Learning to fly a helicopter is not for everyone. It is going to be incredibly different from almost anything you may have done before. Getting through the training may be the hardest thing you will ever do.
Your future as a helicopter pilot is something to be incredibly proud of. In these interviews, we aim to show you the varied people and backgrounds who are helicopter pilots.
This commercial pilot interview is with – Commercial Helicopter Pilot – Bill Bestic
How old when you decided to learn to fly a helicopter?
Too young to recall! Made the decision to commit when I was 46.
What led to this decision?
I’ve been in and around helicopters most of my life. I spent many years in the Army and much of that was being transported around, rappelling, fast-roping or parachuting out of, helicopters (‘Huey’, Blackhawk, Seahawk, Chinook etc). After my Army career, I went to med school and then worked on the NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter as the flight doctor for a few years flying in the back of the AW139, EC145 and later in the BK117 with CareFlight.
Once my kids had grown up, it was time for me to find a new hobby. With the insistence of my long-suffering first wife, I went for a TIF with Jeremy Matthewson at Bankstown Helicopters. I was immediately hooked!
How long did it take?
From TIF to my CPL flight test was about 14 months.
Where did you study? How did you choose that school?
For the flight training, I chose Bankstown Helicopters. Based on research I did into their safety and training record and on the recommendation of pilot colleagues from the Army and Rescue. It was an excellent choice. They have a strong safety culture led by Bill Miller and an outstanding team of instructors.
Did you study in a classroom or at home?
I studied at home.
Did you choose private or commercial license and why?
I chose a commercial licence on advice from Army and Rescue helicopter pilot friends who suggested you can never have too much knowledge when it comes to flight safety.
How did you pay for your study?
I was lucky enough to self fund through savings.
Which subject/s in the theory did you find most interesting?
I enjoyed them all, but probably Air Law was the most interesting to me, but perhaps not the most enjoyable at times!
Which subject/s in the theory did you find most difficult?
All had their challenges! I found Ops Performance and Planning the toughest, but had to re-sit General Knowledge and Air Law.
What aspects of the practical work were the most challenging?
What aspects of the practical work were the most enjoyable?
Solo flights, auto-rotations and confined space.
Are you working in the industry?
I no longer work on the rescue helicopter but work part time as a charter pilot for Bankstown Helicopters.
Do you have another job as well as flying?
Yes, I still work as a doctor based out of Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.
Do you recommend others learn to fly?
What are your flight plans for the future?
Keep on learning, and one day circumnavigate Australia.
Do you have any stories to tell about learning to fly?
How long do you have?
I remember Max (one of our guru instructors) pulling the circuit breaker on the instruments whilst I was reading the map and it took me an embarrassingly long time to finally check my instruments. I saw the fuel gauge was zero and had the immediate thought that I had run us out of fuel.
It was a lesson I never forgot and now scan instruments regularly…
Do you have a favourite helicopter you have flown and why?
I love them all! R66 is a treat though.
Which helicopter do you dream of flying but have not flown as yet?
Would love to have a fly of the MD500 one day.
Perhaps over Waikiki beach with Magnum PI theme song playing in the headset.
Flying is therapy! It’s also humbling, every time you think you’re all over it, something happens to remind you that there is a lot to learn.
The camaraderie amongst the pilots at Bankstown Helicopters keeps me coming back just as much as the flying. Even a day I don’t end up flying it worth the trip for the banter!
My most memorable flight so far has been flying the All Black coaching staff to Canberra by helicopter. It involved a lot of flight planning and I was lucky enough to have Max Tebbitt flying alongside me in another helicopter and leading the way.
For all other pilots, private or commercial – Heli Addiction would love to hear your story too. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org
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