hr pilots, while the rest of their fleet is on 300hr Pathfinder. Is that how most schools are able to offer jobs to their CFI/CFII students with less than 300 hours? If not, how do the newly rated CFI/CFIIs get from 200-300hrs to become insurable other than sporadic maintenance flights? Just pay for time-building out of pocket?

 

Any suggestions, corrections or solicitations are welcome. Thanks again to the schools I've spoken with for the info they've been gracious enough to provide!

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CrashC,

For your first question I would recommend Colorado Heliops. http://www.coloradoheliops.com/ Your not going to find many R22s above 5000 feet. The main problem is when it gets warm the service ceiling comes down. So on a hot day here in Denver you and a CFI will probably not get off the ground in a R22. This limits the R22 to being grounded for training for a few months. No flight school can afford that much down time every year. You will however find plenty of R44s and 300s. While slightly more expensive the training at this altitude is worth it. Good luck.

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You might be better off just focusing on getting your ratings now, and wait until later and just take a Mountain Course. That way it might stand out better on your resume.

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You might be better off just focusing on getting your ratings now, and wait until later and just take a Mountain Course. That way it might stand out better on your resume.

 

Interesting. From an employer's perspective, does a mountain course look better on a resume than training at a school based at high altitude? My only concern is that training in anything other than an R22 makes it even more critical to land that first CFI job with the school I train at. I plan on doing everything in my power from day 1 to get that first job, but I don't want to cripple my job prospects if something out of my control or theirs precludes me from landing a job where I train at.

 

Really impressed with CO HeliOps by the way. Spoke with them last week actually. Appears to be a great operation they have going. Definitely on my short list of places I'd like to visit.

Edited by CrashC
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Where are you located or planning on getting training crash? You don't need to train in Colorado for high altitude stuff. There are plenty of schools that are at a lower altitude with mountains a short flight away for high altitude training. I wouldn't be too concerned about getting the mountain time during your training, as long as you position yourself to fly in it sometimes when you're an instructor. This is no way a slam on CHO. They seem like a great place, but not everything needs to be done at altitude. And, like others have said, getting an r22 into the air during the summer up there is a long shot, if that's what you're looking to train in.

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Truly, there is no direct route to anything in helicopters except getting your ratings (anyone will take your money and stick you in a helicopter!). You probably keep hearing this and thinking "why the heck is everyone so hellbent on warning me??". But the best thing you can do to increase your chances of succeeding long term is to have a plan for everything, short term (e.g. one step at a time). If you can't afford rent or food while training or teaching, you'll wind up having to get a job that most likely interferes with flying for awhile (or maybe forever which is horrible but it happens all the time....but those folks aren't usually on this forum to tell about it, they've moved on to other things). If you can't get a CFI job after training, well you'll most likely never get to 1000hrs. Think slowly and methodically, nose to the grindstone and just keep working your butt off on the next milestone in front of you. For EMS, there is a laundry list of things that a potential employer will want to see before training at high altitude will come up (especially primary training, it will have been so long ago and when you knew very little anyway). Sure if it is even-steven between you and the next guy and they operate at high altitude and you trained at high altitude, you will have a leg up. But don't let that cloud your primary decision on where to train because if you can't get through training and teaching, nothing else matters. Learn to fly where you can live the cheapest and have the most chance of getting a teaching job after (and of course where you feel comfortable with your CFI, etc etc the things you've heard ad nauseam by now). This is the opposite of "not seeing the forest for the trees". This one, you have to attack the forest one tree at a time. And for EMS, getting enough unaided night time is often the hardest qualification to meet, from what I know (4yrs in the industry from the bottom up and still going!)...helicopters just don't fly that much at night anywhere else (except maybe Vegas tours). Get as much night time as you can while teaching, after that it only gets harder :)

 

Fly safe, work harder than you ever thought possible.

HG03

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Truly, there is no direct route to anything in helicopters except getting your ratings (anyone will take your money and stick you in a helicopter!). You probably keep hearing this and thinking "why the heck is everyone so hellbent on warning me??". But the best thing you can do to increase your chances of succeeding long term is to have a plan for everything, short term (e.g. one step at a time). If you can't afford rent or food while training or teaching, you'll wind up having to get a job that most likely interferes with flying for awhile (or maybe forever which is horrible but it happens all the time....but those folks aren't usually on this forum to tell about it, they've moved on to other things). If you can't get a CFI job after training, well you'll most likely never get to 1000hrs. Think slowly and methodically, nose to the grindstone and just keep working your butt off on the next milestone in front of you. For EMS, there is a laundry list of things that a potential employer will want to see before training at high altitude will come up (especially primary training, it will have been so long ago and when you knew very little anyway). Sure if it is even-steven between you and the next guy and they operate at high altitude and you trained at high altitude, you will have a leg up. But don't let that cloud your primary decision on where to train because if you can't get through training and teaching, nothing else matters. Learn to fly where you can live the cheapest and have the most chance of getting a teaching job after (and of course where you feel comfortable with your CFI, etc etc the things you've heard ad nauseam by now). This is the opposite of "not seeing the forest for the trees". This one, you have to attack the forest one tree at a time. And for EMS, getting enough unaided night time is often the hardest qualification to meet, from what I know (4yrs in the industry from the bottom up and still going!)...helicopters just don't fly that much at night anywhere else (except maybe Vegas tours). Get as much night time as you can while teaching, after that it only gets harder :)

 

Fly safe, work harder than you ever thought possible.

HG03

 

Excellent points as usual. I was hoping you'd chime in.

 

Thanks HG! You're awesome!

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Where are you located or planning on getting training crash? You don't need to train in Colorado for high altitude stuff. There are plenty of schools that are at a lower altitude with mountains a short flight away for high altitude training. I wouldn't be too concerned about getting the mountain time during your training, as long as you position yourself to fly in it sometimes when you're an instructor. This is no way a slam on CHO. They seem like a great place, but not everything needs to be done at altitude. And, like others have said, getting an r22 into the air during the summer up there is a long shot, if that's what you're looking to train in.

 

Inferno - currently located in Indianapolis. No schools here that can accept student loans or offer much or any chance of a full-time CFI position after training. Planning on relocating for training and hopefully subsequent employment as a CFI.

 

I appreciate your suggestions and may end up going that route.

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Go get your PPL locally in a -22 if possible, that way you'll meet all the SFAR requirements involved with that stuff. Then, when you're ready for Instrument, Commercial and CFI/CFII, go visit DP and the gang up at Colorado Heli Ops. You'll meet the R-44 requirements and you may also get some 300C time. You've covered all your bases that way as far as airframes go. The only downside to this is it sounds like getting local R-22 time MAY be an issue. But then again, I wouldn't finance all of my training if I could help it. For years, I and others have advised paying cash for your PPL no matter how long it takes. This way, if you end up hating it or realizing it's not for you, you're not obligated to anyone for years to come.

 

That's what I'd do if I were in your shoes. You'll still have enough mountain time to make it worth it, I believe. Good luck, and for God's sake, don't ever give up on this flying business.

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R22 training in Prescott Arizona at either Guidance Helicopter or Universal Helicopter and your training will be at 5,000 minimum, plus you'll enjoy the surrounding mountain training... If your looking for a four year college Embry-Riddle is less then 1 mile away and their heli program training is provided through Universal... If your looking for a two year college program, Yavapai College in Prescott also offers training through Guidance Heli...

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I would disagree with posters that say you shouldn't put much emphasis on high altitude time. Later on when you are looking for that utility job and you are not OAS cardable, you'll wish you did things a little different. Also, get as much night time as you possibly can. If I were you, I would train in Colorado. A mountain course would be essentially useless when looking for a job.

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I would disagree with posters that say you shouldn't put much emphasis on high altitude time. Later on when you are looking for that utility job and you are not OAS cardable, you'll wish you did things a little different. Also, get as much night time as you possibly can. If I were you, I would train in Colorado. A mountain course would be essentially useless when looking for a job.

 

Helo - would you train at high altitude even if the lack of R22 time restricted you to CFI positions at schools that train in 300s? The R22 PPL then high altitude for CPL/CFI/CFII route seems like a viable hybrid of the two. As someone suggested above, AZ appears to offer both high altitude and R22s. HG made a good point though... what good is setting yourself up for a utility job if you never get your first CFI job?

Edited by CrashC
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The people I know who have succeeded have taken the straight and narrow. Remember that it's some terrifying number like 98% of people who start training never make it to a career-type job. Trying to cover ALL of your bases in the first 200hrs can find you struggling to patch it all together into something that resembles the solid, uninterrupted training the successful people pursued. Jumping around schools isn't necessarily a bad thing (variety can be good!) but, just as with anything else, you develop a better connection and more trust the longer you are around the same place.

 

Be careful...try not to get lost in the details of jobs that are 5+yrs out. Focus on the factors involved to succeed on rungs 1-3 of the helicopter ladder, before you worry about balancing at the top. For many people EMS is the pinnacle of their career, and even then they find themselves more and more qualified for better and better positions and faced with even more choices.

 

Focus on the factors that MUST be in place to maximize your chance at success in getting your ratings, getting a CFI job, getting to 1000+hrs, all while keeping a clean record and solid reputation for good judgment and affability. Reaching these goals precludes all the other things you have mentioned. Succeed at these first and you WILL get turbine time, mountain time, high alt time, night time, NVG time, etc etc etc. Don't plan to pay for it, plan to earn it...it's out there. A straight line will always be the quickest and surest way through.

 

Smiles from the Northwest, where it was 70F and clear blue 22 two days ago and now it's pouring rain, 50F, and MVFR with 10mi vis :) Gonna go play with the R44 in the mountains this afternoon :D

 

HG03

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Go get your PPL locally in a -22 if possible, that way you'll meet all the SFAR requirements involved with that stuff. Then, when you're ready for Instrument, Commercial and CFI/CFII, go visit DP and the gang up at Colorado Heli Ops. You'll meet the R-44 requirements and you may also get some 300C time. You've covered all your bases that way as far as airframes go. The only downside to this is it sounds like getting local R-22 time MAY be an issue. But then again, I wouldn't finance all of my training if I could help it. For years, I and others have advised paying cash for your PPL no matter how long it takes. This way, if you end up hating it or realizing it's not for you, you're not obligated to anyone for years to come.

 

That's what I'd do if I were in your shoes. You'll still have enough mountain time to make it worth it, I believe. Good luck, and for God's sake, don't ever give up on this flying business.

 

This is probably some of the best advice you're going to get. You'll need a lot of high altitude time to get hired for certain positions. Best way to do that is during your training. It will make you a better pilot to fly up here where there is less margin for error due to the altitude.

 

Do your PPL down at low level (to make sure you can and want to fly helicopters) and then do commercial and CFI up here amoung the clouds.

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Helo - would you train at high altitude even if the lack of R22 time restricted you to CFI positions at schools that train in 300s? The R22 PPL then high altitude for CPL/CFI/CFII route seems like a viable hybrid of the two. As someone suggested above, AZ appears to offer both high altitude and R22s. HG made a good point though... what good is setting yourself up for a utility job if you never get your first CFI job?

I guess not, but if I would have had to train and instruct in a R-22, I would have flown airplanes.

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Me too. I would rather have to watch everyone I love tortured and murdered before I would ever train and instruct in a R-22.

 

I love flying the R22. Why do you people hate it so much? :huh:

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You may be "seeing many EMS job postings mention altitude (5000'+) experience being preferred", but that's for very specific positions. Most EMS positions don't operate in that environment and don't cull applicants on that basis. If you're not limiting your objectives to one of those positions, don't worry about it.

If one of those few positions are your interest in the field, talk to somebody at that company(s) and/or base. Ask whether 'X' high altitude experience an absolute requirement or just on a wish list, like the proverbial 21 year old ATP with 5000 hours. Also, ask: Are new EMS pilots being provided mountain training to fill for those positions? Woukd they train an experienced EMS pilot? If so, is that training only offered to company pilots transferring?

 

It would seem to me that an ab initio student pilot has enough to learn without adding the issues of high altitude. If you can find somebody who can provide you that- great, go for it. There may be other ways to get where you're going.

Edited by Wally
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One other thing. "Mountain Flying" and above 5000' DA are not necessarily the same thing. An employer looking for mountain experience is expecting that you were doing pinnacle and confined ops in that environment, which is a whole other can of worms as opposed to operating at an airport in high DA. I'm not sure about Colorado Heli Ops but, I know some Denver schools don't allow anything less than an R-44 past the foothills period.

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One other thing. "Mountain Flying" and above 5000' DA are not necessarily the same thing. An employer looking for mountain experience is expecting that you were doing pinnacle and confined ops in that environment, which is a whole other can of worms as opposed to operating at an airport in high DA. I'm not sure about Colorado Heli Ops but, I know some Denver schools don't allow anything less than an R-44 past the foothills period.

It's very true that mountain flying and above 5000' DA are not the same thing. However, most companies advertising a requirement for mountain time (especially EMS) are referring to the definition per the AIM regarding mountainous and non mountainous areas. And high altitude is considered to be anything above 5000' DA regardless of proximity to mountains.

 

Now, if an employer wants "mountain experience" (typically utility operators), that's where a bit of the mountain flying knowledge comes in, and they usually state a requirement for off airport landings/takeoffs at PA higher than 7000'.

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I’ll have to agree with HG03. One-step-at-a-time my friend…..

 

Try not to over-think this as it’s not brain surgery. Attend a school where you believe you have the best chance of being hired. What does this school look like? It’s the school with lots of students and helicopters. You’ll need to like the folks who run or own the operation as well. This way, when they tell you there are currently no job openings, you won’t be all that disappointed. Trust me, if you feel you’ve been ripped off with your training and afterwards they say “no job” the dejection can be substantial. This can also lead to giving up altogether.

 

Get your training then focus on getting a job. Once you have the first job (a CFI job no doubt), focus on doing your job. Once you have some experience as a CFI, open your envelope by taking on more advanced students. Challenge them while challenging your self (safely of course). This means off-airport and night operations. Vary your experience as much as possible as this will benefit your student as well.

 

After that, focus on getting that entry-level turbine gig. This is where you really learn about the business of flying helicopters. Again, focus on varying your experience as much as possible but I’ll tell you, it’s much more difficult at this level as you won’t have control over the particulars of the flight. Basically, you’ll just do what you’re told to do.

 

Remember, it’s better to have the required hours with a little of this and a little of that, rather than, not enough hours with a lot of this and a lot of that.

 

Beyond this, you hopefully built a wide range of basic experience which will lead to you to your ultimate goal.

 

My 2c

 

Spike

Edited by Spike
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Remember, it’s better to have the required hours with a little of this and a little of that, rather than, not enough hours with a lot of this and a lot of that.

 

That's exactly what I have learned over the years. BULK FLIGHT TIME BEATS EXPERIENCE! <_<

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