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I need your advice regarding volunteering

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I need your advice regarding volunteering

Old 17th Jan 2013, 18:24
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: East Midlands, UK
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I need your advice regarding volunteering

As you may remember I explained a few days ago about the volunteering programme I was trialling. Well, here is an update.

I turned up today (Thursday) and it was snowy and foggy. Obviously there was no planes that would come in today. I met the pilots (the instructors) who were very friendly, but were bored due to the 4 days worth of snow stopping them from doing anything!

Then I was given a tour of the clubhouse and restaurant. We started the day doing odd jobs- cleaning the area of rubbish, dusting, cleaning toilets etc, the sort of stuff you do before opening.

Then I got some great news. The volunteers get to do the washing up... Okay I thought, i'll give it ago.

I washed a few cups up that had been used by the team at the airfield. As you may expect the restaurant was empty most of the day. I spent most of the day standing around waiting for stuff to wash up. I thought about what members of this forum said about getting more out of it than just the flying lessons. I had to wait in the restaurant and do odd jobs. I wasn't allowed to serve, I wasn't allowed to take food to tables, I wasn't allowed to clear tables. I had to wash up, and only wash up. So I spent about 4 hours standing at the sink waiting for things to come in to be washed up. Bearing in mind the restaurant was pretty empty (I'm talking about 1 person an hour, if that), I had a lot of waiting.

I had lunch and then went through to the club room. I played pool with one of the pilots (He was much better than me, and he put this down to his 4 days of non stop pool playing ). I had a chat to one of them, I asked things like do/ have any of you worked for an airline, what's it like instructing etc. and I found out some cool stuff.

Then I went back into the restaurant where there was a bit of washing up to do. I did the washing up. Up until this point it was mainly cups, saucers and cutlery I was washing. Then some plates came in and I realised how disgusting this job was. I didn't have gloves or anything, I had to scrap half eaten food into the bin then clean the dirty plates. I don't want to sound stuck up but I didn't enjoy it. There was cold food floating round the sink and everything, yuck.

So then the washing up starting to build up, and I was washing as fast as I could and filling up the drying board. Once it was full up I had to put the still wet glasses, plates etc in the right places just to clear more space.

I finished the shift at 3 and I was asked if I would like to continue with the scheme. I asked about field work & helping maintenance but the cafe manager said the pilots usually help with maintenance as they know what to do. He told me the volunteers only do the washing up, but if I showed that I wanted to improve (Improve on washing up?!) then I could be given more responsibility. This doesn't result in more flying hours per hour worked though, it just means you get more shifts. I can only do 4 shifts a week anyway so after I reach that point it won't be benefiting me any more.

My question to you is, is it really worth it? It it worth me doing a disgusting washing up job in the hope that a pilot might walk though and ask if I want to sit in the back seat. Obviously I'd love to, but I wouldn't get to for a while until I am known well by the pilots.

I could get a part time job to fund the PPL, I wouldn't get any back seat experience but it would be a better job and I would get more flying hours per hour worked.

I don't wish to sound stuck up but this volunteering programme is not what was explained to me. Ok, it might be good if you wanted to get a few lessons, but working 48 hours washing up for an hours flight isn't in my eyes the best way.

What would you guys do?

(It was the washing up that put me off. [I emptied a bin and got bin juice on my shoe ]. If it was litter picking for the whole time i'd be happy doing that. If it was washing the planes all day, i'd be happy, but cleaning plates with half eaten food just isn't for me)

I still have the option to carry on, so I am still deciding.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 19:18
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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If you don't like the work you are being asked to do and it makes you miserable you'll start to hate it and that will rub off on your love of flying.
Life is too short, get a better paying job that you enjoy and pay for your own lessons. Doesn't stop you hanging around the airfield when you are not working and getting to know everyone and everything.
Look for a better paying job than minimum wage. Easier said than done I know but imagine if you put the same number of hours into getting that well paying job as you did hanging around to wash a few dishes how the results might pan out.
Things tend to work out for people who are prepared to put the effort in, and this volunteering thing is obviously designed for the benefit of the flying school not the person doing the volunteering. The same amount of effort expended elswhere might bring greater rewards.
That's my tuppenceworth anyway.

Edited to add that whenever I went flying in my own plane with spare seats I would offer to take people with me if they were hanging around the club. The only person to refuse was a spotter who treated me like royalty as I was a pilot who actually took the trouble to speak to him, but wouldn't come flying as the thought of it scared him witless

Last edited by EddieHeli; 17th Jan 2013 at 19:22.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 19:20
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This all sounds a bit dodgy. This is well beyond volunteering, this sounds like a job. How old are you, and what would the pay work out at per hour for what you've worked? The club seem to be trying to exploit the employment law and save themselves having to pay any tax or NI for you, so I would be careful if I were you.

Beyond that, stop complaining. We've all done our fair share of crap jobs to make ends meet, there's nothing wrong with pot washing. If you've got that much of a problem, provide your own gloves, but beyond that just man up and get on with it, this is what the real world is like I'm afraid, doing things you might not want to do.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 19:38
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Beyond that, stop complaining. We've all done our fair share of crap jobs to make ends meet, there's nothing wrong with pot washing. If you've got that much of a problem, provide your own gloves, but beyond that just man up and get on with it, this is what the real world is like I'm afraid, doing things you might not want to do.
Generally I'd agree with the above, but not in this context.

There's a fine line between 'volunteering' and exploitation. Sounds like you're falling under the latter category, in this situation.

Volunteer at a flying club by all means. I did work experience at one aged 14. The work was directly linked to flying: cleaning aircraft; working in ops; helping process bookings etc. I was given about 3 hours worth of free flying, backseating and some stick time. Not bad at that age.

I assume you're young (teenager?), just walk away. What you've described is beyond the pale.

Get a (paying) part time job as it gives you money in your pocket, commercial awareness, and understanding of how the big bad world works at an early age.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 19:50
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ok, what you have described is not what volunteering is all about, volunteering should be you working in a role that helps them achive the company/organisation objectives and you gaining expererance and skills that help you. Working as a dish cleaner is not that, in fact they should have a machine to clean the dishes as hand washing will not clean them to a standard that is now expected by the FSA. I digress, you should have a Volunteer agreement signed by yourself and the company/organisation, this agreement is like a employment contract in regards to what they expect of you, what you expect of them, your H&S guidelines, procedures for complants. who you report to and other matters that affect you.

If you wanted to continue you should ask that your role be defined and provide the above agreement. I personally would find it troublesome to hear that the aircraft where maintained by pilots rather than by trained maintenance personal.

If you where gettign paid to clean the dishes then i would agree with RTN11 but you are providing your time to help them, you time is worth something make them aware of that.

fats
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 20:14
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@EddieHeli- Yeah I think it is designed to help the flying school as it works out at 3 an hour if you use the retail price of the lessons. Probably more like 2 an hour if you were to use the cost price of the lesson.

If a pilot walked up to me and said 'Do you want to sit in the spare seat' i'd jump at the chance!

@RTN11 If it was a paid job that I agreed to do (I was under the impression that I would be doing a range of tasks) then I wouldn't be complaining. It works out at roughly 3 an hour, below minimum wage.

@taxistaxing Yep i'm 17.

@fatmanmedia They do have a dish washer but you have to wash it up by hand first, they only use the dishwasher to dry the pots& pans. The aircraft are maintained by trained people, but if they need help they would ask the pilots instead of the volunteers.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 21:19
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Volunteer agreement signed by yourself and the company/organisation, this agreement is like a employment contract in regards to what they expect of you, what you expect of them, your H&S guidelines, procedures for complants. who you report to and other matters that affect you.
No! A volunteering agreement is radically different from an employment contract and it is misleading to suggest otherwise. As a volunteer you are not employed and a whole plethora of entitlements that come with "employee" status are missing.

A volunteering agreement is akin to a statement of best practise by the organisation concerned. By definition, as a volunteer, you are not entering into a contractual arrangement with the organisation to whom you are volunteering your services.
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Old 17th Jan 2013, 22:54
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"My question to you is, is it really worth it? It it worth me doing a disgusting washing up job in the hope that a pilot might walk though and ask if I want to sit in the back seat. Obviously I'd love to, but I wouldn't get to for a while until I am known well by the pilots.

I could get a part time job to fund the PPL, I wouldn't get any back seat experience but it would be a better job and I would get more flying hours per hour worked."


I went flying last week with a friend from work who is half way through training then back seats where taken with a girl who is in air cadets and a chap who had come into the school to ask about flying lessons. Upon landing he went straight into the club and practically paid for a PPL package. When i started out people oftern took my flying (not with a instructor just as a passenger) and i think its good to be able to sit back watch someone else fly and take it all in. I remeber how excited and how enjoyable those experiances where and will always let willing new learners come for a ride if i have spare seats. Obviosuly you treat them like any normal passenger and state that it isnt a lesson and just a private flight etc etc.

Which brings me to the next point, where are you base? north england or down south?
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 00:52
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Me - I hate washing dishes. But someone has to do it and at age 18 I got a job which involved some days washing dishes for hours at a time. Is it worth it? Its probably good for you to do work like this. You can work out your own system, find the problems and solve them, keep your brain active, stop being embarrassed at asking for help. If you can show that you can do this, full of enthusiasm, then it will be noticed and you will likely get to do more interesting things - but that is only with their agreement. And this isn't going to improve your flying. You should be going into this with your eyes open.

As I said in a previous thread, as you are doing something for a reward - its technically not volunteering and so you should be being paid at least minimum wage. If you aren't being paid minimum wage, you are being exploited.

See Volunteering England - Volunteering England for volunteer agreements, but I'd be surprised if they have one of these, as they are really a statement of policies as they can't look like a contract. If its a contract - you need paid.

Only you can decide whether its worth it. See if you can get agreement to do other things when its quiet, but it sounds like you have just taken in a big gulp of the real world!

Note - you are unlikely to be allowed to serve or make food as you wont have a food hygiene certificate, and as they don't know anything about you, they aren't going to give you access to the till.
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 01:05
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Perhaps I was unduly harsh in my post.

However, a quick google search came up with this https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates showing minimum wage at 3.68 for your age.

At your age I was working for 3.28 an hour, and having national insurance deducted so it worked out even less.

So you have to decide whether you want to go out and find a real job, which probably won't be any better than washing dishes, will be longer hours and more of a commitment, or whether you are happy with this "volunteer" agreement. Still not entirely sure of the legality of this arrangement, but they have been clear what they expect from you, so the ball is firmly in your court as to whether you want to put in the graft or look elsewhere.

If I were in your shoes I would persevere with the volunteer programme. It's going to get you exposure to the flying club environment, and you will meet a lot of pilots, instructors and owners who will ultimately be able to take you flying on your days off once you've built a friendship with them.

Also, if you are able to impress them you may well find yourself able to move on to better things, or when you turn 18 getting a proper job with them behind the bar or whatever they have.
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 04:13
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Half and half...

Yes, you should be prepared to work hard to earn your way through life, and this includes flying. You can do the math, if you're satisfied with the ratio of the reward, then you should be fine. Of course you're going to be given the ick jobs, a lot of us were. I did my share of ick jobs, but remind yourself that the next person to come along after you, gets the ick job, and you move up. At lease you have the job.

If you genuinely feel exploited, that's not good. But keep it realistic, you're worth 3-5 per hours, and the plane is 100 plus and hour. 20 or so hours of slaving for an hour of flying.

Now, when your work changes to actually be maeningful work ON the plane, things change again. you want that work, that's how you learn about planes. I spent a lot of my early days, on my back filthy under a plane, cleaning it, and thought myself lucky. I flew a lot in return, and I really felt that I won the deal - I never counted the hours, just the owner of the plane's satisfaction - They did not seem to count the hours either, so I won.

Funny now, I own two planes, and can't find a single kid who would like to trade cleaning them for flying - go figure, I guess they're in the computer flight simulator instead!

The plane owner just wants the job done, and no grumpiness. If you leave him smiling, he should leave you too smiling too. Hopefully you learn along the way - that's why you're doing it -right?
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 07:26
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Maybe you should find out what the turnover rate is in people in your position at this club.

Are you really looking at a good opportunity or are just the current, in a long line, of suckers?
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 09:19
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I wouldn't normally reply to something like this, but I thought I'd just add my experience, for what it's worth.

The first 'proper' job I got was washing up in a small family run restaurant. I was 15 and paid 25p an hour plus lunch (it was a long time ago ). I didn't particularly like washing up, but I think it taught me lots of useful stuff about responsibility and organisation - at 15 I'd never had to be responsible for anything, really.

Since then I've worked or volunteered in a number of situations where you have to 'muck in' - ie you do whatever needs doing, often things you might not really want to do. These things can lead on to other more interesting opportunities you wouldn't have got otherwise.

You just need to weigh up what you're getting out of something in the long term. Being forced to do something you wouldn't normally do is nearly always a good thing, in my experience, as it frees your mind to encompass all sorts of new experiences.

Having said all that, there's always a point a which you think 'Mmmmmm, I don't think is going anywhere' and it's time to move on. The skill is trying to work out when that point arrives.
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 09:31
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Hi Flyaways. Putting aside legalities and wages balanced against hours et al, as Pilot DAR hinted, there are icky jobs and this sounds like one of 'em. That said, I wonder if you are being tested in some way? Y'know, you pull the plug after a few days and you'll have your card marked as someone who couldn't stand the icky jobs to eventually make progress or was simply 'above himself'. The answer to this puzzle is to ask to see if there is definitely going to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Icky jobs will come later too! Pilot DAR's local kids won't get on their backs under the aircraft to clean and you'll get that to that stage too, imagine what it's like in winter lying on wet ashphalt with freezing water running up your arm to your armpit!
Even further, some 'plum' jobs have their fair share of not-so-nice aspects. All part of the world of work I'm afraid! Whatever you choose to do, I and I'm sure others here wish you well.
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 09:51
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I think I am going to leave it. I've found a retail job which i'm going to apply for and i'll try and get as many hours as I can, and the wage will be around 5-6 an hour. I know what retail is like, i've had a job in that sector before and I didn't like it, but i'm willing to give it another go to pay for lessons.

Maybe on the days I have flying lessons (when I get some money to start buying them) I could arrive an hour early or something and sit in the club house/ restaurant and chat to pilots and owners and ask them any questions I have- try and build up friendship that way.

I'm sure it will work out in the end!
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 09:57
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I feel like I'm missing a bit of the story here.

Just to add a bit of background, I've been volunteering for a lot of things since I was 16. Mostly in the scouts movement, but also at sports clubs, a first aid club and most recently a charity that offers experience flights to sick and handicapped children. Anything from washing the dishes and cleaning the toilets to being the chairman of the board. I also did an MBA thesis on motivation of volunteers, essentially applying motivational models (Herzbert and similar) to volunteer organizations.

First question I have: What sort of organization is this? Is this a commercial school with paid staff for (nearly) everything, or is it a club which runs on predominantly volunteer labor?

Second question: What experience do you have in being active (even as a "consumer", like a cub scout, junior sports player or something) in a volunteer-run club environment?

Third question: How did you find this job? Is it a club that has a lot of experience in bringing in and training volunteers, or is it a commercial school where you applied for a position as volunteer, and did they not know what that was and how to handle it?

Depending on this, my answer would fall somewhere between "you're being exploited" and "suck it up, kid".

If it's a commercial school, with paid staff (engineers, instructors, restaurant staff and so forth) and there is some sort of scheme where you put in 20 hours of volunteer labor for an hour of free flying, then you're essentially being exploited. You do not have any labor protection, minimum wage guarantee or the ability to spend your "income" as you see fit: The fictive amount of money you "earned" is held in escrow against your future flying. I don't know labor laws in your country, but it might be fully illegal too.

On the other hand, if you're participating in a volunteer-run club where nobody (or virtually nobody) gets paid, then you're just going to have to suck it up. Even in a full-volunteer environment the dishes have to be washed up (not to mention the toilets), and even in a full-volunteer environment the newest volunteer starts at the bottom. Furthermore, even in a full-volunteer environment certain jobs (like waiting on tables and fixing airplanes) require experience and sometimes even formal qualifications. So you may not qualify for these jobs yet, and in fact may not even qualify for certain jobs until you've had a significant amount of formal training.

Add to that that if there's no flying because of the weather, a lot of interesting and rewarding jobs are simply not there. That leaves time for the rotten jobs that normally get skipped when it's busy (picking up cigarette butts out of the shrubs is one such typical job - although snow kind-of prevents that), and it means that lots of people are sitting around being bored. And thus are trying to find jobs for themselves and others to do.

Last thing: In both volunteer and professional organizations, with privileges comes responsibilities. A new guy is normally not given any privileges before he has shown that he is willing to accept those responsibilities. Whining about your job on a public forum after the first day is typically not a sign of a responsible employee/volunteer.

(Oh, and if you think washing dishes is an icky job, try changing out a toilet bowl that's been in continuous use for 20+ years. One of the jobs at my club that I volunteered for a while ago. The trick is not to breathe during the most gruesome tasks, and washing your hands very thoroughly afterwards.)

I think I am going to leave it. I've found a retail job which i'm going to apply for and i'll try and get as many hours as I can, and the wage will be around 5-6 an hour. I know what retail is like, i've had a job in that sector before and I didn't like it, but i'm willing to give it another go to pay for lessons.
Guess what. Work isn't always fun. That's why they pay you for it. If it would be great fun all the time, they would find people to do it for free.

Last edited by BackPacker; 18th Jan 2013 at 10:16.
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 12:00
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It is a commercial organisation- all staff are paid apart from the volunteers.

I found the position because I emailed them to ask them if they do any kind of scheme that enables me to work in return for lessons.

They have a few volunteers, mostly teenagers around 15 years old (ish). All the other staff are paid.

The fact is was snowing did mean no planes were coming in. I know there was a lack of jobs available but I had to wash up anything that was dirty. I helped with the general cleaning jobs too, but there was only a few. They made it clear that I would be doing the washing up, so on busy days I would be doing the washing up constantly, probably non stop if you include returning the dried stuff back to it's place. They also said I would only be working on weekends because they don't need me on weekdays as it isn't busy.

Now to me, this sounds like it is busy on weekends which is when they would need me. This means I will always be washing up and if I had any breaks it would be only around 15 minutes or so, which isn't long enough to go for a flight (I assume).

Don't get me wrong, if it was a voluntary run club and I felt that the work I did was genuinely appreciated then I would stick it out.

Guess what. Work isn't always fun. That's why they pay you for it. If it would be great fun all the time, they would find people to do it for free.
I know it's not fun, especially because it's retail. I'm happy to stick it out at a retail job where I am paid though.

Whining about your job on a public forum after the first day is typically not a sign of a responsible employee/volunteer.
I would argue that i'm not showing that i'm irresponsible- if I was I would have probably said the flying school's name or something. There isn't anything irresponsible about asking for advice and keeping it as anonymous as possible.


Also you said about this being a public forum, I'm aware of this and I have mixed up a few details on here such as the days, flight prices (Although not by much), locations, activities etc but the general gist is the same. If any reading this belongs to a flying club who has a newly started volunteer, I'm probably not that person. There are a lot of flying clubs around so please don't confront any volunteers you meet to see if I am them!!

Also, if you are running a volunteering scheme at your airfield, make sure you learn from this thread! It would probably be a bit more interesting if they offered, say a 15 minute flight after each shift (That you can either have after the shift or you can save them up for a longer flight), instead of having to work 4 shifts for a 30 minute flight.

On the upside, I have learnt that when I get my PPL i'll walk around the airfield before I go up and offer any spare seats to anyone who looks interested!
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 13:08
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I think I am going to leave it. I've found a retail job which i'm going to apply for and i'll try and get as many hours as I can, and the wage will be around 5-6 an hour. I know what retail is like, i've had a job in that sector before and I didn't like it, but i'm willing to give it another go to pay for lessons.

Maybe on the days I have flying lessons (when I get some money to start buying them) I could arrive an hour early or something and sit in the club house/ restaurant and chat to pilots and owners and ask them any questions I have- try and build up friendship that way.

I'm sure it will work out in the end!
Seems like a good plan to me.

At 5 per hour * 48 hours that you have to work in the cafe to get a flight, you'll have earned 240. That should cover two flights or there abouts. Added to the fact that you at least know what you're doing and don't dislike it as much.

It also give you an employment history, and presumably a reference at the end of it.

You won't always get to do jobs that you enjoy, and I personally don't think washing up is that icky, but if you don't like it and have a better alternative, then why not take it?

If what you really want is a backseat ride, then why spend your time in a kitchen hiding away from everyone other than kitchen staff, hoping someone might ask you to come along? If you want something ask for it.

Put a notice up on the notice board explaining that you are about to commence training and would be grateful for anyone that might allow you to come along if they have an empty seat. You might not get any answers, but I think it a lot more likely than if you're stuck in a kitchen away from the public.

If you are happy to wash planes in return for a flight, then put that on the notice board. As on PPRuNe and other please for a spare seat.

In short, if you want something then ask for it, and think what you can do to make it more beneficial to the person who can offer it. Don't be hiden away and quite and hope that someone will unprompted offer you want you want.

I've never offered a stranger a flight. I always tend to assume that others at the airport have just come back from flying or are about to go (Why else would they be there!) Occasionally there is someone at the fence with a small child, but I'm somewhat cautious about brining a small child that I've no knowledge of, even if their parents are on board too.

Only on one occasion did I ever find someone who clearly was looking for a flight, but unfortunately I had just returned from one. I strongly considered going flying again just to bring him, but I had other committments and wasn't sure I could be back in time. But it goes to show that if you show what you want rather than hiding away, your chances improve greatly.

dp
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 13:44
  #19 (permalink)  
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Great advice DublinPilot thanks.

Once I start a part time job and I've got the money to get lessons i'll stick a notice up, hopefully may get some replies if I offer something back like washing the plane.

Thanks
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Old 18th Jan 2013, 14:16
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Volunteering at airfields

I have done my fair share of volunteering at airfields, plus some pretty dull jobs to support my flying habit.

At some airfields you can volunteer to provide services such as fire crew or air/ground radio service. Sometimes these are "paid" sometimes not. At one place I know they credit 25 to your flying account for a half day shift. This equates to around 10 minutes instructional time in an aeroplane.

I've cleaned quite a few aeroplanes both club and privately owned and earned between 20 and 50 per aeroplane.

I've worked as general dogsbody and helped move aeroplanes around hangars, swept hangars, painted beams, emptied bins, washed up plates, mowed grass, held spanners, acted as run-about, refueled aeroplanes and tidied up sheds. None of this is paid but it has resulted in opportunities to fly all kinds of interesting aeroplanes with some really good people, plus the bar time afterwards is just as valuable. People recognise hard working hangar rats, wherever they are working at the time, and will reward when it's least expected.

I've also taken second or even third paid jobs in kitchens (washing up!), bar work and cleaning. I've milked cows which can be a genuinely sh1tty job... I've worked on fruit farms and in a petrol station to earn money to do what I really want to do. Being snobby about what you will and won't do at 17 probably won't get you the same privileges that I have had, so it's down to what you are willing to put up with. I don't feel that I "put up" with any of my jobs - I tend to try to do the best job that I can and take pride in doing that. Anything unpleasant is just a part of work, and that is real life. If it's dirty, you can wash it off and if it's dull you can set yourself targets to make it more interesting. If it's hard, you can work harder just to make sure that you have the time to do the fun stuff.
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