Robert Ardy, CFI-I, USAF Veteran, shares vectors to becoming a professional helicopter pilot
[CAREER UPDATE 2-10-15: Rob Ardy starts new career flying helicopters for utility company. Congrats Rob!!!]
Considering himself one of the “old guys” at work, Robert Ardy, CFI-I, 34, is a United States Air Force Veteran, former Police Officer, and now a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI-I), helicopters, at Guidance Aviation. If Ardy isn’t teaching others how to fly, you may find him flying the dream: Piloting chase helicopters during road rally races; transporting airborne camera crews; Conducting search and rescue missions as a SAR pilot for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO).
Winged at birth, Ardy is literally a son of the USAF. Born on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, his family represents an entire flock of aviation professionals. His father is also a USAF Veteran (141, KC-10FE) and his uncle is a UPS 767 Captain, while his late grandfather retired as a Captain from the Airlines and his other grandfather owned aircraft and flew recreationally for years.
“Growing up, I was surrounded with aviation, so it never was really something that I was passionate about, it was just normal. I did not become passionate about it until I met my now good friend Travis Taylor who took me for a ride in a Robinson R44 helicopter. After getting on the controls, the hook was set and I had to fly helicopters. It was starting to make sense why all the men in my family were so passionate about flying. I had flown airplanes before, but nothing captivated me like vertical flight,” states Ardy.
From Zero Time To Professional Helicopter Pilot in 18 Months
Ardy started his training at Guidance Aviation in January, 2011. “I chose Guidance Aviation after walking through a couple of schools. The choice was clear. It was a far better laid out program with a definitive path and finish line. Coming from the military and law enforcement worlds, I needed that structure. I just do better that way,” says Ardy.
In 18 months after starting his helicopter flight training at Guidance Aviation, Ardy was a CFI-I, helicopters. Soon enough, Ardy began teaching others how to fly while also being designated as a maintenance test pilot. Currently, Ardy holds the positions of Team Manager and Safety Committee President. “I really enjoy both positions but the opportunity to be a Team Manager and provide support and encouragement to the younger pilots on my team is really something special. I think the key to being successful in any industry is being with good people. I’m lucky because I have really motivated and high speed guys on my team which make my job easy,” states Ardy.
Chase Helicopters, Rally Cars And Airborne Camera Crews – Flying the Dream
Challenges and Rewards
As Team Manager, Ardy is responsible for the performance and currency of 6 helicopter pilots. “This is both a rewarding and challenging position. Any time you manage people, there is much more to it than the person’s performance. There is the personal factor. How is he / she doing outside of work? Is their head in the right place to make safe decisions? My approach to management is the person first. If your pilot is doing well in his / her personal life, they will be more productive and safer pilots. It’s really about the person,” states Ardy.
“There are also many challenges as a Helicopter Flight Instructor. One of the most frequent challenges that flight instructors see is a student getting burned out or plateauing in their training. It’s often a challenge to get the student motivated again and help them past the issue. But once you get them passed the issues, it is extremely rewarding,” continues Ardy.
Search and Rescue Pilot
Ardy is also an on-call Search and Rescue (SAR) Pilot for the Yavapai Sheriff’s office (YCSO). “This position also means a great deal to me as I can mend my prior experience as a police officer and passion for flying, together. And its some of the most fun you can have in a helicopter,” mentions Ardy.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
When asked who has had the most influence on him, Ardy quickly mentions his Father, Uncle, and Wife. “My father firstly. He has always been my support when I needed him. No matter what I was doing or exploring, he was there with encouraging words and help when I needed it. My Uncle has also been a big support in my flying career. With that said, I absolutely would not be where I am today if it were not for the constant love and support of my wife,” says Ardy.
Bonus Video – Raw Footage from Helmet Cam of Chase Pilot
Check out the raw, unedited footage from the helmet cam of chase pilot Robert Ardy, CFI-I during the 2014 Prescott Rally! This is what it’s really like to be livin’ the dream. Contact Guidance Aviation and start livin’ !