SRT Helicopters (Booth No. 4239) of Bakersfield, Calif., provides helicopter training that ranges from private to flight instructor certificates, but it also has curriculums for much more specialized flight instruction in such areas as special operations, law enforcement, and crew and incident management that address real-life scenarios. It does this with instructors who are themselves current professionals, with experiences in disasters ranging from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, to most recently the earthquake in Haiti.
“We’re all badge holders,” Christian Gadbois, SRT’s president and CEO told AIN. “The background of most of the guys here is current or former military special operations.”
Gadbois himself is a firefighter paramedic for the state of California and a former Special Forces medic in the Army. The instructors, drawn from SRT’s roster of more than 100 professionals, get leave as needed from current jobs to conduct their training.
When called in for an assignment, SRT first dispatches an advance team to study the trainees’ operation. The team assesses current training and crew skill levels, the process used to select emergency team members, CRM, how the controlling agency interacts with other agencies, political influences and all other factors that affect how the emergency team operates. Based on their findings, SRT develops a customized training program for each client, then dispatches a one-on-one team to conduct the training, pilot for pilot, crew chief for crew chief.
“If you plan for a major disaster, the planning is the same, the response is the same. All that’s changing is the elements of the response,” said Gadbois.
Next month an SRT team heads to China for a month-long assignment to train 10 S-76C++ pilots and 10 crewmembers for the Rescue and Salvage Bureau of the Ministry of Transport.
Most domestic training projects cost between $60,000 and $120,000 dollars. The China job will cost considerably more. SRT expects more of its work will be overseas, with budgets of domestic agencies limiting funds available for training. The international market also plays into another SRT strength, as its trainers speak many different languages and understand important cultural differences, due to prior work experience in these countries.
“We’re seeing a lot of companies pop up to do this [training],” Gadbois said. “There’s demand and need. The problem is cost–you get what you pay for. We bring the total package; not just teaching how to hoist, but command and control structure. We look at the much bigger picture. Every day you turn on the news, and you see there’s always something that could be improved in emergency response.”