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Some questions from a new guy..

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First let me say hello to all. I am brand new to this forum but have been a lurker for quite awhile. I have been reading most of the info posted here and I really have to say that most of you are really top notch quality people, so I want to thank you for that.


Now on to my question, I have had the flying bug for many years, probably since I was a kid, however it was not until 2000 that I attended a Heli flight school seminar that i really got the but. I was around 33 YO at the time. However, due to my wife ( 1st one at the time) being so negative about everything I ever wanted to do, and the fact that my children were babies, yada yada, I never pursued it. A friend of mine that I worked with did, and now he works for a large heli school as a regional manager based in Florida. I spoke to him just recently and he is so happy he did it and made the move, especially since he was pushing 40 at the time.


This brings me to present day......


Now I find myself in a different situation altogether, I have a new wife who has a actual profession as a Attorney, and whom makes a lot of money, and just wants to see me happy no matter how much money I make or what I do, as long as I am happy in life. I have been laid off from my $130k year IT job as a VP of IT, and although I could find another one, I realize now that I don’t have to deal with corporate America, just how miserable of a existence I was living... ( dragging my ass into the office every morning dealing with people who’s egos were so huge, and didn’t know jack.. building technology to make someone else rich, and even though my pay was good, I just never had a sense of fulfillment from my professional life. In fact I was down right miserable and I took it out on many people around me. )


You know, sometimes, it isn’t how much money you make, but how many lives and people you positively impact around you that give you satisfaction. At 40 I am just learning that now.


So here I want to go to flight school to pilot a helicopter... One of my hobbies for quite a number of years was RC helicopters, so I understand the flight dynamics of a helicopter. I was quite good at it as well.


Ok so, back to my dilemma, my kids are now almost pre teen, my new wife just wants to see me happy, Money is not the issue, so what is the issue, well, even though I have been in a helicopter and have flown a small plane, I have been reading so much info lately on helicopter crashes and issues with schools and low time CFIs, that I really don’t want to die. I can picture myself sometimes, up in the air loving life, and through some circumstance ( no fault of my own) going in hard and leaving my family and loved ones.


You read about stories like this all the time, my luck I would get stuck with a low time CFI, and somehow die! Not necessarily because of the CFI, but maybe bad choices on both of our parts, or something that just cant be remedies (i.e. TR failure, Mast bump, or something else)


I really am afraid of this happening.


Maybe it is my RC heli experience coming into play since I had and have seen may crashes that just couldn’t be avoided or Auto’d out of because of mechanical failure. (although I have saved many a RC ship in my past with reactions like,” oh man I cant believe you saved that heli" and WOW I thought that thing was a goner for sure” not to be to pretentious, I crashed a lot of them as well.....0)


So my question is; is this normal pre-school fear that many aspiring pilots have at first? Does it ever go away or get any better? Should I just stay away and sink back into my miserable existence since I don’t have the nerve to be a heli pilot? Am I over reacting? WTF is wrong with me... I want it so badly, but am more afraid of leaving my children behind who will need me more than ever in the coming years... If I do it, am I being selfish?




So, I will finish my ramble by saying thank you in advance for any and all advice anyone can give me... And don’t be afraid to be brutally honest with me.. I am a big boy and can take it.


Thank you...



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I personally feel that if it's my time to go, it's my time. However, there are several ways you can take care of your fears, from what I know... Research the actual accidents where they were fatal vs. how many flights per day/month/year that take place. You have a better chance of dying on your way TO the airport than actually dying in flight. Another way is with your own knowledge of the helicopter that you are flying and the associated emergencies that can occur. If you are on top of them, then you have even less to fear. Don't let your fear master your life.





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It's NOT about the crashes. It's not about the money. It's not about the wife. It's not about the kids. It's not about the radio controlled aircraft. Is it?


Dude, you've already answered your own question. WHY are you here, on this forum? WHY did you take the time to register a name, etc etc etc. ???


You already KNOW the answer, don't you?


Obviously this is something you WANT to do, regardless of the risks. I've taken A LOT of risks along the course of my life, and I wouldn't ask for a "re-do" on any of them. EXCEPT for my pilots license. I'm 37 years old, and just starting my career as a pilot. I'm a current Battalion Chief on a paid Fire Department. I am a rope rescue instructor. I've had my butt cheeks literally hanging 250' over the edge of a water tower. I've been so far into a structure fire that I didn't think I was coming out. I've seen and done things that would make a "normal" man cry.


Been there, done that!


It's time you ask yourself a very simple question my man, do YOU want to do this?


Well do ya?


If you do, (And I think you do, or you wouldn't even be here) don't let ANYTHING get in your way. YOU make this happen.


If you don't, then you and you alone are going to have to deal with that "what if" for the rest of your life. We all only get one shot at this thing called life, but if you do it right, once is enough.


You answered your own question my friend. GO FOR IT, AND DON'T LOOK BACK!

Edited by Fastlane
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I personally feel that if it's my time to go, it's my time. However, there are several ways you can take care of your fears, from what I know... Research the actual accidents where they were fatal vs. how many flights per day/month/year that take place. You have a better chance of dying on your way TO the airport than actually dying in flight. Another way is with your own knowledge of the helicopter that you are flying and the associated emergencies that can occur. If you are on top of them, then you have even less to fear. Don't let your fear master your life.


Problem: better chance of dying on your way to the airport than in flight

Solution: live in a hanger




Everyone has their own line of what is acceptable risk and the fact is everything you do (or don't do) has some amount of risk involved. You just need to figure out if a flying career is within your limits for your current situation. If you decide not to do it, you will always have that "what if" thought in the back of your head. If you decide to go for it, you will at least occasionally have that feeling of "something could happen to me" in the back of your head, but just use that feeling to focus on being a safe pilot.


I've never really been afraid of flying, but every now and then a thought pops in to my head along the lines of "holy crap, I'm 1,000 feet above the ground with only 2 thin blades keeping me up."

Edited by me shakes fist
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You know, I'm sure everyone who has ever piloted anything (or even driven a car) has realized that life is dangerous. You hear about the few (relatively speaking) helicopter crashes that end up killing people, but you never hear about the tens of thousands of flight hours in between where no one even gets hurt.


Also, I know it's a bit odd to say but we should be so lucky to go out doing something we love. Beats dying in some lame way like keeling over at a resturaunt or on your way to work in a car wreck.

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When I pulled up on the Thrust today in my CH-47D, while on a slope AFCS off... I couldn't help but think, damn this is too much fun, and I'm getting paid to do it!!





By all means man go for it. I am 33 and am going to start training in about a month at Quantum. I've wanted this forever and now its going to happen no matter what. I have 300 skydives under my belt and yeah its scary at first but its all about knowing yourself and your abilities. You have to trust yourself and the person your learning from. The sky is my playground and I'm not lookin back! Dude just think about it, flying everyday and getting paid for it whats cooler than that. How much happiness can one endure my god man! Don't think about dying think about the actual living. Its a new chance to have the life you've always wanted. If money is not an issue and you have someone that will support you and you wuss out you will hate yourself. Be prepared for that, its not living that is dying my friend.


Piece out :blink:

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Tom- all good concerns. Not a month goes by that I don't search the NTSB website to look at all crashes in the type I am flying. However, I have had several very close calls...by that I mean, really close...but not a single one of them was mechanical related. I have had near mid airs...like 4 feet away at 200 knots...so in my mind, other air traffic is the big one to watch out for...here in Los Angeles the last mid air we had, both aircraft were talking to the same controllers. A famous case in Florida, both aircraft were talking to the same controllers. In the end, its still all up to you.


Your fears are real. My first day in law enforecement (patrol) I attended a rosary for a female officer killed just 2 days before..all real risks, we live with them every day. Flying is no different, you rely on your training, and never allow yourself to get complacent, and the minute you even think something doesnt feel right you turn it around...I did that just last month..but its soooo damn fun when you just show up, pre-flight and take up a friend for a nice flight out for breakfast, and its all you flying..stay informed, stay vigilant and pray..cant hurt.


Oh, and fly safe. Goldy

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I'm going to step outside the box of the original question, just a little.


Nobody here gets out alive. It doesn't have to be spectacular and newsworthy as a helo crash. It could be as mundane as that on-coming car's driver being distracted. You could aspirate an aspirin. Various parts of the body fail catastrophically, it happens all the time.

I'm a combat vet. I've seen combatants die without a visible mark. I've seen the opposite, and seen'em fight until there was nothing left to fight with- fill in the blanks yourself.

I fly EMS. It seems that fatal stupidity is popular. Believe it or not, a Mercedes won't jump an interstate highway cut. It will, however, dig an impressive divot out of the median. The passenger had a seatbelt on, the driver didn't, and the launch bank didn't have any upwards grade...

Stupid can kill you even if you never lay eyes on the idiot who's going to stupid you to death. Hint- mechs don't leave their tools on the helicopter on purpose, it's not a game or a joke.

I know that I too, can, and probably will, eventually make a fatal mistake- eventually. The aspirin aspiration in the first paragraph is related from first-hand experience. The world's really casual about my continued existence, I'm not. I work very hard to keep my mistakes as small and rare as possible. I'm not paranoid about it, but I chew my food and, especially- preflight carefully. Dead is dead, whether I choke on a pea or takeoff without checking the weather.

If it's any comfort to you, I feel safer flying than in other activities. Statistically speaking, flying can be the safest form of transport- the airlines and the FAA brag about that bit of data, ad nauseum. I'm MUCH better trained at it than I am at most of life's activities. I have much more control of risk in the cockpit than I do anywhere else. You can, too. Do it.

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I think the fear is a NORMAL part of life and decision making....So when you ask what is wrong with me...I don't think anything is wrong with a man who is responsible enough to consider his wife and children before his "desires". By the way...I also understand your fears...I have four boys and a loving wife that I too condsidered before making my decision...(review my posts if you want to...it's a fairly recent decision). After consulting with some trusted friends and my wife...reviewing as much information as possible...(much of it from this site)...praying about it (as Goldy mentioned)...I realized that I was ready to go for it and I did.


I just flew the "real thing" for the second time yesterday...after about 12 hours in the simulator and some ground. It was exhilerating...the fear tried to creep in at first (for about five minutes)...but after that it was amazing. Yeah...it was in the back of my head that at anytime we could have an emergency...and I've been studying what to do in case of those emergencies. My CFI knows what to do in those emergencies --- I HOPE !! ;)


The fact is "anything can happen"...but the end of that statement needs to be "at any time or any place". The helicopter is just another transportation "venue" where safety, preparation and awareness is paramount and critical. I believe once you have done ALL you can do...you will never be able to control what you can't control...in any area of life.


So I say...limit your risks in every way you can...in whatever activity you are going to participate in...including helicopters. Expect the best and be prepared for the worst. Your family will be proud of you and will honor your decision to pursue a life-long dream...My wife and kids are thrilled and cannot wait until I can fly them around...(there's a fear hurdle we'll both deal with one day).


Fear can be conquered with prearation and faith...Godspeed !!!


You can do it...

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Well, let me first say thank you to everyone who has been giving me such positive feedback. You guys really are a special breed. Every one of your replies made a lot of sense to me and I really don’t want to have any regrets when this life finally ends.


I guess my real apprehension is not for me but for others whom I love most.


That being said, I went up the other day for my introductory flight in a 44. It was a lot of fun and the pilot let me take the controls for a bit after we got out a ways. I must say that it was much harder than I expected. I did a little forward flight as well as some low to the ground hovering for which I couldn’t keep it in one place at all. I think I was just very nervous which made me tense up.


However the pilot corrected everything I did and assured me that this would all become like driving a car for me eventually.


Speaking of driving a car I almost got into an accident today crashing into a semi who was crossing through stopped traffic in the two left lanes as I was in the extreme right lane moving forward at about 35mph.


I don’t know how I didn’t see him but when I did I jammed the brakes and swerved right coming within inches of his cab.


After it was all over all I could think to myself was how lucky I was but how scared I was at that moment and how I could have been killed. I also thought about how frightening it would be to be in a helicopter accident or emergency and how I probably couldn’t handle the situation.


I have been reading the accident reports for helis on the NTSB site and many of the r22 accidents seem to come from mechanics failing to adhere to standard repair or maintenance procedures (i.e. a loose nut here or a missing spacer there..) And I keep thinking how my life is in the hands of someone else. Now I am not putting anyone down, but if a guy has a bad day and he is thinking about his wife whom is unfortunately having a affair with his best friend and he forgets to tighten the linkage bolt he was just working on because he got a call from her saying that they were off to Hawaii and probably wouldn’t be coming back,…… I get in the heli, die a horrible death... THAT SCARES ME!


I so want to do this but I am letting my anxiety control me and I know this is not good. I went to the book store today to see if they had any self help books on how to deal with irrational anxiety, but they had squat.


So you guys have given me some great advice and have been so positive and mentoring I really appreciate it. I know I am going to regret my decision later in life but now I am thinking that maybe I am just not cut out for this...


Maybe my destiny is to keel over in front of the water cooler at work the day before I turn 65 or maybe at a restaurant while eating the chicken dish of the day, or maybe worse... a slow and painful death rotting in a old age home, crapping my pants and drooling on myself while some non-caring worker attempts to feed me strained carrots through a straw.


You hear about so many people who die unexpectedly or of old age and you never think it can happen to you, well I know it can and will someday and I really don’t want to be sitting in that wheelchair, thinking, man, if I was only young again what I would change.. That has to be the worst death of all.


But even though I know what’s right, I just am having some major anxiety about it, which is keeping me from pulling the trigger, which then gets me thinking that if I am having this much anxiety before I even start then maybe I should just forget the whole thing and move on to a life of boredom and regrets..


Well, you guys have really helped me enough; I guess the rest is just up to me to figure it out.


Hopefully I will soon enough...


Ps... You know for me it’s not about the money or even the glamour of it all. If it was, then this career wouldn’t even be on my list. It is really about being happy and having that sense of freedom and accomplishment. It’s about going to work but never really feeling like I am at work.


It is about being able to put my new skills to use to help others someday or do something that could really benefit someone or some cause... That’s what it is about...


So I will stop my whining, buck up and deal with the issues. Whatever is going to be will be as someone else said.


Thanks again all. You are truly a great bunch.

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If I may be blunt, you're over-thinking it. We've all had close calls driving, and those on the board that fly commercially have all had close calls flying. When your time is up, it's up despite your best efforts.


Let me ask you something: If you were just getting behind the wheel for the first time ever, would you survive a close call on the highway? Maybe, maybe not. Same with helicopters. I've got a whopping 20 minutes of total time under my belt and I've got no illusions of being able to auto correctly or save my butt in a TR failure. However, I do know that once I've got enough hours to solo, my chances of survival if something goes wrong increase dramatically. Every revolution of those rotors will provide you with a bit more experience and improve your chances of survival.


None of us make it out alive, as another poster said. There's no use fretting about it too much. Do what you can to ease the impact for those you love, and get on with living. If that means flying, then by god, do a good preflight and strap in.

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I used to dirt track race and I was wondering what kind of safety belts are in many of the helicopters. Someone told me that in the r22 that their is just a seat belt you find in a car. How come they dont have a 5-point seat belt in them like a race car, for more impact safety?

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Tom, Hi when I read your article I had to write to you and tell you I had the same fears about dying and leaving my three kids without a mother. My husband is taking heli lessons too, he is almost ready for his check ride, I am around 40 hrs and have soloed once and it scared me quite bad but not bad enough to quit. I dont have those anxieties like I used to I am also 40 years young. I just think if I give up I will never know what it feels like to accomplish something so unique. Its like an addiction but a good one, and I have had several different instructors and had faith in all of them. I think if your ment to die in a heli, that is just what god has planned for you. I just don't want to be 80 years old and think what if I never would have quit, heck I don"t want to live to be that old anyways or to say anyone would fly with me. It still comes to my mind about my kids but they think its real cool to have parents who fly heli's. I would recommend that you fly a few more times and then make your decision. Good luck with ever you decide.



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Thanks Guys... (and Gals) It is really comforting to know that there are many people in the same situation as me and doing what they love... You are right, I am over thinking it, and I know I am, that is me... I over think everything I do. I know flying helis is something that I really want to do so badly or else why would I even be stressing about it. I would have moved on already.


Sometimes I can’t help but think that I am just stressing over nothing and I just need to "man up" and do it.


One other thing that comes to mind that I thought I would ask ( and maybe I should search the boards for this) but does anyone feel safer in a bigger machine such as the 300 as opposed to the 22? I have only been in 44s and while they are not quite as small as a 22 they still seem small and light for my taste. Do you think that maybe I should find a school that trains in a 300? I looked up the NTSB safety record for them and it seems like they have a much better track record.. However I do understand that the 22s are the most common trainer out there due to there lower operating cost so obviously there will be more accidents with that ship. Just thought I would ask that question.


Also, thanks again for all the advice.. I really don’t think there is anything anyone else can say that you all have not said already.. I need to just do it. You people are really great. Thank you.

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It's kind of ironic in my opinion that some people are over-thinkers when it comes to truly dangerous things. It's all self-preservation. That fear of being killed just may keep your nose in the books even that much more. If you understand what could happen and the ramifications of it, it could just pucker you up just enough to keep you safe. Someone who doesn't think much about it, could very well do the opposite. That is a good reason to have Simulators... IP's (CFI's) can throw every EP (emergencies) at you and get you to react correctly. While I hate not being in the actual aircraft, it pays dividends. Tonight I flew the Sim in IMC, got a dual Gen failure, which leads to the loss of all electrical which leads to dual AFCS failure. I was at 3,000' and impacted the ground about 20 seconds later. Damn near sh*t myself, but we did it over and over a couple of times until I got it right and lived. Priceless!



Either way, good luck with your quest and decision!!




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Do yourself a favor...overthink all you want but please don't get hopeless...whether you go for it or not.


The way you describe your "non-helicopter" death is horrible and miserable...I know you are exagerating somewhat so here's a great way to figure it out. If you are looking for a "happier, more pleasant, and unexpected death...then fly. If a mundane existence and a predictable, sad, pathetic death is more to your liking...then live your "regular" life.


Use your fear to your advantage...as FLH said...in whatever direction you choose. Easier said than done...I know...but we all gotta do it if we want to live on purpose. Try to name anything that was ever accomplished in any realm of life that did not have fear attached to it for the person that accomplished it. The amount of fear was in direct proportion to the size of the accomplishment. Bottom-line...helicopters or not...if you are progressing there is fear...you can either fall at the feet of the fear or conquer it...but it will always be there.


Just know you are not alone...we all deal with fear...

Edited by zemogman
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I fly every day and then narrowly escaped career/life-ending injuries in a fluke car wreck a block from my house last week, the first of my 29yrs. The only operational door was the driver's side and I opened it and walked away with a sore neck. I have never been happier that I have chased and found all of my dreams so far, including flying heli. Everyone is going to go at some point, thankfully last week wasn't my time. But every minute in the air is another gift from the unknown and my preflights are better than ever.


Fly safe, drive safer.

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There are a lot of accidents in helicopters. There are a lot of accidents in R22s. I trained in Utah when there were a lots of R22 accidents. Luck none killed anyone. I saw pictures of all of them and some cases I saw the actual helicopter. I am totally impressed how well the design works to absorb energy! I know you worry about dieing in a helicopter crash but you are you more likely to get hit by some crazey driver on the way to the airport!! Some really smart people went to a lot of trouble to make sure that IF something went wrong the helicopter would be you protective shell. I have talked to some guys that have crashed MD500s and they say that is the bird to be in if you are going in!

Anyway try not to worry about if and remember is you fly smart and remember your training you have a great chance of going through your pilots career with nothing bad happening!!

Fly Smart


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