Robinson Helicopter Safety Course

Sometime ago – I had the great opportunity to go through the Robinson Factory Course in Torrance – California.
If you are a helicopter pilot and have not had a chance to do it. It will be well worth your time.
Lots of great content with a very useful flight portion to follow. Learned a lot!!
In my opinion – this course should be mandatory for any helicopter pilot.

Private Pilot – Requirements and Times


Average Times

In general experience; average students take upto 60 hours of flight experience to be ready for the checkride. There are exceptions with longer time for training with gaps and shorter time for more frequent training (along with home study).

Basic Requirements And Times (as Required by the FAA)

Per FAR 61.109a:

  • 40 hours of flight time
    — 20 must be dual instruction,
    — 10 must be solo,
    — 10 may be either
  • 3 hours cross-country training
    — Landing > 50 nm from departure airport
  • 3 hours night training
    — Including 10 takeoffs, patterns, and landings at an airport and one cross-country flight (at least 50 n.m. away and then back)
  • 3 hours of instrument training (under the hood)
  • 3 Point solo of at least 150 n.m. total distance, with one segment being at least 50 n.m.
    — additional x-country time to add up to 5 hours

Private Pilot – Costs


The costs to become a private pilot will vary with person to person and the equipmentsplane used.

Here is a typical estimate for training in a Cessna 172. This is a more realistic estimate totalling upto 9300. It might be cheaper if you fly more frequently and are able to get the grasp of basic concepts quicker.

Ground Time @ 50$ /hr -> 20 hrs -> 1000
Flight Time & 120$ /hr  -> 30 hrs -> 3600
Instruction during flight-> 30 hrs -> 1500
Solo Rental                 -> 20 hrs -> 2400

Checkride                   -> 400
Books & Other Material-> 400

Optional Things (Nice HeadsetGPS) etc -> 500

Choosing a Flight School

Choosing a Flight School

Becoming a Pilot is challending and rewarding. The first step is to find the right place to learn and the perfect instructor. I will detail some of the important factors in this decision.

Cost – This is by far the most important factor. If you are not comfortable about the flight training prices than it is likely that you will never finish it. For instance; one of the flight school below charges less than 70$ (Alternate Air) for a flight hour in their Cessna 150 and the other over 87$ (Regal Air). You really need to be comfortable about their pricing and costs and the value they provide with it.

Finding the right instructor – Not only there are different types of students there are also different types of instructors. Talk to them first, go for a lesson or two and make sure that they are able to communicate to you. This is the second most critical thing. Most places will have a variety of instructors with a difference in their teaching style and communication method.

Location – There are two kinds of people going for flight training. One working on it as a part time hobby and the other pursuing it as their full time career.

For the former group; I suggest to find the airport closest to their place of work or living. For the most part; you are spending 5-10 hours a week on your flight training. If you are spending a lot of it driving to the airport then it really bites you at the end J

Environment – There are two aspects here. First is the difference between controlled and un-controlled airport. I would prefer learning at a controlled airport. It makes a pilot more comfortable in higher stress environment and easy to navigate and communicate. However, learning at an un-controlled airport does not jeopardize your learning experience. It mostly adds some time to your learning that you have to do later on.

As far as the other aspect is concerned; A nicer or okay facility is just a matter of choice for the most part.

Accessibility – Most people will rent planes from the place they learned to fly from. This is important to know if it is convenient to rent a plane later on and if the terms make sense. It is as important to learn to fly as to stay current.

Variety – If you are the learner type and want to experiment and learn new things then you want a place with variety. Some of the clubs offer just 2/4 seat trainers and others offer taildraggersfloats and other choices. This is mostly a long term thought.

School Costs Location Environment Accessibility Variety
BEFA Mid Range KRNT Controlled; Nice Facility Great; Online After Hour Access High (All Sorts of Planes)
Regal Air Mid Range KPAE Controlled; Nice Facility Okay; Need to dispatch planes Low (Very few types and mostly old planes)
Northway Aviation Mid Range KPAE Controlled; Nice Facility Okay; Need to dispatch planes Medium (Some Nice Planes)
Galvin High Range KBFI Controlled; Nice Facility Good Medium (Some Nice Planes; but not a whole variety)
Alternate Air Low Range Controlled; Not a real facility but it works. Good Low (Very few types and new planes)

Private Pilot – Single Engine Land


Private – SEL

Location – KTKI

Flying Club – Texins Flying Club

Costs – Less than 10 k

Plane (s) – Cessna 150

Instructor – Brian O’Neill

My Experience – I always wanted to learn to fly. While working at TI in Texas. I decided to check out the club. One flight and I was hooked. I ended up getting up my license in couple months. Brian was a great instructor and my plane was a old but well maintained of Cessna 150.

Things to do – Fly often and do your home work

Things to avoid – Fly without an organized learning plan and commitment. It is a hobby afterall but needs lot of work.

Instrument Rating


Private – IFR Rating

Location – KRNT

Flying Club – Boeing Employees Flying Club

Costs – A little over 10 k

Plane (s) – Cessna 172 (Various 172 trims)

Instructor – Jack Yager; Howard Wolvington

My Experience – This was by far the most difficult rating. I think that I also underestimated the amount of work required. Seattle weather is perfect for opportunities to fly in real instrument weather and fly often. It took me longer then I expected it to be 🙁 But neverthless a very rewarding experience.

Things to do – Get a good ground school course; Get Familiar with the GPS and don’t just focus on the instruments 🙂

Things to avoid – Jumping to the end too early. I encourage accelarated training but not rushed training.

Private Pilot – Single Engine Sea


Private – Single Engine Sea

Location – Kenmore Air Harbor

Flying Club – Kenmore Air

Costs – 1695 + CheckRide

Plane (s) – Super Cub

Instructor – Erin & (Need to remember the other Instructor Name)

My Experience – This was the most fun rating ever. Landing on water is a great experience. Especially, the beautiful northwest provides a lot of beautiful opportunities to learn and land a seaplane. Its just amazing.

Things to do – Use it as a BFR opportunity and enjoy it completly.

Things to avoid – Don’t ignore common sense. This rating is about using the nature cues and wind.

Commercial Engine – SEL


Commercial – SEL

Location – KPAE

Flying Club – Regal Air

Costs – Did not keep a record

Plane (s) – Mooney

Instructor – Brian Welt

My Experience – I consider this as a major step to learn a plane better and improve proficiency and knowledge of the real life maneouvers. For instance; power off landing is real potential and possibility and knowing the limits of the plane really helps. I highly recomend this rating to anyone in their aviation career.

Things to do – Learn the maneouver very well and have fun.

Things to avoid – Don’t focus on the instruments like your IFR rating.

Commercial Engine – Multi Engine Land


Commercial – MEL

Location – Arlington Municipal Airport (Arlington, TX)

Flying Club – Multi Engine Ratings

Costs – 1395 + Examiner + Living Expenses

Plane (s) – Beech Travel Air

Instructor – Glenn Evans

My Experience – Well, this gets me ready to make some real money in aviation:) So it was a great achievement. But overall, this place in Texas was a great place to learn and complete the rating in the defined time. I also got lucky because I got nice weather in Dallas when it was rainy and snowy in Seattle.

Things to do – Known the checklists. This a real complex plane and knowing the maneouvers and keeping calm is important.

Things to avoid – Don’t panic; fly the plane and execute on the checklists with +ve control.