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A Quick Word With Bristow’s European Head of Flight Operations

January 21, 2016

Captain Tim Glasspool is the head of flight operations at Bristow's Europe Caspian Region, where he currently manages flight operations in the UK, Norway and Turkmenistan, including search and rescue (SAR), with 550 aircrew reporting to him. With nearly 25 years at Bristow, Captain Glasspool shares his thoughts about flying and how improved technology has changed the job over the years.

What attracted you to becoming a pilot?
I was drawn to the job because it offered a mix of technology and travel. Complex helicopters are pretty cool machines to drive.

What is your favorite thing about being a pilot?
The views can be spectacular, particularly sunsets and the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Even now, when I get to fly, I still feel a sense of wonder when walking out to the flight line at dawn to take an 11 ton, 70-foot-long helicopter 200 miles offshore to a ship and bring it back again.

How has technology in the cockpit evolved over the years?
The ability of aircraft systems to manage and monitor themselves has increased tremendously. The computing power on a modern helicopter far exceeds anything imaginable 25 years ago. Helicopters, such as the EC225, are very digital. With every software update, there are significant changes to how it operates. In the past, things didn't change very much over the life of that aircraft, but today, a modern helicopter changes dramatically during its operating life.

How has improved technology made flying easier?
The autopilots are tremendously more capable than ever before and have changed the way helicopters are operated. We tell the autopilot what to do through keypads rather than actually flying the aircraft for most of the time now. This means that pilots have to have a much deeper understanding of what the systems will actually do with the instructions we give them, and when it all works, flying is easier. When systems are down, it can be a lot more difficult to interpret what is actually going on.

What change do you find to be most innovative?
Aside from the autopilot, the Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) analyzes inputs from vibration sensors all over the aircraft and has contributed hugely to helicopter safety. The modern versions are very sophisticated and can predict potential component failures well in advance of any actual failure, allowing maintenance to change the part before it breaks.

What is your best advice to someone just starting to learn to be a pilot?
Do as much flying as you can. When I interview candidates for pilot positions, I look for those with a passion for flying. Students wanting to fly should spend their money on getting more hours at a flying club, rather than a new phone or an extravagant holiday, to demonstrate that they are in it for the long term and are willing to invest in it as well.