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Ground Crew Controversies

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Hello readers

I am a wannabe pilot. Currently have been doing a lot of research on this subject.

My question is why do companies keep guys as ground crew, and never just let them go?

To my understanding, working as a ground crew right after graduation seems like a pretty standard 1st step into the industry. I understand that the time being spent as ground crew can be a vital and crucial trust building time for that company and you as a low-time pilot. (1-2 years worth of time)

I have read about (including this forum) and talked with people personally who were kept on the ground and never made it in the air. (i.e. all the negativity about the "dangling the carrot in front of you" phenomena) This to me, was always an indicator that these people just simply didn't fit the criteria that the company was looking for, hence were kept grounded.  (In this concept I have full sympathy for company owners) 

But now I am confused. If I was running a helicopter charter business, after 1-2 years I would simply tell that ground crew member that he/she does not fit our company standards and would tell them to go look for a job somewhere else, because how would my company benefit from keeping him/her on the ground in my company for 5 years+?  In fact it would be more beneficial, if I only hired people who were talented and plan to get flying.

Just from a company's perspective, what is the benefit of telling that ground crew that "yes, I will get you flying" but then in secret keep them grounded?  As if looking for ground crew was hard or something.

Unless I am missing something...perhaps ground crew members are performing certain vital tasks that pilots are not doing?  

Thank you for reading 

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Good morning IB.

I do not know if this will help but all I can do is offer you some opinion on what I have witnessed in the industry.

First, do not be discouraged. Not all companies act in this manner. Personally, I have never witnessed this practice but yet I have heard of many organization that do just what you are addressing.

My only thought is that a company (owner) are taking advantage of the low labor cost of having a newbie pilot work the ground for little or nothing. Yes, by the dangling the carrot.

IMHO a company that  conducts business in this manner is not worth your time anyway and should indicate to you that they (the company) most likely has other practices in their organization that do not fit into what should be considered  as healthy practices. 

There may be valid reasons if the company does keep a new pilot working the ground for extended times. But for 5 years? Rubbish. As you say they should be let go with a solid explanation as to why they did not make the grade so to speak. 

In my VFR career I was employed by two companies. Both owners had very strong morals and extensive backgrounds in the industry. I did not always agree with every operational decision they made but they were the owners and  I was the employee. They maintained a safe, effective and profitable business so who I was to really question that.

Both companies had flights schools. They DID NOT hire from outside their own class room. I was fortunate that when I began I my career with my first employer i was sat down (not by the CFI) but the owner and very clearly explained how the process worked. 

The company usually took 6 to 8 candidates. Only 4 to 5 would be kept on after a short duration of flight training. The owner would continually be observing the candidates performance and enlisting opionions from all staff.

The potential candidate was judged carefully on his flying skills but it certainly was not the entire reason he may get gain that first ground position. Out of the four candidates remaining two would be kept on. Both would have to prove themselves of having strong work skills completing any task given to them or the willingness to be open to learning and expecting criticism. 

Normally, after one season one would be let go with a solid reason as to why they were no longer reguired and how  they should improve. Both owners would often let other operators who they new were looking for low time pilots without flight schools that they had a solid pilot but had no position at the time. The following year this process would start again.

As a new hire you may spend 6 months and at times much longer on the ground waiting for the opportunity to gain the operational flying position. Why the longer wait time? They may just not have the line vacancy. You may be pushed aside because a high time moved in and filled a postion. Worked slowed down or they were still accessing your abilities. There were many many variables. 

Yet, to keep a newbie on the ground for 5 years while dangling the carrot in my opinion is just wrong. Only reason I can think of again is the low labor cost.

Again, I was very fortunate to see the process  I described above in action but never witnessed the 5 year delay. I also saw how the selections were made from the inside as a instructor with both companies as I moved up through the ranks.

Do not be discouraged. There are great companies out there. But... if you see ground crews with multiple years that are still not flying you may have to ask yourself are they what YOU WANT.

Sorry for the long reply but there may be others on here that can offer other views that are more valid and better answer your question.

Time for another coffee! 😁


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Great reply RDM 1. I have worked for several companies that gave 100 hr guys their start. I have also been in a position to throw the duals in and let said pilots fly. The one thing I noticed about myself was the ones who would go the extra mile like drop the fork at dinner and come help me wash and put away gear were the ones who I'd go the extra mile for. Just because you paid your money doesn't mean you get to advance.

I had one low hour pilot lean against the fuel cabinet with his hands in his pocket watch me wash the helicopter after he finally came out of the crew shack (had to finish supper) That same tour we had a job that involved us both going. The owner asked me "why I didn't throw the duals in and let him fly"? I didn't feel the need. Another new hour girl sat and chatted with other crew while I swept the hangar floor. I had a couple thousand hours at the time. Assistant ops manager came out and asked me why I was doing it. It wasn't going to sweep itself was my reply. She never got going either.

My point is you will need to impress more than the owner if you want a shot. Even the line pilots will tell you that the company will or will not get you advancing your career. I've told fellas that you should move on and the company uses low timers and never gets them going. It always srprised me that when they didn't take the advise and ended up bitter they were still on the ground 3-4 years later. 

Don't forget we've all been there even if we act like we haven't. Good luck.

PS If they don't give you a little stick time here or there after a year that's a good indicator they never will.

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I have always disagreed with this "assess your character over the next two years and get no flying" business...

When I was with Northern Mountain I did 76 hours solo over one season which could have been done by one of the guys who had been behind the ops desk for a couple of years, and who were just wasting their time and a good chunk of their potential flying career. By all means assess people, but it will cost a lot more to get them flying after a couple of years than if you kept them flying over that same period.

Luckily not every company is like this, you just have to ask around and see, but as shakey says, don't go for an assessment  flight and not offer to push the machine into the hangar afterwards. Equally, if you are not getting at least a positioning flight or two within 6 months, they are extracting the Michael.....

And as RDM1 says, don't be discouraged - keep trying, and good luck!

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Hey Ronnie - I got sidetracked into doing CHC's ops manuals in Vancouver, which led to a stint in Dubai on 212s, and been running a flight school for that past 10 years, but now trying to retire - trouble is, people keep wanting to throw money at me!

How are things with you bud?



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Thank you very much for your responses. They are very encouraging. 

RDM1 - Thank you very much for insightful response. Glad to hear that not all companies do that, and that some actually manage low-timers legitimately. Long responses are always welcome))

shakey - Thanks for the advice. I will keep that in mind.

Phil Croucher - Thank you for your encouraging response. 

Another somewhat personal question I would like to ask you guys: How long did you work as Ground Crew until you got your first PIC position? And which companies were they? 

At least I'll know which companies have gotten guys into the air)))

Again thank you for your responses

Best Regards


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I.B. - just call me Phil :)

In reply to Ramen's post mentioning lazy pilots, I found this on the web from a fed up Chief Pilot:

“here are some of the lacking qualifications from 100 hour wonders we have seen in the last 3 seasons that led to their dismissal”:

  • Lack of ability to do basic math WITH a calculator - 2+2 =5 really?
  • Unable to show up on time or on the right day.
  • After hounding me for a couple months for a job and 2 days of exams, quit to go to work on a ski hill after 3 days of work.
  • Ran out of gas in the company truck 200 kms short of their destination.
  • “Dude I sold my car and bought a dirt bike but now I have to ride the greyhound so give me lots of notice for work man!!!”
  • "I really don't care if I work because my gramma paid for my license".
  • "See you at the hotel" as the engineer and captain continue to service the aircraft for another 4 hours.
  • Won't remove their sunglasses even at night.
  • Using the phrase “I'm a pilot, I don't have to do that.” more than 3 times daily.
  • “I'm not staying in that hotel” (even though the captain and engineer are quite happy).

In the last 3 years we have interviewed and/or hired and fired 14 100 hour pilots. Maybe the problem is not the amount of Canadian low timers but the quality. We now have a good CANADIAN low timer that we are in the process of beginning training and have trained 6 in the history of the company. I'm not surprised at the raising of minimum hours as there are some numbskulls out there.”


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