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Good afternoon to all of you.

 

First of all, I have been reading these posts for sometime and I have learnt a lot and think it is excellent resource to everyone in the industry. Big thanks to the moderators and to everyone that makes it work.

 

Now to business.

I am close to completing my private pilots licence at a school in the north east. My plan was to undertake my PPL whilst working full time, then depending on how that went (and the finances) I would take the next step, quit my job, move to the flying school and study full time in the hope that I may one day achieve a job as a helicopter pilot. (After reading many of the discussions on here about getting a foot in the door I am aware that getting into this industry is a very hard and challenging feat, none the less its a challenge I am ready to embrace).

Working toward my PPL has left me more motivated than ever and I cannot wait to get to study/fly full time.

 

Now comes the big dilemma of which school to choose. I have done a lot of research online have visited schools in Oregon, I will be visiting schools in Utah in a couple of weeks and plan to visit some schools in Florida by September/October, with a view to starting around March next year.

 

I am hoping the visits will give me a definitive answer about where I want to live and study, but I would like to get your views on some of the below questions:

 

1) What is a valid 'fuel surcharge'?

For schools that charge a surcharge, I would expect it to be a few dollars to compensate for rising fuel prices. However the past couple of schools I have looked at in Utah cite their 'surcharge' as being around $40. Given that 100LL is only around $5.36/gal this seems as though the student is covering the entire cost of fuel rather than a surcharge.

 

Would you say this is valid and an industry standard? Or is it a little OTT?

 

2) R22 or 300C

I know this is a pandora's box of a topic, so I will try and keep it brief. I am currently flying a 300C and love it. I want to choose the helicopter to train in that will be best for my career. As there are more Robby schools out there I figure getting qualified in the R22/44 is essential if I want to give myself the best opportunity of securing employment when I am looking for a job as a CFI.

Would you agree that the R22/44 is the way to go to improve the chances of employment?

 

3) Airspace

I have looked into several schools in airspaces from G to B. Which is the best environment to train in? One of the schools I am going to see is in bravo. So on the upside I will get comfortable with flying into congested airspaces, but on the downside, anytime I want to train will I have to fly out of the airspace for basic operations?

And the reverse is true for uncontrolled airports, will I be ill-equipped to cope with Bravo airspace?

 

4) Altitude - Training Environments.

One of the reasons for looking into Utah/Oregon, was the altitude and weather diversity.

It would be a lot more convenient (and cheaper) for me to move to a school in florida, however, I want to get the most out of my training as possible, and the lack of diversity in the flying conditions there has me concerned.

In reality, how important is this experience in securing the first CFI job? Are employers still looking at the environments you trained in when you were a CFI after you have secured your 1000(+) hours?

 

5) Commercial ops

Is it worth me to look into a school that has good commercial operations as well as a flight school in the (distant) hope that I could (if the stars align) secure a job as a CFI, then after gaining my hours will be able to get a job working in the commercial side? Or does this just not happen in reality?

 

6) Personal reviews.

I know choosing a flight school is a personal decision that varies depending on the person. But if you are attending or have ever been to any of the schools below, (or even if you have lived in the same location) I would really appreciate your thoughts on them:

 

i) Leading Edge Aviation - Bend, Oregon

ii) Upper Limit Aviation - Salt Lake City, UT

iii) Utah Heli - Provo, UT

iv) Bristow Academy - Titusville, Florida (I know this one is a touchy topic)

 

 

Thanks in advance!

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I don't have any info about No.1

 

2.) Aircraft type (either an S300 or a Robinson) does not matter in respect to which aircraft is better to train on. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The robinson is a bit twitchy on the controls compared to the S300 (yes I have flown both) but either aircraft will make you a great pilot. Companies don't look for whether you flew in an R22/R44 or an S300 for your training. They care about flight time and background experience as a pilot ; IE (turbine time, longline experience, mountain experience, etc) but its not just that, it is yourself as a person and as a pilot. A company wants to know whether they can trust you with their aircraft to fly for 6 hours a day, complete a job, and then fly back safely.

 

As far as experience goes with any of the above flight schools you posted, I am currently with Leading Edge Aviation pursuing my private helicopter rating.

 

3.) In regards to airspace, you will always have the opportunity to get out and experience different classes of airspace. You might be operating out of a Class B and have to fly for 30 minutes to get to a Class G, or vice versa. The basics of operating in one airspace will apply to any other airspace you encounter flying.

 

4.) A benefit to flying here with LEA is getting high altitude time. Of my only six flights I have flown for my private rating, five of them have been at high altitude. Dealing with density altitude on a regular basis and pretty much every time you go fly will only make you that much better of a pilot in regards to performance in the long run.

 

5.) As far as commercial ops go, it is not a requirement to have commercial ops time before getting hired on as a Part 135 pilot. Would it look good on a resume? Absolutely. If you already have your Part 135 ticket, that is one more thing that would make you look good over the other ten pilots applying for the position. LEA does run minor commercial ops only with their high time instructor pilots flying R44s (mostly cherry drying operations) and that is to prepare the pilots for getting their first actual commercial job outside of the flight school.

 

LEA also only hires their own students to become instructors ; They don't hire anyone outside of the school. They also only hire CFIIs (instrument instructors.) The instructors here are reaching their 1500 hr mark in about two years of instructing.

 

Obviously the more experience you can get and expose yourself to, the greater you will be as a pilot, and the more susceptible you will be to getting hired. Best of luck settling on a school!

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1 - Unfortunately, fuel surcharges have digressed from compensating for price fluctuations to a marketing tool to mask the cost of flight instruction. If it is under 5-10/hour, then it is probably valid. Pre and post flight charges are another way to mask the actual cost. I recommend finding schools that have no surcharges or pre/post flight charges. You will end up spending a lot more money than advertised otherwise.

 

2 – I agree with the previous reply with respect to commercial operations, but as you point out, your first job will be as an instructor. Since over 80% of the schools out there use the R22/R44 … well, you do the math.

 

3 – Airspace isn’t a huge issue as long as you are close to C or D, but I would avoid a school within B. You will end up spending a lot of your time getting to another airport where you can fly patterns and practice since B is too busy to allow for that.

 

4 – High altitude training will definitely make you a better pilot.

 

5 – Commercial ops – most schools that also have a 135 operation will occasionally bring on senior flight instructors depending on the type of operations, but in most cases, the commercial spots are filled by experienced pilots. Don’t get your hopes up. Schools will often use this to attract students, but it rarely happens.

 

6 – I can only speak for the UT schools, but I consider both of your choices to be way overpriced, and Upper Limit is within B airspace, which I consider problematic. You should also visit Whirlybird Helicopters while in UT (they are opening a location at the same airport as Utah Heli in Spanish Fork, or you can visit their primary location in Ogden).

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I attended Mountain Ridge when they had a school in Bountiful. I had a good experience with them, but my instructor also had over 2000 hours and had spent time in Alaska, so had a lot of experience to share ... I was pretty lucky. He has moved on and they closed Bountiful.

 

They are more up front about the costs, although their website is misleading. It says they bring you to 200 hours, but they include the simulator time as part of the 200, so add 6k to the cost they advertise to actually get you to 200 hours, plus 3-4k for exams and materials.

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Hereyago….

 

1) What is a valid 'fuel surcharge'? Would you say this is valid and an industry standard? Or is it a little OTT?

 

With the current economic environment and historic drastic fluctuation of fuel costs, schools are being forced to charge a surcharge. Should this surcharge determine which school you attend is a question which will be answered below… Yes this is valid charge for a busy school but not for a mom-n-pop shop in small-town USA.

 

2) R22 or 300C; Would you agree that the R22/44 is the way to go to improve the chances of employment?

 

It would be foolish not to get Robinson SFAR qualified. Your chances for employment improve drastically being SFAR qualified. However, only fly the R44 to meet the SFAR for the R44 (if there is in fact a requirement) otherwise, dont waste the extra cost on the R44 which could be applied to additional time in the R22 or 300.

 

3) Airspace;

 

Not a significant factor only because if your not training in congested airspace, simply a few duel hours with another school which does operate within congested will provide you with the experience you need.

 

4) Altitude - Training Environments. In reality, how important is this experience in securing the first CFI job? Are employers still looking at the environments you trained in when you were a CFI after you have secured your 1000(+) hours?

 

In my opinion, in the top 20 considerations when selecting a flight school, this lands about #18.

 

5) Commercial ops:

 

This is a good option but a gamble as well. See below.

 

6) Personal reviews:

 

I have a few but reserve the right to keep my mouth shut. However, if I may ask, why do you say Bristow Academy is a touchy topic?

 

Here is the below part and again, based on my opinion. You want to attend a school which will provide you with the best training AND the best overall chances of being hired. Try not to get too wrapped in the surcharge, altitude, airspace or commercial ops thing. The single most important factor is GETTING HIRED. Furthermore, this should go without saying, but the schools Im referring to are the reputable schools and are easy to find. These schools will have lots of students and more than a few helicopters and dont really need to sell their programs as they are self generating. Simply put, look for a busy school. Busy schools will turn over CFIs more often thus providing more opportunities of being hired. When it comes down to it, its simply a numbers game that you must play in order to advance your career.

 

Good luck.

 

Spike

Edited by Spike
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All,

 

Thankyou very much for your replies, they are all very insightful.

 

Pilot255:

What's wrong with staying in the Northeast? NEH is in Connecticut. Its a good school with R22 and 300CBi.

 

Good question and to be honest I hadnt really considered Connecticut until you mentioned it. This is mainly for the reasons below:

 

- I find the cost of living in the north east fairly high, I was hoping the school that I move to would be in a cheaper location. That said, I cannot comment on Ellington, it looks to be away from the bigger cities so shouldn't be that expensive, although generally I find Connecticut (the south at least) to be on a par with New York.

 

- One of the criteria in my search for the 'right' flight school for me, is one that has diverse flying environments. After flying in New York for a while, I can imagine Connecticut is pretty much the same and I am ready for a change.

 

- Another reason for the move (other than the schools) is for the change of scenery. I have been in New York for almost 5 years now and am ready to experience somewhere new. I enjoy climbing, snowboarding and general outdoor activities, so I was hoping the area I move to would have these accessible as a bonus to the flight school. Now why is Bristow on the list then? I hear you cry, well that was an exception which was worthwhile considering the size of the school, the fact it flies the S300 and the cheap cost of living in Florida.

 

 

HeliUtah,

 

Thanks for the useful comments.

One of my reasons for posting this was what seemed to be high prices with ULA and UtahHeli, it had me questioning whether this was normal or not. I could understand it if the price was low and then it was made up with a high fuel surcharge, but they seem to start high and then add a high fuel surcharge. Anyhow, I will check them out when I visit to see whether it is worth it, and after your suggestion, I will also pay whirlybird a visit. I like the way they mix it up with their aircraft, although it does seem a little strange doing the PPL in an R44.

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Hey Spike,

 

I have a few but reserve the right to keep my mouth shut. However, if I may ask, why do you say Bristow Academy is a touchy topic?

 

I have read a lot of discussions on the topic of Bristow and I am generally picking up the impression that there is a lack of the 'personal touch' at Bristow and you are generally treated like a number with the feeling more like you are on a conveyor belt than a student paying out their lifes savings. That said on the flip side of the coin, my last 2 instructors came from Bristow and have both been extremely good, which is why Bristow is still on my list.

I put it down hoping to hear anyone elses comments on the school and their experiences to help me decide.

 

Cheers.

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Hey Spike,

 

 

 

I have read a lot of discussions on the topic of Bristow and I am generally picking up the impression that there is a lack of the 'personal touch' at Bristow and you are generally treated like a number with the feeling more like you are on a conveyor belt than a student paying out their lifes savings. That said on the flip side of the coin, my last 2 instructors came from Bristow and have both been extremely good, which is why Bristow is still on my list.

I put it down hoping to hear anyone elses comments on the school and their experiences to help me decide.

 

Cheers.

 

 

Combined with your above statements, have you considered Bristow California?

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Just weighing in on the fuel surcharge question. In many cases, the intent of the fuel surcharge IS to cover the price of the fuel, but to the benefit of the student and not the school. The reason is that most (but not all) states require sales tax to be charged against any aircraft rental. However, in the majority of cases, the fuel sold to the flight school has already been taxed by the state. By segregating the cost of fuel from the overall rental, sales tax can be charged on ONLY the difference. I'll provide an example for California, where sales tax rates hover around 10% and use a representative rental rate of $250 per hour:

 

Straight Rental at $250/hour. Total cost to student = $274.38 per flight hour (including sales tax)

 

Aircraft Rental at $200/hour and Fuel Surcharge of $50/hour. Total cost to student = $269.50 per flight hour.

 

Ergo, you are saving $4.88 per hour with the fuel surcharge scenario. Admittedly, that doesn't seem like much - but remember that we're talking about potentially hundreds of hours before you start flying for pay instead of paying to fly. You'd actually be better off with a $50/hr aircraft rental and a $200/hr fuel surcharge... but I suppose even the blundering state sales tax bureaucrats would catch on to that little scheme fairly quickly. :rolleyes: As for those states for which there is no sales tax but the schools include a fuel surcharge anyway... I dunno.

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Just a few quick thoughts on schools.

 

I agree that it would be foolish not to fly the R22, at least enough to qualify you for teaching in it.

 

I would fly somewhere that you are in busy airspace and talking a lot. I learned at first at a non towered airport. Flying in to a Class C was a huge deal. Then I started flying at one very very busy class D, with a Class C 5 miles away and a Class B about 15 miles away.

 

Now its all old hat, and I have had several pilots come out to LA and comment on the amount of airspace that we deal with every flight....I think it makes you a more prepared pilot.

 

Altitude helps, its always easy to get sloppy when your airport is 84 feet MSL. I know, I now fly at one of those!

 

If you end up thinking about the Pac NW, then start talking to some of the pilots up there. Tattoed and Em to start with.

 

Good luck,

 

Goldy

Edited by Goldy
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Choose schools wisely. There were three reasons I got my current job. 1st: my hours. 2nd: a friend got me the interview. And 3rd: WHERE I TRAINED. I was told point blank in the interview that I one of the deciding factors was the schools reputation that I trained at.

 

 

Oh yah, my good looks helped too

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OK, most of the questions have been answered well, but I'd like to add to the airspace discussion.

 

Is it important? Not really. The question should be "where is the practice airport located and how far is it?" When i was searching for schools, one school had a 15-20 minute flight to get to their practice airport. This is a major factor when you need to "commute" 30 minutes or more of every flight just to practice patterns. The school I ultimately ended up training at and now teach at is based on the airport where all training is conducted.

 

For a student, being able to practice at the airport you're based out of means more time for training, and less time wasted just flying straight and level....

 

That being said, try and find a school that you can fly patterns all day at your own airport (often at a nontowered airport) with some kind of towered airspace (B, C, or D) close by. That way you can get plenty of experience talking with them.

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I'm currently with Leading Edge Aviation in Bend, OR. I started here last fall and so far earned my private and instrument. In about another 14 hrs I'll have commercial, take a turbine/longline course in the fall, then CFI/II in winter/spring.

 

The local community college has an aviation program that gives you the option of persuing an associates degree in conjuction with earning your ratings. The airport elevation is 3460', combined with the high summer temps, this allows you to log high DA time almost every day. High density altitude makes a big difference. Performing an auto at sea level over on the coast a few months ago was a piece of cake after learning to do them in the higher elevations. I have nothing bad to say about the program here or any of the staff within.

 

Let me know of any other questions you may have about this place. I'll be happy to answer.

 

Did you say you already visited LEA?

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Cheers all for some extremely informative responses. I have learnt a lot more than the answers to my original questions.

 

 

Spike,

 

I hadnt actually considered Bristow California. Do you know anyone thats been there? Does it have the large company feel mixed with the community of a smaller operation?

My biggest concern with the schools in California is generally the mess that the state is in and how that is eventually going to impact flight schools. I read an interesting article on the extra charges that may be imposed on flight schools that could eventually lead to higher charges trickling down to the students or the schools moving over the state line, which gave me concerns about choosing any schools in California.

 

Clay,

 

And 3rd: WHERE I TRAINED. I was told point blank in the interview that I one of the deciding factors was the schools reputation that I trained at.

 

May I ask where you trained at?

 

Oh yah, my good looks helped too

 

You know any schools that offer beauty therapy into the courses? ;)

 

Crashed,

 

Did you say you already visited LEA?

 

Aye, I was there at the beginning of this year. It was actually coincidence that I did end up visiting LEA as I went to see 2 different flight schools and spend a couple of days snowboarding. I had originally ruled LEA out because of its distance from civilization(after seeing Bend I know now this was an incorrect assumption), however when we arrived, the airline had lost all our snowboarding gear and so I had time to kill. We took the trip to Bend and as it happens it turned out to be the school that most closely matched my needs and what I was looking for in a school.

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