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A Word with our Chief Flight Instructor

Hi Stephane. You are the 141 FAA Chief Flight Instructor and EASA Head of Training at USATS. Could you give us a brief history of your aviation career?

Sure. I am responsible for the quality of training of our FAA and EASA program. I have been involved on and off in training for over 20 years. I started my flying career as a flight instructor in the San Francisco bay area. I was then offered a position at Helicopter Adventures, now USATS, when they moved to Florida and I became their FAA Chief Flight Instructor until 2005 here in Titusville. I left the USA to fly the Super-Puma for CHC in the North Sea for almost 7 years and then operated Super-puma and S76 for Bristow in Nigeria for 4 years. I joined USATS when it was called Bristow Academy as a FAA and EASA ground instructor back in 2016 and became their FAA Chief Flight Instructor and EASA Head of Training just about a year ago. I hold an FAA and European ATP rotorcraft helicopter and Private Instrument Single Engine Land certificate.

What are the qualities helicopter companies look for in a pilot?

Except for the obvious, someone who knows how to fly, I would say:

  • A safe pilot, meaning a person trained at evaluating and mitigating risks, considering safety as his/her top priority.

  • A knowledgeable pilot having the technical knowledge allowing him/her to easily evolve within his or her company from single to multi-engine helicopter and up to the challenge of transitioning to various aircraft types easily.

  • A person with a professional attitude willing to keep on learning. A team player capable of transitioning from copilot to captain role.

I am assuming your training program accounts for developing those qualities?

Safety, knowledge and crew cooperation are traits developed and evaluated during our training. They are fundamentally integrated into our courses:

  • Threat and Error Management (TEM) associated with Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) are at the core of our programs from the private all the way through our Instructor course.

  • Crew Resource Management (CRM) is integrated within each flight lesson.

Our students will usually have to transition between 3 different aircraft, learning its associated process, backed up with extensive training in aircraft systems including Electronic Flight Integrated system (EFIS) that our R44s are equipped with. Learning, transitioning and adapting to different aircraft becomes a natural process for our graduates.

If you come to our school with the desire to learn and ready to work hard, then when your training is completed, you will be well armed with the skills and knowledge required by the industry. Whatever your final dream is, flying Offshore, EMS, corporate or utility work, we will make your dream a reality.

That dream job usually requires some experience and minimum hours to qualify. How do you reach those hours?

You are right. Obtaining your commercial and Instructor certificate is just the initial step. A couple of options are available after graduation: Tour companies inside the US, including at least 3 operators here in Florida (widely using R44 by the way) and Photo flight operators are another way; however, becoming a flight instructor is the most common path for new graduates.

How do you get that first job as a flight instructor?

You just spent about $90.000 and you NEED that first job. Well, simple…. have the best qualifications possible! First, look at the flight schools in the United States and identify what helicopters they are flying. You will rapidly see that the Robinson R22 and R44 dominate the training market. You will also realize that, what I call the “3 blades” helicopter like the RSG-Schweizer S300CBi, the Cabri and the Enstrom are used by quite a lot of other flight schools. So, you want to maximize your chances of getting that first job by qualifying obviously in the R22/ R44 but also in one of the “3 blades” helicopters I have just mentioned.

At the end of his or her training a typical USATS student ends up with about 100 hours in the S300CBi, 45 hours in the R44 and 55 in the R22, meeting the requirements of the Flight instructor SFAR 73 endorsement to teach in both R22 & R44. Your S300CBi flight experience completes your qualification making you the perfect candidate for ANY flight school.

We are offering total flexibility. You can’t go wrong if you decide to trust us to help you making your dream a reality.

At the 2019 Heli-Expo in Atlanta, USATS had signed a $4,000,000 contract with RSG-Schweizer for the delivery of new S300CBi helicopters. Why is the S300CBi an important piece of your helicopter fleet?

First, I could say there is an historical reason. Remember that USATS is the continuation of Helicopter Adventure Inc (HAI) created back in the late 80’s. HAI gave the Schweizer 300CB and then the 300CBi its renown in the civilian training market. Our new owners renewed the school's commitment to the RSG-Schweizer product for the same reasons HAI had initially; versatility and flexibility in the training solutions you can offer.

We have customers that simply cannot fit in a R22 because of their height or weight. We also have companies around the world trusting us with their cadets initial training program that do not want the R22 being part of the agreement, whatever their reasons are. The S300CBi allows us to offer a solution for ANY training program, to ANY customer.

So what about the R22 and R44 helicopters?

They play an important role in the training solution we offer. Being qualified in R22/R44 helicopters is critical to landing your first job. So, you can say that you “need” Robinson helicopters in your fleet; however, I will prefer using the word “should”…. because they have a lot to offer.

I have always liked the R22. It was the helicopter I provided instruction in during my first years as a flight instructor. The first private, instrument, commercial, and even initial CFI students I signed off were all trained on the R22. I have over 1,500 hours in that aircraft. I think it is a great helicopter for commercial training. The Power limitation you must comply with, the low rotor inertia rotor system requires a more accurate handling and it will make you a better, smoother pilot.

The R44 is a great helicopter; safe, fast, efficient and economical for commercial operators. Just look at the number of R44s used in part 135 operations, E.N.G or law enforcement fleets. We use primarily the R44 primarily for Instrument training. They are all equipped with a Garmin G500H EFIS system and G430 WAAS GPS. This is similar to the type of navigation equipment you will be facing in any modern VFR or IFR helicopter. You will be better armed learning in the technical environment you will be operating in later in your career. Those systems have the ability to improve the safety of flight by providing enhanced features; however you must receive the right training to be made aware of some of its pitfalls.

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