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Should I Volunteer at a Flight School?


Rotortramp
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I don't have the money quite saved up yet to begin training, but was thinking of volunteering some time on the weekends to help out at a local flight school. I'd like to start on the right foot and make a good impression and contribute wherever I can. Working at a flight school long ago though I got to meet a lot of the others at the airport...and while offering a service...many of them were doing very shady things to increase profits.

 

While you wouldn't see anyone volunteering at say Bank of America, I'm wondering if I'm contributing anything negatively to the industry by volunteering my time to cut the grass in front of the flight school just to be around the pilots and instructors.

 

Maybe someone can clear my head.

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I dont own a flight school, but I have had a little experience with one and as a flying part pilot flying for a company. One local operator, where I was training in his Huey, paid me to train (wild huh) Initially I told the owner I did not feel right accepting money for training and that he could just wait until I was solo in it to pay me. He said "Heeeeelllll No. You are on my property, in my aircraft, you get paid." He then went on to explain the legal issues of volunteering.

The ones I have been involved with would tell you no. They already have employees they pay. Allowing you to come in and do jobs odd jobs doesn't increase profit unless they were to lay off a paid employee. Chances are you dont have any skills that would actually increase profits by them not paying you. They arent going to have employees sitting around being paid, while you work for free.

 

Legal and workers comp issues would be huge. Volunteer or not, something happens to you and you slip and fall on the hangar floor, that company just bought it. In aviation, everyone wants to volunteer. If they were to allow it, depending on your states labor laws did you know that if you kept track of your volunteer time, you would actually have grounds to later go back and sue them for a pay check? If you didnt, Im sure your companies owner does if that applies to their state.

 

Just playing devils advocate is all. By all means try it and see. They may welcome you in with open arms. Just some issues to think about. Im a "glass is half empty" kind of guy anyway :D

Edited by Flying Pig
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My suggestion would be to join the local eaa chapter and start helping other members with their projects and explain to them your attempting to learn as much as possible because one day you hope to fly for a living... You'll learn a lot of valuable information from the old timers and open the door to local eaa chapter flight scholarship opportunities...

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I dont own a flight school, but I have had a little experience with one and as a flying part pilot flying for a company. One local operator, where I was training in his Huey, paid me to train (wild huh) Initially I told the owner I did not feel right accepting money for training and that he could just wait until I was solo in it to pay me. He said "Heeeeelllll No. You are on my property, in my aircraft, you get paid." He then went on to explain the legal issues of volunteering.

The ones I have been involved with would tell you no. They already have employees they pay. Allowing you to come in and do jobs odd jobs doesn't increase profit unless they were to lay off a paid employee. Chances are you dont have any skills that would actually increase profits by them not paying you. They arent going to have employees sitting around being paid, while you work for free.

 

Legal and workers comp issues would be huge. Volunteer or not, something happens to you and you slip and fall on the hangar floor, that company just bought it. In aviation, everyone wants to volunteer. If they were to allow it, depending on your states labor laws did you know that if you kept track of your volunteer time, you would actually have grounds to later go back and sue them for a pay check? If you didnt, Im sure your companies owner does if that applies to their state.

 

Just playing devils advocate is all. By all means try it and see. They may welcome you in with open arms. Just some issues to think about. Im a "glass is half empty" kind of guy anyway :D

 

Thanks Flying Pig, you always have insightful posts. I didn't even consider the potential liability and paper work headache the school may face by me stumbling around the hangar. I figure I'll pitch the idea and if they reject, then no loss, but hopefully it'll leave some kind of impression with them when the time comes to begin.

 

I know a detrimental attitude in aviation is "flying is so fun, I'd do that for free!" and don't want to get sucked into that or harm others with a similar situation. As you mentioned though, they have people around do the jobs they need done, and having an extra person won't really exploit any labor. I guess what is making me hesitant is that a flight school is a big leap from my usual volunteering at elderly homes and various conventions.

 

My suggestion would be to join the local eaa chapter and start helping other members with their projects and explain to them your attempting to learn as much as possible because one day you hope to fly for a living... You'll learn a lot of valuable information from the old timers and open the door to local eaa chapter flight scholarship opportunities...

 

Thanks Helistar I'll look into that.

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Why volunteer? I worked for one for a while as a line guy back when I was doing fixed wing training. Since I was pretty much the only one I was in charge of not only taking care of aircraft, but also fuel quality control checks, truck maintenance, building cleaning, pump maintenance, helping out the mechanics, coffee making, etc. They gave me a discount on my rental rates and I had access to my CFI friends all day long for questions (if I could find the time to talk with them). Because I spent so much time around the airport I met a ton of other pilots. Plus it was a good time and I enjoyed the work.

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Long ago, volunteering to help out around the hangar was seen as an avenue to being hired. The common term we used was "hangar rat". The hangar rat did the menial labor tasks which most employees thought were beneath them. Empting the trash, sweeping the floor, vacuuming the carpet, washing the helicopters and the like. The reality was; the hangar rat was gaining habits and a work ethic that usually benefitted him in the future. The short answer is, yes try to volunteer but know and understand the limitations of such.

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I'm with the other guy. Why volunteer? All of the "hanger rats" I've met were actually students at the school working there part-time during training. This process is hard enough, you're gonna need the extra dough, so you may as well get paid, even if its just minimum wage!

 

Fair enough. With that said, when should I expect a check for the advice I’ve "volunteered" to provide here at VR? Get the picture....... Yet......

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The hangar rat did the menial labor tasks which most employees thought were beneath them. Empting the trash, sweeping the floor, vacuuming the carpet, washing the helicopters and the like

 

Actually, this is the part I don't get. I haven't met any employees at any flight schools who thought that these tasks were beneath them, causing the owner to seek out a desperate wannabee pilot to do them for free! Maybe its a generational thing?

 

You want to volunteer, go to a soup kitchen, not a for profit business! There's nothing wrong with getting paid to do menial tasks,...I do it all the time!

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I haven't met any employees at any flight schools who thought that these tasks were beneath them, causing the owner to seek out a desperate wannabee pilot to do them for free!

 

No one said anything about an owner seeking out a desperate wannabe. Like I said, long ago, it was an avenue. Back then, it was usually a kid who was interested in flying but also had nothing else better to do and basically just hung around. Sooner or later, they'd be asked to do something useful then wha-la, the kid is a volunteer. It's about showing initiative regardless of your personal goals. For the employer, it's about giving back without compromising basic labor practices or principles . Furthermore, it always lead to employment. Plus, some high-schools offer students as labor in trade for credits. This was generally described as a learning/work experience for the students. The last hangar rat I knew now fly's an EC145 for a bazllionaire.

 

It's a free county. You want to volunteer, go right ahead........

Edited by Spike
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Long ago it may have been normal, but today having some kid who doesn't work at the airport, and isn't currently training at the airport, just hanging around, seems creepy to me!

 

...but like he said, its a free country so, Rotortramp, if you want to volunteer, knock yourself out. Me, I'd just get a job as a fuel jocky.

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One way to work your way into it without being "creepy" or a nuisance, is to volunteer when you know there is an event coming up. There is always room for extra help during airshows, open houses, rides at the fair etc. Be there to help set up and don't leave until all the cleanup is done. The better the impression, and the better people get to know you, the more they will want you to hang around. I think it could work, it just has to be done tactfully.

 

One thing I have noticed, mechanics don't jump right on an offer of assistance. I can understand this as it is a big liability for them if you mess something up. If you end up knowing what you are doing and help then they loose some hours. Maybe it is different if you hold an FAA A&P cert, (all I have is military 7-level (Craftsman), no FAA licence yet).

 

Best of luck

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From my VERY limited experience... If its a small flight school that isn't particularly busy it's probably a good idea. If its a really busy school though all those students hanging around trying to volunteer makes it look less like the initiative it is and more like brown nosing. So maybe wait until your on instrument or commercial after attrition has done its work so they know your serious and stickin around for awhile.

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For the 6 months or so before I got a line job I would hang out at the airport after my flight lessons. I didn't really work but I'd do all my studying out there and I'd watch airplanes and talk to people. Nobody told me I was creepy and I ended up being first pick for the job when it opened up. I knew everyone in the company I wanted to work for and got a good feel for the operation before ever making it on the pay roll.

Edited by SBuzzkill
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Attempting to get into this business has many avenues. Some of us have real life experienced with these avenues and some have a "wish sandwich" idea of an avenue. I can tell ya, I know more folks who've successfully entered into this business by simply being available to do "whatever", than anyone who's ever pumped gas.

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Well this thread has me second guessing myself haha. I wish the school was more of a Farmer Joe's Flight School with a busted bi-plane, but they do a descent amount of business from what I can tell. Perhaps it's a better idea just to wait and hang around and offer my help when I'm actually a recognized student there. I was thinking it may come off somewhat desperate/creepy for someone they really don't know to volunteer; don't want to be "that guy". The school is ~45 minutes away so it'd take dedicated trips to go out there vs just swinging bye to say hi. There is really no need for me to be at the school or airport in general, and thus might make for an awkward presentation of myself. I am motivated to help out and network, but don't want to make the wrong impression and look like this guy:

 

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Well this thread has me second guessing myself haha. I wish the school was more of a Farmer Joe's Flight School with a busted bi-plane, but they do a descent amount of business from what I can tell. Perhaps it's a better idea just to wait and hang around and offer my help when I'm actually a recognized student there. I was thinking it may come off somewhat desperate/creepy for someone they really don't know to volunteer; don't want to be "that guy". The school is ~45 minutes away so it'd take dedicated trips to go out there vs just swinging bye to say hi. There is really no need for me to be at the school or airport in general, and thus might make for an awkward presentation of myself. I am motivated to help out and network, but don't want to make the wrong impression and look like this guy:

 

45 min is a ways to go to volunteer or even hang. However, don't be weirded out by the creepy comments. That is, if you're concerned about it, then you're probably creepy anyway. Simply put, ya gotta know how to work it. If you doubt your ability not to come across as "creepy", under any circumstances, then the road is gonna be long, and hard.

Edited by Spike
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It's not like you're hanging around outside the elementary school playground fence at recess. I'm failing to see how it's creepy.

 

If you're not a student at the school, and/or you don't already work at the airport, it seems creepy,...but I guess that just depends on how old you are? A 14 year old kid, sure. A 30 year old man,...creepy!

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I don't think that it is uncommon for people to want to hang around airports. I also don't think that it is hard to find a pilot that is willing to show how cool their aircraft is. This makes introductions easy, and I have never exactly been a "social butterfly". Flight schools want you to come check out their operation and get excited about it, just throw in the question that SBbuzkill mentioned. As far as the distance, I also live 45 minutes away from the school I am trying to attend. I can't just swing by daily but, like I mentioned earlier, events are good times to volunteer. Another thing you can watch for is local FAA safety seminars. They are usually free and a good way to start learning more and meeting people.

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