A regular Rotorheads contributor and a previous winner of the FI(R)(Helicopter) Scholarship has written this helpful note for anyone thinking of applying this year.
The process is fairly straightforward - fill in the form carefully, and make sure it's in by the deadline.
It's also important that you do meet the criteria. If you have any questions about the process, then ring the GAPAN office and ask - you will get an answer from the horse's mouth, it's free, and it may save awkward moments later if you've not understood correctly.
I asked a previous instructor of mine to write a reference and that I'm sure helped enormously.
You need to provide two choices of training establishment. (Put some thought into that, as you'll be asked in the interview why you chose them.)
More important is that you don't feel excluded from applying - if you meet the criteria, age or sex isn't a factor. I was 40 when I applied, other winners have been older, others younger.
Do some research, Google is your friend. I spoke with two of the past three winners of the award to get hints and tips (thanks G and J). Work out what GAPAN is and what it does and, as with any interview, think about it well beforehand and plan answers - but be flexible and prepared to ‘think on your feet’ on the day.
There is only one FI(R)(Helicopter) Scholarship on offer, but on one occasion (not in my case) I understand there was nothing to choose between two candidates so one was funded 70% - it all depends on how it pans out on the day. In my case there were only THREE applicants!
Maybe they think it’s too good to be true. Wrong!
Maybe people think there’s no point in trying because there’ll be so many applications they’ve got no chance. Wrong again!
What is GAPAN looking for?
They want to see someone who's capable of passing the course, but more importantly someone who is committed to a career in helicopters which includes instructing. Since the FI rating formed a major part of my career plan for flying, I was able to present myself as such. If you just want to take the money, build the hours then run off to the North Sea, you might not get too far.
The interview itself lasts about 45 minutes. My 10 minute presentation was based on something I do at work, so no chance of getting pulled up by the interview panel about something they might know about. The rest of the interview was covered with the sort of questions you might expect - Why do you want to instruct? What makes a good instructor? What will you do if you are or are not successful? That sort of thing. Be open and honest.
I got a phone call when I was on the train back home from the GAPAN secretary (less than 3 hours after the interview) telling me I'd been awarded the scholarship.
The most immediate expense was a bottle of champagne - after all, GAPAN had just decided to pay for 30 hours instruction and one go at the FI test without any requirement to repay the money upon successful completion and my boss was fine with me taking 5 weeks off in the summer. Wouldn't you celebrate a bit?
Training Course and Test
I did my course at Helicopter Services, High Wycombe, partly for geographical reasons, mostly because Mike Green was running the course.
Others may fly elsewhere, but I think it says something that for the past three years, the winners of the award have all done their course there.
I also flew once with Leon Smith - I'd like to know how many other instructor students he tells about his first experience with a sheep in a field near Aylesbury!
I found that on top of the course pressures, I also self-induced pressure because of the sponsorship in that I didn't want to make an arse of myself by failing the test after having had so much confidence placed in my by complete strangers based on a 45 minute interview. So, 1st September saw me pass the flight test, and yet another bottle (or was it two) of bubbly.
Incidentally the way it works with paying is that the school invoices GAPAN directly – you never see a bill.
If you do go over the 30 hours, then do play fair and pay up without GAPAN having to ask. After all, for you to pay 0.5 or 1.0 compared to 30.0 is quite a significant saving!
My personal circumstances are such that I have to keep up the day job. However, I am now instructing on a semi-regular part-time basis (getting FI work coming up to the winter isn't too easy because demand slackens off) and the plan is to do a bit less IT and a bit more flying, changing the ratio as time goes on. As the year progresses I hope to be doing more as the weather improves, plus I may have some commercial work lined up as well. I may be wrong, but my thought is that FI work and commercial work feed off each other - without a student you can "play" and relax a bit to improve your own flying, and with a student you have to concentrate on technique so there's a positive feedback there.
Could I have done it without GAPAN's generous help?
Yes - but it would have been more difficult. If I hadn't won the scholarship I would have probably taken a career development loan this year or next - dependent on personal circumstances – and had a big debt to pay off.
The FI rating is one of the best ways to enable yourself to learn how to fly properly, especially if you're a low timer. (As an aside, one of the things taught to me on my course saved some embarrassment on the first instructional sortie I flew, but that's another story). But it's no small matter to have an organisation pay in the order of £12,000.
One of the side benefits (apart from the resultant free flying and all the women that go with helicopters ) is going to the Awards ceremony. All the other award winners are there, plus I met a variety of people from ex-military Test Pilots to round-the-world record holders - I could have spent ages chatting.
If you decide to apply this year, you've got nothing to lose - best of luck!
Perhaps the first lesson to be learnt from the above is:
Don't make the same mistake lots of people do by thinking there's no point in trying for one of GAPAN's scholarships.
And as a recipient of a GAPAN FI(R) scholarship a few years ago let me tell everyone that's it's one of the very few genuinly "no strings attached" things you'll find left in aviation.
The advice I'd give to you, if you're going to apply for the FI scholarship, is to take a long look at your reasons for doing so. If you're fresh from an integrated course with little in the way of hours or "captaincy" but see it as an hour building exercise to get that airline job then what could you offer to PPL training in a small flying club? The answer will be not a lot as you've never been out on your own in a "PPL" environment dropping into small grass fields for the proverbial cuppa and bacon sarnie. You need to know something about GA and have some of that magic stuff called airmanship, (ie experience,) before you can hope to provide a service to your student who's paying £140 an hour plus for every hour you log as P1
I'd been PPLing for 15 years before I did the CPL, 16 when I applied for the scholarship and had a thourougly enjoyable couple of summers instructing. I paid for my own instrument instructor course too.
Yes, the 100's of hours that went into my logbook helped when it came to getting my first airline job - but they need to be seen as a side benefit NOT the sole reason you apply.
Remember, it's a valuable gift so make sure you make proper use of it should you apply and gain one.
I know there have been some helpfull posts regarding this excellant oppotunity but does any one have any details on the sort of question they will ask at the interview and if there will be any Props/lecture aids available ??? Thanks in advance