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Transitioning into an IFR Program

Posted 2 years 2 days ago ago by Admin

Hello Randy, quick question if I may.  I’m formerly the Director of Safety at MercyFlight in Central NY (Rochester/Syracuse), now I’m doing my Multi-Commercial fixed wing and CFI’s in Daytona Beach. My old program is going to be replacing 4 legacy BK-117's with new single engine IFR Leonardo 119's.  They will be phasing in the 4 new ships over a year to 18 months.  Is there a standard for when new platform training should occur so it isn't too far away from delivery ?  The concern is having crew take the training and have too much time pass.  It's common sense to do it close to delivery, just curious if there were any best practice documents, thesis, etc. that may have addressed the question.

           Hi John thanks for your question and it's a good one and one I had not considered.  The short answer is no, there is no standard that I am aware of for when new platform training should occur so it isn't too far away from the delivery of the aircraft.  I would hope that once delivery is taken, local training will begin to familiarize everyone again, that is, bring everyone up to speed on safely operating the machines in your area of operation.

A personal example was when I was flying in San Diego at UCSD's Life Flight program.  We took delivery of a Bell 222 to fly single pilot IFR from the rooftop helipad.  Our training at Flight Safety took place several months prior so when we took delivery of the aircraft we were allocated training time for we three pilots to become familiar with operating in our area.  One of the things we did on the air traffic side was invite all 200 air traffic controllers to a meeting in a conference room to let them know we were planning to operate IFR and what our procedures would be.  That meeting paid real dividends for the program.  But I would hope training would be allocated to bring the pilots up to speed on operating the new aircraft.  The medical crews too must be informed of how their operation will be changed by operating IFR in IMC conditions.  I remember the first time I flew in the clouds with my crewmembers who were used to being able to see outside and now they were seeing nothing but white during the day or pitch black at night.  I would recommend this: one of your pilots get all the crew members in a room and describe what an instrument approach looks like and how important a sterile cockpit is to a pilot flying in IMC conditions.  The workload can become quite high and any distraction of the pilot can have serious consequences.  I would suggest taking the transition nice and slow because the crews will be getting used to two important facets, one, operating a new, unfamiliar aircraft and two, operating in an IFR environment.  Take it nice and slow until everyone is comfortable with the new way of operating. 

Best of luck and I am so glad you guys are going to an IFR machine that, to me, the most safe option for any HEMS operation having done it both ways. 



           John, are you a pilot or medical person?

           I was a medical provider, a paramedic for 30 years (5 with MercyFlight), and I’m doing my fixed wing multi-commercial now for a possible 121 career from now till age 65.

 (I only served as medical provider and Director of Safety at MercyFlight.  I’ve never flown a helicopter)

           Understood.  Well just know that this transition for your pilots going from the BK to the glass cockpit 119's will be a huge leap for them and could take as much as 100 hours before they become comfortable (no matter what they tell you) so take it slow and have them do lots of training and have them shoot an approach any time they get the opportunity even on a bright sunny day.  It'll pay dividends when the weather isn't so good. Best of luck on your new career path.  I think there is a lot of opportunity for you there especially as people start traveling again. 

All the best,


About Randy:
Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM instructor for Oregon Aero. He may be contacted at [email protected].



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