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For those of us who have worked for various helicopter companies and endured the ever-expanding re-current syllabus of examinations, one of the questions most often posed amongst the crews is, “Who came up with some of these requirements?”


April 28, 2014
By Michael Bellamy

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For those of us who have worked for various helicopter companies and endured the ever-expanding re-current syllabus of examinations, one of the questions most often posed amongst the crews is, “Who came up with some of these requirements?”

The consensus is usually established that some of them were concocted by a desk jockey whose only reference was an expired copy of the Aircraft Flight Manual and an “Illustrated Parts” guide. Now, introduce the “Transportation of Dangerous Goods” into the conversation and the waitress will soon be arriving asking those at the table to please keep the noise down.

Having an intimate knowledge of the performance capabilities and limitations of each machine and demonstrating competency through an applied regimen of pertinent exams and flight tests is a valid requirement. The annual training objective is to provide assurances to Transport Canada (TC), the company, and clients that the pilot is competent and has the knowledge in place for the position for which he or she was hired. There are strict TC stipulations on requirements, but the syllabus is ultimately left to the charter company to determine and well it should.

The frustration arises when some aviation consultants submit their own unsupported criteria for additional requirements on training and operations. The rationale is that they are responsible for the safety and interests of the end user. I have never held much respect for a directive or a criticism that was preceded by the arbitrary “in my opinion.” This inexplicit observation serves more to embellish an invoice than contribute to safer operations especially when the author has little or no flying experience.

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Aircraft type and knowledge of a TC approved company operations manual is an absolute necessity and when training lectures are composed by a knowledgeable person this contributes to that end. The company chief pilot usually selects the draft on aircraft type and operations ensuring that questions are applicable.

As recipients, we can easily determine the author’s background as being familiar with charter and field operations or a proponent of useless knowledge. An example in rote learning that I can still remember from school days is that the Battle of Hastings which took place in 1066. After many decades, that knowledge, until now, has never found a useful purpose. Such a convoluted search for irrelevant facts and figures may lead the author to believe that he is contributing handsomely to operations when in fact, all it accomplishes is to lead a pilot away from pertinent research onto a frivolous quest.

Consulting companies who provide online instruction on myriad subjects are by far the worse contributors. Many offer generic training and electronically graded questionnaires that are often riddled with errors and re-surface annually with those same mistakes.

Perfunctory survival exams are frequently held to ridicule as they include such observations as, “A quail will fly to water in the morning and from the water at night.” No wait, or is it the other way around? Or how about instruction on how to dig an air tunnel so a campfire can breathe on the tundra in a howling wind? They don’t provide any further discussion as to what you are going to burn on that same windswept tundra or for what purpose – when in all likelihood – you are standing beside a disabled helicopter that will at least offer shelter.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act is an important writ of legislation, but the biennial qualification requirement for helicopter pilots is usually the only time that knowledge is ever called upon.

I commend companies that instruct pilots and engineers on specific dangerous goods which they will likely be asked to transport. Completing an online exam that asks you to search for the correct shipping separation between a package of radioactive isotopes and a refrigerated container of bull semen may, in their opinion, deem you qualified, but is just an absurd waste of time.

The helicopter industry has become incredibly diverse to where specific training and experience are a necessity and not interchangeable. Some consultants however feel qualified to render judgement and requirements without the inconvenience of having to gain operational knowledge. An independent audit is there to reaffirm that all TC’s standards are in place as well as unique customer requirements. A fastidious transcript of criticisms and petty recommendations only inspires derision and can only be held as contrary to safe and efficient operations.


A native of Spruce Grove, Alta., Michael Bellamy has been flying fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in a variety of capacities since 1971, and is an accomplished author of several books, including Crosswinds.


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