A big thanks to Aeropower!
And a quick note to all the aspiring helicopter pilots out there who might be wondering about schools to train at or people to talk to.
I first fell in love with helicopters when I went for a fly in one at the age of 18 on a cattle station in FNQ. I remember calling my parents straight after that flight and telling them that "I am going to be a helicopter pilot"... without a doubt in my mind, that was all I wanted to do then.
Of course after using the station's one computer with patchy internet to do a bit of feeble research on the licence and after asking the station pilot what the cost was, I soon realised that working on a cattle station would never award me enough money to afford to get the $50,000+ CPL licence, so I had to leave that job and try for one that would make me more money. At the time, being only 18 with no professional qualifications, this presented a huge challenge and many drawbacks and I ended up working a stack of random jobs, including an ice-cream factory & a dairy farm milking cows at 4:00am ---eeeek.
Eventually through contacts of my sister, I was given the break I so desperately needed, a job working for an aerial survey company out of Perth, where I could gain experience in aviation as well as earn a lavish wage with no qualifications!
I worked in the aerial survey industry for a 6 years in total, and in that time was looking for a school I could go to in stages, a school that would be happy to have a student that was extremely transient. As I used to be away at work for sometimes 3 months at a time and then home for 2 weeks where I would be able to attend lessons. This is not only a challenge for me as the student, but also for the instructors who constantly have to adjust to what your previous training stint was and what level you are at, as to avoid huge overlap costs in training.
Thankfully for me, Aeropower were extremely patient and understanding of this and also conscious of the expense that can be caused from lack of continuity.
I found all the crew at Aeropower to be very professional and relevant instructors.
Some of the benefits that first encouraged me to invest my training in Aeropower is their vast knowledge over a variety of helicopter work, including offshore, ex-military, mustering, powerlines, & tourism. Aeropower have instructors that each bring a unique experience to the training. Every flight is a condensed training session and you know this when you come back feeling like you need a coffee and a pack of M&Ms!
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It is constructive learning and there was always a high level of professionalism in Aeropower and a devoted attention to each student.
I think for me, I needed the structure and discipline that Aeropower provided, but more than that I needed to be reminded that flying is meant to be fun and that it's ok to have a laugh.
Now I consider Aeropower as part of my 'flying-family' and even after all the training is done, I love a visit to the hangar to say hello to everyone or attend a sausage sizzle and meet some new pilots.
After completing my training with Aeropower I shortly thereafter got the gig of my dreams, which is where I am currently, working for Island Hoppers Fiji, flying the MD500 to island resorts for transfers plus scenics around the islands and mountains.
It is beautiful here and I feel incredibly spoilt with all the help and support that I have been given to get here. I know I wasn't the easiest student to train or the brightest star in the sky!
I think the one thing that unifies all of us helicopter-fanatics is that we have a huge appreciation for how amazing helicopter flying is and how lucky we are to be a part of it. I haven't met a sad helicopter pilot yet! So if you are thinking about becoming a helicopter pilot, whether it be for private flying or taking the leap to fly for a living, make sure you drop into Aeropower for a coffee and a chat with the crew there and know that with determination, hardwork, the right people and the right attitude, you can achieve your goals and flying helicopters is definitely not something you will regret!
[pullquote style="right" quote="dark"]"how amazing helicopter flying is and how lucky we are to be a part of it."[/pullquote]
I still have to pinch myself everyday because I swear it must be illegal to get paid to have such an amazing career and meet so many great people and travel the world to fly the most amazing machines ever invented.
My only advice to aspiring helicopter pilots would be that you should be very prepared to adapt to different industry sectors, tourism for example to start with in most cases, so make sure you're friendly and personable and treat your passengers like royalty. I ultimately want to fly utility one day and so my aim in every flight is to be very exact and concentrated, however my passengers are a major priority at the moment. So make sure you focus on the current moment and do your absolute best in that. Every flight is an opportunity and people are powerful. You never know who you might meet and what the future holds, so don't get jaded on tourism flying, because it could actually be your ticket to ride!
Ok, I'm logging off now, but very happy to have trained with Aeropower and met the great crew there and made life long friends who keep supporting me with helicopter-answers long after the training is done!
Happy flying everyone!