What makes a good flight school? Good location, good prices, good equipment but most of all good instructors. What makes a good instructor? That may be a little tougher to determine.
From the first time I walked into the busy little helicopter school in Titusville Florida I felt at home. I showed up on a Saturday and although it was his day off the Chief Pilot came out to give me a tour. Jens wasn’t about trying to sell me on the school or about how wonderful it would be to become a helicopter pilot or even about himself. Instead he was interested in who I was. With that introduction we immediately became friends. I signed up for flying lessons and I’ve been back many times since.
This time I came back for my biennial (once every two years) flight review. I did my fixed wing review last year in Canada on the Diamond 40 with the Garmin 1000 and planned to do my helicopter review on the B206 B3 with the new Garmin G500H EFIS panel. When I realized that the Bristow 206 prices had increased drastically in the past three years I decided to do my review on the 300 CBi and then add 6 hours on the Bell 206 thus keeping the costs down while still managing to log 10 hours of flight training time.
For the Schweizer I was assigned a very young Nigeria instructor who recently graduated from the Bristow Academy and was now working out his “J” visa. I think Joseph was a bit nervous especially after I dumped the collective on the first flight but generally he took the review very seriously. After two years of not opening a manual I had to sweat out most of the questions as he looked on patiently. In most cases I had to look up the answers in the FAA AIM but then again that is allowed.
The hands and feet flying part came back very quickly although the rote memory emergency procedures took a little longer to recall. In other words, we did four hours of auto-hovers, auto-rotations, and not-so-auto everything else before Joseph finally felt comfortable signing my review.
That’s where Cory and Kelly took over the tag team relationship. How can I describe Cory and Kelly? I would say “pleasant” “easy going” “trusting” and just plain “nice.” At their age I would not have wanted to be called any of those terms of endearment. I was too focused on being tough in an attempt to survive a world where Just Culture was still 30 years away.
But now, however, I’d hate to see any young instructor trying to be tough with an old bird like me. I would say then that in this case both Cory and Kelly were “smart” and “diplomatic” considering that they had to check out a 15,000 hour aviation veteran who has been an instructor himself for 30 years.
Not being tough did not stop them from being diligent, patient, persistent and consistent in their attempt to make me a safe and effective Bell 206 pilot. It helps, moreover, that I realize how important their skills are as instructors in keeping me from mowing the grass or trimming the trees with the tail rotor.
Considering that the 206 is easier to fly then the 300CBi and considering I already had flown the 206 several years ago in Escravos with the Pan African Airlines Chief Pilot I didn’t take long to get back in the saddle.
Approaching Alpha Practice Area from 2000 feet.
Alpha Practice Area. See the little white dot in the clearing? That’s a helicopter.
Cory setting me up for an auto 180.
Power off – collective down.
Landing area 45 degree adjacent.
Completing right turn full glide. I did about 15 of these in a row.
Ok, now it’s time to check out alligator county.
I find it amazing how monstrously large these alligators really are. The hundreds of cows that graze along the St. Johns River don’t seem too overly concerned and I’ve never heard of any of the airboat drivers hauling tourists through these swamps being eaten. So how do they get so large unless, of course, there are lots of unlisted missing tourist? The dispatcher at the academy made a joke about flying a single engine helicopter over the swamps of Florida and frankly I think she had a point.
Flight back into Space Coast Regional Airport Titusville Florida.
Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center on the horizon.
Bristow Academy Titusville Florida.
Cory spends his free time volunteering for the Helicopter Foundation International dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich history and heritage of the helicopter and of the industry’s service to mankind, helping to educate the future generations of helicopter professionals, and promoting the helicopter industry as an exciting and valuable career choice for young people, thus perpetuating vertical flight’s contributions to the world in which we live.
Kelly Anderson recently won the American Eurocopter Flight Training Scholarship. The American Eurocopter Scholarship gives a Whirly-Girl in good standing the opportunity to attend the AS350 Turbine Helicopter Transition course at the American Eurocopter factory school in Grand Prairie, Texas. Anderson … holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics and a Master’s in engineering applied science from University of California, Davis. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing and kayaking.
After my recurrent training I had dinner with Jon, one of the long term Helicopter Adventure Instructors now working in Alaska, who asked me if I thought the friendliness and camaraderie of the instructors had changed since the Bristow Group bought out the privately owned flight school. I had to say no. It was fun then and it still it. I would highly recommend the Bristow Academy to someone looking to obtain a helicopter license or anyone wanting to step up their life a notch.