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I was in a helicopter accident a few years ago that left me with visible burn scars on my arms, legs, torso, head, and face, although I still have my nose, lips, and most of my ears (yes, I consider myself lucky). I thought that getting into a new career would be prudent, but now I can't seem to stop thinking about flying. Part of it is that, as an independent-minded sort of person, my new career path in the health field requires the complete opposite of me. Not only that, but hospitals are full of very, very, sick people. That's hard to take sometimes. Unfortunately, I was a low time pilot at the time of my accident (<140 hrs PIC). I am concerned that, if I were to try to get back to flying, my burn scars might make prospective students and passengers anxious. Is this something that flight school and Part 135 operators consider? If so, what would be an alternative career path? I see that one flight school is offering an "apprenticeship" program with 500's for $20k. How hireable would I be afterwards? Would the money be better spent getting a CFII? I would really appreciate help with this as my desire to fly again is making me focus on the negative aspects of my new career choice for which I am still training. :blink:

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Appearance shouldn't matter, but the truth is that some people will discriminate based on that, as well as on race, sex, age, and whatever else they don't like. That doesn't make it right or legal, but it happens. Good luck to you, and I hope you get the job you want. I really can't give you any other advice, though, because I know little of the instruction world, and that's more than I want to know.

Edited by Gomer Pylot
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I was in a helicopter accident a few years ago that left me with visible burn scars on my arms, legs, torso, head, and face, although I still have my nose, lips, and most of my ears (yes, I consider myself lucky). I thought that getting into a new career would be prudent, but now I can't seem to stop thinking about flying. Part of it is that, as an independent-minded sort of person, my new career path in the health field requires the complete opposite of me. Not only that, but hospitals are full of very, very, sick people. That's hard to take sometimes. Unfortunately, I was a low time pilot at the time of my accident (

 

 

Sorry to hear about your accident.

 

I think that there are three initial thoughts a potential student might have:

 

  1. You were burned in an accident completely unrelated to flying.
  2. You were burned because of a flying accident, and you're probably a terrible pilot.
  3. You were burned in a flying accident, you're a testament to the survivability of flying disasters, and you're likely have a unique wisdom and experience that would be hard to find elsewhere.

 

Personally, if I showed up for my first flight lesson and it was obvious that my instructor had been burned severely, I would default to number one or—if you told me it was flying related—number three.

 

I think that your accident gives you an opportunity to positively affect a lot of future pilots. They're going to listen to you when you teach them the importance of knowing emergency procedures and maneuvers. A lot of people have an it-can't-happen-to-me attitude, but they're going to listen to you when you say that an accident CAN happen to them. In fact, flying with a CFI who "it" HAS happened to might be the only thing that WILL get through to them.

 

So, my advice is that if instructing is something you really want to do, do it.

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Sorry to hear about your accident.

 

I think that there are three initial thoughts a potential student might have:

 

  1. You were burned in an accident completely unrelated to flying.
  2. You were burned because of a flying accident, and you're probably a terrible pilot.
  3. You were burned in a flying accident, you're a testament to the survivability of flying disasters, and you're likely have a unique wisdom and experience that would be hard to find elsewhere.

 

Personally, if I showed up for my first flight lesson and it was obvious that my instructor had been burned severely, I would default to number one or—if you told me it was flying related—number three.

 

I think that your accident gives you an opportunity to positively affect a lot of future pilots. They're going to listen to you when you teach them the importance of knowing emergency procedures and maneuvers. A lot of people have an it-can't-happen-to-me attitude, but they're going to listen to you when you say that an accident CAN happen to them. In fact, flying with a CFI who "it" HAS happened to might be the only thing that WILL get through to them.

 

So, my advice is that if instructing is something you really want to do, do it.

Thanks for your perspective, it's encouraging. Getting stared at a lot makes me a little paranoid; I should learn to give people, especially helicopter students, the benefit of the doubt. FYI I was co-piloting when mechanical failure took us down; the command pilot didn't make it. As for flight instructing, I know how essential it is to building time, and my concern which you've alleviated somewhat, was that my disfigurement might make getting a job difficult. My timing might be pretty bad considering the demise of Silver State Helicopters and the slowing economy. This may push me towards that "turbine apprenticeship" training. Thanks again.

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Appearance shouldn't matter, but the truth is that some people will discriminate based on that, as well as on race, sex, age, and whatever else they don't like. That doesn't make it right or legal, but it happens. Good luck to you, and I hope you get the job you want. I really can't give you any other advice, though, because I know little of the instruction world, and that's more than I want to know.

Thanks for your support. Someone told me that I'd get a bunch of a__holes responding, but that couldn't be more wrong. Semper Fi!

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Not on this board :D

 

Couldnt agree more, and I must add that most guys & gals who look into aviation as a hobby or carreer, would be more open eared and wide eyed to listening to what you have to say if you are willing to share your experience with them...I know I would be. Go after it...

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I'm w/ NorCalHeliKid on this one. I think people would be much more apt to listening to you and be more safety-oriented. I think people would I'm be much thankful to have you as a flight instructor or pilot, just because you are well aware of what these machines can and WILL do to human life. I also think you'd have a broad outlook on flight-safety and I probably wouldn't hesitate one bit to climb in the cabin with you. Good Luck

 

And you know what, I respect the hell out of you for for being what you've been through and still trying to push your way through this industry. Best of luck.

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I agree also that I think those whom you talk to about flying will be much more receptive to your words of wisdom. It's just human nature to be.

 

Tiercel, you'll see that on this board there are a lot of great guys/gals who give their honest opinions and we all respect eachother. Unlike the JH original forum. Good luck, I hope things work out well for you.

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I agree with what everyone else has said with this addition. If I climbed into the left seat next to you, I would DEFINITELY find a polite way to ask you what happened. If you shared your story, the very next thing in MY mind would be what courage and determination my new instructor has, to be back in the saddle.

 

As mentioned before, I believe you'll actually inspire students to put in the extra effort with your story. But unfortunately I also agree with Gomer. It's not right or legal, but it does happen.

 

I wish you luck! Keep us posted!

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I agree with what everyone else has said with this addition. If I climbed into the left seat next to you, I would DEFINITELY find a polite way to ask you what happened. If you shared your story, the very next thing in MY mind would be what courage and determination my new instructor has, to be back in the saddle.

 

As mentioned before, I believe you'll actually inspire students to put in the extra effort with your story. But unfortunately I also agree with Gomer. It's not right or legal, but it does happen.

 

I wish you luck! Keep us posted!

Wow, I am truly overwhelmed by everyone's positive feedback and encouragement. You're really giving me too much credit. In all honesty, I have not yet decided to quit my training to become an x-ray tech and was actually looking for an excuse to give up completely on flying helicopters. When things get boring or difficult, I often find myself wishing I could be in the cockpit again flying through a canyon looking down at trees and rivers. Since you've all been so helpful, here's a link to the NTSB report on my accident:

 

http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=2...00432&key=1

 

I know it faults the crew for not autorotating properly, but the command pilot had just completed a proficiency check-ride that morning. Something else had to have happened to contribute to the crash besides engine failure. I was a non-type rated co-pilot. Make of that what you will.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts about the rest of my original post concerning career paths and state of the training industry after the Silver State demise? This will weigh heavily into my decision to get out of health care (yuk!) and get back to spinning blades.

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I think that your accident gives you an opportunity to positively affect a lot of future pilots. They're going to listen to you when you teach them the importance of knowing emergency procedures and maneuvers. A lot of people have an it-can't-happen-to-me attitude, but they're going to listen to you when you say that an accident CAN happen to them. In fact, flying with a CFI who "it" HAS happened to might be the only thing that WILL get through to them.

 

So, my advice is that if instructing is something you really want to do, do it.

 

As a fixed wing student pilot, I can vouch for this statement. My flight instructor had always stressed the importance of continuously scanning while flying for places to land- fields, roads, golf courses, etc.- in the event of an engine failure. Although I took his instruction seriously prior to the event, after my instructor had to make a forced landing on the expressway adjacent to the airport, his instruction REALLY sunk in.*

 

*Not to mention, it was the plane I had soloed just a few weeks earlier :D

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I think most employers would look for a safe and conservative pilot over all other things. I feel the only ethical discrimination in aviation is weight. If you are overweight and reduce the profitability of an aircraft, you greatly reduce your chances of getting hired.

 

It is a tough industry though, and I will always discourage anyone from entering it unless they really really have the passion and don't mind being broke for a long time. So, I suggest you complete your X-ray tech training, and then you will have something to fall back on.

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I think most employers would look for a safe and conservative pilot over all other things. I feel the only ethical discrimination in aviation is weight. If you are overweight and reduce the profitability of an aircraft, you greatly reduce your chances of getting hired.

 

It is a tough industry though, and I will always discourage anyone from entering it unless they really really have the passion and don't mind being broke for a long time. So, I suggest you complete your X-ray tech training, and then you will have something to fall back on.

Guess I came to the same conclusion, although it will leave me with less money for more flight training. Once the dust settles from the SSH debacle, I should have my x-ray tech certificate and have more flexibility in choosing flying jobs. Thanks again to all who responded to my post; you have really helped me come to a difficult decision and see things a little more clearly.

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WELL, sorry i missed this post. i guess i've scrolled right by it a few times and never noticed. I was Burnt 65% of my body less than 2 years ago. I was almost done with my commercial helicopter rating and working part time, i got burnt at work due to someone else's carelessness (SP?) I spent almost 3 months in a houston hospital, did 8 skin graft surgeries and then you know as well as i do, MONTHS of healing, rehab, and PT. As soon as my doctor would let me back in a helicopter, i was back on track. (still wearing my compression garments to this day) i went to school with a different outlook on everything as far as safety. Currently, i am working in Colorado for a flight school teaching in the Enstrom helicopter. I have to say, DONT let this burn injury affect your choices. Go for it. I was hesitant for about 20 seconds before i went back to training. my bur scars are definatly visible, although i was lucky and did not have any real damage to my face. Your burns will only slow you down as far as you let them. its only skin. If you have any questions, or just want to talk to a fellow burn survivor/pilot, feel free to message me anytime. or my email is clayvoss@comcast.net talk to you soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tiercel:

I have to tell you that I commend you for your inquisitivity, honesty, and bravery for asking this question and providing us with what seems to be all of the relative details. I, for one, hold the position of paying close attention to the stories of other pilots, who for one reason or another, ended up in a situation the rest of us hope we'll never be in.

That being said, and also speaking of experience, student pilots have a curiousity level that goes beyond those who are not in a constant learning environment. They will ask questions, some more relevant than others, as part of the learning process. By you taking the role of an instructor, I warn you that questions will likely be asked about your appearance. Most questions are well intended - be certain of that.

I once had an instructor early on in my training that had a scar on the back of his head that went under his collar toward his back. As we were pre-flighting one day together I asked him if his scar was from some type of accident he had in result of flying. He explained to me that it was actually from a brain surgery he had early in life and I felt ridiculous for even asking.

Though your situation is aviation related, I would be as open and honest with your students and potential employers as you have been with us on this forum. It's amazing how when questions we have are answered before we create situations in our own minds leads to a more productive learning environment.

Best of luck to you.

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  • 3 months later...
Review of the helicopter's flight manual revealed a section under emergency procedures regarding "Engine Failure". The section discussed main rotor decay rate, which is affected by the "engine torque required at the time of failure." According to the manual, a 5% per second decay rate can be expected when a failure occurs in the flight regimes requiring 74.5% torque. All of the emergency procedures for single-engine loss of power (regardless of phase of flight) dictate that the flight crew place the speed selectors in the full forward position and they "contain Nr." Another section discusses dual-engine failures, and indicates that, "failure of both engines requires immediate action if a safe power-off landing is to be accomplished. The altitude and airspeed at which a two-engine failure occurs will dictate the action to be taken. Immediately upon a two-engine failure, rotary wing rpm will decay and the helicopter will yaw to the left. Collective pitch must be immediately reduced to prevent excessive loss of rotary wing rpm…"

 

A warning accompanies this section indicating that, "within 3 to 5 seconds, rotor rpm will decay to an unrecoverable state with resultant loss of control unless autorotation is entered immediately. The section titled "Dual-Engine Failure While Hovering At A Low Altitude" indicates, "settling will be so rapid if both engines fail at low altitude that little can be done to avoid a hard landing. The landing can be cushioned somewhat by increasing collective pitch as the helicopter settles to the ground. Do not reduce collective pitch as in normal procedures in the event of both engines failing at higher altitude. In this case, a reduction of pitch would cause the helicopter to settle more rapidly."

 

Took this quote from the full narrative report. Looks like the S61 doesn't have much rotor enertia either, just as a Robbie.... Robbie 1.5 sec's to lower collective or S61 3-5 sec's to lower collective. Both pretty quick times to act.

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Just thought I would wish you luck with your training. Do not let anyone discourage you, I would train with you in a heartbeat. You have real life experience that is very unfortunate but would make you a strong instructor. This is coming from a guy who has not started his flight training yet but I have been around for a while. Good Luck.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 4 months later...

There are operators who discriminate, but there are a lot more that dont, so dont give up. From my experience the ones that seem to care most about appearance are operators that ask the pilot to wear the captain's suit. Tour and transport ect. Get a job doing ext. load or doing EMS, those passengers wont be intimidated!

Good luck man.

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