The Importance of the Flight Environment in Helicopter Pilot Education

If you've been looking around at other helicopter flight schools, you might notice that most of them have one thing in common: they tend to be located in "sun belt" states like Florida, Texas, and California, where skies are blue most of the year. And yet here at Hillsboro, we pride ourselves on our location in the Pacific Northwest, where the weather tends to be, well, dramatic. How could this possibly be an advantage?
The first thing you need to understand is that sun belt flight schools choose their locations for their own operational efficiency, not for the benefit of their students. Sunny days allow them to run more students through the first stages of training, before those students learn to fly in instrument conditions, i.e., with low visibility. Those schools have to rely on simulators to create instrument flying conditions, while our students are learning in real weather -- the rain and fog that we call home.
This has a massive impact on the quality of the helicopter pilot education, and employers know it. We consistently hear back from employers that our students are better equipped to handle the real conditions that every helicopter pilot will face. In the real world, you'll need to take conditions into account when making your flight plans and not wait for sunny weather. As our Admissions team likes to say, "If you can fly here, you can fly anywhere." And isn't it your goal to be able to fly anywhere?
Better instrument training is one way that our flight environment contributes to better helicopter pilot education, but it's not the only way. Our dedicated helicopter flight school campus in Troutdale, OR sits directly between the busy airspace of Portland and the stunning Columbia River Gorge, considered one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Portland's proximity gives us our students crucial experience in flying in urban environments and landing on rooftop helipads, but the Gorge is truly something special. Besides the breathtaking scenery, the Gorge is also predominately public land, which gives our pilots a vast terrain in which to practice off-airport landings -- another critical skill you'll use over and over in your career.
To get a sense of why an off-airport landing is both an important skill and a good bit of fun, check out this video made by our instructor Phil Haupt.
If that's not enough to convince you that our flight environment is the best one for your helicopter pilot education, then consider this important non-educational factor: living in the Pacific Northwest is an absolute blast. As you know based on your own interest in a helicopter career, helicopter pilots tend to be adventurous types, and the Pac Northwest is ground zero for outdoor adventure. Just past your doorstep is an outdoor playground for those who love hiking, windsurfing, rock climbing, fishing, mountaineering, mountain biking and road cycling -- the list goes on and on. You're not going to spend all your time in the air or in the classroom, so come join us for the fun of it, and get the world's best helicopter pilot education in the process.