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37 yr old pilot asking for advice and opinions...

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Just found this forum after watching helicopter vids on Google Video! I'm just putting thoughts down but would appreciate your opinions please.


My name is Grant. I'm 38 this year and originally got my Commercial Helicopter Licence 8 years ago.


I'm British but I learn't to fly in Florida.


I haven't flown for 7 years and only got 165 hours flight time. Even though I had the bug badly - I stopped flying for financial reasons at the time and then started working to pay bills, debts etc, an illness in the family led me back to the UK, I let the bug fizzle out and I stayed sidetracked away from aviation and maybe chickened out from taking it all the way!


I'm in Japan right now (teaching English) and I'm considering getting back into flying to get the old buzz back and if things went naturally smoothly - I'd consider being an Instructor.


(I flew in R22's which was great but truth be told I never really liked the T bar and would have preferred a proper cyclic that I saw everywhere else growing up thinking about and reading up on helicopters.)


I just saw a promo of a flight school that uses Schweizer 300c's.


It feels like a quick 7 years and I feel like a kid again when I watch vids of helicopters or see them closeup (like I always did). The idea of flying something without the Robinson Cyclic - interests me even more and I wanted to hear your opinions based on the following:


I need to save the money for the CFI and I'd prefer to go with the Schweizer than the Robinson.


What would you do? Where would you go to train? Is my age a big deal? (I run and am very young at heart)

Has anyone else had the same feelings about the Robinson T Bar cyclic?

Things are much cheaper in the States compared to the UK or Japan too.


Maybe you are a student or Instructor who took a few years or 7 away from flying and went back into it.


Maybe you have an opinion on the 300c over the R22. Maybe you are a flight school who would like to introduce yourself and are used to international students who have taken quite a break from flying.


I'd appreciate your opinions and any advice if you have any.


All the best,


Grant. :)

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Welcome back!


You'll find that with a few hours of training, you'll pickup your old skills pretty quickly. It doesn't much matter what you train in, but I agree that the 300CB is a better trainer for initial training.


For the hours you have, you might want to make your choice based on where you are going to work as an instructor. Do the rest of your training in the helicopter that you'll teach in.


I'm curious, but which school were you thinking of?


As a further side note, your age is not a factor, there are plenty of people older than you who have been successful getting started in this business.

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Guest rookie101

Hello Grant and welcome to VR!


I found this thread and thought it might be helpful for your situation




Also, lot's of people don't like that T-bar cyclic, but it's something that all robbie drivers get use to. If you check this thread, you'll see that everyone has some beef with the 22 and S300.




Good luck



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Just some food for thought...


I can see where you're coming from with not liking the R22's cyclic and wanting to try something different. However, since you've had a long lapse in your flying you might want to continue with it anyways. It's a familiar machine to you, and that might make a big difference since you'll probably spend the first 10 hours at least learning to fly again, or longer if you aren't flying full time at the school.


And welcome back to the fold! B)

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I just saw a promo of a flight school that uses Schweizer 300c's.
Just to be clear, are they using the 300C, or the CB/CBi? Two different aircraft - the C model will cost more to fly per hour, is a little less mechanically reliable, slightly more prone to having the engine stop during practice autorotation, but does have more performance and a higher gross weight.


You find the C model operating at schools in the higher reaches (Denver, Utah, the NW mountain areas).


Elseways, the CB/CBi will give you more bang for your training dollar.

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That's a nice welcome - thanks a lot!


(It feels good to spend a little time on a forum like this as opposed to computer or design forums. It feels like a step in maybe/hopefully a productive or changing direction).


I appreciate and respect the opinions and advice...


jehh, thanks, going back and training with a proper cyclic and a different machine like the 300c does appeal to me. The school - I'm not sure. I didn't expect to mention the school names really. I tend to try to stay loyal to any school I study at in the case of potential employment. Having said that, I originally trained at a popular school in Florida which changed ownership a few years back. (They only use R22's, 44's and a 206.) I figured after the long break away - my life or training would benefit of course from a completely fresh experience without the feeling of going backwards to a place where everyone has moved on. Although that experience and memories are dear to my heart.


(About 10 years ago - I went to two small seminars in London. One for Volar Helicopters and one for Helicopter Adventures.)


Being in Japan, and a Brit doesn't help too much although I believe the immigration restrictions have changed or are much more relaxed nowadays for the US?


For your info - the promo I watched on Google Video (although I'd seen Schweizer 300's before!) was for High Desert Helicopters, but I haven't made any decisions at this early financial stage. For me, the money will be the biggest factor in the time it takes to get up and running. The actual school - can be almost anywhere - so long as it is safe, professional and gives me the feeling you need to say - yep - go for it! Also, being from the UK, I love and have fond memories of being in vast open spaces, just pre-flighting, let alone flying! I flew an R22 from torrence CA (with an Instructor) back to Florida. Just stopping somewhere in Arizona in the 105 degree heat to refuel was an experience that really did it for me. Maybe it was somehow like watching Airwolf on TV as a kid with fairly similar (to me) landscapes.


rookie101, thanks, that thread was a quick reminder of a few things. It's a fairly small world and nice to see that people have the same interests and passions. The gentleman who posted that post has way much more money than me! He can also speak adequate Japanese. I would expect to study Japanese quite hard if I knew I was possibly going to study and work in a US flight school. Sometimes my adventurous hunger has led me to places like Japan, but it hasn't done a bid deal to focus my future. I'm hoping that by learning and absorbing Japanese customs - that will somehow benefit a future flight career. Having said that I've lived in Japan for almost 3 years, but haven't studied the language as well as I should have.


Thanks for the other post too! It is nice to see that I'm not alone with my feelings towards the Robbie cyclic.


West Coaster, thanks, If it was necessary for me to fly in the Robbie - I would go for it. What you said makes sense too. I took a break of about 14 months at one point and climbed back in and the Instructor couldn't believe it had been so long. Everything was smooth and fine. (I was just a little rusty on Auto's and truth be told a little nervous inside. But the nerves were coming (and will be) from a conscientious perspective). You mention flying full-time at the school. When I was flying or training full-time it was wonderful and like riding a bike. It is a shame when ones financial situation breaks that routine, it also breaks the confidence and bicycle like feeling that comes with day-in day-out activity.


You said - Welcome back to the Fold - thanks - it feels good to hopefully be coming back!


flingwing206, thanks, I haven't checked out many schools at this stage again. One site I checked out was using the 300C in mountainous areas. The mountains are also appealing as opposed to flying in Florida like before from a training and experience point of view. You mention training dollar - that's the key for me - If I can save - I'll be back into flying. I can feel the pull!


Thanks a lot for your replies everyone. I appreciate it.


Back later. Grant. :)

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First, yes it is an amazingly small world, and an even smaller business. I have lost track of the number of people I've run into who know someone I know, or know of me from someone else. Make lots of friends. :)


Second, a good school should not be upset by you trying another one. You might be looking for a second opinion, or to try another type of helicopter. If an employer doesn't want you because you flew 20 hours with someone else, you didn't want to work for them in the first place. :)

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Thanks jehh,


That makes sense, yeah. I originally trained at Volar Helicopters in Fort Lauderdale. They upgraded to form http://www.cavair.com/ but their helicopter training part of the site hasn't worked for a few weeks. It was a great school with great people. But like I said - I fancy trying the Schweizer now and therefore another school if I can raise the cash.


I'm hoping to learn more from this forum and from having more contact with yourself and others. Sounds unusual maybe but teaching English to Japanese is a world of communication far away from the world of flying helicopters, so I find myself having to take the initiative to leave all of this behind.


It's all about the money and right now I don't have enough of it to carry on flying! (I guess we've all been there?)



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Some things you might need to consider before going too far down the school selection route


1) Visa


J-1 is the way to go *NORMALLY*. However if you already have a commercial licence then that route is closed to you. The J-1 is used to get a commercial license in the first place and cannot (apparently) be used after the commercial level has been achieved.


That means training to CFI on an M-1 - that's OK for training. There is one problem though - you cannot work (legally) on an M-1. So you'll have a CFI but no ability to instruct for money.


Of the other Visas a H-1 is possible but very unlikely (requires a company to sponsor you - pretty much no chance there), and green cards are possible but you need to meet/marry an American first (this seems to be the solution of choice for many - shows how messy the Visa program is when marriages of convenience are necessary).


So unless you've got some other way around that problem, you may find your plans for the USA are scuppered before they start.


There are other countries though....


2) A/C


Since you've got a fair bit of R-22 time already I'd say you're in good shape. You can do the CFI and some remedial training in a Schweizer and still be able to apply to both R-22 and Schweizer schools.


However one small problem is that most R-22 schools want at least 200 hours and some 300 hours to instruct. The gap between your 165 hours and their requirements could be expensive.


Schweizers are nice aircraft to fly/instruct in, but there aren't all that many schools using them meaning your potential employer base is limited.


There is one very big Schweizer school, and as a result they hire a lot of their own graduates (instructors). Outside of that, you'll need a bit of good luck/timing to turn up at the other Schweizer schools just when they're looking for someone.


3) After all that


At some point (assuming you don't get permanent resident status in the USA) you're going to be "asked" to leave the country. So what happens then?


Lots of options here, JAA for example. However, pretty much all the options are expensive and (as I'm discovering) it's difficult to simply call people up and look for a job - everyone wants to hire someone they know. Without contacts you have an uphill battle.


Ultimately then, you have to be prepared to pay yet more money for license conversions etc and possibly more to get a foot in the door in another new country.




So be very careful that you've taken care of the red-tape before you start on the path. As I said above, you might find it easier going to countries other than the USA - Aus or NZ for example.


Good luck!



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Do you know if the immigration situation has changed recently?


I heard through the grapevine that the US, Canada and Mexico will possibly be one in the future. Maybe that's another topic but I heard that borders are pretty much open compared to past times, thanks to some developments of the past 6 months or so.


Maybe someone else can also verify these things.


Thanks for the input. I hadn't really given Aus and NZ much thought so I appreciate the food for thought.

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QUOTE(Grant B @ Jul 5 2006, 15:40 ) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Do you know if the immigration situation has changed recently?


I heard through the grapevine that the US, Canada and Mexico will possibly be one in the future. Maybe that's another topic but I heard that borders are pretty much open compared to past times, thanks to some developments of the past 6 months or so.



Well I can tell you my experience and what I saw around me.


Little background - I'm British (English, which makes a difference!) and went to the "big schweizer school in Florida" a couple of years back. I did the FAA route and instructed for about a year.


I got good reviews from the Chief Pilot and owner and there was talk of getting a H-1 Visa (for many people, not just me).


Sadly, none of those H-1s were possible and to my mind they were all reasonable requests for specifically skilled foreign workers (e.g. Spanish speaking flight instructors, with degrees etc).


I married an English woman so that put the Marriage/Green Card out of the question.


Others who were out there pretty much had to get married or win the lottery (remembering that unless you're Northern Irish, the green card lottery is off limits for Brits).


One guy was offered a job by a tour helicopter company which he accepted on the basis of getting an E-2 - that fell through also.


Basically, it doesn't seem to matter how much the people you work with like you, or even whether a company is offering you a job, the actuality of getting a Visa for British pilots at the instructor/tour pilot level is near impossible.


Going back to your comment about the open borders - that is true up to a point for Canadians but not for any other nationalities.


There are plenty of illegal immigrants but no respectable helicopter company is going to hire an illegal immigrant, and in the course of instructing you come into contact with the authorities quite a bit... Besides which, imagine what they'd pay/treat you knowing that you're basically relying on them to keep quiet.


As I understand it, Bush has made noises about providing work visas for foreigners but this is limited to non-skilled/semi-skilled labourers - basically the large number of poor south Americans who do many menial jobs in the USA. I don't think this will include aviation, but who knows! On that point though, there seems to be something of a backlash and it appears to me that immigration to the US will actually get more restrictive over the coming years rather than less. That's just my guess though.


I have heard of at least 1 fixed wing instructor who was working for "free" on an M-1 visa - the company provided him with housing and a small allowance (and I mean $50/week small) as a "gift" rather than as payment. This is definitely bending the rules and I don't know of any of the Helicopter schools doing anything similar.


It sounds negative, but I think this is an accurate picture. In my time at the school I met a lot of people (from many countries, not just Britain) who believed they could stay/work in the USA or Canada at the end of their J-1 Visa - but, with the exception of marriage, none of them managed to do that....


So, going back to my original point, be carfeul to look before you leap on this one. Australia and/or NZ *may* be better bets for you.


However, Australia is (as I understand it, and this may have changed) fairly well supplied with pilots right now, and things like cattle mustering are tricky to get into unless you have some prior agriculture experience.


The last rumour I heard was that NZ was easy for Visas and short of Pilots. But to be fair, I've heard that same unfounded rumour about many places, so I wouldn't put much store in it until you verify it for yourself.


Good Luck though - where there's a will there's a way!



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Cheers. I'll keep on researching and trying to save at the same time.


It feels good to focus on aviation again and the time definately feels right like it did when I started flying almost 10 years ago. Like you said - where there's a will there's a way!


It's funny, I'm 37 and have a good rounded professional background, yet I'd be prepared to survive for peanuts just to get back into flying and back to the dream..


All the best,



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