Category: Educational

What Do the Best Aviation Colleges Offer?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Typically, prospective students who are considering careers in the aviation industry tend to contemplate becoming pilots through aviation colleges which offer five essential pilot ratings as follows: private single engine, instrument rating, private multi-engine, commercial single and multi-engine, and certified flight instructor (CFI). In addition, the best aviation colleges usually offer courses in both fixed wing and rotary (helicopter) endorsements. This provides their students with a greater range of career opportunities.

Since prospective aviation students can anticipate a considerable investment in time and money, it is wise to investigate what financial assistance or funding is available when embarking on a lucrative flying career. Student loans, PELL grant funding, and scholarships are just a few of the types of financial assistance that are offered to qualified students by federal sources, public and private entities that can be found on the college websites and/or on individual scholarship websites.

When conducting a review of the best aviation colleges in the US, there are several criteria to take into consideration before making the commitment to enter their aviation program:

  • The location of the college.
  • The dynamics of the learning environment.
  • The learning objectives and practical application of the degree program(s).
  • The state of the training facility.
  • The job opportunities offered or guaranteed before or after successful graduation from the program.

In addition, here are some questions to consider when entertaining prospective aviation colleges:

  • Do you want to attend an aviation college that is local to your permanent home residence to avoid living on or off campus, away from home, which will incur additional room and board expenses?
  • What is the instructor to student ratio? Is it relatively small to avoid becoming lost in a cavernous lecture hall with little or no interaction with your instructor?
  • Specifically, what are the learning objectives of the degree program that is of interest to you? And what can you do with it (practical application) once you have graduated?
  • Are the training facilities state-of-the-art with access to the most updated flight simulators, aircraft, and avionics for example?
  • Does the college-of-interest guarantee job placement either during enrollment in their degree program and/or following graduation?

Each college publishes their general policies applying to all degrees as well as the minimum requirements for each degree program, such as a minimum of 120-semester credit hours numbered from 1000 to 4999 for all bachelor degrees; the minimum GPA requirements for all coursework for the major as well as for all work taken at the college; and whether a major, composite major or dual major are required with a completion of the specific requirements for one of the bachelor degrees offered by the college. Many universities have extended their programs beyond the traditional on-campus classes to include online courses and/or hybrid courses. Generally, however, there are limitations for the number of courses that can be completed online as well as which courses (major versus non-major/elective) as well as the number of the level (lower division, 1000 to 2999 versus upper division 3000 to 4999) of the courses that must be completed. Coursework and degree program questions, as well as financial aid, can be directed to the academic advising office, the registrar’s office, and/or the financial aid office via telephone, email, or website link.

Researching the anticipated investment in time and money required to enter and to remain in an aviation degree program and the financial assistance that is available to qualified students is important. Investigating the salaries and career potential to recoup that payout is also of vital importance. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for commercial pilots is expected to increase by approximately nine percent through 2022. The median/average salary for commercial pilots is estimated to be $75,000.00. In some cases, this may be only part-time in nature which leaves other income opportunities, such as serving as flight instructors, military pilots, corporate pilots, aerial photography, news or traffic reporting, fire-fighting, and tourism. Another career consideration is to create a niche for yourself if such a niche does not yet exist, like opening and operating an aviation-related business such as a flight school or your own service ferrying aircraft for clients. This allows you to utilize the skills learned when completing a multiple-disciplinary bachelor’s degree.

The Internet provides access to a myriad of aviation-oriented websites. These sites give a significant amount of data and information regarding the business projections for aircraft manufacturers, aviation careers, commercial and private pilots, and so forth. And the FAA website offers information pertaining to certificates, licenses, regulations, policies, aircraft, pilots, and unmanned aircraft systems. Although the Internet allows prospective students a tremendous amount of latitude regarding a virtual tour of aviation colleges, at times it is more advantageous to schedule an in-person tour of the college(s) that have been “short-listed.” This can help you gain a better sense of the learning environment and facilities to ensure the most successful student experience.

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Pilot Shortage: What Should the Aviation Industry Do?

With a thirty-five percent increase in global travelers, there are more than half a million aviation positions currently available for qualified pilots. The aviation industry is working hard to meet that demand, but experts are saying there may be a serious pilot shortage. Both fixed wing and helicopter pilots are required and, in addition, many pilots just completing their required flight times are now being hired before they can even apply for a position.

In recent years, a large majority of qualified helicopter pilots were ex-military or war pilots. These elder statesmen pilots who are now retiring from the industry and leaving many helicopter and fixed wing companies with questions and concerns as to how these open positions are going to be filled by the next generation of pilots, and how they’ll deal with a potential pilot shortage.

Another source of the world pilot shortage is that many of the airlines around the world have been increasing the amount of planes in their fleets. In Asia alone, Airbus has tripled the size of its shipments to meet the expected growth. Many of these airlines now face the hurdle of where to attain the funding to train pilots to keeps these planes safe and in the air.

Where Are the New Pilots Going to Come From?

Many large commercial airlines are looking to foreign nations to employ pilots to fill the empty aviation positions due to the significant increase in airline utilization.  Aviation industry salaries start at $60,000 for helicopter pilots as reported for 2014. Commercial pilots are starting year average salary range from $65,000 to $120,000 with the potential to $200,000 for those pilot’s who have accumulated over 1000 flight hours. It is rare for a five-year experienced pilot to expect less than $100,000 per year.

Where will the new pilots come from and how will they get the financial support for schooling? Historically, funding for fixed wing, private and airline pilot training has been financially prohibitive for many men and women due to limited monies available, or being required to take huge personal loans to cover the cost of training. But subsequently, the aviation industry and private lenders have made funds more available to those pursing a career in the aviation or air travel industry, which may lead to more pilots and help solve the issue of the pilot shortage.

Airline Pilots Get ALL the Peanuts They Can Eat!

The job perks for helicopter and fixed-wing pilots are nearly endless. While it is true that the responsibilities that pilot’s carry are quite staggering in terms of human life if one sits and thinks deeply about it, these duties become second nature with experience (flight hours). It can become easier to hold the safety and well to be of other individuals when you’re own well-being is on the line as well.

One of the most popular and well known of pilot benefits has been money.  Traditionally, the earning potential has been equivalent to that of a doctor (general practitioner) or a government lawyer, with much less time (in years) spent in school and as flight hours accumulate, pilots can surpass these status career’s salaries as well.  But many people say that is no longer the case, and pilot salaries have been in a continual slide. With this in mind, will the perks and current salaries be able to attract enough new pilots to stem the pilot shortage?

For more, here is an interesting short interview segment with aviation education book author Rod Machado:

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Different Pilot Licenses Explained: Sport, Recreational and Private Pilot

In the fixed wing airplane world, pilots often refer to their pilot’s license as a “certificate”. Essentially, both terms mean the same thing and are interchangeable (although, technically, they are slightly different). For the purposes of this article, we intend “certificate” and “license” to represent the same “pilot status”. According to AOPA, the most accurate description of the certificate is a “license to learn”. Below, learn more about the different pilot licences and levels of pilot certificate.

The Three Pilot’s Certificates Explained

Student Pilot Certificate (License to Learn): All pilots registered with the FAA begin their journey as “Student Pilots”. The Student Pilot Certificate allows you to train with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Your first step is to learn the basics and fundamentals that will prepare you for your first “solo flight”.

There are several very important steps after your solo flight (advanced training) where a student decides to earn a Private Pilot’s certificate, Recreational certificate, or Sport Pilot certificate.

Each certificate has different requirements and differing pathways. The similarities of these certificates are – pilots are allowed to legally fly under certain conditions, and fly with one or more passengers for fun (no pay).

Private Pilot Certificate: The most popular certificate is the traditional “Private Pilot Certificate”. The Private Pilot is the pathway most student pilots take as they invest time, energy, and money into the process of learning to fly. This license requires 40 hours of flight training.

The Private Pilot licenses is the least restrictive of the three certificates.

The Private Pilot license is the pathway to advanced pilot certificates. Meaning, pilots with a Private Pilot license and are career-minded, can pursue the advanced certificates (Instrument, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor Certificates) and get paid to fly.

Getting Your Pilots License and Your First Intro Flight

Instrument and Commercial pilot’s licenses allow pilots to fly at night, fly in bad weather (fly by instrument), and fly multi-engine aircraft. Equally important, pilots with Private Pilot’s license, after advanced flight training, can become a commercial pilot and fly for a living. Private Pilot license holders can then earn a Certified Flight Instructor certificate (CFI), and even a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument certificate (CFII).

The top status of all pilot licenses is the Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP). Pilots who want to fly for the airlines, become corporate pilots, or fly charter jets are required to have the ATP certificate. Typically, pilots need 1,500 hours of logged flight time, an ATP certificate, and a college degree.

Recreational Pilot Certificate: The Recreation Pilot Certificate is a limited restricted version of the Private Pilot’s license, and considered to be a step below. Requires a minimum of 30 hours of flight training. The aircraft a Recreational Pilot flies is limited to 180 horsepower, and can only fly at a maximum altitude of 2000 AGL. The Recreational Pilot requires a 3rd class medical.

Recreational pilots typically fly from their “home airport”, fly during the day, and with only one additional passenger.

The good news is that a Recreational Pilot Certificate costs less and takes less time. And, a pilot with a Recreational Pilot’s license can continue training (gaining experience and flight hours) and eventually earn their Private Pilot’s license.

Sport Pilot’s Certificate: This version of a pilot’s license is relatively new (2004). It was created for people who desire to fly one or two seater aircraft that are smaller, lighter, and easier to fly. The main difference between Sport Pilot and Recreational Pilot cerftificates is the type of aircraft you are able to fly. The Sport Pilot is limited to planes with lower take off weight (smaller, lighter aircraft) with no more than two seats. Sport pilots require a minimum of 20 hours of flight training.

Additionally, pilot’s seeking Sport Pilot Certificates are not required to obtain a medical certificate (which is a big deal), but must have a valid drivers license. The Sport Pilot license is a limited and more restrictive pilot’s certificate than that of Private or Recreational. The Sports Pilot certificate prohibits pilots from flying aircraft that are more than 1,3200 lbs at takeoff and landing and 1,430 lbs at takeoff from the water.

However, with advanced training, Sport Pilot certificate holders can take additional flight training, pass an FAA Medical Exam, and earn a Recreational or Private Pilot’s license.

There are some conditions the different pilot licenses all require:
All Pilot’s License Holders Must Be or Have:
  • At least 17 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand English
  • Receive logbook endorsements from authorized instructor who verifies aeronautical knowledge and preparedness for the FAA knowledge test
  • Pass the required FAA knowledge test
  • Receive flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who conducted the required training.
  • Pass the required practical test on the areas of operation that apply
  • Comply with the appropriate sections that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought
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The Five Best Things About Being a Student Pilot Going to College

What Can You Expect as a Student Pilot?

Deciding to begin a career as a Professional Student Pilot can be one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging decisions you’ll ever make. Can you imagine, as a college student, getting to fly helicopters or airplanes on a daily basis as a part of your college experience?

Medical school students don’t get to start seeing patients for at least 4 years.  Law school students don’t get to represent clients for years after college. The same thing can be said about engineering students; they don’t get to build awesome stuff until years after graduating. Heck, education students (future teachers) don’t get to teach in the classroom for years.  But what about student pilots?  They can start flying weeks after starting their freshmen (first) semester. That is awesome! Helicopter flying over a city - Student Pilot

Medical students, law students, and engineering students have to go to school for 6 to 10 years before they start their career. Student pilots, potentially, can start flying “commercially” (paid) within 18 months of starting their training. When comparing an aviation career with any other professional career the benefits just keep stacking up.

The 5 Best Things About Being a Student Pilot and Pursuing an Aviation Career

#5 Global demand.  New Experiences:  Being a commercial pilot means you could be flying just about anywhere, at any time.  Potentially, you could fly all over the world. You will fly to some very interesting places.  With the global demand high for both helicopter and fixed wing pilots, you can virtually get a job anywhere on the planet. Helicopter pilots can take off and land just about anywhere, and typically you find heli tours in the most beautiful places on earth.  Airplane pilots can fly and land at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Sidney, and even backcountry airstrips or (With the right equipment) on shorelines.

#4. Live a Life of Adventure: Flying helicopters or airplanes is not necessarily something that comes naturally.  We were not built to fly (if we were, God would have given us wings).  Flying aircraft is extremely adventurous.  You will going places and doing things most people never do.  Helicopter pilots take people up on mountains to heli-ski.  They transport folks to oil platforms in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, transport trauma victims to major hospitals, and they might even help locate a criminal and bring them to justice.  Some very lucky pilots get to fly the President of the United States to and from the White House.

#3. Gain Respect:  Professional people garner respect.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, and professional athletes typically enjoy respect from many aspects of the general society. The same can be said of pilots.  With your commercial pilot ratings, you will be one of a the chosen few that has gained the skills and earned the right to fly commercially.  This means you have risen to a place of respect in society.  People are generally impressed by the fact that you are a pilot. Most people understand what it takes to become a pilot and therefore, they know that you are something special and unique. Pilots receive tremendous respect from their family, friends, and the community.

#2. Personal Growth:  As a pilot you will be tested.  You will be challenged.  You cannot make excuses – people must have unshakeable confidence in you.  You will have to dig deep and find out who you are.  The best aspects of you will get better, and the areas you need to work on will become evident – and you will improve and conquer the areas of your life that most people never deal with.  The question is… do you have what it takes?  If you do, you will grow “personally” more than you could ever imagine.  The responsibility of flying helicopters or airplanes is tremendous.  In order to be “trusted” you will have to become the best version of yourself in all ways.  Get ready to grow to heights you never knew were possible.

#1. Rewarding Career:  There is no doubt about it.  Good pilots make great money.  It may take time and a great deal of sacrifice to become a commercial pilot, but remember, helicopter and airplane pilots make an extremely good income.  A pilot does not have the typical 9 to 5 job.  As an aviator, your office view could be at 35,000 feet.  As a helicopter pilot, you might be “spotting Tuna” at sea as you fly for a commercial fishing company. Or, you might be covering live major news events as they happen.  This list of “rewards” for commercial pilots goes on and on.

Coming to the Right Conclusion about Aviation and Pilots

First, please get the picture of being “Maverick” from Top Gun out of your mind. You will not be spending all your time between flights cruising the beach on your motorcycle, grabbing the Hot Girls (or Guys), drinking beer and playing volleyball all day in the sun. If you’re serious about becoming a Professional Aviator, you are going to have to be dedicated and be ready to make serious personal sacrifices.

You will have to commit yourself to studying; probably more than you ever have in your entire life. Learning how to fly and everything that is involved with flying requires a tremendous amount of hard work and focus. If a Flight School advertises a life of “Fun in the Sun” with a helicopter parked on a yacht in the middle of a lake surrounded by girls in bikini’s…  we recommend that you think seriously about the level of training they are actually going to provide. Remember, this is a serious profession and only those who take it seriously will be successful.

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Top 6 Tips for Student Pilots to Land the Best Aviation Jobs

For most student pilots attending helicopter flight school, it is all about landing the best paying jobs as a career pilot. Why else would anyone invest a great deal of money to learn to fly (as a commercial pilot) unless it was to position yourself to compete for the best aviation jobs?

Therefore, there are certain decisions that student helicopter pilots need to make before they start flight school. In other words, before you move across the country to attend a top flight school, you need to consider the steps successful student pilots have taken to land the best paying commercial pilot jobs. We recommend that you learn from those who have succeeded.

#6.  Personal Branding – Develop Powerful Social Media Presence: Start branding yourself before you start flight school. This may sound presumptious, but there is a lot you can do before you start developing your piloting skills. At the very least, get plugged into the vast network of commercial pilots and helicopter companies.

In the very near future your personal brand will become extremely important. And, it takes time to get your personal brand established (e.g. Social Media). When it comes to your current and future commercial helicopter pilot career, you need to establish and then promote your personal brand (your professional image). Imagine “branding” success when the brand you’re promoting is YOU!

What is a personal brand? “You’re a brand. I’m a brand. We’re all brands, whether we try or not”.

Personal branding is the purposeful process of managing and optimizing the way that you are seen by others, especially potential employers.sam-cribbs

The benefits of developing a powerful online personal brand.

1. Being seen by the right people (prospective employers), seeing you in the best light.
2. Build positive network associations – building your brand reputation.
3. Develop beneficial associations (connections) within your industry
4. Generate greater credibility and value
5. Create recognition and prestige through your associations.

Effectively designing social media profiles is the best way to promote and manage your personal brand. You can either control the narrative (the information), or be controlled by it.

Just how vital is your personal brand strategy? We recommend that you do a Google search of your name. Trust me, your future employers will Google your name before they schedule an interview. After Googling your name, what did you find? Is it positive? Does it represent you well? Will the info that comes up when Googling your name help you compete against others, helping you land the best aviation jobs?

The top search results should be from your social networks; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google+. If you’re serious about promoting yourself professionally, people should also find images, videos, and blog posts that you have written and published online. Next, when clicking on your social media accounts, is your professional image proprely presented? Does your social media presence help you to stand out above the rest?  If not, it’s time to get started.A helicopter association conference - Networking is a big part of landing the best aviation jobs.

Your social media presence (and content: images, video, blog posts) can be the backbone of your personal branding strategy – helping you to get your foot in the door and effectively compete for the best jobs.

#5.  Networking – Attend Aviation Association Conferences: You will hear the following over and over again… “its not what you know, as much as it is who you know.“ Mastering the art of “networking” is how most people get the top jobs in the aviation industry. For examples of top paying “Tier 1” industry jobs, click here.

Networking is hard work and takes skill and patience. Networking is not brown-nosing or schmoozing. There’s actually an art to it. When done properly, with authenticity, integrity, and honesty, networking will open doors like nothing else can.

#4.  Find an Experienced Mentor: Most employed commercial pilots can identify at least one person who took them “under their wing”, helping them to advance their careers. Before you get your start in the aviation industry, we recommend that you find a flight training program stacked with mentors.

r-44-feedAn effective mentor is an experienced pilot (or pilots) who will contribute to your overall success as a commercial pilot. A good mentor will educate you, through wisdom and experience, so that you can plot your career path before it ever gets started – and then be there as a guide as you advance your career towards the best aviation jobs.

At its most basic level, mentoring is a process in which an individual with more experience or expertise provides encouragement, advice, and support to a less experienced colleague, with the goal of helping the person being mentored learn something that he or she would have learned more slowly, less effectively, or not at all if left alone (definition by Chip Bell as written in “Manager as Mentors”).
Webster defines a mentor as, “a trusted counselor or guide.” Mentors will make the difference between getting a job and being unemployed.

Mentors, people with industry experience, will not only help you start your career, but also open some doors when you are ready to land your first industry job.  The aviation industry is small, and competing for good paying jobs is all about “who you know.” Through a well-connected mentor you can get your resume to the top of the stack.

If you have a family your spouse must be 100% behind your career. Before starting flight school your spouse has to know what you are getting him/her into – your spouse needs to know everything about becoming a commercial pilot (how long it will take, the time commitment, the cost, the career opportunities, the salaries and wages, location(s) of the jobs, and the type of work schedule). This commitment is a shared commitment (all family members), and without the spouse’s support it will become a nightmare.

Choosing the right flight training school is the first step to your commitment. Do your homework – don’t choose the first school that comes along.  Your flight school will determine your value and worth as a pilot, so make an informed educated decision. The flight school you choose should help you with all six of these “6 Tips”.

#3.  Total Commitment and Focus: Experienced pilots will tell you, that in order to become a commercial pilot (especially pilots with the best aviation jobs), you need to be 100% committed and focused on your training and career development. Becoming a commercial pilot means that you must be a professional pilot – with a big emphasis on “professional”.

A commercial pilot is not a part-time recreational endeavor.  Learning to fly can be fun, but to become an employable commercial pilot it takes tremendous sacrifice, persistence, and total commitment. Total immersion is required.

Becoming a commercial pilot is very similar to becoming a doctor or a lawyer.  Your training and education is very important, and not very forgiving. Meaning, as a student pilot you can’t afford to make mistakes. Your mind, energy, and focus must be completely funneled toward your training. If you are not ready, or able, to commit everything toward your training – don’t start.

#2.  Know the Industry: Before you start your journey toward becoming a commercial pilot you have to make the right moves from day one (i.e., choosing the right flight school). Your career depends upon making the right choices at the right time for the right reasons. Therefore, before you start training, you need to know the industry.

We recommend that you do your research. For example, call a few of the Helicopter Tour companies in Las Vegas. Tell them that you are serious about becoming a commercial pilot and you are conducting some research. Ask to speak with a Chief Pliot, or the Chief Instructor. You need to know the answers to the following question:

  • “What pilot jobs are available?”
  • “What is a good career path as a professional pilot?”
  • “What makes a good pilot?”
  • “What are employers looking for when hiring pilots?”
  • “What experience will make me more employable?”
  • “What is the typical cost for flight training?”
  • “How long is training going to take, and what personal commitment must I be willing to make?”
  • “What are some of the mistakes others have made that hurt their careers?
  • “What are the choices of high paying pilots that advanced their career?”
  • “Do I have what it takes?”

Once you have a pretty good idea about the questions above, start looking for a flight training school that will present a path towards the best aviation jobs. When interviewing prospective flight schools they should answer each one of the question above exactly in the same way that the Helicotper Tour companies did. The school’s answers to these questions should jive with the best Tier 1 Employers answers. If they don’t, move on to the next school.

#1.  Choose the Right Flight School – Do Your Homework: Have you ever noticed that most presidential candidates graduated from Harvard or Yale? The same is true with Wall Street executives and CEO’s of top corporations –they’ve all graduated at the top universities (there are always exceptions). The point is, to get the top jobs in government or private business you need to attend a top school. The same is true with getting the best aviation jobs.

Your flight training and education will matter. It will make you or break you. The type of training you receive, along with “who trained you”, will either advance your career or hold you back. Our recommendation is that you carefully explore your options and make an informed choice. Go so far as to visit at least three flight schools before you enroll. Interview the people who will be training you. Look deeply into their results… meaning, “Where are their graduates? Where are they employed?”

Related Articles

Tier 1 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

Landing a Tier 2 Helicopter Pilot Job

Types of Tier 3 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

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SFAR 73: What is it and Why is it Important for Student Pilots?

Due to a series of “student pilot” accidents involving Robinson aircraft the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on March 27, 1995, established a specific training requirement for the R22 and R44 helicopters. These requirements applied to students under instruction, pilots acting as pilot in command (PIC), and flight instructors. Below we provide a bried explanation of the SFAR 73 and what it means. For a detailed explanation please see the resources provided at the bottom of this page.

In order for a student, pilot, or instructor to manipulate the controls of an R22 or R44 helicopter, they first have to have received “awareness training” from an authorized flight instructor (CFI). The CFI is authorized by the FAA, and therefore able to issue the students or pilots an endorsement stating that they have received the propoer awareness training regarding the R22 or R44.

Over the years, innovations in helicopter design and new regulations from the FAA have made helicopters safer, more reliable, and easier (less complicated) to fly. SFAR 73 was an innovation to flight training that made a big difference in regard to safety and improved flight training.

For more information regarding SFAR scroll down below the videos.

ULA Training Video – R22 Collective Video

To see all the ULA Training Videos on Youtube – click here

ULA Training Video – R22 Cyclic Video

ULA Training Vidoe – R22 – AntiTorque Foot Pedals

Student Solo Flight

In order for any student pilot to solo in an R22 (assuming the student does not hold a rotorcraft helicopter rating), he/she must log 20 hours of flight first. These hours must be flown with a CFI (dual-instruction), and obtain not only the standard solo endorsements (in logbook and on student pilot license), but he/she must also obtain an SFAR solo endorsement from the instructor.

If the student wishes to skip the R22 and start in the R44, he/she must log 20 hours of dual-instruction in the R44and obtain not only the standard solo endorsements (in logbook and on student pilot license), but he/she must also obtain an SFAR solo endorsement.

The endorsement is as follows:

I certify that Mr./Ms. _______________ has received the awareness training required by SFAR 73, 2 (A)(3)(i-v) on __________ (Date).

__________ (Instructor) __________ (Certificate Number) __________ (Exp. Date)
Robinson R22 and R44 Helicopter SFAR 73 Awareness Training is the required ground training that students and pilots must have before they can manipulate (fly) the flight controls of an R22 or R44 Helicopter. The awareness training also covers Low RPM leading to Low Rotor RPM Stall, Low G leading to Mast Bumping and Energy Management.

Other Valuable Resources

SFAR Youtube Video Training (training video 1) (training video 2)

Helicopter Training Videos

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Spatial Disorientation: How and When Does it Affect Pilots

Do you remember the fatal airplane wreck of John F Kennedy Jr.? In July of 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr, and two other passengers on board crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts. The official NTSB report concluded that Kennedy experienced spatial disorientation while descending at night over water. He lost control of the aircraft and crashed. How often do pilots experience spatial disorientation?

Interesting is the fact that Kennedy did not hold an Instrument Rating and was only certified to fly under VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Although Kennedy’s ill-fated flight was legal (barely), it was not safe. This tragic event happens all to often to recreational pilots, but it is something that we call can learn from.

178 Seconds to Live – a Dramatic Video on Sensory Disorientation:

Obviously, spatial disorientation, something very important that all student pilots should know about before starting flight school. This article offers a lot more than just interesting tidbits, however by no means does it cover all the information related to spacial disorientation. It is only a brief introduction meant to compel student pilots to dig deeper.

This article will briefly discuss one of many spacial disorientation effects, specfically the “leans”. Our recommendation is that you do your homework and find out everything there is about spatial disorientation and the “leans”.

What are Spatial Disorientation, Spatial Illusion and the “Leans” Effect?

”Spatial Disorientation”, including what is known as the “leans”, is the cause of many airplane accidents. Good training, and pilot awareness is the key to preventing certain disaster associated with the “leans”. This article is only meant to bring awareness to the important concept of spatial disorientation created by the “leans” effect.

Do the best pilots fly by the seat of their pants? Do great pilots rely on “feel” and their “senses”? We think not.

Humans were not built to fly, and certainly not constructed to navigate flying through the air by our sensory organs alone. Our bodies, brains, and sensory systems are built to help us navigate on the ground while standing upright. To fly using our senses alone, is very dangerous and could cost us our lives.

The video below describes the contributing factors which can lead to this condition and its many associated illusions.

Don’t Trust Your Sensory Organs

While flying, our sensory organs do not accurately reflect the movements of the aircraft in space. In effect, our sensory mechanisms do not properly read the 3-D environment around us, and can cause us to experience what is known as “sensory illusions”.

One very dangerous sensory illusion is the “leans”. The “leans” can be caused by level flight after a rapid roll of the aircraft. It’s where the process of the aircraft’s roll causes our body to lean in a direction that is contrary to the actual direction of the turn, and this effect can continue even after the aircraft roll is complete. In essence, our sensory readings coming from our sensory mechanisms send us faulty info.

When experiencing a “leans”, if our sensory mechanisms send us false readings, we may feel something that is not actually happening, and therefore react or respond inappropriately. While experiencing the “leans” effect, if we trust our faulty sensory readings, our physical reactions and responses will lead to our demise.

Spatial Orientation is our ability to maintain our bodies orientation to the ground. Again, humans are built to use our sensory mechanisms to maintain spatial orientation to the ground (our surroundings on the ground). When we get up in the air, we experience a three-dimensional world, which is totally unfamiliar to our sensory organs. This can cause sensory conflicts, and what we see and feel is not real. In this situation, we cannot rely on what we see, feel, or sense (gut).

How important is this? Well, statistics show that 5 to 10% of all general aviation accidents are caused by spatial disorientation affect, 90% of which are fatal.

When experiencing spatial disorientation, it can be difficult to correct. We can actually panic as the information on our instruments do not jive with how we feel (sensory input). Moreover, if we respond to our feelings, we can make things worse fast, causing more panic. If we do not correct quickly, in a very short period of time we can lose control of the aircraft and plummet into the ground.

Unless you have an instrument rating, and you are not legally able to fly unless you can see the horizon. You are only able to fly by Visual Flight Rules. A licensed instrument pilot can fly both VFR and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

If you are not licensed to fly by instrument, you should never fly into a cloud (bad weather that diminishes your vision), nor should you fly after dark. Flying into a cloud can certainly cause spatial illusions and disorientation. Unless you can see the horizon, and see all around you, as a non-instrument rated pilot you are susceptible to spatial disorientation, including the “lean”.

When flying, our bodies sensory systems are actually doing what they were designed to do. It’s just that our sensory systems are not designed to navigate airspace while flying aircraft. When we experience sensory illusions our sensory systems are functioning just they way they were designed.

Our spatial orientation systems, which create the lean illusion, were designed to protect us. During the course of our lives we have come to trust our spatial orientation systems – making it very difficult for some pilots to accept that their orientation (feedback from their sensory mechanisms) is incorrect during flight. If this happens to you, as a pilot, you can make a bad situation worse while you think you are correcting the problem.

Supporting Sources for this article:

John F. Kennedy Jr. Plane Crash

The Leans

Sensory Illusions in Aviation

Visual Illusions

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Five Unique Ways of Paying for Flight Training

Secrets from Successful Pilots

Let’s face it, paying for flight training is very expensive. Airplane flight school is going to cost $35K to $70K for fixed wing training, and $90K to $150K for helicopter training. Unless you have a trust fund from your rich dad, the costs to become commercial pilots can seem to be an impassable mountain. But is it? Learn how people with dreams found a way to pay for flight school.

5. Get a job with a big flight school: The top flight schools hire people for all kinds of jobs. Start at the bottom if you have to, but have the ambition to move up the ladder to the higher paying jobs. Some flight schools offer their employees discounts when paying for flight training.

If you are an exceptional employee (highly valued) you might be able to negotiate a good trade with your employer. There are no guarantees, but employers look for ways to reward the top contributors.

4. Become a “hanger rat” and get a job with a small flight training school: I have known people who were known as “hangar rats”. These hangar rats are alway hanging around the hangar – willing to do anything and everything to help out. Hangar rats are sponges, always willing and wanting to learn.

Even if you have to sweep the floors, or take the trash out – whatever it takes. If you can find some way to impress a owner of the flight school (and flight instructor), you might be able to get a discount when it comes to paying for flight training.

Professional pilots love people who have total passion for flying – willing to do whatever it takes to get flight time. I have heard stories where student pilots paid for gas and the instructor discounted their fees. Its rare, but it does happen.

3. Become a Cadet with Civil Air Patrol (CAP): CAP does not advertise that they will provide flight training to their members. However many CAP members (CFI’s) have been known to discount their rates to members who have the drive, passion, and desire to become pilots.

If you have the right attitude, and are willing to “give back”, there maybe someone in the ranks that will match your desire and help you get your Private Pilot’s license. In the end, people without funding, need to network with as many aviation people as they can. And remember, once you become a commercial pilot, be willing to give back to the CAP – pay it forward!

2. Apply for every Scholarship Available: Make yourself exceptional. You have to take this seriously. Organizations are more than willing to choose exceptional people with scholarships. There are many aviation scholarships, but only the most exceptional people receive the awards. Research the foundations that offer scholarships and interview their people. Find out exactly what they are looking for, and position yourself to be the recipient of the awards.

1. Save Money and Earn a Perfect Credit Score: This is going to take some time to achieve, but you should do it even if you are not going to become a commercial pilot. If you are willing to live a certain low-cost lifestyle, one that will allow you to save a good chunk of money, you might be able to get a student/private loan to cover the remaining financial needs. This route will take longer, and your schedule will be full for several years, but many have take this route and succeeded. Of course you will have debt too! However, if it leads to landing the job of your dreams, it will be worth it.

Always keep in mind that thousands of aspiring pilots have found a way.

I know of a husband and wife team that where the pilot’s wife finished college and nursing school, and got a really good job as an Registered Nurse. Both the husband and wife worked and saved as much money as they could. The plan was for the husband (propsective pilot) to keep his job as long as he could after the couple saved enough money to pay for the Private Pilot certificate. Once the husband got the Private Pilot rating, he planned to continue to move forward to earn his Instrument, Commercial, and CFI as time and money allowed. Improving their credit score was also a part of the plan.

This couple chose to start the flight training process while keeping both of their jobs as long as they could, and continued to save money. They lived off the wife’s salary and saved the rest. They suffered a bit, but they were committed.

I also know of folks who have joined the Reserves (Army, Marines, Air Force, etc.) to help fund flight school. Their goal was to stay in college or keep working, save money, and earn partial VA Educational Benefits to be used later. Unfortunately, a few were called up for active duty and had to do tours in Afghanistan (this is the obvious risk). However, when they finished their duty they had earned partial funding for flight school (one particular gentlemen I know earned 60% funding). Once out of the military the got the best job they could (earning the highest income possible) and utilized student loans and scholarships to finance the shortfall that the VA educational benefits did not cover.

There are countless prospective pilots that have taken two and three jobs to save enough money to start paying for flight training. There are some that have bought fixer upper homes, fixed them up (working evenings and weekends) and flipped the homes for a profit (to be used paying for flight training). There are some pilots who have started a side business, such as an eCommerce website, to make extra cash. It is truly amazing to hear of all the ways people have found of paying for flight training. Each of these pilots had a dream, they developed a plan, and persevered until their dream was realized.

Start Your Training With or Without Funding

Start your journey with or without funding – take the steps you can afford, steps that you will have to do anyway. In doing so, you will be making progress toward your goal, giving you a better chance to realize your dream.

A. Get your Medical: Find an FAA approved Aviation Medical Examiner. The FAA has a “doctor locator” function on their website. Go to https://www.faa.gov/pilots/amelocator/ and find the nearest AME. Get your medical done. At the very least, you will know whether or not you can pass a medical (peace of mind). Without the medical you can’t become a commercial pilot.

B. Enroll into Ground School Courses: At the very least you can watch Youtube videos online. Or, purchase flight manuals, DVD’s, or other related resource manuals. From there you can be brave and enroll into an affordable online ground school.

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You won’t be able to fly without completing ground school, AND you will learn everything you will need to know to pass future FAA exams. You’ll eventually have to do ground school anyway. However, by completing ground school courses you will know a whole lot more about flying – and by doing so you will know for sure that being a pilot is truly in your blood.

Essentially, we are recommending that you invest into the process; learn, study, and get involved with the information that you will eventually have to master to become a commercial pilot.

Ground school will teach you all about flight and aircraft operation, and aeronautical knowledge (weather, sectionals, cross country). Ground school will also help you to prepare to answer the FAA exam questions (“knowledge tests”).

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C. Find a Mentor(s): Find a pilot who has gone before you, an experienced commercial pilot who can guide you through the process acting as your coach. Find someone who has been in your shoes and understands your passion. Perhaps they can help you to discover options to overcome the financial obstacles. Your mentor (or mentors) needs to be someone who will inspire you when the going gets tough.

D. Get the best paying job you can and earn the best credit score you possibly can: Many of today’s commercial pilots found a good paying job and then saved a bunch of money. This is the long-term plan, but for those that took this route will tell you that they are glad they did.

Earn as much money as you can, live frugally, and save. Save enough to pay at least for your private pilot’s license. You can earn a private pilot’s license in 6 months easy (training early mornings, late afternoons, and weekends). And, keep your job while getting your private pilots license (you will need a good job to get a private loan, or to pay for the advanced courses).

Find a way to continue to work while knocking your private license certificate out of the way. Keep your job as long as you can. There will be a time when you need to leave your job and jump into flying with both feet. But the income from your job will help you to make the transition.

Once you have earned your private pilot’s license, you will know whether or not you continue to seek a commercial license (the BIG commitment). To become a commercial pilot you will have to get your Instrument, and Commercial Ratings done (helicopter pilots will need their CFI and maybe even their CFII as well). This requires a tremendous commitment.

But let’s say that you’re having second thoughts after getting your private pilot’s license? Let’s say you discover that flying is not what you wanted? As a licensed private pilot you have not wasted anything, because you can always fly recreationally. You’re a pilot, and you can enjoy flying. You just can’t get paid to fly. You can stop the journey right now without hindering your future financial situation.

E. Earn a Good Credit Score: Supplement your savings with good credit score you can supplement their savings with personal loans or even a student loan. Keep your job while getting your private pilots license. Find a way to continue to work while knocking your private license certificate out of the way.

F. Earn a Degree: There are several powerful reasons you should seek your degree through while getting your commercial pilot ratings. One, the flight hours you need to become a commercial pilot (paid pilot) will be less (especially for airplane pilots).

Two, you might be able to supplement your funds with FASFA or Pell Grants. You might be eligible for cheaper student loans as well. And, you might qualify for one or more scholarships. Any amount of money you can get will help lower the overall “out of pocket costs” of flight training.

The third powerful reason you should get a college degree while earning your flight certificates is to position yourself for the best jobs. Aviation employers will cherish your degree, and possibly put your resume on the top of the stack. Moreover, in the aviation world, there are more non-pilot jobs for professional people (good paying jobs) than there are pilot jobs.

The college degree is your back up plan. What if something goes wrong with your body, eyes, or hearing? Every year pilots have to pass a physical exam. If you fail, you can’t earn a living. So, the college degree is your insurance policy.

Furthermore, many pilots with 10 to 15 years of flying choose to transition into good paying aviation jobs in administration, sales, and marketing. Moreover, most aviation companies have been started by pilots. You never know what awesome opportunities will come way 10 to 20 years down the line, but you want to position yourself for the best opportunities from day one – get your degree.

Important Links to Follow:

Tier 1 Helicopter Pilot Jobs – Your Career Path to becoming a successful Commercial Pilot

Landing a Tier 2 Helicopter Pilot Job – Career Development

The Top Jobs on the Planet – Types of Tier 3 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

Partial List of Available Aviation Scholarships

University Aviation Association (UAA) Aviation Scholarship Guide

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Flight Training Scholarship Program

Experimental Aircraft Association Scholarships

National Air Transportation Foundation Scholarships

National Business Aviation Association Scholarships

The Ninety-Nines Section and Chapter Scholarships

The Ninety-Nines Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships & Awards

AeroClub of New England’s Scholarship Program

Aircraft Electronics Association Scholarships

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

Boeing Scholarships

Girls With Wings Scholarship

LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Scholarship

National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)

Women in Aviation International Scholarships

Whirly-Girls Scholarships

The Alaska Airmen’s Association Scholarships

Montana Aviation Scholarships

Minnesota Aviation Trades Association Grants/Scholarships

The Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund

Fred Kacena Flight Training Scholarship (Tri-State Area)

AeroClub of New England (ACONE) Scholarships

Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) Scholarships

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Scholarships

National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA) Scholarships

Aviation Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ADMA) Scholarships

Upwind Summer Scholarship Program

Sennheiser’s “Live Your Dream” Scholarships

Lightspeed Aviation Foundation Scholarships

Helicentre Aviation’s Professional Pilot scholarships

Idaho Aviation Association scholarships

Flight training and aviation maintenance scholarships

NAAA/BASF Agricultural Aviation Scholarship

The Vicki Cruse Memorial Scholarship

Greg Koontz Aerobatic Instructor Scholarship

The Douglas Youst Memorial Aerobatic Scholarship

Southern California Aviation Association

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

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