Should I start with airplane lessons?

If you want to get licensed for both airplanes and helicopters, the cheapest path is to start with airplanes. If your passion is helicopters, start with and stick with helicopters. East Coast Aero Club has more than 30 rental airplanes and 20 airplane flight instructors.

What’s more fun, the airplane or the helicopter?

On a sunny day for sightseeing over downtown Boston or landing in the backyard of a local restaurant, the helicopter is more fun. If you want to get yourself and a dog to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for dinner, the speed and all-weather capability of a high-performance airplane make it more practical.

Are helicopters harder to fly than airplanes?

An airplane is stable. You can take your hands off the controls and the plane will fly itself for a minute or two. With a helicopter, the pilot makes minor subconscious adjustments with the controls constantly. The airplane looks easy, which is why passengers are never impressed, but landing precisely requires a lot of skill, as does flying in bad weather. The helicopter looks impossible, which is why passengers are so impressed, but people get helicopter licenses in about the same number of hours as airplane pilots.

How is the weather in Boston?

I did my helicopter flight instructor add-on training with East Coast Aero Club’s Paul Cantrell in December 2005/January 2006 (I was already an airplane instructor). We scheduled flights almost every morning at 7:00 am during these darkest months of the Boston winter and the weather was good enough that we flew nearly every scheduled flight. Boston weather can be frustrating and challenging, but unless you’re going to spend the rest of your aviation life in Arizona or Florida, it is valuable to get experience with real-world weather. Our graduates can fly with confidence anywhere in the world.

Can you train foreign students?

Yes. If you don’t already have a pilot’s certificate, you will need to register trough the TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program, a process that typically takes 2-3 weeks and is good for one calendar year afterward.

Would it be better to train in the Schweizer 300?

There are some good schools that offer training in the Schweizer 300, a forgiving and slow design that dates back to the mid-1950s. Schweizer produces only a fraction of the number of helicopters that Robinson builds. If you are ever going to rent a machine, get a flying job, or buy a personal helicopter, chances are that Robinson experience is what you will need. The Schweizer is arguably a better trainer than the twitchy two-seat Robinson R22, but the four-seat R44s at East Coast Aero Club are more stable and easier to fly than the Schweizer.

Would it be cheaper to train in the Robinson R22?

Frank Robinson will be the first to tell you that he did not design the R22 as a trainer and the machine lacks all of the characteristics that one would want in a trainer (see Philip’s Review of the R22 ). The R44 is a much safer and more stable trainer, which means that you’ll learn the required skills in fewer hours. The R22 is a perfectly nice machine for an experienced pilot to fly around for personal use, but due to its inherent training drawbacks, East Coast Aero Club has opted to not employ the R22 in its training fleet.

How many women fly helicopters?

At our airport, there are two professional female helicopter pilots. One does aerial photography missions and one flies a $12 million jet-powered helicopter for Boston Medflight, in the hangar next door. A 125 lb. female will almost always get hired ahead of a 200 lb. guy. Helicopters are always restricted on payload and the lighter body weight means 75 lbs. of additional revenue capacity. Corporate employers operate affirmative action programs and will typically hire a woman who meets the minimum FAA qualifications ahead of men with three times the experience. A woman can get to most aviation jobs 2-5 years sooner than a man. The Ninety-Nines offer flight training scholarships exclusively for women.

Can I do instrument training?

We are very well equipped to train pilots for the instrument rating and CFII. We took delivery of a factory-new R44 IFR trainer in October 2009. Our instructors have hundreds of hours of actual instrument time flying through clouds, either in instrument certified helicopters or in airplanes. You may also view our  helicopter instrument rating page for more details.

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