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I currently live on the east coast in VA and would like to get some opinions on high altitude flight training. Is it better to take higher altitude training right from the start (ex. a school thats situated closer to the west coast) or will low level work for initial training now and later take a high altitude/mountain flying course?

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High altitude training can always be simulated by lowering the allowable manifold pressure limit, I routinely do this with students to strengthen their ability to "get more with less" and manage their power better. You should be picky about your school, but you don't need to move to the west coast to find a good school. I would say that if you learn to fly in a high DA environment, then flying everywhere else is easy, but it's not going to be a career maker/breaker. You can always pick up that experience later on.

 

Just a few thoughts and I hope it helps.

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Or... If you don't mind moving and would like a change of scenery for a few years, might as well kill a few birds at the same time.

 

Get used to being a helicopter pilot by moving accross the country for work, change up your environment a bit, and get mountain time all at the same time.

 

If you train and teach in a mountainous environment, then you will have more time than you need when you get ready to find work. The way I see it, if you are up to the adventure, go ahead and move. But, I think paying for mountain time after you are rated is in the same ballpark as paying for turbine time. The 10 hours you get, although fun and exciting, doesent really amount to anything significant to employers.

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I currently live on the east coast in VA and would like to get some opinions on high altitude flight training. Is it better to take higher altitude training right from the start (ex. a school thats situated closer to the west coast) or will low level work for initial training now and later take a high altitude/mountain flying course?

 

Learning to fly is challenging enough on it's own without added complications. Find the best instructor you can in the most usable situation to a plan you will be able to complete. After the fundamentals are sound, one can more efficiently be taught the unique issues of mountain flying. "If you learn to fly in "X situation" you can fly anything/anywhere" is true not because that particular challenge made you a better pilot, it's true because you worked to become the better pilot in spite of the issue. You learn more efficiently when the variables and instructional challenges are controllable and adaptable to your learning need.

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When searching for a flight school as a perspective student who is seeking a professional helicopter flying career, without a doubt, your absolute number one concern should be; to be hired once you graduate. Anything short of this and you may find yourself as a commercial helicopter pilot with a CFII rating and your bank account approximately 80K less and no job…… Simply put, what is worse than a recently graduated unemployed helicopter pilot who trained at sea level? Yep. Its a recently graduated unemployed helicopter pilot who trained in the mountains and, everything in between…….

 

Therefore, your concern should be employment, not high DA training. Furthermore, look at any entry level turbine gig i.e. tours, GOM and youd be hard pressed to find mountain time as a requirement. Again simply put, they are entry level turbine jobs. Entry level means little to no specific experience required….. Beyond entry level, sure, youll start to see specific requirements for specific jobs. However, Ill refer to the above paragraph. You cant get the entry level turbine gig until you get your initial entry level piston gig. No piston gig, no turbine gig. No turbine gig, no specific gig…. Make sense?

 

Seek a flight school with lots of students and plenty of instructors with a bunch of helicopters. These are the ingredients for a high pilot turnover rate which provides the best opportunity to be hired once you finish your training. Basically, its becomes a numbers game. Learn it…. Use it….

 

Plus, beyond flight school, the type of time in your logbook is a minor factor compared to you as an individual. That is, employers will hire the right person over the most qualified person every day of the week and twice on Tuesday……

Edited by Spike
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It depends on what you want out of your career. If you have your heart set on firefighting or utility work, I would definitely find a school in an area defined as "mountainous". Yeah, you need to find a school that will likely hire you as an instructor, but that pretty much is a given. If you train and teach at the higher elevations, it will make it much easier to be employed in the utility sector. Many EMS jobs are up there, too, and having mountain time will be a big advantage. Where are you going to get it unless you buy it? Very few (if any) companies will train you for high altitude operations. I guess if you flew tours in the canyon you can get mountain time, but that might not be how your career progresses. The Forest Service wants 200 hours mountain to be cardable to work in mountainous terrain. And that's where all the work is! What employer is going to eat that? I don't care how much time you have. Even if you have no plans to work at higher elevations, you will have the hours and you won't have paid one penny more for your training than the pilot that doesn't. It's good to have options. Good question.

Edited by helonorth
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I don't feel that training in the mountains should be a priority if your circumstances elsewhere make the whole process simpler and/or cheaper. It's 200hrs of learning to operate the equipment on the most basic level and your primary focus should be to complete your ratings and get that first job...any way you can make those two tasks more probable is the way to go. If neither of those pan out because of extenuating circumstances, then the mountain time does you no good anyway. The biggest advantage to it would be more along the lines of your exposure to, and networking with, operators in that particular area, but if you're on your toes that should happen anywhere you go. The Canyon and Alaska would both give you plenty of *introductory* mountain and high DA experience in more appropriate airframes and if you're interested in mountain utility work I'm going to hazard a guess that the GOM wouldn't be on your list in the first place. My 02cents.

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I would certainly agree that finding a busy school with with good odds of getting hired as a CFI should be a top priority, but I feel that some of the ways of setting yourself up for more options later should be considered. When that first turbine operator finally takes your phone call and says come on in and interview, you will most likely be jumping on it. It may very well be the oil and gas business (we all know it was for me). Are you going to turn down $60-70K a year and not have to relocate just to wait for an Alaska or a canyon job? If you take that offshore job and then decide you want utility, are you going to quit a well paying job to move to the canyon or Alaska just to get some mountain time (and most likely take a serious pay cut)? What I'm saying is none of us knows what the future holds and training and instructing in mountainous terrain will give you more options later on depending on where you start out. There are plenty of good, busy schools in high altitude areas. If you do start out offshore, you will have that very marketable time and be set up for utility and EMS anywhere in the country your little heart desires. I say you can "have your cake and eat it too" by training in the mountains.

Edited by helonorth
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Just to add: after you get some turbine time, the mountain time and even a few hours or (even better) a completion of a long line course can open a lot of doors in the utility world. Trust me: I've been hearing it a lot! Without the mountain time, the conversations can be pretty short. The oil and gas business can be cyclical, EMS bases will close, but a good utility pilot will never have to hunt for a job, IMO.

Edited by helonorth
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I currently live on the east coast in VA and would like to get some opinions on high altitude flight training. Is it better to take higher altitude training right from the start (ex. a school thats situated closer to the west coast) or will low level work for initial training now and later take a high altitude/mountain flying course?

 

 

There’s no longer any DA considerations or altitude requirement under most government contracts. They recognized some years ago that specific DA or elevation requirements excluded highly experienced pilots that worked many hours in lower mountainous terrain. That also extends your choices of flight schools.

 

If you’re just starting-out, don’t underestimate your task at hand, mastering the basics. Then finding that first paying pilot slot. Turbine, mountain, and longline are steps far beyond were you first need to successfully pass.

 

It’s sad to see young pilots come in after paying large sums of money for this so-called extended training and lack basic helicopter flying skills.

 

“Mountain Flying - Helicopter Pilot: 200 hours experience operating helicopters in mountainous terrain identified in 14 CFR 95 Subpart B-Designated Mountainous Area. Operating includes maneuvering and numerous takeoffs and landings to pinnacles, ridgelines and confined areas”.

 

Lower 48 Mountainous Areas

 

Hawaii Mountainous Areas

 

The State of Alaska

 

2011USFSContract.jpg

Edited by iChris
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Master the basics at a high altitude school. Two birds, one stone. As far as pilots that don't know how to fly after spending money on extra traing: I don't know what that means. Did they not have to pass check rides for the "basics"? I suppose they got watered down training because they were too busy blowing money playing with a long line or pretending they were in the mountains by using less manifold pressure. It ruined them!

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Master the basics at a high altitude school. Two birds, one stone. As far as pilots that don't know how to fly after spending money on extra traing: I don't know what that means. Did they not have to pass check rides for the "basics"? I suppose they got watered down training because they were too busy blowing money playing with a long line or pretending they were in the mountains by using less manifold pressure. It ruined them!

 

I never "Pretend to be in the mountains by using less manifold pressure". I said that high DA can be simulated by restricting manifold pressure. And I do actually have mountains here where I do mountain training. In the OP the poster asked if it was better to do his training in a high altitude environment. Mountains were not mentioned until the end of the post ("high altitude/mountain flying course").

 

Please don't twist my words. :D

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How well does limiting manifold pressure "simulate" high altitude? Doesn't thin air affect the lift/effectiveness provided by your airfoils, and not just the power your engine can make?

 

Just wondering others thoughts on this, not trying to call anyone out or stir the pot. I may not be rated yet, but I have had training on the effects of altitude and air density. Did the AF teach me wrong? Or is it that the relatively low level that helicopters fly, air density is not a factor for the air foils as much it is for engine power?

 

No, I am not as naive as you may think, I just want to see others perception on this.

 

As far as the best place to train...That is up to the prospective student to decide through their own research, but info from experience pilots is valuable data so I think you came to the right place Adrenalineperspective. there are a lot of great professionals and mentors here.

Edited by gary-mike
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Gary-Mike,

 

You have been trained well and already have a good understanding of DA effects.

 

The DA effects on the MR, TR, vertical fin and other airframe mounted airfoils are all effected by higher DAs that change the performance of a helicopter. Thinner air at altitudes has less of a torque reduction effect on the fuselage, wind flows require more detailed recce's, etc.

 

There is more to learning to fly in the mountains at higher altitudes and DAs than limiting MP can provide. Limiting MP only restricts performance and this is not bad training but not mountain training.

 

Mike

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In my opinion,

 

I’m quite sure there are flight schools which have the ingredients previous mentioned situated in the mountains. If you so choose, research properly and become informed.

 

Just to be clear, opportunities to gain mountainous experience will naturally come if you choose that kind of path without needing to focus your ab-initio training in the mountainous environment. I didn’t and, I have it… However, if you simply desire that kind of experience, it is there for you for the taking. And please, don’t get me wrong, mountain experience is a worthwhile endeavor. However, it shouldn’t be the most significant factor when choosing a flight school.

 

Just know, you’ll need to crawl before you can run, and by putting on running shoes while you’re still crawling, doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll run in the future……. “Future” being the key word in that sentence….

 

To get where you want to go, you must select the right school (mountains or not). Employment is not as easy to achieve as some may lead you to believe. In fact, in this business, the first job is the hardest to get. Plus, history has proven, choose the wrong school and you could find yourself with a ton of debt (or a significant amount of your cash gone), no training and no future. If this sounds like a “warning”, it is…….

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As Mike said, and to take it one step further, flying right traffic at an airport that is in the mountains or by the mountains doesn't really (according to the info posted by ichris) count as mountain time either. Off airport training in those mountains is what counts.

 

I don't think a student that trains at a school in the mountains (and the school takes them out into the mountains to train) is going to be overloaded. Yes, if the instructor is irrisponsible and is trying to pad their logbook with "mountain time" and takes students out there on day one, there might be a disadvantage. Im sure, however, that there are many students and instructors that trained in the mountains from day one, that can verify that they had no trouble meeting and exceeding training standards in a normal timeframe all the while having a more varied environment to train in.

 

I also agree that a very important factor in choosing schools is to find one that will offer the opportunity to further a career, starting out with a CFI position. Research is the key, and also planning ahead also is just as important.

 

I see the mountain time issue the same as night, xc, and instrument time. Although mountsin time is not required for a rating, planning ahead and getting the time before you need it to qualify for a job can't hurt. The same way that people plan ahead and work to get that X hours of night, xc, or instrument time that seems to be required for their desired job or ATP rating (or 135 requirements, as in a recent forum topic) so that when they have the total time, they also have the other specific time too.

 

Not having mountain time isnt a career stopper, as was previously posted, it can be accrued later in a career path. So can night, xc, and instrument. Getting the time later can sometimes be much harder and expensive though especially if a person is trying to get that time to qualify for a job that is available, and they need a significant amount of hours in a relatively short amount of time.

 

That's just my two cents though. I was that guy who looked at the ATP requirements and started working towards those while I was still doing my commercial training and continued all the way through the next 1000 hours so that when I hit the minimum hour total time for ATP, I was eligible for the checkride if I wanted to do it.

 

Perhaps my mindset and approach to my career progression comes from getting a "late" start in aviation and the desire to make up for lost time by, to the best of my ability, always being ready for the next opportunity that presents itself. Not telling myself that I'll get X time eventually during my career.

 

 

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Getting the time later can sometimes be much harder and expensive though especially if a person is trying to get that time to qualify for a job that is available, and they need a significant amount of hours in a relatively short amount of time.

 

In my experience, this hasn’t been the case. Particularly, the majority of “mission specific” time (turbine, night, Vref/ex-load, extended-over water, mountain, instrument, etc, etc) was mostly gained on-the-job i.e. provided by the employer and/or gained by a previous employer…. Read, zero expense on my part and better yet, paid to get said experience.

 

Furthermore, while I don’t wish to derail the thread, when a prospective employer says “you don’t meet this or that requirement” doesn’t necessarily mean it was an actual “requirement”. Simply put, it’s a polite way to reduce the pool of applicants…….

Edited by Spike
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Once while looking at the Robinson ferry requirements I decided that it might be usefull one day to have them, so I found a cheap time-building offer in an R44, went up to the mountains, and did a butt-load of off airport landings above 5000' DA.

 

Does this count as "mountain time",...I don't really know? Was it really worth paying for?,...well, I had fun, but I don't think it will ever make a difference!

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Furthermore, while I don’t wish to derail the thread, when a prospective employer says “you don’t meet this or that requirement” doesn’t necessarily mean it was an actual “requirement”. Simply put, it’s a polite way to reduce the pool of applicants…….

 

I agree, I was mostly referring to jobs that do have hard minimums with reference to mountain time (or at least they say they do) such as any company that flies a USDA Forrest Service contract, which according to http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives/fsh/5709.16/5709.16_10.doc#_Toc226521182 are not flexible.

 

In most cases, I agree that high minimums and specific times are used to greatly reduce the number of applicants a chief pilot has to look through.

 

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Gary-Mike,

 

You have been trained well and already have a good understanding of DA effects.

 

The DA effects on the MR, TR, vertical fin and other airframe mounted airfoils are all effected by higher DAs that change the performance of a helicopter. Thinner air at altitudes has less of a torque reduction effect on the fuselage, wind flows require more detailed recce's, etc.

 

There is more to learning to fly in the mountains at higher altitudes and DAs than limiting MP can provide. Limiting MP only restricts performance and this is not bad training but not mountain training.

 

Mike

 

Oh for crying out...

 

I am not talking about MOUNTAIN TRAINING. I am talking about simulating high DA. SIMULATING. Key word there. Nothing can make up for actually being at high DA but you CAN SIMULATE it. I have a fair amount of mountain flying experience. Not a lot, but enough to know what it feels like, and I agree that limiting MP is not the same as actually flying at high DA. HOWEVER, the one thing that I learned counts more than anything else when operating at high DA (and furthermore, in the mountains) is learning how to operate the ship with a limited performance range, because at high DA's you are going to be close to maxing out performance and getting into and out of landing zones is going to be a lot more challenging than at SL. I have found that limiting MP is very effective in simulating this challenge and I do it all the time. And guess what? In my experience, it translates very well when I take my student out into the mountains for the first time.

 

Edit:

 

And relating back to the OP, the question being does training in a high DA environment make him more marketable for a job... My answer remains the same: It can't hurt, but it's not the factor that is going to make or break your flying career. I was simply using the limiting MP to show that some of the basic flying skills required for operating at high DAs can be simulated at SL. I was not saying that limiting MP is the same as operating at high DAs.

Edited by nightsta1ker
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And relating back to the OP, the question being does training in a high DA environment make him more marketable for a job... My answer remains the same: It can't hurt, but it's not the factor that is going to make or break your flying career.

 

Another cryingoutloud…..

 

For clarification, please quantify this statement.

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Nightsta 1 ker,

 

Did not mean to offend you and my post was not only directed towards your post.

 

There is no crying aloud in helicopter flying, -joke from the womens baseball movie!

 

So how much do you limit the MP? How much of the reserve MP do you not allow to be used? Is it by a percent of performance change due to a certain DA increase? How much over hover power? Do you fly the entire flight with limited MP? Do you increase the limit as you climb to altitude?

 

Are you doing this at MGW? Do you correlate the MP limit to a max allowable weight in a performance chart?

 

Do you operate at a reduced MR/TR RPM for higher DA simulation? I do not recommend this in every helo and not for lower time CFIs.

 

Do you consider all of the above points or just arbitrarily limit MP?

 

There are so many elements of performance reduction from higher DAs that just limiting MP does not simulate. This was my point originally.

 

Developing pilot technique with minimum reserve MP is good training but does not really simulate higher DAs by itself.

 

Keep up the good work/training.

 

Mike

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Nightsta 1 ker,

 

Did not mean to offend you and my post was not only directed towards your post.

 

There is no crying aloud in helicopter flying, -joke from the womens baseball movie!

 

So how much do you limit the MP? How much of the reserve MP do you not allow to be used? Is it by a percent of performance change due to a certain DA increase? How much over hover power? Do you fly the entire flight with limited MP? Do you increase the limit as you climb to altitude?

 

Are you doing this at MGW? Do you correlate the MP limit to a max allowable weight in a performance chart?

 

Do you operate at a reduced MR/TR RPM for higher DA simulation? I do not recommend this in every helo and not for lower time CFIs.

 

Do you consider all of the above points or just arbitrarily limit MP?

 

There are so many elements of performance reduction from higher DAs that just limiting MP does not simulate. This was my point originally.

 

Developing pilot technique with minimum reserve MP is good training but does not really simulate higher DAs by itself.

 

Keep up the good work/training.

 

Mike

 

No offense taken Mike, I write the way I talk, and this is just the way I debate. When you get this many type A personalities on a forum this kind of back and forth is bound to happen. I have seen a lot of picking people's arguments apart by pulling on one string and running away with it a lot on here lately. Even have been guilty of it myself a few times. But that makes it no less frustrating when I see someone take my point and twist it so that I seem like I don't know what I am talking about (which may or may not be true depending on the topic).

 

I am still learning the ins and outs of making my training as effective as possible, and of course, more mountain experience for myself at this stage would be good. I do reduced RPMs with commercial students, but not for private students. I never let them reduce it much, bottom of the green arc is enough to give you soft pedal authority especially if you are limiting MP. I like to do scenario based training in these situations so the "scenario" determines how high the simulated DA is, from there we look at performance charts and see how much room we have for IGE/OGE hover. If we are simulating a DA where IGE/OGE hover is not possible, I usually limit the MP pressure to 2-3 inches below hover power for the current REAL conditions. With two people in the 300C in typical conditions here that is enough to simulate a DA environment where IGE hover is not possible. Power is limited throughout the scenario training, not just for takeoff and landing.

 

For private students, I usually just limit MP for run on take-off and landings. Crawl-walk-run. More advanced stuff for more advanced students. I would rather get someone their private rating as close to minimum time as possible than have them ready for their commercial rating (and be sitting at 80 hours) before they pass their PPL check-ride.

 

I am actually currently working on creating a mountain flying course as part of our curriculum, but I want it to be integrated into the commercial training as well as be a stand-alone. That way, anyone wanting to get their ratings with us gets the benefit included in the time, but someone seeking specific training can also get it. I am thinking 5-10 hours of flight + x amount of ground to cover the basics. It's going to take a while to develop it as I am learning on the fly (pun intended).

Edited by nightsta1ker
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