Quick Start: What is this anyway?
wikiRFM is an online, community resource for helicopter flight instructors and students. The idea is to provide new instructors with training techniques beyond those that they learned during their training. Students can also use wikiRFM to improve the efficiency of their training by identifying techniques beyond what their instructor might be using. To make wikiRFM work, instructors and students have to contribute their experience to lesson plans. Anybody can contribute to or comment on lesson plans. Ultimately, any new instructor should be able to come to wikiRFM and access the collective knowledge of far more instructors than they’d ever have time to meet in their career.
How It Works
WikiRFM is set up as a WordPress Wiki, which is unimportant except that you can not only come here to view and comment on posts and lesson plans, but you can add to and change them. All you have to do is register, find a topic that interests you or something that you have some insight to, and click “Edit this entry.” It’s easy, and you can’t really screw anything up. One note: the flight maneuvers are based on the R22, so please stick with that helicopter to avoid confusing students!
Aviation is a second career for Chris. Since the 1990s, Chris has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a medical writer. In that time he’s authored over 100 educational programs and scientific articles for physicians about disease diagnosis and treatment. Although this career has offered Chris many rewards and opportunities, aviation has always been an interest since the days he spent watching jets practicing at Lackland AFB from his grandparent’s back yard. After trying out (and being thoroughly unimpressed with) flying airplanes for a short time in 2001, Chris decided to begin his training in helicopters in June 2007. While the dream of a HEMS job was part of the allure, Chris has always enjoyed teaching—in the past, Chris has been a CPR/First Aid Instructor for the American Red Cross and training coordinator for a wilderness K-9 Search and Rescue team. Once he has the experience under his belt, Chris would like to turn his attention back to flight instruction.
While building time and experience flying, Chris has looked for ways to apply his experience in education to aviation. Initially, this led to a collaboration with Lyn Burks from JustHelicopters.com. Chris updated Lyn’s eBook Your Résumé Versus the Helicopter Industry so that it included tips for low-time pilots applying for their first CFI or turbine position. This later led to Chris holding one-on-one résumé reviews at the Heli-Success Career Development Seminar in 2009 and 2010.
WikiRFM was started after Chris finished his CFI training and realized how few tools and resources new CFIs have at their disposal. The lesson templates that form the basis for wikiRFM came from attending seminars at HAI and from talking to or flying with many high-time flight instructors, including Chris’ good friend, Mike Franz. Chris is currently working as a flight instructor at Peninsula Helicopters Northwest in Bremerton, WA. You can view his resume here, and contact him through the link at the bottom of this page.
Why is There a Need for a Resource Like wikiRFM?
The Least Experienced Pilots Train New Pilots
This was the biggest motivator. Probably 90% of my first 200 hours of flight training was with CFIs who had less than a year of teaching experience. If you’re new, there’s a good chance that your instructor will only have a few hundred hours more experience flying than you. But I’ve spent some time flying with and talking to high-time instructors and high-time pilots (many on the VerticalReference forums). Per hour with these guys, I’ve learned more than with any other instructor that I’ve flown with. This isn’t a criticism of anybody I’ve ever flown with, it’s the reality of learning to fly helicopters in the US. But for those of you trying to learn, wouldn’t you want access to the most knowledgeable instructors and their methods? For those of you who want to be great instructors, why not have a resource where you can learn from others’ experiences?
Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns
Think about it. By the time your training is finished, you will have been looking at the world from a pilot’s perspective for a whole year, maybe 2 at the most. Your instructor probably has only a few more months experience. I have no idea what I don’t know, and I can’t teach you what I don’t know.
There Is No Single Flight Training Resource For Helicopter Pilots
My lesson plans are a shambles, not because I just slapped them together, but because there’s so much information out there. I’d start writing up one section that I thought I really understood, and at the end of the day I wouldn’t have completed it (to my satisfaction anyway). And once I “finish” a lesson, I see something else that changes my way of thinking and I’m back to tweaking it. Part of the problem is that most of the resources available to CFIs are incomplete, outdated, too generic, or all three. To put together really good, really comprehensive lesson plan, I found myself going to a half-dozen books, reading the forums, and looking at notes from conversations that I’ve had with other instructors. This is a massive pain in the ass, and more effort than its worth for most instructors. It’s the same experience for students: the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook has its shortcomings and to truly learn some things you need to look elsewhere. Learning should be easier.
Flight Schools Hire Their Own
And there are good reasons for this…namely, that they then know who they’re dealing with. The downside is that a school’s method for teaching can quickly get homogenized. I won’t say much more about this except that there’s a reason our scientists, doctors, engineers, and other professionals are encouraged to mix it up when it comes to where they get their training. Experiencing different teaching styles and environments encourages their development as professionals, enriches their experience, and ultimately makes them better prepared to deal with the real world.