Here is a list of schools where I have trained and can recommend the
ships and the instructors:
you are coming from Europe or Asia and want to be sure of completing a
rating during a two-week trip, for example, it is best to choose a
school with an on-staff examiner (like East Coast Aero
in Frederick, Maryland (NW of Washington, DC)
- Alyeska Helicopters in
Girdwood, Alaska. Wave to the moose during your 180-autorotations. Fly
over glaciers. As of 2005 it was easy to say that this is the best
helicopter school in Alaska because... it was the only helicopter school
in Alaska (there may be others now)
- Civic Helicopters in
Carlsbad, California (between Los Angeles and San Diego)
- East Coast Aero
Club in Bedford, Massachusetts (this is where I teach currently;
new Robinson R44s at the world's lowest price; on-staff examiner; more:
- Helistream at the John Wayne
Airport in Orange County, California; I did my first touchdown
autorotation here with Andreas, the chief instructor, and it was quite
an experience. On-staff examiner.
- Mauna Loa
Helicopters on the Big Island of Hawaii. I finished my CFI here, as did
one of my favorite instructors. The owner is an on-staff
FAA designated examiner and the school is full of students and
instructors serious about pursuing careers as helicopter pilots.
Helicopters in Watsonville, California; Chris, the owner has 10,000
hours, and the maintenance department is superb
- Universal Air
Academy in El Monte, California (east of Pasadena, in the Los
Angeles area). I did my R44 CFI training here with Bryan Robinson
(10,000-hour great pilot and nice guy; no relation to Frank)
Outside the U.S.
- Helipan Corp. in Panama City, Panama
Another option is simply to buy an R22 or R44 and dig up a private
instructor. If you get an R44, the local instructors will be knocking
on your door begging for a chance to teach you!
Robinson Factory School
Even before you get your Private rating, sign up for the Robinson CFI/Safety
Course at the Robinson factory in Torrance, California. This course
is required by many insurance companies before you can carry passengers
in a rental R22. The waiting list can stretch out as far as 9 months,
so it is important to sign up well in advance. The course itself
includes a fascinating section on maintenance by Pat Cox, a flight of
between 1.2 and 1.4 hours in which lots of different kinds of
autorotations are done. I recommend that you sign up to fly in an R44
even if you have no experience in the aircraft; the flight goes by so
quickly that it is hard to say exactly what you've learned, so you might
as well have the R44 time and the touchdown autorotations that can be
done in the R44 only.
The factory safety course does include a lot of nuggets of useful
information that are tough to find in other places, but it is a shame
that there are not more written materials to review after class.
Furthermore, there is not much rigor when it comes to aerodynamics.
Given the five-day time commitment (3.5 days of class plus travel), a
lot more knowledge could be transmitted.
Text and photos (if any) Copyright 2003-8 Philip