The entire staff of HeliMx magazine was in Dallas, TX this February for HAI’s Heli-Expo 2012. There was a lot of positive news to go around, and we appreciate all of you who stopped by our booth to share your feedback with us.
On the second day of the show, as I stepped on the escalator to go up to the show floor from the shuttle drop-off area, I couldn’t help but notice the huge logo with the letter “R” applied to the face of the nearby stairs. On the opposing wall was a similar logo. It must have been at least 20 feet tall. It was the logo of Bell Helicopter’s new 525 Relentless helicopter which had just been introduced with much fanfare the day before.
While sitting at Bell Helicopter’s booth later that day, I couldn’t help but notice the huge banners with the Relentless logo. All the employees were sporting Relentless lapel pins as well. It was a relentless marketing campaign to say the least!
At our meeting, Brett Avants, the communications leader, Customer Service and Support at Bell Helicopter, invited Greg Napert and me to visit Bell Helicopter’s Training Academy while we were in town. Located in Fort Worth, the Training Academy is 100,000 square feet of hangar space, classrooms and labs. The Academy trains students worldwide in all types of helicopter operations.
Two days later, Greg and I arrived at Bell Helicopter’s Training Academy early in the morning. We met with Avants as well as Trey Wade, director of the Academy, and John Griffith, supervisor of training for light and medium helicopters. Wade says that safety and efficiency of the customer’s mission is the Academy’s focus. The Academy just celebrated its 120,000th graduate. It offers more than 140 courses in a variety of languages. Its maintenance training includes field maintenance, component overhaul, electrical and autopilot courses.
Griffith led us on the tour of the facility. We started the tour in the environmentally-controlled hangar. There was just about every model that Bell Helicopter has manufactured on the hangar floor along with engines, accessories and cut-away components. Next door was a composite shop where mechanics can learn composite repairs specific to Bell Helicopter products.
In the Academy’s classrooms, students sit at tables with individual monitors as the instructor uses a big screen in front of the class to show training specifics. Some of the drawings used for the class have been saved as CAD files, allowing the instructor to manipulate a 3-D rendering of the component, rotating it or driving down in detail to help students understand how it works.
I asked Griffith if the Academy is a good training opportunity for someone fresh out of A&P school who wants to get into helicopter maintenance. He said that students can enroll right out of school if they wish, but they tend to grasp a lot more in the course if they come in to the academy with a year or two of helicopter maintenance experience under their belt. They are then better able to absorb the information, while also asking questions based on their own experiences working on the helicopters. The combination of classroom and hands-on training offers a unique opportunity for mechanics to be immersed in their training experience.
It was quite the experience to witness the relentless commitment to training at the Academy just days after the unveiling of the Bell 525 Relentless.
When it comes down to it, we must all demonstrate a commitment to training! It’s all about professionalism and safety. There is no alternative but to be relentless!
Thanks for reading!
Joe Escobar | Editorial Director