Company Name: Online Aviation Theory
Company Address: 1801/594 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
1) Can you tell us a little bit about your flying school and what training services do you provide?
Online Aviation Theory provides theory training for both aero plane and helicopters, for PPL, CPL and ATPL. (See attached information sheet)
2) What’s your personal history in the aviation industry?
When I was around five or six years old, I was most impressed with the way the tram conductors jumped on and off moving trams, and decided I wanted to be a tram conductor. This lasted until I saw an aeroplane fly overhead, and then I decided that being a pilot would be far more exciting than being a tram conductor.
That desire never left me, and when I left school after completing fourth form at the ripe old age of 14, I had to do something to fill in time until I was old enough to hold a pilot’s licence, so I joined Trans Australia Airline (now Qantas) as an apprentice aircraft engine mechanic in order to learn something about aircraft until I was old enough to fly them.
On my 16th birthday I took my first flight in a Tiger Moth, and after doing five hours I was told that my next flight would be solo (things happened a lot quicker then), but then disaster struck.
At that time there was a shortage of pilots, so the Government was paying half the cost of each lesson. This meant I was paying 30 shillings ($3) an hour and the government was paying the other 30 shillings, but as too many people were pulling out without finishing their licence, the Government changed the rules.
You then had to put a 100 pound bond down, and get your licence within 12 months. At this time I was a third year apprentice and could not afford it, I could put the bond down, or I could get my licence in 12 months, but not both.
My parents were not wealthy and I pleaded with them to cash in an insurance policy that they had on me which would have paid for the bond and left me to get the licence within the 12 month time frame, but they didn’t want me to be a pilot, they wanted me to be a bank teller, so they wouldn’t do it, so that was the end of me being a pilot.
I then applied to join the Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm as a pilot and passed all the entrance exams but failed the eye test, I couldn’t cross my eyes enough. The Navy specialist gave me exercises to do, and I walked around for the next 3 days watching an imaginary fly crawl up and down my nose. I then passed the eye test but that intake had closed, and before the next intake was due, they disbanded the Fleet Air Arm and by the time they re-activated it, I was married and no longer eligible.
At that time TAA had a small fleet of helicopters that were used for bush survey work and the city run between the Yarra Bank helipad and Essendon airport.
I was fascinated by these flying machines and spend every spare minute I could in the other hanger tinkering with them.
TAA sold their helicopter fleet just after I finished my apprenticeship, so I resigned and joined Ansett’s helicopter division, where I spent the next seven years as a licensed helicopter engineer.
During the first 4 or 5 years, I worked in every corner of Australia, working on Bell 47s, and then Ansett purchased a Sikorsky S-61 (a twin-engine – 28 passenger helicopter), to fly passengers from Proserpine in North Queensland out to Hayman Island, which they owned, and I moved to Proserpine with my family and spent the next two years there as the Base Engineer.
The resident Sikorsky tech rep took a liking to the way I worked and lined up a job for me with Sikorsky as a tech rep, so I decided to go back to Melbourne to spend the next six months with my parents before heading overseas to take up this new post.
Before leaving Proserpine, one of the passengers off the S-61 approached me and asked if I would rebuild an ex-navy Sycamore that they (Associated Helicopters) had purchased.
I told him I’d never seen a Sycamore let alone worked on one, but he said that didn’t matter as they had an engineer that was licensed on the type but didn’t have the time to rebuild it, so I said yes.
When I went down to Sydney to start the rebuild, I discovered that the engineer was not licensed, and had not done much work on the Sycamores when he was in the Navy.
They asked what it would take for me to get the necessary licences and rebuild it. I said I couldn’t do it in Sydney, but I would have a much better chance in Melbourne were I was known, so they put the chopper on the back of a truck and sent it down to Jayrow’s hangar in Melbourne.
Not knowing anything about the way to transport helicopters, they loaded onto a semi-trailer, and on the way down, the harsh truck suspension caused it to fall off the transport stand, which punctured the centre frame and dislodged the entire instrument panel, which broke 90% of the wiring and all the plumbing.
I had taken four weeks annual leave from Ansett to finish this project, and this did not look like a good start.
Four weeks later I had studied for, and passed the engine and airframe licences, and had the helicopter running.
They then asked me to come and join them as an engineer but I told them I was going overseas to work for Sikorsky and they asked what it would take to make me reconsider.
I asked for a wage equal to what Sikorsky were paying and they agreed. I then said if I was going to work in Sydney, I wanted my rent paid, and they agreed. I thought this was pretty good, so I told them I wanted to learn to fly. They asked if that was my last request, and I said “to be honest I can’t think of anything else to ask for” and they said “if that’s your last request you’ve got it”. And that’s how I became a helicopter pilot.
My best friend at the time, John Stanwix, who was one of the Ansett pilots, was working for Associated Helicopters and taught myself and another student in the two weeks that he had available before returning to Ansett as a Fixed Wing pilot (Ansett had sold their helicopter division at this time).
John lived at our place near Bankstown airport during this period, and we would drive out to Camden airport in the morning and jump into the Hughes 300 for the first lesson of the day. When we returned, John would remain in the helicopter, I would get out and Jerry, the other student, would jump in. When they came back it was a quick re-fuel and another hot changeover with me in the student’s seat again, with Jerry to follow for the fourth flight of the day when we returned.
When they came back from that flight I would have lunch ready for them and they would eat it while I re-fuelled the helicopter again, and then John was back into it again for another two or three flights.
Somehow John managed to keep this up until we were ready to go solo, which gave him a well deserved break.
After finishing our training, John went back to Ansett, and Jerry and I waited two weeks until an examiner could come up from Melbourne to do our flight tests.
It wasn’t until after I started instructing that I realised just how much John had achieved in such a short time.
The manager of Associated Helicopters then closed the company account with one cheque and disappeared into the wide blue yonder, never to be seen again.
I figured I owed them a lot, so I continued working for them for six months without pay. Although the owners of Associated Helicopters were millionaires, they refused to put any more money into the business and my Wife used to walk from supermarket to supermarket looking for bargains as our meagre funds diminished. We were forced to change rental accommodation twice during the six months when they let the rent get too far behind.
I was rebuilding a Hiller 12 C for a private owner at Bankstown airport when Bryce Killen, the owner of Helicopter Utilities, approached me and asked if I would work for them. I figured I’d paid my debt back to Associated helicopters, and agreed. I found out later that it was not my meagre flying skills they wanted, it was my license coverage on the Sikorsky 61, because they had just purchased one.
My first commercial flying job was a locust survey in central New South Wales in a Bell 47D1, my second job was in a 47 G3B1 in New Guinea (some introduction into helicopter flying), and then the Sikorsky arrived.
I reassembled it in Sydney and got their operation established for them in Darwin before leaving them to join Jayrow helicopters in Melbourne.
I worked for Jayrow for around seven years, working again in all corners of Australia, but this time as a pilot/engineer, I also worked in the Solomon Isles and ferried a H500 back from Honiara to Melbourne with my wife, but the highlight of my time with Jayrow was my two trips to the Antarctic.
In 1976 I joined the Victoria Police in order to set them up into helicopters.
During my time with the Police, I travelled to Italy, Germany, and France, evaluating helicopters for them, and then returned to France after selecting the Dauphin, to do the Engine, Airframe, Electrical, and Instrument courses. I then returned a few months later with my Wife and did the pilots course and the pre-purchase acceptance flights. The helicopter was air-freighted to Sydney where I reassembled it and then flew it back to Melbourne.
Some years later, when the bureaucracy was starting to wear me down, I purchased a Hughes 269B to start up a flying school as a means of getting out if the bureaucracy got too bad. I purchased the helicopter in Sydney, flew it to Melbourne, dismantled it and then completely rebuilt it in my garage at home with a lot of assistance from my son Brett.
I then started instructing part-time as Professional Helicopter Services.
My first student was my son, Brett, and two of the other early students were observers with the Police Air Wing.
When the two observers got their commercial licence, the Police cross hired the Hughes from me for traffic patrols with them flying it, so I purchased another one for the school.
After around seven years with the Police, the bureaucracy finally got too much for me, so I resigned in 1983 and started instructing full-time.
In the period between 1983 and 2007, PHS has grown from 2 Hughes 300’s to 2 Schweizer 300CBi’s, 5 R22’s, 3 Jet Rangers, 1 Long Ranger, and 1 BA Squirrel.
It is now time for me to slow down, so my son, Brett, is taking over the role of Managing Director/CEO and is managing the day to day operations of the Company, and I have assumed the role of Chairman, and although I am retaining the roles of Chief Pilot and Chief Flying Instructor for the time being, these moves will allow me a bit more leisure time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 99% of the entire Australian helicopter industry for the support they have given me personally, and for the reputation they given to Professional Helicopter Services. Without this support, we would not have been able to grow to where we are today.
3) How many and what types of aircraft are used in your school’s flight instruction program?
Theory training only
4) Can you describe the training process that takes place once someone starts their flying lessons at your school?
The student studies the course subject by subject by reading, looking and the animations, and listening to the audio version,
5) How do you think flying schools have changed in the past years?
This is a new way to learn the theory necessary to pass the exams that are a pre-requisite to becoming a pilot.
6) What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in their flying training?
Dedication and a desire to be the best they possibly can.
7) What is the single most valuable piece of advice that you could give a prospective student Pilot?
Learn as much as you can about the aircraft you are flying, and always know what you want to do, make sure you are doing what you want, and evaluate your performance after completing the task, whether it’s learning the theory, or doing the flying.
8.) What is the most rewarding part of working as a flying instructor?
Seeing someone succeed in something they were having trouble with.
9) What are your top tips to identify a top flying school? What should we look for in a flying training program?
Theory or training, are they aiming to teach you just enough to pass the test or are they looking to make you as good as you are capable of being. Ring people in the industry who are not in the training industry, and ask them what the school’s reputation is like.
10) What are some of the misconceptions about learning to fly?
You have to be extremely clever, and extremely well co-ordinated. Neither are true, you have to be dedicated and have a burning desire to be as good as you are able to be.
11) Now time to promote your flying school… and invite us to learn to fly at your flying school… !
Online Aviation Theory is the only course that can honestly say they cover every single item in the CASA syllabus, and you study at your pace. I am that confident of the value of the course that anyone who signs up and is not completely satisfied with what they get, can email me within 48 hours and get their money fully refunded.