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Saturday, July 1, 2006

From The Field

Compiled by R&W Staff

U.S. Office Faults Proposed Visa Changes

Foes of proposed changes to U.S. visa rules for foreign students seeking flight training won support from a notable source--an office of the U.S. government itself. "Mindful that there are important security implications associated with this proposed rule," particularly with respect to foreign nationals training to be pilots, the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration faulted the U.S. State Dept. for ignoring the potential impact of proposed changes to the J-1 "Exchange Visitor" visa program. Many non-U.S. citizens train as pilots under that program. The office said in a May 30 letter that the State Dept.'s finding that the visa rule changes wouldn't have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small U.S. business "lacks a factual basis" and therefore appears to be improper under federal law.

The Office of Advocacy is an independent agency set up by Congress to "represent the views of small entities before federal agencies and Congress." It noted in its letter to the State Dept. that its views "do not necessarily reflect the views" of the Small Business Administration or the Bush White House.

The State Dept. proposed the changes in early April and gave interested parties until June 6 to comment on them, as required by U.S. procedures for enacting new regulations. According to the State Dept., there are about 350 flight trainees among the 275,000 foreign nationals that received J-1 visas each year. The proposed changes would require the "designated program sponsor" for J-1 visa recipients, including flight schools, to conduct in-person interviews with potential trainees in their home country and develop a detailed individualized training plan. The sponsors also would have to verify the foreign student's prior academic and work experience, English proficiency, and finances and, provide oversight, counseling, and evaluations.

The office said there are about nine U.S. flight schools operating as designated J-1 visa sponsors, each of whom appears to meet the federal standard for a small business (annual revenue of less than $23.5 million). "These small businesses have indicated to us that because so many of their flight students are foreign-exchange participants under the J-1 visa program, that as much as 50 percent or more of their revenue could be lost if this proposed rule is finalized."

A Good Read For Helo Pilots

If there is anything that the world has plenty of, it's books on how to fly a helicopter. Most tend to be technically oriented manuals that not only instruct on the specifics of flight, but give more engineering data than a lot of pilots can absorb. "The Helicopter Pilot's Handbook" is different.

Written by Phil Croucher, the chief pilot for Western Power Distribution in the United Kingdom, it is not just a training manual on how to fly, but how to be a pilot. It has those chapters about how to avoid killing yourself and what to do when you suddenly realize that you do, in fact, stand a very good chance of doing just that. They come just before the part about how to find a job as a pilot and the role of each of the personalities within scheduled, charter and corporate helicopter companies. It gives good advice on how to build very expensive flight hours without committing to military service for a major portion of your life.

The book is primarily based on U.K. rules and regulations. But 99.9 percent of it applies to anyone who wants to become a better pilot without necessarily getting an advanced degree in engineering.

The section on "Operational Stuff" ranges from passenger safety ("Tip: Do not reduce the throttle to ground idle when passengers are getting in and out, so when one of them decides to run around the back--and they will--you can lift into the hover to move the tail rotor out of the way.") to landing on oil rigs, ship decks or downwind ("The trick to reducing the danger associated with landing downwind is to know that you are downwind in the first place.").

On the whole, while there are the more technical sections, "The Helicopter Pilot's Handbook" is what the British would call "a good read"--simple, easy to digest without numbing the brain while giving you exactly what you need to know.

"The Helicopter Pilot's Handbook" can ordered at www.electrocution.com, www.helobooks.com or www.helicoptersonly.com.

Frasca To Unveil Mobile FTD At ALEA

Frasca plans to introduce a new helicopter flight-training device similar to its TruFlite H simulator at the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn.'s annual convention this month in New Orleans. The new FTD will be trailer-mounted, allowing it to be transported easily from one training site to another.

The Urbana, Ill.-based company recently delivered the first of six TruFlite H helicopter simulator-equipped trailers ordered by Silver State Helicopters to the operator's facility in Spring, Texas. Two more are to be delivered to Silver State sites in San Diego and New Branfels, Texas. The remaining three are to be delivered to locations yet to be determined.

The TruFlite H FTD is configured to represent a light single piston/turbine engine-powered helicopter such as the Robinson 22/44, Bell 206, EC120 or AgustaWestland A119 Koala. It features a two-seat cockpit, interchangeable cyclics (Robinson T-bar vs. conventional style), Frasca's digital sound system and a TruVision single-channel projected visual system.

Las Vegas-based Silver State has ordered 22 TruFlite H simulators since the FTD was introduced in 2003, with 18 delivered to date. The company operates at more than 20 locations in 10 states, specializing in air tours, aerial photography, executive charters, law enforcement air support, firefighting, search and rescue, motion picture and television support, external load and utility work, agriculture support and Flight Training. It operates a fleet of Bell, MD Helicopters and Robinson aircraft.

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