On “Aspiring” Helicopter Pilots

Get a clue.

Earlier this week, I pulled together clips from a two-hour flight between Phoenix and Page, AZ and made it into an eight-minute video set to some solo piano music. It’s not a masterpiece of video editing — hell, that isn’t what I do. It was just a way to create some fresh marketing material for Flying M Air using what I thought was some pretty awesome video footage from my flight.

I blogged about the trip and embedded the video here.

A Tiny Bit More about the Video

I need to make a few points about this video before I start my rant:

  • Route to PageThe purpose of the flight was not to make the video. The purpose of the flight was to get from Phoenix to Page as quickly as possible. My clients paid for two hours of flight time; every minute past that was being paid for out of my pocket. I flew nearly a straight line, as shown in this Google Earth plot created from actual GPS points. (I sometimes run a geologger while I fly; I happened to have it running that day.)
  • The primary purpose of the video was as a marketing tool. I had good, smooth footage of places I often fly. The lighting for some of the flight was excellent. The footage was representative of what a client might see while flying with me. Why not turn it into a marketing video?
  • The only footage in the entire video that I considered not including were the low flight clips over the Navajo reservation, including the clip where I fly between two buttes. The reason: it is not representative of what a client might experience when flying with me. Why? Because my Part 135 certificate requires me to maintain minimum altitudes of 300 feet AGL with passengers on board during a Part 135 flight. Coincidentally, this footage also documented some of the more exciting portions of the flight — 110 knots at low level isn’t exactly dull when you’re experiencing it.
  • The overall tone of the video is peaceful and serene. I was showing off beautiful scenery that floated by beneath us. The music seemed to work with it.

I shared the video on this blog (as mentioned earlier) and linked to it in a few places, including a social networking site for helicopter pilots. I got a lot of positive feedback that made me feel good.

Enter, the “Aspiring Pilot”

On the helicopter site, a lot of pilots complemented me. A few asked questions, which I answered. And then Dan (not his real name) commented:

I’ll still look like a little jerk, but god that that flight is boring. I dare not imagine the other 112 minutes. A helicopter is made for fun, caution kills the fun !!

I was immediately taken aback. I never intended the video to be exciting. Hell, if I made it too exciting, it would have raised all kinds of red flags with my contacts at the FAA. It was just a marketing video.

And then I started thinking about what the little jerk — hey, it was his self-applied label — had just said: “caution kills the fun!!” What kind of pilot would say such a thing?

I checked out his profile and it became clear. He was an “aspiring pilot.” In other words, he wasn’t a pilot at all.

Instead, he was an immature, idiotic wannabe.

I knew the type. They think flying helicopters is cool, mostly because of what they’ve seen in the movies. (I assume not the scenes where the helicopter explodes.) They’ve never been at the controls of a helicopter, they’ve never read anything about helicopter aerodynamics or maneuvers. They don’t know the first thing about flying helicopters. Maybe they’ve never even been close enough to a helicopter to touch it — let alone sit in one.

But they’re experts!

A helicopter is made for fun, caution kills the fun!!

They hang around helicopter forums, trying to fit in, trying to make cool comments that’ll score points with people they see as their peers. Instead, they just spout inane bullshit:

A helicopter is made for fun, caution kills the fun!!

The helicopter forums are full of little jerks like this — which is why you won’t find me on the helicopter forums. I have no patience for the kind of crap put out by wannabe helicopter pilots who haven’t got a clue about flying helicopters.

A helicopter is made for fun, caution kills the fun!!

Attention “aspiring pilots”: a helicopter is not “made for fun.” It’s a utility aircraft that can perform maneuvers and operate in situations impossible for an airplane. It is a complex piece of machinery. It takes real skill and knowledge to fly.

A lot more skill and knowledge than you’ll get playing with your Flight Simulator.

And caution? Well, that’s what keeps you alive so you can fly again tomorrow. It’s also what keeps your passengers alive so they can tell their friends about how great it was. It keeps your helicopter in one piece so its owner doesn’t take a huge financial hit. It keeps the FAA off your back so you keep your license. That’s what caution does.

Flying helicopters is serious business. It isn’t a game. Any pilot who doesn’t take flying seriously is a pilot I don’t want to see at the controls of an aircraft.

Wanna Be a Pilot?

Stop pretending and start studying.

And shut the hell up until you know what you’re talking about.

5 thoughts on “On “Aspiring” Helicopter Pilots

  1. Lack of caution kills the idiot. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about “Dan” hanging around in the forums for too much longer if he actually steps up and gets trained in a helicopter. Is that too morbid? haha!

    Awesome video, by the way!

  2. What an honor to appear on your blog, I’m so proud…

    First of all, english is not my first language. I think you understood what I wanted to say, but there may have been a misunderstanding. I’ll again share my “crap” with you, perhaps that will make laugh your readers.

    Thus yes, I’m not yet a “pilot”. But when I talk about helicopters, I know the subject.

    To answer your questions, I see helicopters every day, and touch them as often.
    Without wishing to sound pretentious, I know lots about helicopters, and I didn’t learn it in “the movies”. I do research in books and on internet, and question the pilots and mechanics I meet every day (not robinson crews!).
    I’ve already been at the controls of a helicopter, flying over landscapes more beautiful than those of your films, with excellent pilots, one of which is known worldwide.

    What I said about caution and fun is my way of thinking, this doesn’t make me an idiot. A live prudently can’t live. Without exaggerating the risks, I’d rather have a short life and intense, than a long monotonous life.

  3. ouch…feelin’ the bite in those words. I sometimes wonder if the aviation world really has the capability to produce a good flock of pilots (not just good sticks) as it is a pay to play industry. I recently started perusing some forums in my other career and was dissatisfied by the commentary going on there which makes me think its just the fakebook internet phenomenom that plagues us.

  4. @apiaguy
    Yes, I do get angry about the moron mentality when I encounter it.

    What I’ve seen on the helicopter forums is 90% know-it-alls who know nothing and like to pretend they do and 10% guys (mostly) trying to inject some reality. Every comment thread seems to degrade into bullshit under the feeding of the wannabes. Very discouraging and a huge waste of time. A few social networking sites have very little of that crap. RotorSpace.com is one; RobinsonHelicopter.org (the owner group) is another.

    It definitely IS the anonymous capabilities of these forums. You can sign up under any alias you like and pretend you’re someone you’re not. As long as there’s a valid e-mail address (which is kept private), you can get an account. And if you’re so offensive that you get banned, you just sign up for a new Gmail account and sign up for the forum as someone else. No accountability. People say whatever they want because they know that no one can call them on it.

    It’s a waste of time, but then again, the people who spend the most time on those forums are usually people who have plenty of time to waste.

  5. I do want to add that I believe all forums can be greatly improved by good comment moderation. Create a comment policy and then have someone (or multiple people, if necessary) enforce it. If the trolls’ comments never appear, no one can feed them. The end result: a more friendly, useful, and engaging community for the people who understand the benefits of sharing thoughts and ideas.

What do you think?