Guidance Counseling for Student Pilots

This bit of advice is often kicked around on the forums:

There is nothing that requires you to do all your training at one school or in one type of helicopter. Having at least 50 hours in each of the two most popular trainers H300 & R22) will be beneficial to you when you go looking for your first flying job.

In theory, this is a great idea, and if this was any other industry, this breadth of experience would be viewed as a bonus by any employer. However, in helicopters, the companies (ie, flight schools) that are providing training are also gateway employers: you have to go through them to make it to a more normal career environment (one where experience and qualifications dominate hiring decisions).

Any single flight school can’t hire all of the CFIs it trains. It just isn’t mathematically possible. This is a bit of a problem for the industry, and it affects who a flight school will hire. As an external candidate–a CFI trained at another school–you have significant disadvantages compared to a student coming from within. Probably the greatest disadvantage is that the school doesn’t know you as well, and you aren’t familiar with the school’s procedures or the local training environment. You are also taking a job away from one of the students that was loyal to the school, and unemployed flight instructors can’t help a school’s image. Overcoming these barriers with previous experience–whether it’s experience in several different aircraft or transferable skills that you acquired outside of aviation–is very difficult.

Another reason having time in both Robinson and Schweizer/Hughes models doesn’t matter is that they are very different aircraft. An instructor that has 200 hours in an R22 is still learning to fly it, and I don’t see how reducing his experience in that aircraft by 25% is going to make him a better instructor or pilot. With so little experience, it’s better to build one skill rather than acquiring a portfolio of skills that you are unable to do with proficiency or consistency. With 50 hours of R22 time, you’re also sitting at the SFAR-73 minimums for instructing, and the Schweizer school’s that I’ve talked to believe the required minimums specified in 61.195(f)–5 hours PIC in the specific make and model–are insufficient.

Finally, there are very few schools who fly both Robinsons and Schweizers. You might be a good candidate for one of those schools, if they didn’t have a large pool of internally-trained candidates. But you wouldn’t be a good candidate for a school flying R22s if you were coming in with 150 hours of Schweizer time, or vice versa.

Maybe this broader experience will help you when you finish your CFI and start applying for turbine jobs. Not so. One operator I talked to basically said that R22, R44, 269/300, Hiller, Brantley, Enstrom, or whatever other piston time you have is just that: other piston time. For an applicant with significant turbine time, listing your time in all those piston aircraft isn’t even necessary.

So I’m going to call Bullshit! on the advice that you should get time in both Robinson and Schweizer airframes, and that it’s okay to switch schools mid-training. I’d advise that a student stick with a single school and single manufacturer. Doing anything else won’t improve your chances of getting hired on as a CFI, and may actually hurt them.