Becoming a Helicopter Pilot: Graduate Success Story

Group 3 Aviation helicopter pilot graduate Robert Satz is today a successful line pilot for Guardian Helicopters, a professional utility helicopter operator at Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, California. He’s living his dream because, as he shares, he never gave up on achieving it.

Robert took his first helicopter flight in 1992, a demonstration flight where he asked the instructor to show him what the helicopter could do.

“I spent the first 20 minutes sure I’d never get in a helicopter again, and the next 40 minutes falling in love,” he said. “I was hooked.”

Robert began flight training, but stopped after 30 hours of experience. He’d been researching the industry and felt he had little chance to find work after he’d completed his training. He instead went to work as an auto mechanic. But his heart never truly left helicopters. He stayed engaged in the industry, asking questions and attending the Helicopter Association International’s annual Heli-Expo.

Eight years later, he decided he’d make the leap for good. After researching many flight schools in California, he decided Group 3 Aviation was best fit for him.

“There are a number of good schools out there, and I took the time to visit and interview with them,” Robert said. “But it was the thoughtful and intelligent way the flight instructors at Group 3 Aviation answered my questions that made me choose this school.”

Robert completed his training, receiving his private, commercial, instrument and flight instructor ratings. He graduated on Oct. 1, 2000, and was hired by Group 3 Aviation the next day.

Under the guidance of the Group 3 Aviation owners and instructors who trained him, Robert built experience and skill as an instructor for 18 months while also achieving his instrument flight instructor rating before taking a summer seasonal position at Temsco Helicopters in Alaska.

At Temsco he received his turbine transition and through training in flying FAA Part 135 operations.

For the next several years Robert led the life of a helicopter pilot, going where the job took him. He worked in Chicago flying news and private charter then went to Louisiana to fly offshore oil support. With each job came more experience in different helicopters and flying conditions, each one making him a better and more skilled pilot.

In 2014, as the oil industry began to experience an economic downturn, Robert went back to flight school to receive long-line training in hopes of landing a utility flying position, preferably in fire fighting.

As luck would have it, after receiving long-line training, he sent out resumes to several operators, including Guardian Helicopters. Guardian is neighbors with Group 3 Aviation and Robert had become casual acquaintances with Guardian’s owner while he worked at Group 3 Aviation.

Within the week, Robert received a call for an interview.

“I couldn’t believe it in the end,” Robert said. “I knew you’d travel around a lot as a pilot, but I didn’t expect I’d land a job minutes from my house at my own airport. And I’m doing the work I’d always wanted to do.”

Today, as a line pilot for Guardian Helicopters, Robert flies an exclusive use contract for multiple agencies assisting with fire fighting. In addition to fire suppression, he also supports fire-fighting efforts by flying cargo and even short haul emergency medical extractions.

“My advice to anyone looking to become a helicopter pilot is to never give up on your dreams,” he says. “Network, go where you can get work, keep a positive attitude on the job, and stay dedicated. I started flying when I was 28 and now I’m 53. I never gave up. Every job I had along the way got me here.”

If you’re interested in learning more about a career as a helicopter pilot, give us a call and consider taking your first demo flight to see what it is all about. We look forward to hearing from you!

5 Perfect Adventure Gifts for the Holidays

Looking for the perfect gift of adventure you know will be used and loved this holiday season? Give the adventure gift of helicopter flight as an experience your loved one will never forget. Here at Group 3 Aviation, we have a number of unique and unforgettable options, and we offer gift certificates for them all so the flight can be booked anytime.

  1. Private hilltop picnic in Malibu and helicopter tour

For the perfect pairing of adventure and solitude, consider a Malibu Peak picnic landing and helicopter tour. On this special trip, you can choose morning, afternoon or evening and we’ll cater accordingly. In a morning flight, we’ll whisk your gift recipient and up to two additional people off to our exclusive Malibu Peak landing site where they can enjoy coffee or mimosas and pastries before heading out for a special tour of the coast and Hollywood on the return trip. Our early evening trip includes wine or champagne, cheeses and other tasty treats, and a view of the sunset before taking the tour.

All tours include 30 minutes to enjoy the view and solitude of our grassy pad. Want to increase the adventure? We can add a longer Grand Tour after the private landing to make it the ultimate gift of adventure. Prices start at $380 per person.

  1. Helicopter ride and wine tasting

Pair wine and adventure with a flight for two people from Van Nuys to Santa Ynez for a private tasting tour with Sustainable Wines. After being swept away by helicopter, enjoy a private four-hour tasting tour around Santa Ynez, visiting vineyards and tasting wines based on the tastes of your gift recipient, before flying back home. This whole day adventure includes helicopter flight, private tasting tour for two, and transportation by one of Sustainable Wine’s own owners in a Tesla Model X SUV. The price for this package is $3,070.

  1. Evening Helicopter tour and dinner for two

If your loved one is an avid aviation buff, consider our fly and dine experience. We’ve partnered with the famous 94th Aero Squadron to offer dinner and a view to be remembered. Decorated with World War I and World War II memorabilia, the 94th Aero Squadron offers sweeping views of Van Nuys Airport and wide range of lunch and dinner selections specializing in prime steaks and fresh seafood entrees. Our fly and dine experience begins at the restaurant where our Group 3 Aviation driver meets your gift recipient and friend and shuttles them to the helicopter for a helicopter tour of their choice. Upon landing, we’ll bring them back to the restaurant where they’ll enjoy a delicious meal and reminisce about their flight. Prices start at $735 for two.

  1. Helicopter tour of your choice

For something a little less grand, yet no less memorable, we also offer a number of tours from Van Nuys Airport (ranging from $150 per person), including our Hooray for Hollywood, Hollywood and the Beach, California Coast and Canyons, Valleywood and Grand tours. Give the gift of a higher perspective of Los Angeles. Our tours are great for sightseeing visitors, natives to Los Angeles who’ve wanted to see the sights a new way, and even photographers looking to capture that unique shot. A gift certificate for a helicopter tour can be used anytime of the year.

  1. A first helicopter pilot lesson

helicopter pilot training

For a truly once in a lifetime experience, why not give the give of being a helicopter pilot for a day with a first helicopter flying lesson. We’ll provide a quick introduction to helicopter flight talk, then go out to the aircraft and fly. Your gift recipient will take the controls of a helicopter, learning to fly, climb, descend, take off, land, and the king of all helicopter skills, hover. Who knows, you may spark the next big career move! Introductory flights start at $450 and include 60 minutes of hands-on flight training that count toward an FAA pilot certificate and logbook to log that hour. If you’d like to go along, we can take up to two additional people in the R44 for $610 total.

Don’t go for a gift that might end up in the closet or garage. Give the gift of adventure this holiday season. We provide gift certificates for all of these adventures and can take a credit card over the phone to mail the certificate to the person of your choice. Call us at 818-994-9376 to learn more or email us at cl@group3aviation.com. We look forward to talking to you!

Giving Back to Our Community

Here at Group 3 Aviation, as a family-owned business for more than 20 years, we believe deeply in giving back to our community. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our favorite charities and encourage your to consider giving to a cause that moves you.

MEND

Since opening its doors in the 1970s, MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) has been transforming the lives of the neediest residents of the San Fernando Valley – poor children and their struggling families. More than 94 percent of the support and donations they receive goes toward providing emergency food, clothing, job training and placement assistance, English as a Second Language classes, youth activities, a Christmas program, and medical, vision and dental care.

MEND is located just across the street from the runway at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, Calif., making it the perfect location to watch Santa arrive by helicopter. For many years now we’ve donated our time and helicopter to bring St. Nick in to visit families at MEND for their extremely popular Christmas Program.

From across the runway, eager young faces watch in anticipation as we fly by MEND and orbit so Santa can wave down to the crowd. When we land, he waves again before getting into a red Cadillac and is chauffeured to MEND where he greets the kids, poses for photos and gives out gifts. Seeing the magic and light of the season in each of those young faces is priceless.

If you’re looking for a good local charity this season, a donation or volunteering for MEND has immediate positive effects on people here in our community.

And if you’re around this Saturday, Dec. 10, stop by MEND to see us bring Santa in for his annual visit!

California Wildlife Center

The California Wildlife Center (CWC) provides emergency care, medical treatment, and rehabilitation to sick, injured, and orphaned California native wild animals throughout Los Angeles and Southern Ventura Counties.

Serving more than 4,300 animals annually from sea lions and seals to songbirds and coyotes, CWC has cared for more than 44,000 animals since it opened in 1998 while staff and volunteers have responded to more than 30,000 calls every year about injured wildlife, coexisting with wild neighbors, and general wildlife questions.

Relying on donations to support operations, the center receives no sustaining funding from the government. Each year we make not only cash contributions to the CWC, but our owners have also donated volunteer hours to care for injured animals. We feel it is our solumn duty to do what we can to help our native animals thrive. They were here long before the large populations of people.

You can learn more about the CWC at their website and please consider helping protect injured and orphaned native California wildlife.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Dedicated animal lovers and believers in sharing our world, we’re deeply concerned about elephant and rhino poaching. With close friends living in Africa and having visited several times, we’ve seen the damage first hand and the devastation of orphaned elephants and rhinos.

We did a lot of research and determined the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was one of the best investments to help not only injured and orphaned elephants and rhinos, but also to help put an end to poaching.

This amazing organization runs a full nursery and recovery center for the animals while at the same time educating the community and operating mobile veterinarian units and a full arsenal, that includes airplanes and helicopters, to fight poaching in hopes of stopping poachers before the damage is done.

Every year we adopt orphaned elephants and send financial support to help bring an end to the decline of these magnificent animals at the hands of poachers.

If you’ve been wondering what you can do to help these animals, consider looking into the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It is money well spent.

However you choose to give back to your community this season, we encourage everyone to share their good fortune. It is truly better to give than receive. Happy Holidays!

Fly Above Thanksgiving Traffic with a Helicopter Charter

Traditionally the Thanksgiving holiday week is considered one of the busiest travel times of the year, and that fact isn’t lost on those who deal with gridlocked Los Angeles traffic and lines at SoCal airports. What if you could cut hours off your travel time? We can shorten your trip to the airport or even your SoCal destination with a helicopter charter.

Helicopter Charter to the Airport

Group 3 Aviation’s airport shuttle service is the most affordable in the Los Angeles basin. Using cost-effective and highly maintained Robinson R44 Raven II helicopters, we offer flights directly to SoCal’s major commercial airports, including LAX, Burbank, Ontario, Orange County and Long Beach.

While our home base is in Van Nuys, we offer pick up service from most regional airports in the Southland, and in some cases can even arrange private pick up from your private property.

And we’ll get you there so much faster. A flight from Van Nuys to LAX is only 20 minutes. Going to Long Beach? It’s only 25 minutes door to door. Orange County is a quick 40-minute flight, as opposed to hours on the freeway.

And our shuttle prices are per flight, not per seat, so go alone or bring along two others. It’s the same cost.

Helicopter Charter to your Destination

Let’s face it, simply crossing the Southland over Thanksgiving can take hours you’d rather spend with friends, family and food. Whether you’re headed to Santa Barbara, San Diego or even Las Vegas, we can get you there faster without the crowds, lines and security pat downs. Our helicopter charter service is the least expensive from our base of Van Nuys, but we’re willing to come to a small airport near you as well.

Our popular charter destinations include Santa Barbara (55-minute flight), San Diego (90-minute flight), and Palm Springs (80-minute flight).

Fly in comfort and security

Group 3 Aviation and all of our highly-qualified pilots are FAA Part 135 certified, meaning the FAA maintains an extra vigilant stance on our operations, requiring pilots, maintenance and operations to perform to a high standard for your safety. When you fly with us, you fly knowing you’re in the best hands, flying with a 20-year, family-owned helicopter company dedicated to service.

What you need to know before chartering

Other than sit back, relax and leave the work to us, here are a few quick things to know when chartering:

  • Helicopters by design are not suited for large amounts of luggage, but a small duffle bag per passenger (or small suitcase if two or fewer passengers are flying) is easily accommodated.
  • All prices are round-trip for the helicopter as the aircraft must return to base, but quoted times are one-way travel times. Should you require us to return to pick you up after your trip, the price is double. However, we do offer standby rates. Give us a call for an accurate standby quote based on your needs.
  • If an airport charges facility and landing fees, they’ll apply to the cost. Don’t worry, we’ll always inform you before hand.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re looking to get above the Thanksgiving travel mess, give us a call today and we’ll get you there with time to spare. We’re standing by 24/7 to book your flight at 818-994-9376.

Call today for an affordable helicopter charter to cut your travel time and get you there faster.

Small Business Saturday!

5% OFF ON SATURDAY!
Now there is even more reason for you to Shop Small® this holiday season!  On Saturday November 6th, receive 5% off any Group 3 Aviation Tour, Charter or Training Lesson.

SHOP SMALL, EARN BIG
You could earn 2X rewards* when you Shop Small with an eligible and enrolled American Express® Card at qualifying small merchants – like us! You will not earn 2X rewards on any bonus you may already enjoy with your Card, such as when you spend on certain types of purchases or at certain merchants.*

MARK YOUR CALENDARS
This special offer runs until Dec 31, so you can keep getting rewarded when you Shop Small for the things you love in the community you call home, all season long.

SHARE THE LOVE
It’s 2X the rewards and 2X the love. Don’t forget to share your favorite #ShopSmall finds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to help spread the Shop Small spirit!

Learn more about this limited-time offer at americanexpress.com/shopnow.

Thanks for your support,

Group 3 Aviation Staff

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Shop Small Offer AMEX terms and conditions

The Life-Saving Instrument Rating

A helicopter instrument rating, or IFR (instrument flight rules) rating is so much more than an opportunity to qualify for more helicopter jobs or lower insurance premiums. Quite simply, an IFR helicopter rating may very well save your life.

For many years, an IFR rating wasn’t required for pilots who didn’t actually fly under IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) in aircraft equipped to fly in the clouds. But the accident rate due to inadvertent IMC was high. Bad weather conditions would close in on pilots, trapping them with no outside visual clues or skills to safely exit. Many times these situations ended in tragedy.

Soon insurance companies and safety organizations began requiring IFR ratings for pilots, even if they were not flying aircraft equipped to fly in the clouds, in order to help reduce these accidents.

The honest truth is, the training received when working toward an IFR rating teaches you how to navigate by instruments alone, how to read the world of IFR charts, and how to use radio and GPS navigation without outside reference. IFR pilots gain a better three-dimensional understanding of their position and skill in navigating, making them better, and safer, pilots.

Instrument Helicopter Rating

While the cost of an IFR, or instrument rating, is a bit higher per hour due to the more specialized equipment in the aircraft, pilots at the beginning of their training can save thousands of dollars by incorporating their instrument rating into their commercial training.

A commercial helicopter rating from Group 3 Aviation (an FAA Part 141 flight school) requires 115 total hours. Our private pilot certificate requires a minimum of 35 hours. The difference in time between a private and commercial can be used to work toward an instrument rating. The cost difference is minimal compared to returning to school later in your career to pay the full cost of an instrument rating.

IFR Rating Requirements

At Group 3 Aviation, we provide IFR training in our Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter and our Frasca TruFlite Helicopter Flight Training Device. Students are required to receive 35 hours of flight instruction and 30 hours of ground school to receive an IFR rating. We recommend 21 hours in the R44 and 14 hours in the Frasca (which helps reduce the costs compared to receiving all flight instruction in the helicopter). Additionally, your flight instructor will provide you with 30 hours of ground school, assuring you’re familiar and comfortable with the navigating solely by instruments and fully knowledgeable of IFR rules and regulations.

Upon completion of your training, you’ll be recommended for your instrument rating. At that time you will take a written test, followed by an IFR practical test with an FAA-designated examiner who will both quiz you in a ground portion then fly with you to test your skill.

In the end, whether your goal is to fly for a living or simply for pleasure, you’ll not only experience the benefits of being a more marketable pilot and able to fly IFR-rated aircraft in the clouds, you’ll also have the peace of mind that you have the invaluable skill to safely navigate should you ever find yourself in IMC conditions.

FAA Test Prep Pays Off

If you needed a 70% to graduate in a whole new subject, you’d never dream of taking a final exam without cracking a single book on the subject or taking a course. The same should go for your FAA Knowledge Tests; especially the new Remote Pilot Certificate with Small UAS Rating.

Believe it or not, some do. We’ve been an FAA-approved Test Site for 18 years here at Group 3 Aviation. We’ve witnessed many students come in ready to take their tests. These are the folks that pass the first time, and often in record time. The tests really aren’t that difficult for those who know the material and are prepared.

However, we also see an alarmingly high number of folks arrive with no test preparation at all. Having taken a few flights, or even having flown a UAS for years, is still not enough to pass these comprehensive tests that are designed to prove your knowledge of the rules, regulations and penalties of breaking the rules, as well as the flight characteristics of the aircraft. Even for the Remote Pilot Certificate with Small UAS Rating, which some may think is an easy test, we continue to see people arrive unprepared and fail, costing them time (you must wait two weeks after failing the test to take it again) and the full price of a retest.

Proper FAA Test Prep

Often folks believe purchasing a test prep book, such as those offered by ASA, is enough to prepare for the test. If you are also receiving flight instruction and ground school in addition to studying books designed to fully immerse you in the topic while preparing with your test prep book, this can often provide the preparation you need.

However, if you’ve not been receiving instruction or taking ground school, the test prep is only a piece of the puzzle and should never be used in lieu of proper flight and ground school or self study. The test preps are designed to touch on important details as a refresher for information that could be asked on the test, and the practice questions may not be the ones on your test. They do not go into the depth needed to fully understand a subject and are certainly not designed to teach you everything you need to know to be a safe and responsible pilot, regardless of the aircraft you fly.

We encourage our own flight students to receive their ground and flight training prior to testing, not only so they gain a full working understanding of the material, but also to see how the rules and principles they’re learning are applied. This depth of understanding makes recalling the correct answer in a practical test very easy.

Test Prep for the Remote Pilot Certificate with Small UAS Rating

An instructor’s sign off isn’t required for this rating, leaving it open for anyone to test without proof of preparation. Sadly, we see a high percentage of first time test failures as a result.

In preparation for this test, we highly recommend students take the time to read the actual FAA documents and applicable parts of a private pilot book in addition to the test prep. By reading through these items, you gain an understanding of how the aviation environment works and why the rules are in place, making test taking easier and increasing the chances you’ll be a safer and more professional pilot. We’ve also provided a few hours of ground school on aviation charts, weather, aeronautical decision making, and the like to those who have requested it in order to properly prepare.

Here are the items we recommend testers review before arriving for the Remote Pilot Certificate with Small UAS Rating test:

The test covers the following topics, for which reading the above will prepare you:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures

Remember, every time you take the test, you pay again, and must wait 14 days. It’s well worth the time, and your future in aviation, to properly prepare yourself before taking any FAA Knowledge Test.

FAA Testing for UAS Rating Begins August 29

FAA begins UAS rating testing nationwide on Monday, August 29, 2016, for the new Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating.

Here is what you need to know to reserve your testing space and prepare for your test to receive your certificate, which will allow you to legally operate a small UAS (or drone) for commercial purposes.

Reserving a Testing Time

Our testing center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. That said, we do what we can to accommodate our customers and if demand is high, we will stay open beyond those hours and even offer a few Sundays.

To reserve your testing appointment, call us at 818-994-9376 or email us cl@group3aviation.com

Requirements to Take the Test

All applicants must be 14 years of age. If you’ve taken the test and failed, you must wait 14 days before you can take the test again. No proof of additional training is required to retest after a failure.

You must bring government issued photo identification with a permanent address listed (no P.O. boxes) to take the test. We describe all the accepted types of identification for U.S. citizens, resident aliens and citizens of other countries on our FAA Testing Page.

You must pay the testing fee. The written test for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating costs $170 if paying by credit card, $165 if paying cash. We offer a $10.00 discount off those prices for AOPA or EAA Members.

Preparing for your Test

While no endorsements are required for your test (you don’t need a flight instructor to sign you off to take it), it’s a good idea to come prepared. The FAA has stated the test will have 60 questions and you will have two hours to complete the test. You will need to receive a 70% to pass.

The FAA has outlined airman certification standards for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. Reading through those standards (found here) as well as the sample questions from the test will help prepare you in advance. Additionally, we highly recommend reading through the Advisory Circular 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which clearly outlines the rules and responsibilities of a UAS pilot in preparation. The FAA stated the test will cover the following topics:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures

It’s important to note the FAA has stated no ground school is required to take the knowledge test and no past training or courses taken will count toward your certificate. However, the FAA does encourage self-training, online training or taking a course to become familiar with the regulations.

Whatever you choose, be sure to study or prepare before the test, as a failure of the test requires you to take it again, repaying the fee. If you do fail the test, you’re allowed to take it again 14 days after your last attempt.

For more information on how to apply for your certificate, please visit our UAS Rating page.

Call now to reserve your testing appointment, 818-994-9376 or email us cl@group3aviation.com.

The New Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating

On June 21, the FAA approved new commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) rules that, among other things, announced a new Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating is required to fly a small UAS or drone for commercial purposes. If you’re looking to operate a UAS for hire, here is all you need to know to get started:

Applying for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating – New Pilots

New Pilots (people not currently holding an FAA-issued pilot certificate) must meet the following to qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam (a computerized written test) at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, such as Group 3 Aviation. To stay current, you’ll be required to pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months.

Once you’ve passed the Initial Knowledge Test, you then apply through the FAA’s online IACRA system. Once registered with IACRA, you will login with your username and password. Click on “Start New Application” and, 1) Application Type “Pilot”, 2) Certifications “Remote Pilot,” 3) “Other Path Information,” and 4) “Start Application.”

Continue through the application process and, when prompted, enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID you received when you passed your knowledge test. Please note, it takes about 48 hours for your test code to be recognized in the system once you pass the test so it is best to attempt to complete your application two days after you’ve passed the test.

Your application is submitted electronically and the TSA will automatically conduct a background check. You will receive a confirmation email once your application has completed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting process. The email will provide information that will allow you to log into the IACRA system and print a copy of the temporary certificate.

Applying for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating – Current Pilots

Current pilots (having had a biannual flight review within the last 24 months) who hold an FAA-issued pilot certificate other than student certificate are also required to apply for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. The knowledge test is not required for current pilots, but you must pass a recurrent online training course (Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451) every 24 months. That online training is already available at https://www.faasafety.gov. If you are not current, you have the choice of having a BFR or following the new pilot rules above.

Once completing the online training, pilots must fill out FAA Form 8710-13 (can be done through the online IACRA system) and bring it, with proof of the training and government issued photo identification, to a FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), airman certification representative (ACR), designated pilot examiner (DPE) or FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) for identity confirmation and signature. If you elect to work with the FSDO, ACR or DPE, you’ll leave with your temporary Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating from them. If you’re working with a CFI, you will be sent your certificate once the FSDO has signed it off and sent it to the FAA pilot registry office.

We have a DPE and CFIs here at Group 3 Aviation and are happy to help you with this step. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.

 

This of course is a quick overview of the process to get your new certificate. All details on how to apply the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating can be found on the FAA’s website here. The FAA has also published a list of Frequently Asked Questions here. It’s a good idea to closely review both pages before applying, whether you’re a new pilot or current pilot.

Reserving your spot for the Knowledge Test

The FAA Knowledge Test for this certificate will be available in August, however the exact date has yet to be determined. Here at our FAA-approved testing facility, we’ll be able to administer it immediately upon its availability.

We are currently taking names and numbers and will call people in the order we received your name as soon as we are able to take reservations for the test. Call us at 818-994-9376 or email us to get on the pre-reservation list for the knowledge test.

When showing up for your test, you must bring government issued photo identification.

The cost for the test at our testing center is $165, $10 off for AOPA and EAA members.

Preparing for the test

The FAA has outlined airman certification standards for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. Reading through those standards (found here) as well as the sample questions from the test will help prepare you in advance. Additionally, we highly recommend reading through the Advisory Circular 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which clearly outlines the rules and responsibilities of a UAS pilot in preparation. The FAA stated the test will cover the following topics:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures

It’s important to note the FAA has stated no ground school is required to take the knowledge test and no past training or courses taken will count toward your certificate. Be aware of predatory programs claiming their classes, online or in person, meet prerequisites for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating Knowledge Test. However, the FAA does encourage self-training, online training or taking a course to become familiar with the regulations.

Whatever you choose, be sure to study or prepare before the test, as a failure of the test requires you to take it again, repaying the fee. If you do fail the test, you’re allowed to take it again 14 days after your last attempt.

We will update this post as soon as we have a direct link to study materials from the FAA and we will post updates on our Facebook and Twitter account.

Whether you need to take your Knowledge Test or need a DPE or CFI to sign off on your new certificate, please give us a call. We’re here to help, and answer any questions we can.

Professional Tips: Aerial Photography with Helicopters

Nothing boosts the appeal of a photo like a change in perspective. Whether you’re a professional photographer, hobbyist, artist or social media maven looking for a way to boost links, shares and following, taking your photos from a whole new perspective is how you differentiate your work from the masses. And what better way to do that than from a helicopter?

Aerial Photography: Helicopter vs Drone

Hiring a helicopter to help you capture those unique shots is easy and affordable, while offering you all the flexibility you need for your project. We can fly doors on or off, allowing you to sit in the front or back, and are legally allowed to operate at a large altitude range. With a helicopter, you can bring a selection of cameras and lenses, allowing you flexibility in how you take your photos, and with the speed of a helicopter, you can shoot several subjects in the same flight, saving your own valuable time.

Drones, while they can be useful for specific needs, do have their limitations. Regulations require drone operators be FAA-licensed pilots and the drone cannot fly above 400 feet, if you’re using your photos for commercial gain. And a blog or website where you make money on ads and by sending followers from your social media is considered commercial gain. Be sure to confirm the drone pilot is licensed to avoid legal repercussions.

What’s more, most off-the-shelf drones carry wide-angle lens micro cameras like GoPro, limiting your control over the image. Higher end drones and camera gimbals designed to carry a professional camera sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and you’re still limited by the FAA-imposed 400-foot altitude.

Hiring a Group 3 Aviation helicopter for your aerial photography means you can bring all your cameras, pick your altitude, let us know how long you can fly, and leave the rest to us.

Group 3 Aviation’s R44 Helicopter

Our R44 is the ideal aerial photography platform for serious photographers. First, it is less expensive than a larger aircraft, allowing you to get the most out of your shooting investment. With your choice of seats to shoot from and the ability for us to remove individual doors, it provides the ideal opportunity for you to get clear shots.

What’s more, the helicopter only has two blades and a tall mast, reducing chances a blade will end up in your photos.

Before every flight, you’ll meet with your pilot to go over what you’d like to capture from the helicopter and receive a safety brief. Your pilot will do everything allowed by FAA regulations and safety practices to help get your shot. However, the pilot is also responsible for assuring your safety and that of the flight. We’ll work with you to mitigate any concerns to help you get your photos safely and within legal requirements.

Tips for Ideal Helicopter Photography

Unlike shooting on the ground, there are some specific considerations when shooting from a helicopter. Here are some tips to assure you get the best out of your helicopter photography experience.

Timing
Consider the orientation of your subject and the time of day. If you’re shooting a mountain range or building facing west, afternoon or even golden hour may be the best time to fly. A fault line may show the best definition from the air mid-day, or if you’re going for dramatic effect, early morning or late evening to accentuate shadows, for example.

Camera settings
Aerial photographers regularly recommend shutter speeds between 1/500 and 1/1000. In calm conditions, 1/500 can be ideal. However, 1/1000 may be the best bet depending on your focal length. Longer focal length = faster shutter speeds. Think about focal length before the flight. A very wide focal length will make it difficult to keep parts of the helicopter, mainly the blades, out of the image. Shooting in burst mode can help increase chances some shots do not have blades. In most cases, f/5.6 will work fine, but, depending on focal length, be ready to switch to f/8 or f/11 to attain the brightness you desire. Auto settings sometimes work, but be ready to use manual modes to increase the chances of capturing the ideal shot.

Doors Off Safety
When the doors are off, an additional layer of safety is important. In flight it gets windy in the aircraft, and even cold. Dress appropriately by wearing practical layered clothing to stay warm, and tie your hair back if it isn’t too short to stay out of your eyes.

Also, when the doors are off, no loose items are allowed in the aircraft to prevent the risk of items falling out. Extra items that are not strapped down are often not allowed. Your cameras will need to be on straps around your neck, sunglasses will need neck straps if you choose to bring them, and if you bring a camera bag, it also needs to be secured. We also highly recommend bringing an empty memory card as you’ll not want to see a full one fly from the aircraft when you attempt to change it out mid-flight.

Book Today

We’re here 24/7 to help you book your ideal photo flight. Give us a call today to discuss what you’d like to capture and how we can help you do just that, all within your deadline and budget.

Change the perspective of your photographs by hiring a helicopter to capture aerial photography.