Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

Oct 22, 2018

Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

Chapter 1: About Me

If you are going to wait for all your friends and your family to support you in your dreams!   DON’T

Kenny Keller

My Story and How I Got Involved in All This Helicopter Craziness

      I am sure it was Christmas, back in the early '70's, when I opened up the Verti-bird box under the Christmas tree. That thing was the coolest and I flew it until it almost would not fly anymore. Growing up, I always had an interest in learning to fly, but I did not think it was something I would ever really do. I also wanted to be a cop; I wanted to be a police officer. I did not go to college and got out of school thinking I was going to go get a job making a bunch of money in a factory. It did not take long to figure out that factory life was not for me.

Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

    I first chased after the police officer dream and made it in my early twenties. During that time as a police officer, I was appointed as the department firearm's instructor, which was cool. They sent me to an instructor development course --important part of the story--, which, although it was for law enforcement, it is about how people learn. In addition, it is amazing how much of that I have taken over into the helicopter instructor environment.

     I am doing the police officer thing, firearm's instructor thing, and quickly I am not really, I guess, happy. I want something else and I start a towing service while I am still a cop. I started out, "I'm going to have just one little truck and kind of mess around on the side."  Then, soon, I needed a bigger truck. Then I wanted another bigger truck on top of that, and that went on for 10 years!

      To back up just a bit, I actually got on the fire department before I got on the police department. I am really super busy between the fire department, police department, and wrecker service; in my early twenties, going like a maniac, chasing all these dreams. As all this is going on, my mom ends up diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

      We took care of her for the five years that she was sick. During the process, I was the strong one. I was okay. Then, after she passed away, my life fell apart. I realized I had all these jobs, I had cars, trucks, and I had been all about material possessions. I realized that it did not matter how many buildings you owned and how many cars and trucks you had, that all those things can really mean nothing.

     I go through a bout of depression and I make one of the smartest decisions I ever made. I decided to go to counseling. The counseling was one of the best things I ever have ever done because that gave me a new direction and made me realize many things that I had not realized prior to that.

      I also start listening to motivational tapes. One day, as I am going through this training, he says, "Okay, shut the tape off. Sit down and write a list of ten things that are dreams of yours that you think you will never accomplish. Things you really want to do that you think are just out of reach." So, I did. I turned off the tape, sat down and wrote out the ten things that were dreams of mine that I thought I would never accomplish.

      I turn the tape back on. He says, "Okay. Now, make one move towards one of those goals. Whether it's make a phone call, go buy a magazine, whatever the case is, no matter how small, make a decision to at least make one small step towards one of those dreams." Well, one of those ten was learning to fly helicopters.

Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

      I started dabbling in the idea and I am checking around looking for lessons. Everywhere I would check, they were all at least a couple of hours away. It seemed like a far-off dream. I did not have the money, did not have the time, and did not have anywhere to go.

      I think the next big thing that changed everything for me was a day at the Indy 500. I went along with my sister. I did not really want to go, but somebody had canceled on her. I went along even though I was being a pain about it. However, once I got there and they started getting ready for the race, everything changed.

      There were cars going around the track, and tow trucks going around drying the track; then I noticed all these helicopters coming and going. I'm eyeballing the helicopters and watching all this stuff going on. When that race started, it was the first time I ever really understood the term "breathtaking." When those cars go flying past so fast and with so much noise, I literally could not breathe. That day I just knew I wanted something more, I wanted something different, and I really wanted to chase the helicopter dream.

      I finally make it to my first helicopter lesson. It is a two and a half hour drive to get there, and my first couple of lessons, the guy was a jerk. I really just kind of wanted to go up for a ride and enjoy myself, and he starts trying to get me to fly it the first day, then yelling at me when I don't understand what he's asking me for. I did not go back for six months after those first two flights. Actually, I think it was closer to a year before I went back.

      When I did finally go back, there is a young man there who says, "That guy you flew with when you were here before, he was a real jerk."

Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

      I said, "You know what? I'm glad you said that because that's what I thought and I didn't want to say it."

     He said, "Let's forget that guy. Let's go out today, and start from scratch, and we'll go from there. You don't even have to fly today if you don't want to."

      "You know what? That would be awesome."

      He said, "I'll just take you out, show you the maneuvers, we'll have some fun, and we'll come back and talk about it." He made it a completely, entirely different experience for me.

      Now, I am motivated. I start finding ways to generate the money, because we all know the money is the hard thing, or it is for most of us. And I do the typical -- I fly, fly, fly. I don't worry about ground school. The instructor I have does not really push ground school. I am just flying, and I am doing really well in the helicopter.

      Eventually I change instructors and go to a different flight school just to try something out. This guy takes me out, we fly together, and he says, "Wow. You are doing really well. You are ready for your Check-Ride. What did you score on your written test?"

      "Uh, uh, what written test?"

      "Oh, my God. You are kidding me. You're this far along in your flight training and you haven't even taken the written yet?"

      I say, "No."

     "Okay. So, we have some work to do." We go in and sit down and he says, "Well, what do you know about weather?"

      I look out the window and I see big, puffy clouds outside, "Well, I see clouds in the sky."

      He says, "Oh, my God. We've definitely have some work to do."  This is where I learned firsthand about the importance of ground school and to NOT get behind on the ground knowledge.

      We started working on the ground knowledge. The flying is held up. In turn, it takes me more time to get ready. We try jamming it out and getting it done, take the Check-Ride before I'm really, really confident on the ground, and I end up failing the Check-Ride on the oral portion.

      All these years later, I know it's because I just wasn't prepared enough. I was the first student for this new instructor. He was a great instructor and one of my best friends to this day. It is common that the first person an instructor sends for a Check-Ride has a failure. After that first failure, I went home with my tail between my legs.

      I really struggled with it and I did not go back for another six months. Then, when I got fired up enough to go back and try it again, I thought this time around I'm going to make it; there's no way I'm going to fail that oral. This is where the notebook comes into play. I had all kinds of notes from the different places I had flown, had all these books scattered everywhere. I thought, "Man, I wish had one place I could study." I just wanted one place I could sit down and just kind of go through things. I then created my notebook. I get all my ratings, and go out and start working in the helicopter industry.

      When I started, I could not even believe I was an instructor. I can remember my first couple of lessons thinking, I do not have a clue what to do. I  decided to just get started, I just took a little bit of everything I'd learned from all the different people that I'd flown with. I somehow came up with my own way of teaching that worked for me. I had a lot of success as a new instructor. I did really well with getting people through Check-Rides, and I became the ground guy.

      I think it was my law enforcement background that helped most. I did not do well in school, struggled to get through and get my diploma, but everything changed when I went to the police academy because that was something I wanted to do. I was a lot more serious about studying.

      In turn, I became like the regulation expert when I started as a Helicopter Instructor. Nobody else wanted to teach ground school, and I just wanted to go that extra mile for people to help him or her get through the knowledge areas.

  Along the way, my students would say, "Hey, you should start a training manual." I would laugh and we would joke about it; as it ends up, now we have Helicopter Online Ground School that I have created out of all this.

     I do the instructor thing for five years as I build my flight time. During that time, I had the opportunity to do many different things; pipeline patrol, photography, instructing, 135 Charter, a lot of cool stuff. Then, I moved into the EMS field once I had the time, but I have always stayed active as an instructor. However, once I was in the EMS industry, I just missed the training end of things.

      The EMS job was cool over the five-year period, but I just really got bored with it. I just did not really like going out and flying Point A to Point B and then back again, never being able to do much with training, and not being able to do emergency procedures. I really missed training people in the helicopter.

      I feel like it has worked out for me in the long run, just due to all the struggles I had along the way, like most everybody does. Everybody has his or her own story, and most all of us struggle in one shape, form, or fashion. I think my first failure just really helped me shape what I do today.

Helicopter Check Ride Part 1 How I got started

Helicopter Online Ground School was founded by Kenny Keller in 2012. He is the author of "Helicopter Check-Ride", which made Amazon #1 best seller upon release. His online video courses include Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, and Instrument Pilot. Kenny recognized a lack of quality ground training within the industry and has created a video learning platform to compliment any part 61 or 141 flight school program.

All four of these courses are FAA approved for WINGS and appear on the FAA safety website as approved online courses.

The Certified Flight Instructor membership includes access to all of the Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot videos as well, giving the Certified Flight Instructor membership over 40 hours of video to watch. The courses include information on all subject areas, to include the fundamentals of instructing.

Each course includes both practice written test questions and oral check ride questions.

Members have access to a closed Facebook group to network.

Kenny Keller shares his experience and knowledge with aspiring Student Pilots all over the World

Helicopter Online Ground School customer service is staffed Monday-Friday 8am-4pm for email, text, or calling.

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 Gary Cleveland, Chief Pilot

Helicopter Online Ground School

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