Fight Instructor: The Perpetual Succession Plan
When you’re in the business of training professional helicopter pilots for industry, one would assume that the ability to hire your home-grown product would mean you’d never be short of qualified flight crew to man your own operations. But the reality is far from it.
Flight Instructors (FIs) are always in short supply since they become very attractive to the wider industry in a short period of time – rapidly gaining “Pilot In Command” hours, essential skills and valuable experience within a structured and safety-critical environment.
Given the crew supply chain would grind to a halt without sufficient instructors to train the future workforce, succession planning has got to be perpetual, and a top priority. The “Flight Instructors Required” ad never goes back in the drawer for long, because the minute you’ve trained and hired your newly qualified FI, you’re already looking for their replacement.
Not a bad problem to have, and especially great news for all the student helicopter pilots going through the Academy. A new instructor will fly anything up to around 700 flying hours per year and career progression is fast; it’s a steep learning curve that sharpens your flying skills brilliantly.
This article started out as a “Welcome to the Team” to introduce the five new instructors our Head of Training and FIC, Captain Bowen, trained and put forward for their Assessments of Competence earlier this year. Due to the pandemic having an impact on CAA examiner availability, all five qualified around the same time and were offered instructing positions straight away.
Yes, we did say five. But one was actually hired into an offshore position with Babcock before he even got to turn a rotor with a student – so then there were four! Meet James, Kris, Tom, and Sascha, the four newest Flight Instructors to join our team. Since writing this article we’ve also learned that Sascha has been offered a North Sea co-pilot position with CHC – so well done Sascha! Down to three…
On top of this, we’ve had three further experienced instructors leave us this year; two in the last month (one returning to an overseas flying role and another who has been offered a fantastic opportunity with Bristow), and the third who left the company earlier this year to fly for NHV. So it really has been one in, one out. Or five in, five out as the case may be! And this is not out of the ordinary – sometimes we lose more instructors than we are able to train in a year and have to resort to external hiring.
Despite the challenges this fast-track career route presents to the company (nature of the beast), it’s absolutely amazing for the young people coming through our career pipeline and we’d really like to share these fantastic successes stories with those of you who are considering starting your career as a flight instructor – this time next year it could be you we’re writing about!
As you can tell, we’re always looking for new recruits and we’d love to hear from you if you see this as your future – it’s more feasible than you may think to become a helicopter pilot, particularly with the scholarships and bursaries we offer. If you’re not sure where to start you can actually train around your day job (modular, part-time training) or opt for a full-time fast-track course (integrated). So what are these instructors’ first impressions of the job so far?
Tom Barnard was awarded our CPL(H) (Commercial Pilot) scholarship in 2019. He’s thoroughly enjoying being able to put his flying skills to good use every day. “As an instructor, learning never stops,” says Tom.
“I’m always discovering new skills and teaching methods that work best with individual students and it’s exciting knowing that every single day means improving one’s own ability” he added.
Kris concurred that being an FI means you are constantly practicing advanced and accurate flying, which is great for career development, and he loves the creative ways you can relay and impart knowledge. “Of course,” he added, “one of the main perks of being a flight instructor is that you get to enjoy one of the greatest office views there is”.
James expressed the sense of achievement he feels when he’s instructing. As someone who undertook training and received the Bristow-mentored commercial pilot scholarship from Helicentre last year, he is delighted to now be in a position to change the lives of other student pilots. “It’s a fantastic experience – and very rewarding. I like the fact that you’re always tailoring your approach to help people learn, and seeing progress is just amazing.” James remarked.
We wish our new instructors and those who have recently left us to embark on the next exciting stages of their careers, all the very best for the future. We hope they will be an inspiration to people they meet along the way, so that more budding pilots can become aware of one of the least-known secrets in the aviation industry; helicopter careers.
Have you been inspired by this article? If you find yourself drawn towards an exciting career journey as a professional Helicopter Pilot, why not reserve a place at our next career seminar. We’ll give you all the information you need, as well as the opportunity to ask questions to guide you in making an informed decision about your future. If you’re a qualified instructor looking for an opportunity, upload your CV to our vacancies page and apply today.