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The Airline Mistress…An Affair of Necessity

Posted 4 years 63 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a helicopter pilot requesting a Bell 407 transition course. He had been flying for the airlines and was recently furloughed. Once he arrived, we engaged in conversation about his transition to the airlines two years prior. He was hired by the airlines via the Rotory to Airline Group (RTAG) organization. Having been furloughed, his only option was to return to the helicopter industry. A job opportunity had opened in a Bell 407, and the transition course would provide the aircraft currency to be eligible.

We scheduled him into the refresher course which would be attended by another pilot as well. The other pilot in the refresher course was also applying for a position that required a Bell 407 transition. Her story was quite different as this course was the next step in a journey coming directly from a flight instructor position attempting to reach the next level in her career. Although each pilot did not know the other, their respective situations were similar.

On Day One of the course, each pilot realized they were applying for the same position. Although cordial, the air thickened in the classroom as the two realized they were the others competition.

Over the course of the day, subtle comments between them were more humorous than anything with each taking a jab at the other regarding their competing employment opportunity. However, a comment made me think about the similarities and differences regarding the employment situation between the two.

The flight instructor asked the furloughed airline pilot “why would you think its ok to leave the helicopter industry for greener pastures, only to come back when it doesn’t work out and take away opportunities from pilots like me”. Wow! If there ever was an elephant in the room to be identified, that was it.

The furloughed pilot expressed that he had never left the helicopter industry and was often flying helicopters during time off. His decision to go with RTAG was driven by retirement opportunities in the airlines that outpaced those available in the helicopter industry. Without question, his explanation was accurate and sensible.

This discussion got me thinking.

Is it fair for helicopter operators to give preference to RTAG pilots or non-RTAG pilots when their helicopter experience is similar?

I read a post that equated the airline industry to a helicopter pilots’ mistress and leaving the helicopter industry for such an opportunity the equivalent of cheating. Not sure I agree.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

About Randy:  Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is the owner/president of Helicopter Institute.