Unusual Airspace

Prepping for a ground lesson today. I’d assigned a student to plan a cross-country originating from KAST, and noticed the Class E designations:

The semi-circular segments and piece-meal layout of the Class E airspace looked pretty odd, and I couldn’t let it go without trying to figure out why. Instrument rated pilots might already have a clue. I had to look it up to see if I was right. The answer is in AIM 3-2-6(e), and looking at the instrument approach procedures really cements that bit of learning. This ILS approach for KAST involves a 19 NM DME arc that exactly overlays the Class E extension on the VFR sectional.

Anybody Recognize that Glowing Fireball in the Sky?

KPWT sits up on a hill and in a slight valley, so even a sunny morning downtown can turn into a scud-loving mess by the time I get to the airport. Today though looks like a summer day in Seattle.


kpwt sunny day

KPWT 231535Z AUTO 03006KT 10SM CLR 06/02 A2987 RMK AO1

We’ll see how the winds develop. As the sun heats up the surrounding terrain, the winds (theoretically) could start whipping through here, making it too gusty and turbulent to fly by mid-afternoon.

A Change in Plan, 0.1%, and Something to Add to the Resume

One week on the job and over a week at Heli-Expo, and the first thing I know when I come back is that the senior instructor here is leaving in a week for a job in the GOM. I knew that was coming…part of the reason I was hired was to “take over” this location as the 2 high-time CFIs here move on. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon, and I’d hoped to have more time to figure out how to run the shop before being on my own. To add to it, the instructor that’s leaving was a treasure trove of instructional knowledge, and I’d hoped to sponge off him while doing my CFII. Guess that’s not going to happen either.

peninsula helicopters northwest

On the plus side, I finally got a nice long break in the weather last Thursday. Even with the ceilings sitting around 5000 MSL and some scud here and there, wow. This is an incredible area to be flying around in. Sadly, I left the mount for my Contour HD in a packed box at home, so no pictures. We scoped out the local landmarks, the practice area (basically the whole western part of our little peninsula), and the abundant areas available for practicing off-airport landings. The dominant la

nd feature in our area is Gold Mountain. Even though it’s not evident from the satellite, it’s the area we mostly skirt to the north and east. Along with the wind, low ceilings (5000 is low when you’re used to clear below 12,000), and mountainous terrain, I’m having to adjust to not having the usual VFR references. Either way, 1 hour flight time is 0.1% of the way.

After my flight, it was back to a bit of reality. Maybe one day I’ll get to say it, but for now “Just the pilot” isn’t a phrase I’ll be using much. With the departure of the senior CFI–the guy who established this location, set up the office, and built the business–the responsibility for setting up our renovated office space and keeping this location in business is most likely going to fall on me. To that end, I can add installing vinyl siding to my skill set. Fun. But I’ve said it before: in this market, the CFI who can wear many hats and adapt to the needs of the school is the one that gets hired.

peninsula helicopters northwest
You can't fully appreciate the symmetry of the lettering on the door from this shot. I still get paranoid that I misspelled something....

First Week on the Job

It was months in the works, but I finally landed a job as a CFI with Peninsula Helicopters Northwest (more on how that happened later). Once it happened, it happened quick, and last week I picked up and moved to Bremerton (KPWT). This is the slow season in the Northwest…it’s cold, wet, and cloudy. Although it’s been pretty frustrating not getting to fly, both for lack of students and weather, it’s been a gentle introduction to getting my head back into flying. This has been especially true with respect to the weather: the Olympic Peninsula is lower and wetter than where I trained in the Inland Northwest (dry and high). One of the challenges that I expect with working out of KPWT is dealing with the weather…most of my flying has been done on hot, but otherwise clear days with 10,000 ft ceilings. Weather here, at least in the springtime, changes fast and dramatically. On Tuesday, it seemed like a great day for flying at one end of the field, but not so much at the other end. By the end of the week, a low pressure system swept in, blanketing the the airport with <1/4 mile visibility and dropping snow on the field.

For those of you interested in beginning training, Helicopters Northwest has been at it for 25+ years, and has an in-house financing program. Check it out here.

Ditch Interview Advice from JH

I’m still kicking around, just don’t have the time to post much. Been talking to a few potential employers, but (and this gets in the way of many prospective flight instructors) my options have been limited by my ability to pick up and take a job anywhere. Thanks to those of you who’ve helped out though.

Here’s the redux from a couple of posts in response to advice for interviews with the Grand Canyon tour operators. The first response deals with the questions that this poster has run into on interviews.

Most interviews for any job will start off with 4 questions (or variations on these):

1. Who are you? (education, where did you grow up, related experiences)

2. Why do you want the job?

3. What have you done to qualify yourself for this job?

4. Why do you think that you are more qualified for this job than others?

Once you have spent some time writing answers down on paper and becoming knowledgeable with those answers, you should be able to go into any interview and do well.

What is an interview anyway? It’s a chance for you to introduce yourself to whoever is interviewing you (the Chief Pilot, the Training Captain, the Check Airmen) and sell yourself to them. You should be able to do that in some detail by preparing to answer the questions above. Don’t be afraid of silences – not too different than a check ride. Answer all questions with as much factual detail as you can; after that, there may be a moment of silence. They may ask additional questions for clarification; they may move on – just don’t run on and on.

The first question (“Who are you/tell me about yourself”) can be a stumbling block if you haven’t thought about it in advance. I’d focus on answering the question “Who are you as a professional/tell me about your career as a pilot?”, and focus on education, training, professional interests, unique qualifications, and career aspirations. Keep it brief, and avoid minutiae, negativity/bitterness about a job you lost, and personal interests/information/details.

The “Why” sounds like it’s about you, but the best response twists in what the employer is going to get from you as well. For the tour companies, you might bring up that you love working with people and being sociable, for example.

The last 2 questions you should expect to hear. Don’t use a canned response, but be prepared for it. Your answer should be based, in part, on what you know are the employer’s needs.

As for silence…immediate, snappy answers are something we associate with intelligence and professionalism. Not true. Silence is also uncomfortable for us as humans, so fighting the urge to constantly be talking takes practice. A friend of mine (who always grills me when we get together) has gotten to where he finishes his questions with “and think about it first.” Good advice. An organized, well-thought out answer, even if it takes 5-10 seconds to formulate, is better than a ramble, fluff, or backpedaling to amend an incorrect answer.

The second (useful) post deals a lot with appearance and attitude. Individualism is great, but remember that you are selling yourself to your employer (and often their clients). That being the case, they are hiring/buying preconceived notions of what a pilot should look like. And the image society has of pilots is one of the strongest stereotypes we have of any profession. The only thing I disagree on is the suit and tie…wear them. You do not want to be underdressed, and for a large company, you may spend most of your time in front of casually-dressed pilots, and then sit down with an executive in suit and tie. There may be some exceptions–and you think this might be the case, you will clarify it with the person who’s interviewing you. Even in these situations, you want to be the best-dressed in the room. At the least, that probably means slacks and a dress shirt. For the logbooks, I’d add to double check that everything that should be signed is signed and organized. Not doing this demonstrates that you are incapable of planning ahead.

Keep everything as conservative as possible – color & style

Cover all tattoos

Lose any piercings

Don’t show up in a suit

Dress shoes – polished

Tie not necessary but can’t hurt.

Your hair should be neatly trimmed

No jewelry other than a ring (one) and a watch

Good luck – remember, you are selling yourself here.

1) Bring ALL of your logbooks from hour 1, not just your current logbook.

2) Bring your medical, pilot certificates, sunglasses and your headset.

3) DO NOT have any decaorative decals, logo’s, or NO FEAR stickers on your logbook.

4) Wear a suit or sport coat, forget what the other guy said, WEAR A SUIT.

5) Have your best personality tuned-up and ready to impress, its a Tour Pilot job, not logging.

Insanity: Doing the Same Thing Over and Over

I’m taking a break. I’ve been at this over a year now, and have had over 15,000 visitors. I get lots of great feedback, and I really appreciate it. What’s missing though is that I’m mostly providing a one-way stream of information, and that was never the point of the helicopter private pilot lesson plans area. I’m no expert at instructing (in fact, I haven’t provided even a single hour of dual), and even though I’ve put 100s of hours of thought into figuring out the best way to teach somebody how to fly a helicopter, the really valuable information is out there with the guys who are providing instruction now, and the students who are getting into a helicopter for the first time. I know the WP-wiki interface isn’t the easiest to work with (it’s better than Media-wiki tho), but if anybody has any ideas for how I can facilitate interaction here, I’m open to suggestions.

For the helicopter flight lessons section, I won’t be expanding those sections unless I’m particularly inspired by something. They’ll all remain open for contributions and editing, and I’ll still support anybody interested in doing that. Along those lines, a former Schweizer 300 instructor has generously offered up his lesson plans (thanks Damien O’ Halloran). I won’t be giving them away or distributing them, but all you Schweizer pilots: here’s your chance. If one of you out there wants to lead the charge, let’s come up with a plan and I’ll set it up. Or if you just have a topic you want to focus on, I’ll figure out a way to make that happen. Anybody who makes a significant contribution, I’ll add to the About page so you get credit for your efforts (how might that help you? I’m planning on writing up a post about the qualifications I was seeing in 1000-plus hour CFIs from the resume reviews at Heli-Success. Hint: you’re going to have some serious competition for that first turbine job).

I’ll still be keeping up with the blog. I have about 30 hours of video footage from the time building I did with Boatpix this summer, and will try and post videos of the interesting stuff. I’m also interested in expanding the career advice and new student guides (under the Ground Lessons section). But over the next few months I really want to focus on another project inspired by a FAAST seminar given by my good friend and mentor, Mike Franz. Hopefully mid-next year I’ll be able to let you all know about it. Most of all though, I need to focus on staying current and getting a job as a CFI next spring. Any leads would be greatly appreciated, or if you’re a student interested in training with me, I can put you in touch with like minded instructors, or schools that I think offer the best training value/experience. Along those lines, you can read my bio and view my resume here.

Why You Should Join Linked-In

During the resume review at Heli-Success, I probably talked to over 100 pilots looking for work, and pointed most of you to my Linked-In profile. I didn’t get much time to explain how it can help you (and the Facebook analogy is pretty bad). So, here’s why you should: Linked-In will help you stay in touch with your network. Here’s an example:

I want to work for XYZ Helicopters and I’ve sent many applications with no response. I go through my Linked-In profile, view my connections, and find somebody that I went to school with years ago that currently works there. Now I have an inside way of getting my resume into the CP’s hands.

Or, say I don’t know who to address my cover letter to. I look through my Linked-In connections and find somebody that I went to Heli-Success with who works (or worked) at XYZ Helicopters. Couple of clicks and I can get an email to him, ask him who the CP is. As a bonus, when your connection replies, he gives you a little first-hand knowledge of what the CP likes and how the working conditions are at XYZ Helicopters.

Investing the time in registering, updating, and maintaining your profile is something that’s going to help you vastly more than it’s going to help me! It’s an easy way to network, doesn’t require any hand-shaking or small-talk, and gives you up-to-date access to many more people than you’d be able to stay in touch with in-person.

All you have to do is click the link to the right. That takes you to my profile, where you ask to join my network as a colleague from Heli-Success. You’ll have to register (free), and fill in some info about your job history. That’s it. As a bonus, Linked-In will automatically scan it’s database to find other registered users who you might have worked with previously, giving you an easy way to re-connect with them. Easy and free.

Off Airport Landings

Back in August I got to do what was supposed to be a long loop hike in the mountains up on the Idaho-Montana panhandle. Ended up cutting the hike short because of worsening weather, but got to see something that you probably won’t ever see in a helicopter, but will help your pinnacle and confined landings. The zone of demarcation is the transition layer between the smooth (laminar) flow over the terrain, and the underlying turbulent layer. Stay above the ZoD and your ride will be smoother and power requirements lower. Get under it and you will be dealing with turbulence and down drafts. Just watch the video, and if anybody’s up for it, I’d like to hear some opinions on how you might be able to best do an approach to this saddle.


Zone of Demarcation

Quick Stops Bad. Rapid Deceleration Good.

Thoughts? There’s  a thread on the good side of JustHelicopters to discuss teaching and using the maneuver commonly referred to as the Quick Stop. I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to formulate that lesson plan. So how do you teach it, what does it teach, how do you use it, and what do you call it? Post your thoughts and questions here, on the JH thread, or on the lesson and let’s see what we can come up with.