Southern Utah University Blog

First Experiences at a Helicopter Pilot Flight School

Posted: June 21, 2019 | Author: Jaidyn Crookston | Read Time: 9 minutes

My name is Jaidyn Crookston. I'm an English major at SUU with almost no experience in aviation. But now I'm a writer for the aviation program. Here I’m going to share my honest opinion about the program and aviation so that you can see what a non-aviation person experiences for the first time.

When I first began this job, I was a little intimidated by all the activity and noise that surrounds the aviation hangar. It is a hangar with loud aircraft, so I knew to expect some noise and chaos. However, I didn’t expect all the hustle and the busyness of the place. Everyone there is always busy with something and the hangar works as a well-oiled machine, always moving and finding ways to work around problems.

The people that I work with and everyone I have come into contact with have been amazing. Everyone is friendly and easy to talk to (although, some may appear a bit scary at first). I am a pretty shy person and don’t really like interacting with new people for extended amounts of time. However, everyone that I have met here have been so wonderful and fun to talk to, that I soon found myself getting over my shyness becoming more comfortable.

You can see how dedicated and invested each employee is in their work. As I spend more time in the marketing office, I hear so many conversations around me that prove this time and time again. Everyone here wants SUU Aviation to be the best of the best and to give each and every student the quality education he or she deserves. As I hear others discussing ideas for making this a reality and thinking of ways to improve the program, I can’t help but be proud to be a small part of this organization. I’ve never been in a room with so many individuals that truly care for a cause and for the good of those they are targeting. It is easy to see why SUU has risen to the top of the aviation field when you see everyone working hard to train and prepare each individual student for the future.

On my first day at the hangar I was given a tour. As a child, I spent a lot of time at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Roy, Utah, because that was one of my dad’s favorite places to take me and my sisters. Because of this, I wasn’t surprised or too overwhelmed when I entered the large hangar and saw multiple large airplanes. I imagine, though, that if I hadn’t had that exposure to giant aircraft as a kid, my jaw would have dropped in awe. The SUU Aviation hangars truly are a neat thing to see. There are a total of three hangars, with various aircraft in each one. Each hangar is unique and fun to tour.

The director of the aviation program, Mike Mower, is an amazing person. It is easy to see how much he cares about the program. He works hard day after day to make the aviation program the best it can be and to foster good relationships with companies in the industry and with other flight schools. However, Mike is not all work and no fun. In fact, most of the times I have spoken to him has been during or after a prank he was pulling on one of the employees. He is fun and loves to joke around, but when it comes down to it, he is the perfect person to take this program and turn it into the best flight school in the nation.

Because I am a writer for the program, I have had to learn about the aviation world. Before this job, I didn’t know much about aviation. Even though I spent a lot of time at the Aerospace Museum growing up, I usually walked around admiring the aircraft and picking out a favorite based on appearance rather than actually learning any information about the specific crafts. In high school I took an aerospace engineering class. So I know the major parts of an airplane and I can calculate the airspeed velocity (actually, no, I’ve definitely forgotten that by now). Other than that, I didn’t know very much about aviation in general and even less about the SUU program specifically.

At first, I wasn’t especially excited to learn so much about something I didn’t plan on going into as a future career. As I learned more and more about the program and found myself able to recite random facts, I gradually grew to look forward to learning more about aviation. This is a really cool industry. If I could, I would go back in time to tell my younger self not to give up her dream of being a pilot (which was actually a goal of mine for about six months).

My First Helicopter Flight

Due to a lot of scheduling conflicts and poor weather, it took a long time to get me my first flight in a helicopter. After working as an aviation writer for a couple of months, I was finally able to go on my first flight. This is abnormal, of course. Typically, a new student in the program will be flying in a helicopter within the first two weeks of class. Because I am not a student and didn’t have the luxury of being at the hangar all the time, I had to wait a while.  I didn’t mind, though, because I knew that once I got my flight, it would be so amazing that it wouldn’t matter how long it had taken me to get there.

And it was.

I went on my first flight late one evening with one of the student pilots who works in the marketing department. It was his first time flying instrument, so he was pretty nervous. Flying instrument means that he had to wear blacked out glasses that only allow him to look at the instruments in the control panel rather than seeing everything around him. His instructor was there and I sat in the back seat. I learned a lot by listening to what the instructor was saying, and was amazed at the gorgeous sunset and the beautiful view around me.

We were in one of the R44 Raven ll’s. We flew for about an hour, went as high as 8,000 feet and as fast as about 80 knots (or 92 mph). I’ll admit that I got a little sick to my stomach since I am prone to motion sickness, but other than that, the flight was amazing. Because I had nothing to compare it to, I thought the student pilot did great his first time flying instrument, which was confirmed by his instructor’s praise as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by how close the student and the instructor seemed to be. The instructor didn’t seem to be much older than the student himself, and it was clear that they were friends and got along well. When the student made a mistake, his instructor didn’t get angry or tell him how bad he was doing, he simply said something like, “Are you sure that’s what you should be doing?” or “Maybe try this.” Because of the instructor’s kind words and calm demeanor, I could see the student’s nervousness disappearing and him becoming more confident as he went along. I was really impressed by how well the instructor treated his student and how much respect his student clearly had for him. And from what I’ve heard, all the instructors at SUU Aviation are this way.

First Flight Simulator Experience

After one of the scheduling conflicts that resulted in my helicopter flight being cancelled, I had the opportunity to mess around with the flight simulator. The simulator is housed in a separate hangar than the aircraft, and when I first walked in, I was a little underwhelmed. All I saw was a computer, lots of wires, two helicopter seats with the appropriate gear, and a big white screen. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.

And then my boss, Robbie, turned the simulator on. It took a few minutes to warm up and be ready, but once I sat in the helicopter seat and the screen turned on, my breath was taken away. While not exactly realistic, the scene that surrounded me was very cool.

I got to fly around with the simulator for a while. At first, I had a very tough time getting the ‘helicopter’ to fly straight and not go spiralling towards the ground.  I finally got the hang of it and was able to keep the copter flying straight for at least five minutes without dying. Yippee. I was feeling super proud of myself until Robbie had me try hovering. After a battle with the aircraft that I quickly lost, I went spiralling down again and the simulation was over.

Flying is much harder than I expected. I mean, I knew that keeping control of a 2 ton machine while flying through the air would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how many small movements and tiny corrections make up flying a helicopter. When I first began the simulation, I was told to only use tiny corrections and to not move the stick very much. I didn’t quite believe that this would work and overcorrected more times than I could count.

So yes, flying a helicopter is difficult. Flying the simulator really opened my mind and helped me realize how amazing these pilots are. It takes so much work and dedication to learn to fly an aircraft safely and responsibly, which is exactly how SUU Aviation instructors teach their students to fly. SUU Aviation has one of the highest safety records in the industry, and takes each students’ safety training very seriously. After interacting with the staff and seeing how much they truly care about each student, I definitely believe that SUU Aviation is the best place on earth to go to flight school.

If you think you might be interested in becoming a helicopter pilot, I would highly recommend applying to this program. To help you decide if SUU Aviation is right for you, you can tour the facilities and take an intro flight. If you have any questions, be sure to call and get more information. Don’t hesitate to chase after your dreams, just go for it!


This was written by the SUU Aviation program. Learn more about Aviation and how to train to become a helicopter pilot or an airplane pilot.

Tags: Blog Aviation

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