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Helicopter Training Boston Blog

Helicopter Insurance and the Student Pilot

February 26th, 2010

Remember that old idiom, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”? Well, when you are training to become a helicopter pilot, nothing could be further from the truth! Especially when it comes to that helicopter you are flying and what happens in the unfortunate event of damage to yourself, someone else, and/or the machine. Most people go through their training never asking this question – “Please explain the school insurance policy and what happens to me in the event of damage to the helicopter” – and most helicopter schools like it this way. The less they have to tell their prospective customers, the better off they are, because more than likely the customer will not like to hear what they are going to be told. Let me cover a couple of myths about renting a helicopter and what the insurance will or will not cover with respect to you, the student/renter pilot.

Myth Number 1: My helicopter school said they have “full insurance” and I’m covered.

Myth Number 2: If I damage the helicopter, my school told me that as a student pilot I’m covered under their insurance.

Myth Number 3: I will just fly safely and not do anything stupid and I’ll be ok.

Myth Number 4: My instructor said not to worry about insurance – student pilots cannot be held liable for anything. It’s all on the instructor.

Myth Number 5: I’m just a poor helicopter student with no money anyway – “they can’t get blood from a stone”.

I could go on and on with the Myths, but the point is that you have to ask about insurance before you start your training. I can tell you from experience that some helicopter schools do not even carry “hull”  insurance on their helicopters (hull insurance covers damage to the helicopter). I have seen it happen, and I have also seen the consequences of careless handling of helicopters.

Think of it this way – all the paperwork you sign when you rent an automobile, but yet you can walk into almost any helicopter school, get checked out and walk out with the keys and fly away without even knowing if there is insurance on that aircraft. Our helicopter school has a rental agreement which we require all post-solo students to sign before renting the helicopter. This agreement outlines in specifics what our insurance covers when you take the helicopter solo. The rental agreement is not just something to cover the helicopter school, it’s there to outline in great detail what you can expect in the event that something happens to you or the helicopter. Even a minor event such as a hard landing – it’s worth the peace of mind to know the responsibilities of everyone involved.

Many Robinson helicopter schools carry what is known as “Pathfinder” insurance. This is the cheapest helicopter insurance on the market, and has quite a few specific clauses relating directly to Robinson helicopters. Many of these policies carry deductibles which could easily amount to $60,000 dollars or more. Imagine being responsible for a $60,000 dollar repair to the helicopter which your school will expect you to pay (even if you did not sign a rental agreement). Pathfinder is also an “offshore” insurance company, not subject to U.S. insurance regulations. This can be a problem in the event there is a liability claim against the helicopter owner, or you, the pilot in command. Pathfinder also covers Robinson Helicopters directly in the amount of 50% for each policy. So if something does happen, Robinson Helicopters immediately absorbs 50% of the liability coverage on that policy! Pathfinder also requires that in the event of an accident the helicopter must be shipped to Robinson Helicopters in Torrance, California. This is another cost which may be absorbed by you – the student.

So, as a student pilot under some helicopter schools, here is what you would have to pay in the event of an accident:

1. Deductible – up to $60,000

2. Shipping costs back to Robinson Helicopters

3. Liability – if you taxi into someone’s jet – you may not even be covered.

At our helicopter schools in Boston, New York and New Hampshire, we use a major carrier in the United States, and maintain a local insurance broker that works with us on a weekly basis. All of our ships carry 100% hull and liability insurance which covers the student pilot. Our deductible for the R-22 is $11,000 for each ship, and this is outlined under the student responsibilities in the Rental Agreement. We go the extra mile to make sure our students are afforded the same protection as the owner/operators with respect to insurance requirements.

So before you choose a helicopter flight school in the Boston, Alexandria New York, or New Hampshire area, ask some questions, and ask to see a rental agreement. If they can’t produce a rental agreement or refuse to answer your questions – find another flight school!

Train with the premier international Part 141 helicopter flight school in New England! We are open 7 days a week and operate Robinson R-22’s and R-44’s. We have a complete Part 141 helicopter flight training facility located at the Lawrence Airport in North Andover, MA and at the Maxson Airfield in Alexandria, NY.

Love is in the Air

February 21st, 2010

When you’re flying, it’s easy (and sometimes good) to get caught up in the technical details.  Even as everything goes as planned, a pilot’s head is often swimming with procedures, routes, regulations… Between sweating the details (which we always do) and flying an often familiar route, it’s easy to lose sight of the pure fun and excitement of being in the air.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to be with our students and customers for important moments in their lives.  When you send a student off for his first solo and see him come back with that “I can do this!” smile on his face you remember your own first time, and when you fly above the city or along the beach on a beautiful evening, you remember why you started flying in the first place.

It must have been Valentine’s day that started the trend, but in the last two weeks we’ve been privileged to be with several couples when they became engaged 500 feet above the bright lights of Boston. Jennifer got her boyfriend a helicopter tour for his birthday (great idea!) only to get a surprise when he pulled out an engagement ring over the city, and Amos coordinated the whole event ahead of time, right down to finding the most breathtaking point in the tour to surprise his girlfriend with a breathtaking ring. A few days later, we got the chance to take a recently married couple for a flight over some special places so they could get another look at the spot where he proposed to her, and the park where they got married.

All smiles in the hangar

A helicopter ride is a great way to fall in love with the city again, or for the first time, as you see it from a whole new perspective.  It’s also a great gift, a great date, and a way to make a special moment even more memorable. It’s our pleasure to fly with you, and our privilege to be a part of special moments in the lives of our customers.  We wish you all the best.

Another happy couple.

Advice for Future the Future Helicopter CFI

February 18th, 2010

Normally we reserve the Boston Helicopter Blog for helicopter training articles and helicopter training pictures, but for this entry I’m going to go out on a limb and post some good advice for the person that is looking to become a helicopter flight instructor. As you probably already know, we are a Robinson helicopter flight school located outside Boston Massachusetts and Alexandria New York. You may also know that we are scouting more locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.We train exclusively in Robinson helicopters.

Since we are a Robinson facility, our bias is, of course, toward Robinson helicopters. There are many reasons for this, but the large fleet of Robinson helicopters, the low cost of operation, and the capabilities of the R-44 are the main reasons we operate only Robinson helicopters. I can think of only one flight school in the area that operates Schweizer 300s exclusively. Most Schweizer schools operate Robinson helicopters even though they call themselves “Schweizer” schools. The Schweizer 300 can’t perform the duties of a 44 under any circumstances, hence the need for the Robinson R-44 at these schols.

I was prompted by an article I noticed on the web that was sparked by the statement that it is “good to get time in the 2 most popular trainers, the Schweizer and the Robinson, at least 50 hours in each”. The article pretty much stated that getting time in each is useless (which it is), for the future CFI. It should be evident to any CFI now looking for work – if you come from a Schweizer school and are sending your resume to a Robinson school, having 50 hours in an R-22 is not going to get you the job! With the state of the economy and the amount of CFIs looking for work, we do not hire anyone with less than 250 hours IN ROBINSON HELICOPTERS! If you’re looking to train to become a CFI, you should be aware that if you choose a Schweizer helicopter, you are more than likely going to be limited to a CFI position at a Schweizer school (unless you pay for hours in an R22 at a later time). I’m not going to argue over which machine is the better machine, they both have strong and weak points – but I will say this – train in the machine that will get you your first job! Look at the number of Robinson and Schweizer schools in your area and make the decision based on what you think will get you that first instruction position.

Here’s the article – as I said – this is a repost of someone else’s words:

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. -Referenced from cyclicandcollective.net.

My next post will talk about why you should do your instrument training in a Robinson 44. More information for a future helicopter instructor.

Train with the only Part 141 helicopter flight school in the Boston Massachusetts area that is also a Robinson helicopter overhaul center!

International Helicopter Flight Training

February 14th, 2010

When searching for a Part 141 helicopter flight school in the Boston Massachusetts area, most people have lots of questions. Since we are the only helicopter flight school in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine that has passed all of the stringent government requirements to train international students, we have to answer training questions from all over the world. For students located within the United States, commencing your helicopter training is simple. But for students who are not U.S. citizens, starting helicopter training can be a daunting procedure – but rest assured we have the staff available that completely understand the TSA requirements. When you come to our Part 141 Boston helicopter flight school, you will be assigned a student liason who will walk you through the process from start to finish.

There are 2 categories of students who are required to register with the TSA.

1. You are here in the U.S on a current visa, or you will be here with a visitor or other type of Visa.

2. You are not here in the U.S and will not have a Visa (you need a vocational – M – Visa from our school).

If you are here in the U.S already and are not a U.S. citizen (do not have a U.S. based passport), you need to first register with the TSA. This is a simple, straightforward process that can seem complicated to those who are not familiar with the details. At North Andover Flight Academy we have trained many international students and have assisted many students through this process. First, you need to register at http://www.flightschoolcandidates.gov as a new student. You will be sent a confirmation email with a password and a confirmation. Login to the TSA site and complete all the required information as asked. You will be asked basic personal information and information pertaining to the course of helicopter training. For detail on the exact information to be filled out, please see our International Students page – TSA information. The questions will ask the type of course, course ID, type of helicopter, training start date, and training end date. You will also need to pay the processing fee to the TSA.

After filling out all this information, the request will be sent to our school for validation. After we accept the training request, you will be sent information on where to get your fingerprints taken. This takes approximately 4 days. After your fingerprints are accepted we will be notified and you will come in to begin your training.

It seems more complicated than it is – all you need to do is follow the steps as outlined in each correspondence sent to you by the TSA.

For students that are not already in the U.S. or will not be here on their own visa, the steps are a bit more involved, but still not impossible. The next article in this series will go over the steps to do your helicopter flight training here at North Andover Flight Academy!

Coastlines and Abandoned Airfields

February 8th, 2010

There’s something interesting about abandoned airfields. They’re even more interesting when you get approval from the landowner to occasionally stop by with the helicopters to check it out. This airport has long since been forgotten (but not by us). The old runway is slowly being overtaken by trees and underbrush. One has to wonder how many aircraft have been in and out of here in the last 60 years. See if you can identify it!

Abandoned Airfield

Abandoned Airfield

The flight continued on to the coastline of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As the sun was setting, we were after a few pictures of the lighthouse just off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The sun remained above the horizon long enough for a few quick shots.

Portsmouth New Hampshire Lighthouse

Portsmouth New Hampshire Lighthouse

Portsmouth New Hampshire Lighthouse

Portsmouth New Hampshire Lighthouse

This is what flying is all about. Seeing the world from an uncommon perspective. If you’re interested in any of the pictures, we can put you in touch with the person responsible for them!

Besides being the premier Boston Helicopter 141 school, we are also the tour operator who can get you into Boston or give you the type of Massachusetts and New Hampshire seacoast tour which will produce views such as those above.

Call us at 978-689-7600 for more information on helicopter training and affordable helicopter tours.