Mission Aviation Fellowship

Helicentre’s ‘flying’ operations start at London Oxford Airport

Helicentre is starting flying training from its new London Oxford Airport (LOA) base this month. Leicester Airport-headquartered Helicentre opened its satellite operation at LOA last year, commencing operations with a simulator hall housing an AW109 FNPT II MCC simulator. The CAA approved simulator is used to deliver procedural training towards the Multi Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR), as well as multi-engine type ratings and IR training in the aircraft.

Now the school is relocating some of its single engine piston Cabri G2 trainer fleet to LOA to deliver PPL(H) ab-initio training programmes, and will also be offering self-fly-hire packages and modular CPL(H) courses. According to Helicentre Head of Training, Sarah Bowen, the plan is to then introduce integrated CPL(H) training at LOA will be introduced in Spring 2024.

The airside LOA location also features a lecture room, additional classrooms, crew room, operations room and board room. With plenty of space to grow the operation, and with no other rotary flight training taking place at Oxford, the next logical step was to move some of Helicentre’s training fleet to LOA and start offering ab-initio training.

In terms of job prospects in the rotary sector, the academy claims that it’s busier than ever with students frequently being tagged by future employers at CPL(H) stage, who are then often sponsored through the final part of their training, the MEIR, saving around £70,000 in the process.

Concerning the cost of commercial pilot training in the rotary sector, Helicentre provides a circa 12-month CPL(H) integrated training programme at a cost that is roughly on a par with the cost of an ATPL fixed-wing training programme albeit without the MEIR. That said, given that pretty much all rotary employers cover the cost of their employees’ aircraft type ratings, while a fair number of airlines require their pilots to self-fund their type rating, the costs are comparable.

Also mirroring the fixed-wing world is a growing shortage of instructors in the rotary flight training sector. Helicentre accounts for this by training flight instructors (FIs) inhouse under a sponsorship scheme they have been running for more than ten years, alongside their regular CPL(H) scholarships, which are currently open for applications.

These sponsored FIs generally work for around two years with Helicentre, before securing routes into other sectors like HEMS, Offshore Energy, search & rescue, utility companies, etc, and progressing on to commercial flight ops.

This means that it is possible, and according to the academy has been done more than once, for someone to self-fund their PPL(H) and then be selected for a CPL(H) scholarship, before being sponsored to become an FI, and then recruited by a commercial helicopter operation, who may fund the MEIR and as well as the type rating, effectively going from zero to commercial pilot/instructor for the cost of a PPL.

Image accredited to Helicentre.

Author: FTN Editor

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