This month we look at the benefits of flying in Winter, we congratulate Wing and Gray on completing their Instructor ratings, and investigate flying around mountains.
A big congratulations to Wing and Gray for passing their Instructor flight test!
As of mid June, our two new Instructors Wing and Gray can be booked in for lessons. The road to gaining an Instructor rating can be challenging, we give full props to our hard working staff for completing the course and adding to their skill set.
We also have a few students to congratulate this month for completing their Commercial Pilot Licence.
Congratulations to Michael and Haughton (left), two of Australia's newest Commercial pilots.
In June, Haughton successfully completed his commercial licence. When asked to describe his training he gave us some lovely feedback.
"Training was smooth sailing. I felt like I was at home at Melbourne Heli and it was easy to be enthusiastic. There's never a dull moment here.
Haughton plans to head home to New Zealand soon to scope out job opportunities.
Michael started with Melbourne Heli at the beginning of the year and went for his final flight test at the end of July, having made it at a great pace. We're so proud to have two more little birds leave the nest.
Winter offers us some often overlooked benefits. Yes it's cold and windy and most of us would much rather be next to an open fire with glass of good red, but flying in winter gives us opportunities to develop skills that we may not be able to over summer months.
As much as we love those sunshine filled days, bad weather conditions will always be around the corner. Exposing pilots to showers, windy conditions, and low visibility in their training with an instructor standing by is arguably the safest time. The ability to read weather situations and make sound judgment calls early on with a trainer will help new pilots prepare in a way that fine weather simply cannot; plus you get really good at deciphering the weather forecast. This is a vital part of training as there will be situations where pilots need to make difficult decisions based on the weather.
Winter is the quiet season when it comes to flying, often we'll see clear skies and empty airfields. Whilst it's necessary to train with traffic, having a clear airfield for new pilots can be beneficial when practicing manoeuvring as there's less distractions.
Flying in Winter is more comfortable. Whilst this sounds counterintuitive considering it's typically 10 degrees outside, there's a few things that make this so. It's a smoother ride for instance as there's less updrafts in winter; radiation from the sun is less intense, thereby lowering the possibility of thermals boosting the helicopter mid-flight. When the temperature is cooler, air molecules hang closer together creating a denser environment for the helicopters to fly through, thus improving performance and control. Finally there's heaters. In summer, unless the helicopter has air conditioning, it can get pretty toasty in the cockpit. We much prefer warming up in a cold helicopter.
If these aren't reasons enough to look forward to, our Instructors are far less grumpy in Winter. We put it down to the comfort, and an excuse to eat biscuits and drink more tea.
The Job market
So you've completed your final flight test. You've sighed the greatest sigh of relief, had the celebratory champaigne, and slept for a good month straight. What now? We thought we'd shed some light on the best approach to finding work for new pilots.
An important factor to consider is your ability to travel. Initially pilots may need to fly in rural areas, or other states until they have the requisite experience to join companies based in larger cities.
The most effective approach we believe is to put on your best dress and head in for some face to face time with prospective employers. The staff have an understanding of who you are in person, and appreciate the effort put into visiting them. The contact would likely put you ahead of any emailed applications they may have received. An added bonus of course is you get to go on a road trip.
Aside from your pilot training, it's worth having prior knowledge about the company you intend to visit. What are their operations? What machines do they fly? What are their regular routes and the airspace surrounding them? Researching the company shows interest and enthusiasm and will leave you well prepared in an interview.
As new pilots, the level of flight experience will be more or less the same for all applying. It can help to present employers with other skills and previous experience you've gained. There's a fair amount of small companies in Australia and often pilots have a few roles within a company, your experience may be just what they're looking for.
Study Corner: Mechanical Turbulence and Mountain Waves
This may seem like an odd topic, considering Australia isn't exactly known for having mountains. We do in fact have one of the largest mountain ranges on earth, the mountains are just a little shorter than average. These regions present us with two types of potentially serious weather conditions, Mechanical Turbulence and Mountain Waves. We encounter them predominantly in the South East of the continent, amongst the Great Dividing Range.
Mechanical Turbulence presents as disrupted air on the lee side of a mountain (the side of the mountain opposite to where the wind hits it). To understand the effect it helps to imagine the air as liquid. Picture the flow of smooth water as it comes into contact with a still object, like an ocean tide coming onto the beach and passing around the rocks on the sand. As water moves around the rock, surface drag causes it to become turbulent, sloshing around forming eddies and disrupting the flow. Mechanical Turbulence around mountains is much like this. As air passes around the lee side of the mountain it becomes disrupted, changing direction rapidly both vertically and laterally. The greater the wind speed in this situation the greater the disruption.
Mountain Waves differ from Mechanical Turbulence in that provided certain conditions are present, an undulating flow of air will form on the lee side instead of churning air. The conditions below are conducive to mountain waves.
wind flow almost at right angles to the mountain;
wind strength of at least 25 knots near the mountain top;
wind speed increasing with height;
an upper stable layer of air in between an unstable layer near the ground and another unstable or weakly stable layer above.
Mountain waves can be detected by the presence of rotor clouds on the lee side of the mountain, though these will only form if the humidity is sufficient on the day. Paying attention to conditions on the day and planning accordingly is the best way to avoid these dangers. Trekking mountain terrain will no doubt happen in your career, the best option is to fly on the upwind side of the mountain, or fly high enough to avoid any turbulence associated.