Helicopters are uniquely suited to the demands of the US Forest Service. John Harris is one of the Service’s inspector pilots and in this episode talks about his career and his current role.
Based in Missoula, Montana, John is responsible for checking and qualifying contractor pilots for the US Inter-agency Helicopter Pilot Qualification Card. This qualification allows them to work on US Forest Service contracts.
His area of responsibility covers Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. In between flight check duties you can find inspector pilots providing helicopter subject matter expert input into operational planning and Service policies.
John was instrumental in bringing into service a water based heli-torch training device that, as the name suggests, uses water rather than dripping burning napalm for check and training missions.
Before starting his current role, John has had a career flying ‘heavies’ in military, logging, longlining, construction and firefighting operations.
John also shares some wisdom about the characteristics and work ethic you need to show to have the best chance of moving up in the industry. He also talks to the idea of mentorship and the responsibility on aircraft captains to develop their co-pilots from the point of view that they become a reflection of you.
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In this week’s episode:
01:05 Helicopter landing officer course – Dave, Martin, Reggie
02:35 Question of the week – how long was your CPL ground and air test?
03:36 Top helicopter books list download
04:00 John Harris – US Forest Service Helicopter Inspector Pilot
04:57 Where is Montana?
08:10 Geology major at Uni to motor pool truck mechanic
09:40 Warrant Officer candidate school, flight school Fort Rucker
10:30 Hueys and then Chinooks(1990)
12:20 Columbia helicopters logging operations
16:20 Longlining experience
18:15 Overseas jungle compounds – PNG, Ecuador
20:20 Flew the National Christmas tree
22:05 Carson Helicopters (2006) – S61 helicopters, Chief Pilot
26:50 Erickson Helicopters – E and F model skycranes
29:10 Flying skycrane from San Diego to Peru – maps, agents, fuel, visas, bullet hole
33:50 Skycrane 105-115kts cruise
35:10 US Forest Service – Region 1, carding contractors, subject matter experts, national programs
37:50 Water torch as a training aid for heli-torch operations
40:10 Only 12 helicopter pilots employed direct by Forest Service – not an operational role
42:25 Using Bell Cobra’s for fire scouting
43:10 Minimum experience requirements to be Forest Service qualified
45:50 Helicopter percentage of Forest Service budget
48:30 Utility tasks – stream enhancement, animal surveys, radio tower repair/resupply
50:00 Typical contractor machines – 206s, Astars, Hueys, 205s/++, 212, KMAX, BK117, Chinook, skycranes, S61s
51:14 Advice for breaking into the Forest Service contactor flying as a junior pilot
54:10 Professional development
55:22 Things wish had learnt earlier – risk management, don’t be afraid to stop, don’t push your limits, be patient, enjoy it!
58:55 Episode Sponsors trainmorepilots.com
59:20 Leave an iTunes review or on Stitcher
59:35 World Helicopter Day
Skycrane topping up with water from Blackfoot river to fight a forest fire at Bonner Montana – Aug 2011
Be part of the conversation and get involved in the comments section below. What questions do you have about the US Forest Service?