Right now is the perfect time to build towards a career in aviation, especially with the airlines.
Mt. San Jacinto College, in partnership with Upper Limit Aviation, is now accepting enrollment into their fall Professional Pilot Program, starting with their Private Pilot course.
Right now is the ideal time to start your pilot training, and create the foundation for your career in aviation.
If you are thinking about an aviation career, or you want to learn to fly to accomplish a personal dream, now is the perfect time to start! Upper Limit Aviation and Mt San Jacinto College are teaming up to bring you a comprehensive ground school course, so you can earn your Private Airplane Pilot Ground School Certificate.
You will learn the ground training portion of the FAA Certification Process, including:
- Aeronautical Decision Making
- Airplane Systems
- Flight Physiology
The Ground School will be held at Upper Limit Aviation’s Murrieta / Temecula campus, located at:
37350 Sky Canyon Dr. #323
Murrieta, CA 92563
To register, go to this page on the Mt St Jacinto website: MSJC.EDU/FOCUS
For additional questions regarding the course, call 951-487-3711.
For a printable flyer, CLICK HERE.
Get Started with Your Flight Training Today!
For our Temecula/Murrieta, CA location, call 951-696-7722 or email [email protected]
Come Join Us and Learn From Recruiters What It Takes to Become a SkyWest Pilot!
Upper Limit Aviation and SkyWest are giving you an opportunity to take control of your aviation career, by meeting with the SkyWest Pilot and Cadet Advocates at a delicious career dinner and open house generously provided by Upper Limit Aviation and hosted by Robintino’s of Bountiful.
- Date: Thursday, September 13, 2018
- Time: 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
- Location: Robintino’s of Bountiful, 1385 South 500 West, Bountiful, UT 84010
Dinner is provided, so come hungry, and come with your questions for the SkyWest Pilot mentors and Cadet Advocates!
And if you can’t make the dinner, Upper Limit is hosting another lunch event with the SkyWest Pilot Recruitment team, at our Salt Lake Location.
- Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2018
- Time: 2:00 PM
- Location: 619 North 2360 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Here are some of the benefits SkyWest Pilots enjoy in their career:
- More opportunities and more exposure than any other regional airline pilot.
- New key flying agreements with United, Delta, American, and Alaska!
- SkyWest has more new aircraft that any other regional airline, and will have more than 145 E175s in their fleet by mid-2018.
- More than twenty domicile options nationwide.
- An upgrade time of around 2 years.
- A strong culture of professionalism, teamwork, and success!
- Excellent pay, multiple profit sharing programs, bonuses, and 401(k) match!
Don’t miss out on these incredible opportunities. By completing your flight training, from private pilot certificate to commercial pilot license, with Upper Limit Aviation, you’ll earn yourself the skills needed to fly with one of the most globally-recognizable airlines flying today. Call (801-596-7722) or email us ([email protected]) today and start your path to aviation greatness by doing your flight training at ULA. To fly with SkyWest, you should train with the best, and that means Upper Limit Aviation.
And for those who would like to save or share this information with others, here’s a downloadable flyer with all the details as well:
Featured Image: courtesy of SkyWest
Get started with your flight training today!
If you would like more information, you can:
- Call us at 801-596-7722
SkyWest Cadets receive a number of great benefits as they work to become a SkyWest Pilot.
Upper Limit Aviation is excited to partner with SkyWest Airlines as part of the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program. SkyWest’s program provides a direct path for exceptional pilots who want to take control of their aviation careers. Upper Limit Aviation’s current chief pilot, Belinda Villa, is a captain at SkyWest and is a strong believer in the program, having already served as a mentor and coach for bright, talented, Upper Limit pilots who plan to fly with SkyWest’s amazing team. In addition to the in-depth, professional flight training you’ll receive from Upper Limit, as a SkyWest Cadet you’ll enjoy a variety of benefits as you work towards earning your place as one of SkyWest’s 4,000+ professional pilots.
- Company seniority for benefits eligibility, which activates as soon as you’re a SkyWest Cadet.
- An enhanced introduction to SkyWest, which includes a tour of SkyWest’s SLC facilities and more.
- Mentorship from SkyWest pilots, including regular visits, mock interviews and ongoing association with crewmembers.
- A guaranteed final interview with SkyWest.
- Increased seniority within your ground school class.
The Pilot Pathway Program, unlike an internship, allows pilots to stay on the campus and complete the flight training necessary to meet ATP requirements. And with Upper Limit Aviation’s campus being located in Salt Lake City, which is one of SkyWest’s largest operational hubs, our pilots are right in the heart of the action. The individual mentoring each SkyWest cadet receives is a key benefit, as SkyWest pilots provide invaluable tips to aid pilots on their journey to becoming professional commercial pilots.
If you are ready to take control of your career, professional flight training using Upper Limit Aviation’s tried-and-true teaching methods coupled with SkyWest’s Pilot Pathway Program provides the ideal path to becoming a professional commercial pilot. Our wonderful flight training program at Upper Limit Aviation prepares you to embody SkyWest’s values of professionalism, teamwork, and success; making us a perfect flight!
To become a SkyWest Cadet and take part in this program, you must hold:
- Commercial multi-engine pilot certificate
- Certified Flight Instructor Certificate
- Instrument rating
- Current FAA First Class Medical Certificate
- FCC License
Additionally, you must not have more than three failed check rides, though stage checks do not apply.
No matter where you are in your flight training, we can help you earn your ratings, guide you through the requirements and help you make it as a professional commercial pilot. So if you have the Upper Limit Motivation to succeed, this program with SkyWest can be your entrance into an amazing lifelong career in aviation. Get started now with Upper Limit Aviation and become the best pilot you can be!
Get started with your flight training today:
If you would like more information, you can:
- Call us at 801-596-7722
Flying with the airlines isn’t generally funny business, but that’s not stopping Kulula from trying to put a smile on your face.
Humor isn’t always the first thing you think of when it comes to flying with the airlines, especially if you’re currently studying for your commercial at Upper Limit Aviation. It takes a lot of hard work and focus, but that doesn’t mean that once you do earn that commercial pilot license, you can’t have a little fun. But if you haven’t heard of Kulula Airlines, a regional airline flying in South Africa, then you might not realize that sometimes humor is the perfect traveling companion. Take, for example, the opening to a recent in-flight announcement from of the flight attendants:
“You know, Kulula has the best looking cabin crew in South Africa, but due to rostering problems none of them are on board with us.” 1
Or this gem after landing at the airport for the city of Durban:
“Ladies and Gentleman, after that smooth landing, welcome to Durban, where the curry is hot. I’m [telling] you, you’ll enjoy it today, but tomorrow you’ll be doing handstands in the shower. If this is not where you want to be then you have some serious issues and I guess we’ll see you sooner than we thought.”
Or maybe this zinger upon arrival in Cape Town:
“If you need any assistance disembarking, sorry for you, help yourself…only kidding folks, we’ll ask one of the greasy engineers to come and assist you.”
Obviously, the crew at Kulula Airlines have a strong sense of humor. Kulula (drawn from the Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa with the meaning It’s easy)2 was founded in July of 2001, and in August, they started serving South Africa as the country’s first ‘no-frills’ carrier. They weren’t interested in simply establishing a brand, but rather making it an affordable, complete travel experience. And over the past 16 years, though they have a modest fleet of 10 Boeing 737s (nine 737-800s, and one 737-400) and serve 6 destinations, their culture has attracted the attention of the world.
The world definitely took notice when these awesome pictures of two of their Boeing 737s with appropriately cheeky paint jobs started making the rounds.
Kulula’s humor isn’t limited to just the announcements, though. They also put a strong dose of humor into their advertising, ribbing rival airlines, spoofing pop culture, and crafting clever billboards like this one:
All in all, it sounds like Kulula isn’t just a fun airline to fly, it’s also a fun place to work. Becoming a commercial pilot with ULA will open doors into airlines everywhere, including those at Kulula. Here are some more gems from Kulula flights:
- On one flight, when passengers were having a hard time choosing seats (there are no assigned seats), a flight attendant announced: “People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!“
- “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.“
- After landing, one flight attendant quipped “Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.“
- “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.“
- “Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.“
- After the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport, a voice came on the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!“
- After a rough landing and flying through thunderstorms in the Karoo (a semi-arid desert region in South Africa), a flight attendant announced: “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as heck everything has shifted.” (ULA trained pilots only have perfect landings, just ask!)
- “Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.“
- “In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite.“
- “Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.“
- “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.“
- “As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.“
- After a hard landing, a flight attendant came on, saying: “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.“
- After a windy, bumpy ride into Cape Town, including a particularly hard landing, the flight attendant said “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!“
- Another less than perfect landing earned this jab: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.“
- After another very hard landing, the pilot stood at the door as passengers exited, thanking them for flying the airline and smiling at them, as company policy required. However, he had a hard time looking them in the eye, fearful that after the hard landing, he’d earned a smart comment or two. Finally, everyone but an old lady walking with a cane had exited the plane. She stopped and asked the pilot, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” he replied. “What is it?” To which the little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?“
- “Please pay attention to the safety announcement, because you will be writing a test shortly.“
- “You could be fined up to R7999 for smoking on the plane, and for these prices, you could be flying SAA.“
- “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.“
If you’re interested in punching holes in the sky and having this much fun flying commercial, complete your flight training with Upper Limit Aviation. Our commercial pilots are exquisitely trained and ready to fly left-seat for any airline out there.
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References and Sources:
1 – Kulula Humour, South Africa TO, Retrieved 7-12-17
2 – kulula.com, Wikipedia, Retrieved 7-12-17
A pilot’s salary can vary just as they do with any other job. Experience plays a big role as far as what a pilot makes, mainly because the different companies and positions available depend on the experience of a pilot. First, if we look at what the different types of jobs there are for pilots, then we can begin to narrow down the pilot salary range. Then when we look inside each job, we can see what affects the pay of the pilot at that point, whether it be experience within that company, the state of the economy, or other factors.
There are many opportunities for a pilot such as flight instruction, agriculture (crop dusting), regional and mainline airlines, corporate, shared operations and even tour guides. Jobs such as flight instructing, tour guides and even regional airlines tend to be on the lower end of the pilot salary scale. The instructing and touring jobs are generally for newer pilots to build their time while making some money. Hourly, they usually make what seems to be good money, anywhere from $15 to $40 dollars an hour, depending on where they work and level of experience. However, although that sounds like a good amount of money, an instructor or even a tour guide makes money when the propeller of the aircraft is moving. So, for every hour in the plane or helicopter, there is probably at least another hour to two hours spent preparing for that flight. For 8 hours of pay, at least 15 to 16 hours is actually worked. It is generally too expensive for most pilots to build flight hours on their own dime, so these types of jobs allow for them to work while reaching that goal.
If pursuing an airline career, regional airlines are generally the next step. And though pilots have to have a specific number of flight hours to be hired on, they are on the lower end of the pilot salary scale. In many cases, they have been known to pay less than flight instructing. Although regionals have been increasing their initial pay from what it once was, it can still be difficult for a pilot. Depending on the airline, starting pay can range from $22,000 to $38,000 annually. The pay does increase as more time is put in as well as upgrades and a captain can potentially make $80,000 a year flying for regional airlines.
Once a person builds their time and experience within a regional airline and is able to get on with a major airline such as Delta, American or United, the pay increases. For a pilot who has dreams of flying the big commercial airlines, working their way up to the majors is a long and hard process but if they get there, it’s generally very worth it. Major airlines set starting pay for first officers at around $60,000 to $80,000 yearly. Pay here will also continue to increase over time, of course, and a captain could make over $150,000 a year, depending on the airline. Another job on the higher end of the pilot salary scale is flying for UPS or FedEx or one of the major cargo companies. They tend to choose experienced pilots, who are paid well, and don’t have to deal with the passenger side of aviation. The average pay for a cargo pilot is in the neighborhood of $150,000. These positions, though they come with long hours and other considerations, tend to be desired due to the pay and passenger-less element.
Airlines and cargo are not the only opportunities for a higher pilot salary. Many large companies have their own aircraft and pilots can fly on the corporate side of things. The flying is different in that they do not necessarily have a set schedule and many times are on call. Salaries can range widely within this type of flying, based on the company and type of aircraft, but with the right set-up, pilots can make a good amount. The downside with corporate flying is there is usually very little room to grow. Once a person has reached captain, they have maxed out their potential within that company. So with each job, it really depends on where a person is at in their life as far as meeting their expectations and desires. A large part of this is the company and how much they value their employees. There are many corporate type operations where pilots make $40,000 to $50,000, with no real chance of an increase. Those operations tend to have a revolving door and don’t care as much about keeping the same pilots. Other companies can pay $80,000 to $120,000 and possibly as much as $190,000 for a Gulfstream 650 pilot, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Professional Pilot magazine. They value their pilots, but also rely on them heavily and fly them often. And with more money can come longer flights and more time away from home, though it can also mean more time off and more opportunity to travel outside of work. So just like aviation in general, the choice is up to each person with the effort they want to apply and the sacrifice they want to make as they tackle a new position.
As with any other job, aviation is affected by the economy. When the economy is booming, airlines are branching out, more flying is being done, and more people are learning to fly. When the economy begins to suffer, so does the flying. The price of everything goes up except for pilot salaries. So where “X” amount of money was once a great income, it may now be just enough to live off with no extras. Pilots begin to weigh the benefits to the negatives and decide if flying is really for them in those types of situations. If a pilot has a true passion for the skies, then the pay might not be the most important thing to them. However, everyone has to be able to survive off the income they make working so it is up to each individual person to figure out what their limits and desires are and head down that path.
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Every year at Thanksgiving we gather around the table and consume massive amounts of turkey. Then we spend the afternoon napping on the couch in a turkey coma. We know from experience that turkey is a food that promotes a state of sleepiness, and we also know that you wouldn’t want to eat that same turkey dinner and embark on a flight requiring you to be awake and alert. But why does the turkey dinner cause us to get sleepy? And what other foods can contribute to being too sleepy when you need to fly, or too awake when you need to sleep? In an effort to provide a complete understanding of why these foods work like they do, let’s get started on the main course: an easily digestible neuroscience lesson.
Understanding The Best Diet For Pilots
The body must gain certain nutrients from the diet, and these nutrients keep the body and mind performing at maximum efficiency. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must obtain from our diet in order to stay healthy (Young, 1994). All of the other amino acids required by the body can be produced from these 9 essential amino acids. Any lack of nutrients will have a direct impact on how the body and mind function, creating an environment which is detrimental to its recovery. Of the chemicals consumed by our body in the foods we eat, the following four chemicals play a significant role in achieving a state of sleep or wakefulness:
Tyrosine – a non-essential amino acid produced inside the body from Phenylalanine. Tyrosine contributes to an increased state of alertness and wakefulness in the brain.
Tryptophan – an essential amino acid found in most protein. Tryptophan has the ability to increase brain levels of serotonin, which produces a relaxed, calm state.
Serotonin – Biochemically derived from Tryptophan, Serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, platelets, and in the central nervous system (CNS) of humans and animals. It is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being.
Dopamine – a catecholamine neurotransmitter present in a wide variety of animals…in the brain, this phenethylamine functions as a neurotransmitter, activating the five types of Dopamine receptors—D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5—and their variants. Dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation, punishment and reward, inhibition of prolactin production (involved in lactation and sexual gratification), sleep, mood, attention, working memory, and learning.
Because of the chemical composition of foods and the way the body metabolizes these foods, eating a certain diet can either create a state in the body which promotes wakefulness or sleep. If you have a busy duty day ahead of you, it makes sense to indulge in the foods that support a state of wakefulness. However, if it’s the end of your duty day and you need to relax, it makes sense to consume those foods which promote sleep.
Foods That Increase a State of Wakefulness
High protein/low carbohydrate meals increase Tyrosine in the brain. Foods high in the essential amino acid Phenylalanine include:
- Soy Foods, Soy-based Protein Powder
- Parmesan and Swiss Cheese
- Peanuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds
- Lean Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey
- Tuna, Lobster, Salmon, Mackerel, Crab, Halibut, Cod
- White Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas
- Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Oats, Oat Bran, Wheat Bran
Dopamine is also derived from the essential amino acid Phenylalanine and contributes to wakefulness. Dopamine is easily oxidized and foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, may help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. Sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, and refined foods contribute to low levels of dopamine.
Foods That Increase a State of Sleepiness
The essential amino acid Tryptophan promotes increased sleepiness and is the building block for Serotonin, which produces a calm, relaxed state. Foods high in Tryptophan include:
- Turkey, Rabbit, Lean Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Fish
- Baked potatoes with their skin
- Cheddar, Mozzarella, Romano, Cottage Cheese
- Shrimp, Scallops, Clams
- Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils
Tryptophan intake has been shown to increase blood melatonin levels fourfold (Sinha, 2015). Melatonin production normally occurs in response to the darkness of the evening hours and assist the body to gear down for sleep. Final meals of the day should include protein, carbohydrates, and calcium, which assist in the production of Serotonin.
Wait a minute! If some of these foods are on both lists, then how can I eat to promote wakefulness or sleep? Let’s go back to the Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey contains both Phenylalanine and Tryptophan, which is very good for your body. However, in order for the Tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, it needs carbohydrates. Eating a high protein, low carbohydrate meal provides the essential amino acids your body needs to function and also limits its ability to use those amino acids which promote sleep. The turkey by itself will not make you sleepy, but when you add all the carbohydrates found in the rest of the dinner, the Tryptophan has a ticket into the brain where it can produce what we know as the turkey coma (Richard, Dawes, Mathias, Acheson, Hill-Kapturczak and Dougherty, 2009; Zamosky, 2009). Armed with this information, we can now see a diet for pilots that promotes wakefulness and sleep:
Pre-flight – Breakfast meals should contain proteins and minimal carbohydrates
In-flight – Lunch meals should contain proteins, fruits and vegetables and minimal carbohydrates
Post-flight – Dinner meals should contain proteins, carbohydrates, and calcium
And as always, limit your intake of sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, and refined foods
As you can see here, your eating habits can either support or undermine your pilot work schedule requirements, making you sleepy or awake at the wrong times. However, when you line up your daily dose of food chemicals to support your duty day, everything works in unison to achieve the ultimate goal of keeping you at peak performance. If the moment requires you to be alert, you can set yourself up for success by minimizing carbohydrate intake. If the stage is set for sleep, you can finally indulge in those carbs and drift off to dreamland. Many times we grab a high-carb snack to keep us going when we should grab some beef jerky instead. Changing these small habits can make a big difference in how you feel as you will no longer be struggling against your body, but working together toward a sustainable and successful aviation career.
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Richard, D. M., Dawes, M. A., Mathias, C. W., Acheson, A. Hill-Kapturczak, N., Dougherty, D. M. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research, and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009; 2: 45–60.
Sinha, A. (2015). Remedies and cures for the common diseases. Page Publishing, Inc.
Young, V. R. (1994). Adult amino acid requirements: the case for a major revision in current recommendations. J. Nutr 124 (8 Suppl): 1517S-1523S.
Zamosky, L. (2009). The truth about tryptophan.
With each stage of working towards a career as a pilot, a rewarding feeling of accomplishment is acquired. Whether it is the very first solo flight or passing the ATP check ride, each step is important as well as celebrated. Where a pilot wants to go with their future in the sky depends on which path they take. Someone wanting to just fly for fun on the side may only obtain their private pilot certificate, while others wanting to fly for a major airline will continue on. Flight instructing is not mandatory in aviation. Many pilots have gone on to very successful careers without ever instructing from that right seat, however, there are many wonderful benefits to becoming a flight instructor that come with learning to teach students how to fly.
Flying is expensive and for most people, and building hours in an airplane is out of the question and out of their price range. Becoming a flight instructor allows for a pilot to build their flight hours while getting paid. This is a win-win. Many times, wherever the pilot completed their training will hire them on as an instructor because they know they have been trained accordingly and know the procedures for their particular training program. Becoming a flight instructor is encouraged for anyone needing to build those 1,500 hours that are required to even attempt the ATP rating.
Let’s be honest, the amount of hours required to receive a Commercial Pilot Certificate can feel daunting to the newest of pilots when thinking about going out into the real world. One of the greatest benefits that becoming a flight instructor offers is to continue to learn through teaching, and one of the best ways to learn more is to teach someone who does not know. Flight instructors do not know everything at the point they start flight instructing. When students have questions, they may not know the answer but they have a multitude of resources available to find out. Through this, the instructor has now learned something they did not know, and most likely will never forget. The best way to expand your knowledge bank is to continually make deposits and flight instructing will always require studying and learning.
We can always create scenarios of “what-if” but even the best-trained pilot cannot know or practice every situation that can occur. Flight instructing takes someone out of his or her comfort zone and requires him or her to stay on his or her game. If pilots get too complacent, that is when an accident can occur. Lucky for instructors, the things students will almost always keep complacency from occurring because students tend to do the craziest things. Flight training allows for practicing in real life scenarios. Situations such as unforecast weather, airplane trouble, air traffic, and other events all help instructors quickly react relying on their training. This helps make them not only a better instructor but also a better pilot in the long run.
Being a flight instructor, here’s a situation a student and myself went through when practicing pattern work at Tulsa International, where F-16’s also spend daily time on pattern work. On this particular afternoon, they began their pattern work while we were on the smaller runway. When the military does their training, the public can only hear the controller talking to them, not their responses. Of course, with fighter jets, things happen way faster than they happen in a Cessna 150, so when we were about midfield downwind, we were waiting on our clearance to land. We continued to wait as we came in closer for landing. We could hear the controller repeatedly giving commands but had no ability to break in and request a landing clearance. As an instructor, I had never been in a situation where the controller forgot we were in the pattern and we had no way of breaking in. It took a go-around due to lack of landing clearance before the controller realized we had been forgotten. At that point, we terminated our pattern work and headed back to our home airport. It was a good experience for both me and my student to experience what happens when other priorities interfere, leaving us to fall back on our training. It gave us both an opportunity to walk through what we needed to do and we had a good ground lesson afterward.
Not all pilots will become instructors, but those who do will gain valuable and life-long experience that cannot be found any other place. There are even a few pilots who, after becoming a flight instructor, stay instructors for the remainder of their career, creating strong bonds with many future pilots and contributing to aviation through teaching. Flight instructing shows future employers that the pilot has commitment and the desire to do what is necessary to be the best pilot they can be.
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Wilson Gilliam Jr.
I stood in front of a Marine Corps recruiting office in 1988. I wanted to take the aviator’s aptitude test and join the Marines as a helicopter pilot. But, after a few minutes with the Sergeant, I realized that wouldn’t happen.
Between thirteen years old and eighteen, my visual acuity had decreased to 20/400. Even though it was still correctable to 20/20, the heavy eyelid morning routine of prying a way in for the contacts and the saline solution was getting rough. I wanted a permanent solution to the problem of seeing only the single, large E on the eye chart. I wanted to read the “made in USA” line without any help!
I had recently read a news article about the Russian military providing a corrective surgery called radial keratotomy (RK) for their soldiers that were nearsighted. Some further investigation revealed that a laser version of RK, called PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was already being performed by a doctor in Windsor, Canada. Although the procedure was not yet legal within the United States, I could travel to Canada and get my eyesight corrected. That’s exactly what I did.
Armed with my new, crystal clear vision, I dived headlong into a career in aviation. I began teaching students in an Aeronca Champ and then in a Schweizer 300CBi helicopter, after I earned my helicopter flight instructor certificate. Our company went on to accomplish various things like flying an R-44 in the Florida keys for tours, repairing live power lines from a work platform, sling loading, side pulling in rope for new transmission conductors and many other things.
The improvement to my eyesight was a catalyst for the release of business fuel into my career in aviation. This was a motivation that lasted fifteen years, ending in 2014 when I sold my company.
During my final year at work, I noticed a high-pitched ringing noise in both ears as I would head back into the office after a flight. The episodes would increase in frequency each week and finally after a couple of months, the ringing in my ears was permanent. I went to see an audiologist and after an afternoon of tests, I learned that I had lost most of my hearing within a certain frequency range. The loss of hearing was creating a condition called tinnitus, which I live with today.
Shortly after the diagnosis of tinnitus, I noticed that a corner of the vision in my right eye had turned dark. A trip to the eye doctor revealed my worst fear – I had aggressive glaucoma.
When most people think about flying, they concentrate on protecting their eyes. But don’t forget about maintaining health in other areas. Protect your hearing. Even though I always wore headsets (or a flight helmet) it’s not enough. Put earplugs in as well. This should eliminate any long term hearing damage.
The most important lesson I learned from this experience should be that a routine, thorough medical exam (not just through your friendly FAA medical doctor) is super important in catching additional vision and hearing problems before they develop into serious issues. If I was able to travel back in time to the beginning of my career in aviation, I would go see eye and ear specialists every five years as a pilot. Ask your doctors to compare the condition of your eyes and ears to your last visit(s). There are stresses on those parts of the body that need to be closely tracked. If you can catch a starting and / or worsening condition quickly, it may not become debilitating.
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Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady
Whether contemplating a helicopter pilot career or seeking a private rotorcraft pilot’s license, flying helicopters is like nothing most students have ever done or will ever do during their lifetimes. Prospective pilots of both genders are entering the field every single day from their late teens into their 50s and older. Earning a helicopter pilot’s license may be an exciting and challenging endeavor, but just like any other worthwhile endeavor, the achievement of earning that rotorcraft pilot’s license(s) requires a great deal of commitment, dedication, hard work, and a financial investment. On more than one occasion, it has been suggested that a rotorcraft pilot does not actually fly his or her helicopter, but rather they think their helicopter since this skill requires a major amount of eye-hand coordination but with minimal physiological movements.
In general, there are two paths to seeking a helicopter pilot career, and they are the civilian flight path or a military career. If you are contemplating the latter option, check for additional information which may be available through a university that offers flight training. For the purposes of this article, the focus will remain on the civilian flight path.
For the purpose of licensing, all professional helicopter pilots must hold a Commercial Rotorcraft License. However, almost all of these pilots have also obtained their Certificated Flight Instructor’s (CFI) credentials and many also have obtained their instrument rating. The typical licensing progression for professional helicopter pilots moves through Student, Private, Commercial, and CFI but many of these pilots will earn their instrument rating between the Private and Commercial certifications. The instrument rating may not be mandatory, but it is increasingly becoming a major benefit or requirement to access better jobs while creating a safer pilot overall. For all levels of licensure, flight training includes ground school and a demonstration of the practical application of these skills, and helicopter flight training is substantially more expensive than fixed wing or airplane training. This is due to the high cost of acquiring or purchasing, operating, maintaining, and insuring helicopters.
Although these costs had been historically significantly higher than fixed-wing flight training, they have risen more steeply since 9/11/2001. All pilots, from student on, are required by the FAA to pass a structured medical exam that is administered by an FAA approved physician which includes measuring healthy body function in addition to a hearing and vision testing. Although vision does not to be perfect, it must be correctable with lenses to a relatively high level, and color perception is also important. Certain red flag areas, such as a history of drug abuse, psychological disorders, heart problems or conditions that would cause a lapse in consciousness also raise cause for concern during FAA medical exams.
For each level of helicopter pilot license, there are minimum FAA flight time requirements. For example, the Private Pilot License requires a minimum of 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo time; however, 30-50 hours of dual time is much more realistic to ensure pilot competency. In general, flight time with an instructor costs in the range of $200/hour, and $150-$175/hour solo time with ground time costing approximately $30-$40/hour. These calculations suggest that it will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to earn a private pilot’s license for rotorcraft. In comparison, a commercial rotorcraft license requires that the pilot has a minimum of 150 total hours, and 100 hours of (PIC) Pilot In Command time. This can be earned by flying solo in pursuit of the Private License and any time thereafter when acting as PIC even when receiving flight instruction. Calculating these figures indicates that the cost of obtaining a commercial rotorcraft license costs an additional $18,000 to $20,000. Fixed wing pilots have an advantage here because a portion of their time can be applied to their on-add rotorcraft license which saves them time and money.
The benefits of making such a large investment in pursuing a dream of flying helicopters for a living are substantial. One big benefit is the diverse range of career opportunities for qualified rotorcraft pilots depending on geographical locations: aerial photography and filming, aerial stock mustering, scenic “joyflights” or discovery flights for the tourism industry, bushfire fighting, powerline surveys, marine pilot transfers, search and rescue (SAR), police air work, emergency medical service (HEMS), corporate flights and general charter service, agricultural crop spraying and livestock herding, media news and traffic reporting, and offshore (oil industry) services. Helicopter pilots are also in demand globally, so employment options exist virtually anywhere on the planet with a variety of salary ranges and an optimistic projection for employment in the future. However, keep in mind that accessing a current monetary exchange rate is usually a wise idea when considering employment in a foreign country. Also, verify the requirements for helicopter pilots’ licensing since they may be different in foreign countries from the FAA requirements in the United States.
Typically the work activities dictated by a helicopter pilot career in business, leisure or emergency response jobs would include: checking weather conditions, airspace restrictions and route planning; filing flight plans with authorities; calculating fuel requirements, weight and balance; conducting a flight check on the helicopter’s equipment and instruments; performing safety checks; and gaining clearance from ATC (air traffic control) for takeoff. During the flight, pilots are required to communicate, navigate and aviate or fly the helicopter, and post-flight they are required to complete all paperwork prior to preparing for the next flight including the duty hours log. There are strict guidelines governing the maximum number of flying hours, but the flight duties may include flying days, nights, weekends or a combination thereof since corporate or business flying often demands “standby” status. Some jobs requiring longer distances may involve overnight stays away from home that may or may not include paid allowances for these overnight stays or visits to more inhospitable areas. Although those that choose a helicopter pilot career enjoy the challenge, they soon realize that much of their flight time is spent in a cockpit where the conditions tend to be cramped and noisy, and when working as an offshore pilot or as a pilot in a similar environment, they are expected to don a survival suit. So, it is wise to consider not only the work activities that are a good fit for a helicopter pilot career but also the working hours and conditions before submitting that employment application.