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Meet a Rotor Pro - Joshua Montour, Tampa Bay Aviation

Posted 35 days ago ago by Admin

What is your current position?
I currently work as the assistant chief helicopter pilot at Tampa Bay Aviation. Tampa Bay Aviation is the largest helicopter flight school in the area; we have four locations across the bay (KCLW, KPIE, KSPG, and KVDF). Tampa Bay Aviation offers Part 141 and Part  61 courses from private through CFI, and CFII and ATP Part 61. We also work with the VA, so we can accommodate veterans as well. We are one of the largest fixed-wing and helicopter flight schools on Florida’s west coast. I also work as a part-time ENG pilot for Sky Helicopters, and a part-time charter pilot and check airman for Skyway Aviation.

Tell me about your first experience with helicopters.
My first experience with helicopters was in the Navy, I was stationed with a strike-fighter squadron, VFA 94, and we were attached to the USS Carl Vinson CVN 70. I would see helicopters taking off and landing on the flight deck all the time between missions. I always thought helicopters were amazing, but I thought only military officers were allowed to fly helicopters.

 How did you get your start in the helicopter industry?
In the Navy, I was a plane captain on F-18 fighter jets. Part of my job was to set up the cockpit for the pilots. When I sat in that seat, I would dream of flying and how exhilarating it must be. I was always jealous of the pilots as they returned from their missions with a huge grin on their face. That made me wonder what they were doing that made them so happy.

When and how did you choose the helicopter industry? Or did it choose you?
I guess you could say the helicopter industry chose me. I was getting out of the Navy and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my career. My wife found a brochure from a flight school and said, “You should go be a pilot.” I told her it was too expensive and there was no way. She mentioned they would take my GI Bill, so I called them and signed up! As it was getting closer to the start date, the school called me to confirm I was still interested.  I was! They then asked what airframe I wanted to fly. I was puzzled as I thought I was only allowed to fly airplanes. She said I could choose between airplanes and helicopters.

I asked, “What’s harder to learn?”
She answered, “Most people say helicopters are harder.”
“Sign me up for that,” I said.

Where did you get your start flying or maintaining professionally?
I got started right here with Tampa Bay Aviation. Throughout my training I never wanted to instruct, I thought it was too difficult and I didn’t feel like having someone else try to crash the helicopter with me in it. Once I started teaching, I fell in love with it. Helping someone achieve their goals brought more joy to me than I ever thought it would. People all around me  say getting paid to fly is the best thing ever. I disagree. Seeing your students’ face light up when the examiner tells them they passed, and thinking back over the journey you both went through to get to that moment is the best thing ever.

If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?
I would probably be doing wildland firefighting, I got my degree in land management, and I love being outdoors.

 What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
I take my boys fishing, on bike rides or just hang out with them at home. If it’s not the middle of the summer, we like to go to the beach and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Florida has to offer.

 What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
Passing my CFI students and watching them work for me to get their hours and then they go off to their dream jobs. Being able to see someone go from a green CFI to pursue their passion is a great achievement. As instructors, we have a lot more influence on our students than we realize. It is a huge responsibility to pass on the knowledge to younger generations on how to fly safely. Our students take after us more than we might think, so being safety conscious and professional is extremely important.

Have you ever had an “oh, crap” moment in helicopters?
I had a flight in central Florida and it was dark, overcast and lightly raining I departed from an off-airport location and immediately lost all reference, thankfully my training kicked in and I was able to rely on my instruments, but that was my first encounter outside of training flying solely on instruments, I was not in the clouds, but it was IFR, and that was eye-opening for me. Even though the weather doesn’t say it's IFR, it still can be very dangerous depending on your conditions.

 If you could give only one piece of advice to new pilots, mechanics, or support personnel, what would it be?
Keep flying the helicopter!! With all the technology being introduced into the cockpits these days I see pilots forget to fly the aircraft or fail to rely on their training, they are too busy looking down at their iPad or looking at the GPS unit that they forget to use their eyes to look outside the aircraft. Technology is great, don't get me wrong, but it should never replace our skill as a pilot. Technology should only enhance our skill.

In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?
I think the greatest challenge for the industry is us helicopter pilots. Yes, there is automation, drones, salaries, and those all play a role, but I think getting pilots into a safe mindset is still one of our greatest challenges. Every year we have so many helicopter fatalities, and while hindsight is always 20/20, a lot of these accidents could have been prevented if the pilot just said no to the flight. There is a feeling (and I have often felt the pressure of it) of needing to get the job done. We as pilots have a hard time saying no. We want to complete the mission, and unfortunately that can get us into trouble.

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