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I've been running a helicopter flight school for almost 2 years now. We started from scratch with not too much knowledge about how it was done. Its been a tough 2 years but totally worth it.

 

I was hoping I could get some info about what obstacles and annoyances you have encountered at various flight schools, and things they would like to see change in the industry. Any input you have would be greatly appreciated by me, and I'm sure by our future students.

 

Thanks!

Edited by Galadrium
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I've noticed that some have complained that when asking their instructor a helo question or two outside the classroom, the instructor will bill the time as ground school. That seems to annoy some. I did a stint as a cabbie, and I'd always start the meter a couple of minutes after starting the trip. I also would get out and open doors and help customers with their packages. I figured that this "service" would give the customer a sense that I valued their patronage and would call again for repeat business. Alas, I did this for about a month and quit after getting robbed. She only got about $17. Note for criminals: Don't rob cabbies at the beginning of their shift.

 

A thing that annoys me is being too friendly. Hey, I'm giving you my business, you don't have to invite me to your son's barmitzvah.

 

One suggestion; Try to schedule maintenance around flights. This way the machine is available for your students, er, customers, and less frustration due to no helo. Try to do maintenance on days when most don't schedule a flight. Difficult, I know.

 

Also, if a ship does go down for maintenance, don't bump someone else for another bird. This'll irritate some.

 

Gotta go.

 

Later

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I haven't started training yet, but one thing that really bugs me is how schools don't seem to care much about recruiting me. I have called several schools to get more info, and just ask what my different options are, and I wish they would act more like I am about to give them 70K. I know not all of that 70K is profit for them, but come on!!! The most common line I get when called a school is "well, justr come check us out in person" I'm not going to fly 2000 miles to check out a school in person because of a 5 minute phone call.

 

If you can make potential students feel valued, you will be miles ahead of any school I have talked to so far. ;)

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:lol:

 

Sparker hit the nail on the head there - too many schools do not have a dedicated person assigned to recruitment. Get one - he/she will be worth their weight in gold, answering e mails, phones - maybe even "livechat".

 

You've been doing this for a couple of years - and you are still in the game, so you must be making a good go of it. My belief is that a good school is made by those that are teaching in it. Not just the quality of the individual instructor, but the way each of them interacts and forms bonds and teamwork etc.

 

The saddest thing I have found in the teaching game is the money. Schools are faced with the ineviatable - 1000 hrs and I'm off!. Usually, this is because the instructor wants something else - but there are some (like me) who loved to teach, but the lure (in terms of money) is irresistable; especially if you have a family. If you have a good instructor, and you want him to stay - what you are competing with is his next entry level job which will be around 50K with cheap healthcare, a 401K, daily expenses and turbine time.

What you got that can compete with that? - Happier atmosphere, no need to relocate, maybe even the promise of getting turbine time (used by every school out there as a lure). Not much then.

 

So pay the instructor more!!! and pass the charge on to the student. Sell the fact that the experienced instructor are what the student needs. Quality not quantity. Make your school a place where the instructor feels he has a career. While many pilots will always think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence - some of us have learned that it really isn't, and we would have stayed if we could have afforded too. Most students are appalled that of the $300 an hour they just handed over the guy doing all the work is getting $15. Most would gladly pay more. A surfing instructor costs $60 an hour.

Good Luck,

FFF B)

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I really appreciate all your responses so far, so keep them coming.

 

I don't want to be too self indulgent, but it seems as if we are already doing things different than many flight schools.

 

I'll respond to some of the the suggestions so far.

 

Our instructors are paid for their time directly by the students... so they make at least $30 per hour. None of the money gets filtered through the school. It saves us the paperwork/tax issues, and the CFI gets more money for his time.

 

Most of our instructors only charge the student for time in the helicopter, the 30-45 minutes of associated ground time usually is included. The only time they really charge for ground time is when it is a dedicated lesson, of at least an hour or more. When we first started we had instructors who started the clock as soon as they came in the door. We have phased those CFIs out, and made sure that every student knows what he/she will be charged for and how much.

 

As far as spending time recruiting students, thats been my job exclusively. I've commonly chatted with interested students for an hour or more on the phone, or sent pretty detailed emails responding to questions.

 

Since we have only one ship at this time, we try to schedule maintenance with the least impact to students. This really hasn't been much of a problem so far.

 

Sound good?

Edited by Galadrium
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For Students,

Don't charge BS fees. If you have a sign up fee, call it a sign up fee and explain what the reason is don't hide it behind some BS rule from the Government. Treat your students with respect and you will get it right back. Have your instructors develop lesson plans, keep student logs, and take notes when training students which are included in the student records. Give your students an outline and performance plan up front. These are not difficult to create, just a little time up front, and you only need to do it once (Well at least till the FAA changes its certification of pilots rules) (I would be happy to help you create these :-) ). Base it on the FAA Part 61/141 (depending on which school type you are) and show a clear relationship from what you expect from the student and what the FAA expects from the student. This way when you ask for more than the FAAs expectations everyone knows why, not just the typical line "We train our students to better than the FAA Standard", which every student hears as "We want to get more money from you". Run your flight school like a business not like a military academy. Your students are your customers. If you don't provide good customer service you won't get many customers. I have seen this a few times and each time I have seen the school go out of business. Post the maintenance schedule so students know of and can plan for expected maintenance delays, make sure the instructors stay on top of the schedule too.

 

For Instructors,

Pay them for desk time, Instructors are not slaves, they are highly trained professionals. Provide a good working environment and they will provide get service to your students. When an instructor does not like where he works it shows to the student. If the instructor is not motivated the student will not be motivated.

Offer to help with insurance and other benefits to your instructors. This is not difficult to acquire. Just takes a little research and find some way to help the instructors cover the cost, like meet them half way on the monthly bill or take it out of their pay checks. You are allowed to make insurance expenses taken out pretax; this will save your employee some money. On less that 24K a year, every little bit helps. Provide your instructors with a desk area where the student and IP can meet and talk. Provide the instructor with training tools, like model helicopters. Don't make them go out and buy them themselves.

 

Can't stress enough "Honesty" all the way around. Flight schools are where pilots learn all their good and bad habits. If they see dangerous practices used in training they accept this as the norm and the industry as a whole is detrimented.

 

Just a few things I have seen over the last 17 years with the industry. Not every school does this but I have seen enough who give the industry a bad name.

Good luck

Permison

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I've been a student for about 3 weeks now and my perspective is...

 

Be genuine...

Be kind...

Treat the student/customer how you want to be treated...

Keep accurate records...(time logged, accomplishments, maneuvers practiced, accounting, etc.)

Keep an organized facility...

Encourage the student...whether in correction or in congratulations

 

Most importantly...emphasize safety...100%...No shortcuts!!

 

That's all I can think of for now...

 

Wish you the best...

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a few things I could say would be,

 

 

Everyone can be a cfi and try to teach students the concepts behind helicopters..... Not everyone can be a good instructor. I have met many cfi's in airplanes and helicopters, but I have met very few good instructors... Not everyone can be a great instructor, just cause they have the degree or numbers in hours. there is nothing worse than an instructor that I cannot understand. There are many cfi''s out there from different countries that do not know the american ways or havent profected their english skills.... I am in no way saying that I do not like foreign students or foreign cfi's.. I am just saying that I have met a few and cannot understand them well. Or I throw in a slang word or two, and we spend five minutes of me teaching the foreign student what the word meant... Most foreign cfi's are not common with all of the american ways or american slang, So I do not like learning with foreign cfi's because of this. this is a personal opinion..... on the other hand. I have met a few great foreign cfi's, one I begged the cfi to teach me, and he was too busy and then had to leave the country in two months, so that did not work out..

 

I guess my point is, not everyone can be a good instructor, whether you know the content or not. Not everyone can be a great doctor, leader, manager, instructor.... and I have ran across this many times. the cfi's that are mostly concerned with getting their hours and getting out seem to be the worst... The ones that have done it for a long time and are happy tend to be the best... so when you find a good cfi who likes his job and wants to stay.... find that and pay him a little more and show that cfi that he is great and is wanted..

 

 

dont make up fees and minimums, it tends to work out better if you do not. Maybe waive the fifty dollar cancellation fee one or two times before charging the student for an unseen emergency or difficulty...

 

Always be on time for your student, this works both ways, but their is nothing worse than comming in for a noon appt. and the instructor and helicopter you are supposed to be flying in, is still in the air with another student.. this causes stress between the school and students....

 

Never bump a student for anything that comes up without asking the student first...

 

Make sure the instructor is treating the students fairly, ask the students for feed back on your instructors, I hate holding in complaints about the instructor to management....

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I only have a short list. I never had a "roadmap" that explained to me each step of the way to get to my private. When did I need my 3rd class medical? When do I have to pass FAR training? When do I solo? When do I have to pass the FAA written?...etc... I think a good step by step plan would be very beneficial. ( show every endorsement and test required) I would think maybe a part 141 school would have this already ( due to part 141 req's) but others dont seem to have it.

 

Also, on line scheduling is a must. If you don't have it, you're throwing money out the door. Many, many times I had a last minute or day before opening where I could go flying ( and pay you money) but I couldnt get ahold of anyone to see what CFI or what bird was available.

 

BTW- If you're going to throw money out the door, make sure its landing on my porch !

 

Good luck on your ventures.

 

Goldy

Edited by Goldy
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I had another thought. One thing I'd like to do is teach and I figure I might be teaching even after a thousand hours. But with that, I also want to fly fires and tours, and even the GOM. I'd really like to have the ability to do that and also come back and teach also.

 

Recruiting. I'd like to know howthat works. Does one go to high schools with brochures and video? Does one do that on career day? Is this another suggestion? Sorry, I was thinking out loud again.

 

Anyhow, I see great suggestions from all. Might you have a nice pilot lounge with coffee and cocoa, and a wi-fi access, and internet for weather, DUATS, flight planning, and possibly a pro shop with catalog or internet sales?

 

Dang, thinking out loud again. Sorry

 

Later.

 

Oh, my skool has a neat thing where one pays in advanced-credit-and gets an additional $25 for every $500. 5% I believe. So far that's saved me $2000. You might look into something like that?

 

Later

Edited by Witch
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Anyhow, I see great suggestions from all. Might you have a nice pilot lounge with coffee and cocoa, and a wi-fi access, and internet for weather, DUATS, flight planning, and possibly a pro shop with catalog or internet sales?

 

 

Yeah, pilot lounge would be nice, but I would settle for a bathroom accessible when the office is closed ( which seems like every time I want to fly !!)

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Sparker, Rhonda at Northeast Helicopters was very good at answering my questions and I do feel as though they cared about recruiting me, also when I visited that school their building is kind of small, but their team of people get along great from what I saw and I can't wait to start flying with them.

 

Witch, I was pondering that yesterday at work. Personally I don't think trying to set up some stuff at high schools would be a bad idea. You can probably get kids setup for half price demo rides if they are over 18. I mean hell when I was in highschool there was a different branch of the armed forces in there every week hasling us.

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I never had a "roadmap" that explained to me each step of the way to get to my private. When did I need my 3rd class medical? When do I have to pass FAR training? When do I solo? When do I have to pass the FAA written?...etc... I think a good step by step plan would be very beneficial. ( show every endorsement and test required) I would think maybe a part 141 school would have this already ( due to part 141 req's) but others dont seem to have it.

 

This is the kind of hand-holding service SSH provides...but their program costs $15k to $20k more than other flight schools' advertised prices. How about if the school offers all these little extras that the students want on an ala carte basis.

 

For example, the CFI proactively monitors the students' progress and spends 15 minutes at each meeting with them to go over where they stand and what they should be getting done in, say, the next week. For this the CFI bills them at his hourly rate for the time it takes him to keep track of each student's individual progress...probably an hour a week per student...and for the 15 minute session (plus any additional time if the student wants to discuss it longer). That would add about $31.25 (if the CFI's hourly rate is $25) per week to each student's cost of training...$1,625 over a year.

 

Will the students' pay it?

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This is the kind of hand-holding service SSH provides...but their program costs $15k to $20k more than other flight schools' advertised prices. How about if the school offers all these little extras that the students want on an ala carte basis.

 

For example, the CFI proactively monitors the students' progress and spends 15 minutes at each meeting with them to go over where they stand and what they should be getting done in, say, the next week. For this the CFI bills them at his hourly rate for the time it takes him to keep track of each student's individual progress...probably an hour a week per student...and for the 15 minute session (plus any additional time if the student wants to discuss it longer). That would add about $31.25 (if the CFI's hourly rate is $25) per week to each student's cost of training...$1,625 over a year.

 

Will the students' pay it?

 

I guess I thought he was just asking for a sheet of paper with a time table on it, or a step by step list of what to do next. It would only take an hour or two to put it together if you knew what you were doing, and copies can be picked up for about 10 cents a piece. That would still be moe than a lot of schools give out. ;)

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Just call AQUiLA in fla. Each time I called, I got a diffrent story. This sound's like the owner can't tell the truth or wont. Don't be like this guy. Allways tell the truth even win it hurts, It wont hurt very long. And people will spend money with a person that can be trusted. Not with one that can't.

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I haven't started training yet, but one thing that really bugs me is how schools don't seem to care much about recruiting me. I have called several schools to get more info, and just ask what my different options are, and I wish they would act more like I am about to give them 70K. I know not all of that 70K is profit for them, but come on!!! The most common line I get when called a school is "well, justr come check us out in person" I'm not going to fly 2000 miles to check out a school in person because of a 5 minute phone call.

 

If you can make potential students feel valued, you will be miles ahead of any school I have talked to so far. ;)

If you still are looking for a flight school.... we want to open one in july in las vegas and maybe one in California.

our target is to change the industry as far we are able to do it but we try to do our best.

It will be nice if you can send us an email about your experience in recruiting that we dont make the same mistake.

 

info@helifox.com

702 232 9655

 

 

Looking forward to hear from you.

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... we want to open one in july in las vegas and maybe one in California.

 

Here they come...the copy-cats. SSH showed the way...marketing can draw in folks out there willing to borrow big bucks to "live the dream" and subprime lenders have cash to give away (at high interest rates)...let's get some of it.

 

Just what the world needs...another one-horse (one aircraft) helicopter training academy telling prospective students "our target is to change the industry" (not to make money??). Can you say High Sierra Helicopters?

 

PS: Why Las Vegas?

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Here they come...the copy-cats. SSH showed the way...marketing can draw in folks out there willing to borrow big bucks to "live the dream" and subprime lenders have cash to give away (at high interest rates)...let's get some of it.

 

Just what the world needs...another one-horse (one aircraft) helicopter training academy telling prospective students "our target is to change the industry" (not to make money??). Can you say High Sierra Helicopters?

 

PS: Why Las Vegas?

 

So tell us something fry, just how did you get screwed over, or what went wrong in your training?

 

The post which you are quoting says nothing about "copy-catting" SSH, but rather someone who has a desire to get into the flight training business. You also make the insertion that they are going to be "another one-horse (one aircraft) helicopter training academy". Do you personally know these people? Do you have actual knowledge of what they are planning to do?

 

Please don't come here flaming someone because they have the insight and the vision to create a business, even though it's a business you despise (helicopters).

 

It's very evident through your constant inane diatribes you don't like the helicopter world. My suggestion is find something that you can focus your attention on that would be positive.

 

Have a nice day :lol:

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If you still are looking for a flight school.... we want to open one in july in las vegas and maybe one in California.

our target is to change the industry as far we are able to do it but we try to do our best.

It will be nice if you can send us an email about your experience in recruiting that we dont make the same mistake.

 

info@helifox.com

702 232 9655

Looking forward to hear from you.

 

What area in Cali? I am moving to San Fran or Santa Cruz..

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This is a good topic. I can relate to a lot of the posts.

 

As a 40 hour Private Pilot candidate working on getting ready for a checkride, I will admit up front that I still do not know much about anything flight related. Wet behind the ears would be a good term to describe it I suppose. I do however, have some pretty definite opinions on things I would do differently in that first 40 hours, and throughout the rest of my training as well.

 

First thing first; Even if you are a part 61 school, you need to encourage instructors to maintain some sort of structure with respect to students progress. Flying is fun, groundschool is even fun, but all should be done with an objective that can be tracked, so the objective is not repeated. Set up some sort of system that allows you to document progress, and maintain it well. I want my instructor to be as excited about my success as I am. I would also suggest that instructors work from some sort of syllabus, so the student can have a road map. Fry called it handholding, but for 60k+ I prefer to look at it as a customer service issue. Brand new students excited about helicopters and aviation SHOULD be doing their own research, but an instructor should lay out the process. There are things that research will not uncover, such as rules that are specific to the school, etc.

 

Standardized Instruction - All CFI's are individuals and therefore will have some slight differences in the way they teach. I would suggest some standardization among the CFI's at your particular school, so that in the event a student needs to fly with a CFI that is not his/her primary instructor, a new set of skills does not have to be learned. The flip side to that of course is that sometimes those extra little tricks really help out! This comment is not directed at teaching style, but rather at procedures. I was unfortunate enough to have to change primary instructors at about 16 hours. I was just about solo (Or so I was told - I wouldnt have known if I was ready or not) when the instructor left the school. My new instructor had to basically re-evaluate where I was according to his comfort level. It cost me about 10 hours of flight time switching instructors. Some sort of record keeping and standardized instruction could have cut that down significantly. In the end, I know that instructors want to come home every day just as I do, and they must have the confidence in a student prior to turning them loose. This issue would be a school issue, not an instructor issue.

 

Scheduling: This is a sore subject for me lately. If you are on the schedule from say 12:00 to 3:00, insist that the instructor and the aircraft be back and available at 3:00, not at 3:15, 3:20 or even later. Running over on schedule time is really tough on students like me who are working full time in addition to training full time. Yesterday I had an aircraft show up an hour late. If I were to show up late consistently, what would a CFI have to say about that? The students are not without responsibility in this area however. If you as a student schedule a time, BE THERE and be there a little early. Your time is important, and so is the time of your instructor. Another scheduling issue has to do with maintenance. We all know the rule, NEVER hassle your mechanic! They are the most important people you work with. Its sort of like complaining about your meal before it is served. I would suggest however that you have a mechanic on call for those ocassions when a ship has a small issue or a scheduled service that can be completed overnight. There is nothing worse than showing up for training time and seeing your ship in the hanger with the oil plug pulled. SOME issues can be resolved outside of normal business hours, and should be to maximize the availability of your ships. When it flies, it generates income.

 

Health & Fitness: Wow.. what does this have to do with anything? Well, in aviation you are always one medical away from being unemployed. I think it would be a grea thing to have some sort of program available to promote this aspect of your aviation career. I know when you are 20 you feel somewhat bombproof, but anything can happen. Its important that you care about it and actively do what you can.

 

Well, I suppose I have rambled enough at this point! Here is a summary of my suggestions as you build your flight school:

 

1. Be up front on cost. As we are all aware, very few people complete ratings at minimums, so make sure you explain a realistic picture of cost.

2. The students are VALUED clients. You are extracting large sums of money, treat it accordingly.

2. Make sure you have instructors who are interested and involved. They should know their students and where they are in their training. I know, Turbinitis is hard to fight. But its important.

3. Make time acountability a central issue. When schedules have to be changed, establish a means by which you can inform all parties immediately. Electronic scheduling should be in place. Technology is your friend!

4. Standardize much of the procedures being taught, so that any instructor can pick up where another left off.

 

Ok, enough of my hot air! I hope it helps and I wish you the best in moving forward with your school.

 

Mark

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I love the way fry plays his cards. he just stays behind the curtains and is like a big mistery behind VR, nobody really knows what he does or if he is a pilot, but everyone finds it so damn interesting to ask him about his status. FRy gets his pleasure by not answering if he is a pilot or not. And I love sitting back and watching everyone ask him what he does 1,000 times. its so funny that fry says something, everyone gets all pissed off, and asks him if he is a real helicopter pilot or not and people are just dying to know. Fry makes all valid points and always excuses your requests to find out if he is a real helicopter pilot or not. Even if he is a janitor, he sure knows a few things about the industry, so chances are, he is a pilot or knows something about helicoters...

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Fry makes all valid points and always excuses your requests to find out if he is a real helicopter pilot or not. Even if he is a janitor, he sure knows a few things about the industry, so chances are, he is a pilot or knows something about helicoters...

 

fry is a flame baiter. from the way he post, it appears he never achieved a license.

 

as far as "valid points", the post he made on this thread were purely mean spirited and a inane attempt to slam someone for wanting to open a flight school.

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