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Sep
28
2010

GOMER - Working in the Gulf of Mexico: Part1

Posted 10 years 305 days ago ago by Admin

Bristow line picArticle. photos, and video by Lyn Burks

I remember when I was a much younger helicopter pilot clawing my way up through the helicopter world, one airframe and one mission at a time. Training, ENG, Utility, EMS, Corporate, you know, the usual stuff. I recall the first time I saw the term GOMER on the Justhelicopters.com message board and thought, “what the heck is a GOMER?” Frankly, it doesn’t really sound all that cool!

So I did what every person who’s a glutton for punishment would do, I did the unthinkable. The unimaginable. I asked a question on the Justhelicopters.com message board. Not just any question though. A question so obvious and simple to the old salts who tend to frequent the message boards, that I was to be drawn and quartered for even asking it. According to many on the message board, the answer to my question was information that I should have been born knowing.

Naturally, not being one who is afraid of looking like a Gomer Pyle, I asked it anyway. What is a GOMER?

After closing my eyes and clicking the submit button, I awaited the wrath to come down from the heavens and for the crucifixion to begin. After a couple flaming replies and lame attempts at humor, came the answers I was looking for. Come to find out, GOMER is an acronym for pilots who fly in a very large sector of our industry. GOM stands for Gulf of Mexico, and GOM’ers are the pilots who fly there in support of the offshore oil industry.

Earlier this year, I spent four days with Bristow Group, formerly known as Air Logistics in the GOM learning a little something about GOM’ers.  As a side note to this diatribe, Bristow was formally changing the name from Air Logistics to Bristow Group during the week of my visit. While I was there, they were removing the sign from the building and began sanding the former name off the helicopters.

Bristow Group by the way is the largest offshore oil support helicopter operator in the world. In very short order I figured out that there is absolutely nothing typical about the people or the places in the GOM.  The purpose of this article and video supplement is to give the viewer a peek into the world of becoming and being a GOM’er. Additionally, we will share s92 picsome highlights of one of the largest helicopter operators on the planet, Bristow Group.

Location

Helicopter operators support the offshore oil industry from several bases scattered along the Gulf coasts of Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I spent most of my time in the area of New Iberia, Louisiana and the Galiano base, also known as GNO. Other bases that you may hear while talking shop, or in GOM’er vernacular, may include Venice, Patterson, Galveston, and Creole.

Nestled deep in the bayou country of Southern Louisiana there is not only a culture indigenous to the area (Cajuns) but also a subculture within the helicopter industry. As is the local culture, comparatively speaking, everything about the helicopter culture is different as well. The days are long, the pace is somewhat slower, and for the most part, the location is what some would consider austere. Of course, the notion of austere, really all depends on your perspective and what part of the planet you call home. It is a fact that most pilots flying in the GOM are not from there, nor do they live there. Most are commuters who travel from all over the country and work a variety of schedules. Despite the unique working conditions, many pilots not only excel in the GOM, but make an entire career of it.


Hiring Requirements

Traditionally, in the last decade leading up to 2008, the hiring requirements for most GOM operators would require a pilotcrewchange pic to hold a Commercial/Instrument and have at least 1000 hours PIC helicopter time. Thanks to changing oil prices, the collapse of Silverstate Helicopters (SSH) and an economy in recession, the hiring landscape seemed to change virtually overnight in late 2008. The cutbacks in other sectors of the industry as well as the demise of SSH caused the low to mid time pilot supply to swell. This “fattening” of the pilot pool allowed those GOM operators who were hiring to be a bit more picky in their selection process, which in turn led to an increase of the flight hour minimums to 1500 hours. Additionally, pilots who held an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate suddenly held a valuable commodity that gave them a competitive edge.

What Else Do They Look For?

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Jim Palmer, a 30+ year veteran of the offshore helicopter industry and hiring manager with Bristow Group. Jim had several pieces of advice and information for the GOM jobseeker.

Question: What is the general hiring process like for pilot candidates?

In general terms, candidates can expect a two day - four step process in their quest for employment.

  • Company Introduction
  • Written Exam
  • Flight Check
  • Oral Interview


Question: What are some of the common mistakes candidates make when they enter the hiring process?

Candidates need to come totally prepared for an in depth hiring process.  In addition to flying knowledge and skills, dress is a large part of the way that candidates are scrutinized. Mr. Palmer indicates that they see candidates dress in a variety of ways which range from suits to cargo shorts and flip-flops……if you can imagine that! He also indicated that quite often candidates bring incomplete logbooks and inadequate FAA documentation. Although some of these items may seem small, he says that these oversights can be an indication of how detail oriented a person may or may not be as a pilot when working for the company.

WATCH THE VIDEO on Justhelicopters.TV – For more images and Jim Palmer’s detailed interview comments aboutjhtv screenshot getting hired in the GOM.
 
STAY TUNED FOR MORE – Every month we will be adding to this series with continuing articles, pictures and video.

MORE TO COME - Training, Base Living, The Aircraft, Maintenance, Flight Following, Flying in the GOM