HeliSpeed (Booth B4324) is seeking more pilots for its database and has announced the creation of a new training school, mainly to offer type rating training. Company CEO Geoff Packer told AIN that the company’s primary reason for attending Heli-Expo this week in Atlanta is to attract FAA-licenced pilots to use its HeliTrax service for connecting pilots with vacant positions. “FAA pilots are more widely accepted than any other license,” he pointed out.
“There isn’t a pilot shortage [in our sector]—how many do you want?” Packer said. But he does admit there is a “skills shortage, which is very different."
The company has found a niche providing pilots for all sorts of operations, with operators realizing the savings they can make by not having pilots sitting idle on the payroll, just so they can be ready for the peaks in demand. “I set it up partly to keep myself in a job [as a helicopter pilot] and at the time I had friends who flew 225s who were struggling to find work, following the crashes and the downturn in oil and gas,” Packer said.
Matching pilots with demand from operators has proved an invaluable service in an industry where there is such a diverse range of flying experience, and by having a large number of pilots on its HeliTrax database now it can quickly put together a shortlist for any requirement, he noted.
“For example, we may be asked to find a Super Puma pilot who’s familiar with firefighting—this is an actual case—and we can do it anywhere in the world," Packer said. "Another example was a company looking for a pilot who could fly a Canadian-registered helicopter in Indonesia.”
According to HeliSpeed operations director Gemma Walker, “We currently have more than 700 pilots stationed around the world, with certifications to operate more than 90 different types of helicopter, and we’re continuously seeking to add experienced pilots to our team. We can provide organizations around the world with highly qualified and experienced pilots at short notice.”
The company also manages aircraft and logistics, often sourcing pilots to do ferry ad positioning flights for clients. But its “peak shaving” idea has quickly caught on as operators can provide pilots to people that need them when they don’t, offering their services through HeliSpeed to another operator, even though they remain on the payroll of the former operator. “If you have spare pilots and have a slack period but don’t want to get rid of them, as it costs so much for training, you can deploy them with another company.”
Prompted by difficulties sometimes finding pilots with the right type ratings, and pilots who need to transfer types to find a job, HeliSpeed said at Heli-Expo that it is starting an aviation training school, also based at Blackpool Airport. “We have been working on it for six months and are hoping it will be up and running by April 1," said Packer. "We’re looking to build new facilities and hangarage. We know there is a skills shortage and believe we can help to satisfy the demand.” He is also keen to ensure top-quality training and will also offer PPL training, but focused on pilots who want to go commercial.