When did you train at Beckers? At the end of 2009 to early 2010
Why helicopters? I flew small fixed wing aircraft when I was younger with my father, being a private pilot, and growing up around remote control toys. The helicopter always fascinated me, and was something I wanted to do.
What did you do before you started training? Many things, diploma in hospitality, apprentice carpenter, qualified health and safety officer and most recent I was concreting to pay the bills! I never really knew what I wanted to do when I left school, at the time I knew helicopters was just not an option! $$$$
Memorable moments in flight training and why? The best part of my training was sling in the R44. It’s definitely helped me in the decision process of the direction I will head in choppers.
Also my CPLH flight test with Mike Becker. I landed in Gympie, just before leaving for the last leg home. Did all my checks and proceeded to depart. On route to YBSU I was calculating my fuel, and to my horror I worked out I would be landing with practically the low fuel light on! Crapping my pants I carefully stated to Mike that I thought I would have not enough fuel to get back. Mike turned to me and said “well, what you are going to do about it?” I replied “I’m going to land and check my tanks?” Mike replied “are you?” So I picked a spot in a farmer’s back yard, I did a quick recce (reconnaissance) and put her down. Mike jumped out and dipped the tanks for me. We had plenty of fuel to make it home. I passed my flight test that day. As PIC (Pilot In Command) I believe my decision to land is what made me pass. It’s amazing how nerves rattle your brain!
Biggest challenge and why? Sling! You no longer have a horizon as a visual reference! When Mike said it’s learning to fly all over again I didn’t really believe it could be that hard. My god it was frustrating. But just like hovering, something clicks and it becomes automatic.
How did you feel when you passed your flight test? Relieved! I’d spent a lot of money at that point. There is really a lot of pressure on a student pilot to perform. Very glad I could now concentrate on my efforts on finding a job. Getting paid to fly and not paying to fly!
What did you do after you left Beckers? I moved back to the Gold Coast and started dropping in at some places where there were helicopters. I went back to work for a little while so I could pay the rent, and planned to work at a chopper company on weekends.
With no luck, and getting frustrated I moved back to Victoria and set up an interview at a couple of places. No luck. I went back to work as a concreter to save some money for a trip I was planning to drive up and across Australia in search of work.
The same thing I was hearing from everyone is “it’s all about timing”.
I was making my way down to Phillip Island with my father for a unique car day … my Dad suggested I drop into Phillip Island Helicopters. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion but I did it anyway. I walked in and chatted with the Chief Pilot. Feeling under dressed I set up a formal meeting at a later date. A week later I was doing a 2 week trial for them. I then worked on weekends for free for about 3 months whilst still concreting until the day Phillip Island Helicopters rang me and informed they needed me to go up to Lake Eyre to fly their R44.
What are you doing now? Currently in Maree, SA. Flying scenic over Lake Eyre. Building around 25 hours a month and “living the dream” as Jimmy (James Orrom – former Theory Instructor and now Flight Instructor at Becker Helicopters) would say every day!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I see myself fighting fires, sucking water out of a local dam or swimming pool to douse a blaze. Or overseas somewhere in the snow fields or in a forest lifting logs! Only time will tell.
Advice or tips to those interested in learning to fly? Just enjoy the training while you can. You can do so much flying when you’re training, when you’re in the field it can be so inconsistent.
It’s not feasible to be paying for flying when you’re looking for work because you miss flying so much. Everyone’s journey is different and it can take a while to see some time in the air in your first paying job.
Advice to those looking for work? Don’t send emails, don’t send resumes! If you’re not the attachment don’t bother. Face value is everything. Look smart, clean and be confident. If you feel you’re really struggling don’t beat yourself up, just keep at it.
As much as I hate to say it, it’s all about timing! Put yourself out there, for free if you have to, it seems wrong but if you want the job suck it up. It’s the norm in this industry for junior pilots.
The biggest advice, don’t move around too much. Find a company and stick at it. Whether you call them twice a week, bug them on weekends in person or even every day. Just show you’re keen. Sure they’ll tell you first off they don’t need you, and they probably don’t, but show that when they do need you, you will be there, ready and rearing to go!
Final words? Welcome to aviation! Happy flying and remember … if it don’t hover, don’t bother!