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By George C. Larson

By George C. Larson

From our perspective in early 2009, the view of the helicopter industry is clearer as seen in the rearview mirror than through the windscreen in front. Behind us were some mighty good times, but it’s awfully difficult to make out what’s up ahead.

Offshore Training 

Time was when flying training schools in Florida, California, Arizona and other sunny climes in the southern United States were magnets for pilots seeking a professional career on the flight deck. And the World Aerospace Database (WAD) still lists far more training providers in North America than in any other region of the world. But excellent training can also be found far from these shores, as the accompanying list reveals.

Building a Library for Scheduling and Dispatch 

There’s still something to be said for ink on paper in the computer age. The printed page doesn’t need electricity, and it’s immune to viruses, among other virtues. Plus, some resources that are considered essential for schedulers and dispatchers simply are not available online. Which is not to say that for everyday operations the easy access to Internet-based references is not preferable. Hundreds of schedulers and dispatchers have already voted with their mice, and the Internet is the winner.

Dark Matter 

On the night of March 20, 2003, a U.S. Marine helicopter pilot named James Cox took off from Kuwait on a mission to destroy three border posts inside Iraq. Flying lead in a flight of four AH-1W Supercobras — known as “Snakes” to members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 — he was soon experiencing visibility of less than a half mile.

UAS: An Air Force for First Responders 

On May 4, 2007, a tornado of unimaginable force, measuring 1.7 miles wide, struck the small city of Greensburg, Kan., population 1,574, at 9:45 in the evening. It killed 11 people and shaved the top off any structure from about five feet on up, destroying 95 percent of the city.

Home Schooled 

Flight departments have to train their people constantly, and until online classrooms became a factor, training meant the department was down one or two people for the duration. Although not all training can be conducted digitally, whatever can be done on line tends to keep people close to their jobs and conserves time.

Per-Seat, On-Demand Persists 

There is no shortage of Monday morning quarterbacks with opinions about the reasons for the demise of DayJet, the Florida-based air taxi company that ceased operations in September 2008. But DayJet’s business model — the company called it “per-seat, on-demand” — has come in for scrutiny in the aftermath, and if that business model is flawed, as some believe, there may be lessons to be gleaned for the industry.

Scheduling in the Very Small Flight Department 

Let’s coin a definition right here: A very small flight department is one that operates from one to three aircraft with as many as five personnel. Arbitrary? Sure it is, and you’re certainly invited to keep reading if you have a couple more aircraft and people. The point is that in a very small setting resources are limited yet the workload is no different from the burden confronting larger organizations. And in this case, pilots are expected to manage the department and also fly the company’s trips. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on one without distractions from the other.

New Life for Old Birds 

Some repair and overhaul shops, sensing opportunity, are providing attractive package deals to turboprop owners and operators. By combining a scheduled heavy inspection with an avionics upgrade, a new interior and new paint — plus maybe an engine upgrade to boot — a shop can roll out the virtual equivalent of a new aircraft at a fraction of the factory cost.

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