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Beware of SRT Helicopters


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Potential Students, Instructors, and Clients:

 

I'm the Pilot married to the wife.

 

Beware of SRT Helicopters, especially new instructors trying to get their foot in the door. I was one of those, and realized I stepped through the wrong door. I started with the compay in July 2006 and ended in May 2007, but my instructor profile was never put on the old SRT website or the updated SRT website, even though some of the instructors listed on the website I've never met. Here are my experiences with the company as I experienced.

 

I believe the beginning of the end started when I declined to do a job for him -- the "Instructor Job for three students who own a 300C in Clovis, New Mexico" which is posted on this website. I'm not an employee of SRT but a contractor as it appears on paper for tax purposes for SRT. I would have been paid $200/day for this job, lasting for 2 to 3 months. Travel would be paid by SRT. Type of lodging was unknown at the time. Food would come out of my $200/day. I could expect to fly 2 to 4 hours a day; add another 4 hours with ground lessons, which were not mentioned. Simply, it would be an 8-hour day at a rate of 25/hr, which I was making at the time at SRT and I would have made $1000 more at my part-job over a year than in 2 to 3 months. If I took this flight job, I would have lost my part-timejob and would be looking for another part-time job when I came back. The deal, which was proposed to me, is nothing in comparison to the deals he makes for himself with other clients.

 

So with that said, things went south, and I won't get into the other details because this post is already too long. Yet the FAA is getting involved with SRT over some matter. I don't know why the FAA is investigating SRT, but if you want to know, call the Fresno FSDO because that is who covers our area (Bakersfield). The owner of SRT has accused me of reporting SRT to the FAA and has told another helicopter company in central California not to hire me. Really nice, post-boss.

 

Here is a few more of my many bad experiences.

 

First mistake: I made a verbal instead of written contract with the owner about my duties and pay. Basically, my understanding was that I would be paid $25/hr for flight and ground school. $25/hr is great for instructors, so I didn't complain. I taught ground school once a week for 3 hrs. I had about 7 to 8 students, 3 to 4 of whom flew once a week or every other week. I averaged 3-6 hrs flight lessons in the month over several months, hoping things would pick up. It never did. Do the math and you quickly realize this won't pay common bills, let alone the student loan repayment I have every month. Yet the majority of my time at SRT was spent sittingin the office, answering phones, mailing out information packets, getting office supplies, and doing other adminstartion task without pay. I was pretty much expected to work 40 hrs a week but only get paid for the few hours I either taught or flew. On paper, I was a "1099 contractor pilot" but I was treated like and expected to be an employee. Read up on the Department of Labor or IRS definition of contractor and you realize I was not a contractor. Whole different can of worms but it saved SRT some money to classify me as a contractor.

 

By the way -- the second ground school I taught had 8 students but only 2 actually flew. This started back in Jan. 2007.

 

I soon realized I needed a second part-time job to cover my monthly bills. I approached the owner of SRT with compromises such as paying me minimum wage for the office work and reducing my $25/hr so that he could still run a business and keep me around the office to do stuff he expected me to do for free. He called it "paying my dues" by doing the office work for free. He now has an office manager who does the 40 hrs/week of work that I was doing for free, but he pays her for it. Interesting, right? So I got a part-time job to help cover my monthly costs.

 

Also, the promise of turbine time was a carrot dangled in front of me several times, but I never got a hold of the carrot. One reason I never got the turbine time was because he was upset with me about bringing up the issue about getting a part-time job and asking to compromise about the office work.

 

Now safety of flight was never questioned or pushed, which I give SRT great credit for.

 

I also made a hitch for the platform we set the helicopter on for the tug to pull into the hanger. I found the material in the TRASH which was no cost to SRT and I constructed it on my own time. NEVER GOT PAYED FOR IT. But the funny thing was when I left SRT, he called me demanding the hitch back, saying it belonged to him, he had paid for it and I stole it. If he had paid me for the hitch, it would have been left alone. I left the bolts because he reimbursed me for the cost of those. Long story short, he threatened to dedeuct THE VALUE OF THE HITCH (material which was in the dumpster plus my own free time) from my final paycheck. I gave in, and gave SRT a free hitch.

 

I also flew a demo flight of 0.6 hrs. The demo flight was to be 0.5 hrs. He told me he wasn't going to pay me for the 0.1hrs. I flew over, when in fact he did a demo flight himself earlier that week for 0.6 hrs. 0.1 hrs works out to be $2.50.......come on.

 

Also on one occasion in ground schoo,l he told/threatened students that if they didn't pass the test with a minimum of 80%, that would be charged $200 for an additional 2hr ground instruction to cover the material on the test. I must say I've never seen this method of motivation in the FOI when I was taking my CFI courses. On another similar occasion, additional costs were threatened to students who weren't doing reading assignments and homework. I've seen several flight schools suspend flying lessons until the students are up to par with the book work, but never at additional costs.

 

Another big thing concerning students is loans. A former student is taking SRT to court over failure to completely refund a SALLIE MAE student loan. I'll leave it at that.

 

In my opinion, SRT lacks some of the SEVEN ARMY VALUES. So I close from one former ARMY Captain to the other at SRT: Remember the seven values can be applied to the civilian world as well.

 

Loyalty

Duty

Respect

Selfless Service

Honor

Integrity

Personal Courage

 

 

Tail Winds,

 

The Pilot of the Wife

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Pilot Wife I am sorry you got burned by that situation. It is sad when flight schools break the law and pay their employee flight instructors as sub contractors. It is dispicable when they expect their employees to work for free. It's even worse when they don't pay you for work that they should pay you for. I know excactly how you feel. It is best that you are not associated with them any more. I had a few very similar experiences to what you described. Fortunately, now I am with an operator who treats their employees right and knows how to keep good people around. I hope that you find a great job with an employer who will treat you right. I know they are out there. This time get a job with an employer with the seven values even if it means moving across the country. It will be worth it, I guarantee.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would suggest that anyone wanting to train or fly with SRT talk to the owner and the other instructors there.

 

I think you will find a much different story then what was painted by the wife and the former instructor.

 

There are two sides to every story. He was given a chance by SRT when no one else would, and he didn't appreciate it.

 

He was constantly late, ran the ground schools longer than they should have, and dressed like he was headed out to the beach.

 

Look at his post on Just Helicopters, and see the reception he got there.

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Let me correct the SFDOC as well as the In the Know poster at JustHelicopters who is the same poster.

 

First I did appreciate the opportunity at SRT. The students there made it worth it but the business side was another thing.

 

Another thing about ground lessons. The owner dictated what was to be taught by just stating chapters out of the book. There was no lesson plans for two sessions of ground school. Students requested it but never got it from him. And sometimes ground lessons did run over, but like that has never happened.

 

One other thing, why would the owner of SRT suggest to my once helicopter student to do some of his instrument training in a cessna 172 when the student doesn't hold a fix-wing rating, he can't use those hours for his own PIC. It's a waste of money for the student who needs to build up PIC time for commercial, and can do that while he is doing his instrument training in a helicopter. He is now waiting to take his check ride(helo). Also he will be the FIRST STUDENT to get his private pilot certificate at SRT.

 

Sure go talk to the owner and get a sugar coated sales pitch, but I would suggest you go talk to the students of the past and present. The owner shouldn't have a problem giving you a list of students references for SRT.

 

Good luck

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  • 1 month later...

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