Curt Peredina: New FITS training syllabus Q&A
vtolblog – What got you interested in flying helicopters?
Curt – I was a fixed wing instructor and glider pilot for many years when the helicopter bug hit. I decided to take a helicopter lesson and immediately knew this was my passion. I was amazed with the versatility of the helicopter, and was doubly amazed by the perspective gained when flying a helicopter. I was used to viewing the world from 5000 feet – it was much different from 500 feet. I pursued every helicopter rating I could.
vtolblog – Do you remember when, where and what you did your first solo in?
Curt – I was 16 yrs old, it was a Cessna 150 in Nashua, NH. I had 11 hours and it was pretty exciting to be up there as a kid. It was also exciting to be a kid surrounded by adults at the flight school. Every person I met there was a great role model and helped me along. I wanted to be like my primary instructor, Ryan Tolman. My first helicopter solo was at Pepperell airport – and it was also exciting. That solo was in an R-22.
vtolblog – What is your favorite helicopter to fly? What is the one you wish you could fly?
Curt – My favorite helicopter is the Robinson R-44. Cheap to operate, fast, great handling and doesn’t really have any quirks. Looking to fly a larger ship like the S-76 or 92 mainly for the opportunity to do some instrument flying in a helicopter.
vtolblog – What are you currently employed doing in the helicopter industry?
Curt – Chief instructor at North Andover Flight Academy outside Boston Mass. Also employed as a charter pilot in a Piper Navajo.
vtolblog – What drove you to decide it was time to design a new syllabus for helicopter flight training?
Curt – When I was an instructor in Cirrus aircraft, I noticed the syllabus that was produced for Cirrus was far more advanced than anything I had ever come across in the helicopter world. There seemed to be 2 types of helicopter schools – the type that had no syllabus (unfortunately this is the type of school I learned at), and the type of school that had a 141 syllabus that focused entirely on maneuvers – most of the time never leaving the traffic pattern. My first helicopter CFI job exposed the weaknesses of the larger school helicopter training programs. I worked with instructors from larger schools and they had been outside the traffic pattern only a handful of times. They had absolutely no decision making skills when it came to weather, cross country, or even the most basic commercial operations such as photo flights. And this transferred to their students.
vtolblog – How does the new syllabus differ from those already in use in the training community?
Curt – The helicopter FITS syllabus gets the student away from the typical helicopter training environment – the traffic pattern, and introduces them to the same type of operations away from the airport. All the maneuvers that students typically learn within the traffic pattern are now taught within missions designed to put the student into situations they will be in when they become commercial pilots. Unlike other helicopter syllabus sequences, the FITS syllabus has 3 separate “strands” for the commercial student which can be covered in any order between each strand. Another different area is the post-lesson grading. The student grades the instructor on the same criteria the instructor uses to grade the student. The grading criteria is comprised of the maneuvers to be covered within the lesson as well as other mission tasks such as SRM and decision making skills. Another difference with FITS is instructor training. Our instructors who will be teaching FITS go through training designed to enhance their teaching skills (teaching them to follow the scenarios and what to introduce with each scenario), and also how to conduct “Learner Centered Grading” .
vtolblog – How does it compare with the fixed wing LOFT program?
Curt – It is similar to LOFT in the fact that is more operations oriented rather than strictly maneuver based, but it differs in the type of scenarios which it offers. LOFT is much more specific and designed to train CRM and find deficiencies in specialized line operations (airlines), where our FITS program teaches many different commercial operations in a more generalized fashion. Students will be exposed to many types of commercial helicopter operations as they fit into our Commercial Syllabus. Our FITS follows some basic principles of LOFT which include :
1. Proper briefing before the flight
2. Preflight planning, documents, and activities
3. Flight Segment
Within a FITS lesson each of the above LOFT principles are spelled out for the instructor. The FITS lesson includes the planning required by the Pilot In Training (PT), the Evaluation Criteria for the mission, the pertinent maneuvers which should be covered, and the required post flight actions. Our FITS lessons also include discussion of lesson specific NTSB accident cases, used to initiate “what could happen” discussion after the flight.
vtolblog – Will the new course material be designed for simulator use, real world flight training or both?
Curt – I originally designed it for flight only, but some of the lessons could be adapted to the simulator – specifically lessons in the Maneuvers Strand which focus on emergency procedures and autorotations.
vtolblog – Can you give some examples of what mission types and or scenarios it will be covering?
Curt – The FITS syllabus contains about a dozen scenarios ranging from search and rescue to power-line patrol. The first lesson is a photography flight, which is a great way to cover OGE hovering, LTE, the HV diagram, and other risk areas of photo flying. I’ve already exposed some of our students to this first FITS lesson, and they all agree that is a much more realistic way to learn.
vtolblog – When do you anticipate you will get your Part 141 approval?
Curt – We are in the final edits, and should be approved as a Part 141 Commercial TCO this month (January 2010). This will be the first Helicopter FITS syllabus.
vtolblog – Are there any other things you’d like to share?
Curt – We will be posting more about our FITS syllabus on our blog at http://www.northandoverflightacademy.com/blog/. Getting wider adoption of FITS principles from other schools will require constant communication of its advantages.
vtolblog – How did you hear about vtolblog.com?
Curt – Various helicopter forums, vtolblog seems to be the new place to get new news within the helicopter industry.
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