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Saturday, July 1, 2006

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R&W's Question of the Month:

How is the job market in your outfit or region? Is there a shortage of pilots, mechanics and other workers?

Let us know, and look for your and others' responses in a future issue. Tell us what you think at rotorandwing@accessintel.com.

"Watch This"

I want to thank Tim McAdams for a very good article ("Watch This," April 2006, page 62). Those words coming from a pilot almost certainly indicates immaturity when it comes to flying--as if a regular pilot ever should have a need to impress people, on the ground or in the cockpit. It is good that Tim expressed that attitude about those two words. Helicopters are great and awesome and need steady minds and spirits at their controls.

I have seen a pilot land his R44 on a 3-4-deg. slope and leave his aircraft--with the rotor turning in the high regime--to take a leak. I was his passenger, and I fly Robinsons also. He didn't asked me to hold the stick. If accidentally his trousers or jacket caught on the stick, rotors have no understanding and no mercy.

Decock Jo
Belgium

Lean Manufacturing

In response to your Question of the Month, lean manufacturing is extremely important to the small business.

There is an economy of scale that says a small business can profit exponentially over its larger counterparts by practicing this discipline. Many small businesses are only "one deep" in many functions. If such an individual can be freed up by eliminating the job or combining with another function, then the process has proved its worth. Sadly, in a small or large business, that "freed up" individual goes out the door, but in today's business environment, with extra emphasis on head count, that is a necessary evil in some cases.

More often than not, I have seen displaced people moved around within the organization during a lean manufacturing exercise, providing extra back-up where required or opportunities for cross-training (desperately important in a small business). Changes in the head count were saved to the last possible moment.

Lean manufacturing is the way business should always have been run. In the defense industry, companies have been secretly rewarded for fattened head counts by expanded overhead pools, paid for by the government, especially in single-source situations. As the tides change from highly competitive to single sourcing to "partnering" to Best Value, the head counts change appropriately. If we could mount a concerted effort here in the United States to instill lean manufacturing as a unified mindset across the board in industry, the United States might well become the highly competitive global powerhouse we were in the past.

Jim Gaither
Fort Worth, Texas

Where are the Jobs?

I read with interest Barney O'Shea's column ("Growing Pains," March 2006, page 55). I have to take him to task somewhat on his statement, "Pilots with experience are in short supply."

Indeed, Bristow Helicopters is indicating they cannot source enough pilots for the increasing North Sea workload. I even read an article recently saying there was going to be a world shortage of helicopter pilots when the Vietman-era pilots start to retire. I have been reading this same old story since I started learning to fly back in 1998.

So my question to Barney is where are all these jobs that can't be filled? I've been trying to find a real, full-time position for the last five years. I have 1,100 hr. of rotary-wing time, of which 300+ are turbine. I have instructor ratings, JAA ATP license subjects and New Zealand, Australian and U.K. JAA licenses.

Now I know what you are going to say: Go get an instrument rating and I'll walk into job. Well, in the United Kingdom at the moment, the waiting list is approximately 8-12 months to get on a course and to do a twin instrument rating (which is required here. There is no point doing the single with Bristow as there are no machines in this country that you can then fly). You are looking at nearly �40,000 (nearly $74,000). That is just ridiculous.

At nearly 46, I am never going to get through a interview with Bristow or the other North Sea companies, so I am not going to waste �40,000. Apart from all that, I don't want to fly the North Sea. Having worked in the oil industry in the North Sea for 20 years as a production manager, I have no inclination to go back to boring work in poor weather conditions.

I have found work, otherwise I would never have accrued my 1,100 hr. I instructed for a year and amassed something like 400 instructing hours, but was moved out in favor of encouraging young guys to do their instructor ratings, with the promise of a position at the end. This happened to another instructor friend of mine, too. After that, I did part-time tourist work for a couple of years, followed by ad hoc weeks of instructing work here and there.

During this time, I was twice around Australia knocking on doors looking for work, just to be told the same thing: "Na, sorry mate, ain't got nothing for ya!" Finally, I left New Zealand and came back to the United Kingdom and did my JAA ATP license subjects and flight test. I still can't get anyone to reply to any C.V.s that I send off. So my conclusion is there is not a shortage of experienced pilots, as someone is getting these jobs and obviously have more experience than myself.

Dougie Gray
Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland

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