It’s a big investment and one you should do your homework on before signing up. The subtleties between helicopter charter operators and flight schools might seem trivial at the outset but they become major issues as you move forward.
I was asked to do a testimonial for Rotorvation Helicopters and rather than a one page “they are great guys”, have elected to give prospective clients and students a bit more. Some buy a boat, some ride Harley – but I decided to learn to fly helicopters as my mid-life crisis deepened.
I am a fixed wing private pilot having been happy for years, putting about in Cessna 172’s taking friends and Rellys for joy-rides around Perth and quick runs down the southwest to re-stock the wine rack.
When I decided to learn to fly helicopters, it soon became apparent that there are really only two providers in Perth. One was a large scale operation with many, many machines, the other a smaller operation. Naturally, lots of helicopters parked out the front looks appealing and certainly, machine availability is an issue. However, are the machines on display actually the helicopters you’ll be flying? More often than not – no. It’s not often you start on a twin engine turbine helicopter…
After the initial contacts were made, I got the impression that with one, I was going to be regarded as a profit centre and the other, a student. The former went straight into the details of what I would do, how I would do it and costs. The latter wanted to talk to me, get to know me, what I wanted to do and suggest a couple of options.
I have noticed the same thing occurs when enquiries are made about charter flights. There’s a real genuine interest in what you are wanting to do and to find the most cost efficient way of doing it because let’s face it – this is an expensive exercise.
The next difference is that size does matter – but surprisingly, inversely. if your high school was a large institution with several thousand students then you might have wondered what a small school was like?
Just as teachers talk about smaller class sizes being preferable, I am convinced that a smaller flight school is better too. I found that I flew with two instructors regularly and a third on a few occasions. I found that the communication between all three of us was exceptional. I felt that rather than it being a teacher/student arrangement, it was a team effort with the objective of seeing me come out with a commercial helicopter pilot license. Everyone at Rotorvation was part of that team.
This to me was a crucial factor, the entire company was interested in my progress not just me. I found having two instructors was great. Apart from availability, different pilots do some things differently and even if I didn’t adopt “method B” it is good to know it exists.
Lastly, how you come out at the other end as either a client or a pilot is what counts.
In some respects it is a little like paying your car insurance. While you might scrimp and save to get away as cheaply as you can, the time you really appreciate what you have is when you make a claim.
With helicopters its about the professionalism and the outcomes. As a charter client, how effectively the job was done, how you felt about the entire experience from a safety and value for money point of view and whether you’ll come back again.
I am aware of many, many clients that come back time and time again. As a student, its about how professional you are as a graduating pilot.
Learning to fly with Rotorvation was not easy. Along the way I was constantly tested. I felt miserable many times, vowed I would chuck it in, swore I would go up the road, swore at the instructors and swore at the kids. But, the disappointment was with myself in not meeting the expectations of the school.
The expectations are high and are enforced by everyone including instructors, other pilots, engineering and support staff. These expectations and standards mean that the pilots they turn out are amongst the best in the country – and not just by their measure.
Having been in Perth all of my life and having some involvement with the media, you get to know people. Perth is a small town, reputation means a lot and is something you don’t want to tarnish. I spoke with other helicopter pilots before starting and while ex-students will always favour their old school, the non WA people are the ones to talk to.
In closing, if you prefer your meals to be fast food style then these companies exist. If you prefer a good value, favourite family run restaurant, then Rotorvation is the place.
Nick Bruining – CPL(H)