Jerry Trimble Helicopters - A rediculously friendly and professional flight training solution in the Pacific North West
I had just rolled out of another right hand 180° standard rate turn on the 270 Radial of the CVO VOR when the VHF crackled again. The radio was so damn busy that it was seriously starting to interfere with my concentration and the holding pattern I was sorely attempting to master. This time it was a Learjet Pilot announcing his intentions of crossing midfield at 3,000’ and making an approach to land on Runway 17 at Corvallis Muni Airport. Which just happened to be where we were, since the VOR is located at the airport. My CFI, Dustin, was smoothly announcing our own location on the CTAF frequency and doing a fine job keeping us away from other aircraft.
The Learjet pilot had a noticeable Midwestern drawl. Wherever he was from originally - it was not Oregon. After flying the VOR A approach we landed our R-22 for some gas. Making our way past the shiny Learjet, now parked on the ramp in front of the FBO, we stepped inside and came face to face with the Learjet Pilots. Both were sporting black leather jackets with the words Walmart Aviation emblazoned on the front. And they were the nicest people you ever met!
You must be asking how Walmart Aviation relates to my review of Jerry Trimble Helicopters? But follow me here.
Growing up in Oklahoma in the 70s, Walmart was a regular stop on any shopping trip to town. Dad loved Walmart because at the time they were heavily stocked with products that were Made in America. I also remember the stories of how Founder Sam Walton, would still drive around North West Arkansas in his favorite old Ford pickup truck, even though he was already a billionaire by then.
I am not sure if Jerry would quite appreciate being compared to Sam Walton, but I am positive both built their businesses on the same two basic principles; 1. excellent customer service and 2. the lowest possible price. What worked for Sam Walton in the retailing industry in North West Arkansas, is working for Jerry Trimble Helicopters in the flight training industry today, in North West Oregon!
In a 1983 People Magazine article Sam Walton was describe by people who knew him as being “totally devoid of pretense” and as having “absolutely no tinsel.” I translate this to being- “down to earth, friendly, honest, direct.” Sounds like the owner of Jerry Trimble Helicopters.
To continue this review, I need to go back to what originally drew me to JTH. If you have been to this blog before you likely know I retired from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department after 29 years, eight of which were in the Air Support Unit and my final 2.5 years as a sergeant in the Air Support Unit. I was certain I would fly again, but I eased into a part time job, back with my own department where I only worked every third week. It was the perfect combination of extra time and extra money. It also allowed me to take my time and carefully examine any future decisions. At the same time my darling wife was very supportive and encouraged me to pursue flying and put all that flying experience to good use.
So, there I was, looking at the helicopter pilot want ads, wishing I had an instrument rating, and knowing that I only had a specific amount of capital in which to invest in this flight training endeavor. I began researching the costs of obtaining an instrument rating in San Diego County, then in Southern California, then in all of California.
Virtually every flight school I researched were using the R-44 as their instrument trainer - at a price of $480 to $580 an hour. I even called my old school where I had received 10 hours of instrument training in the Schweizer 300 (toward my commercial rating) and they now only use the R-44.
I knew that instrument training in the R-44 would chew up virtually every dollar of the funds I had available to me. Even doing 20 hours in the simulator to save money (as allowed by the FAA) - I had to find a school with an R-22 instrument trainer. JTH’s Instrument R-22 rate is $275.00 per hour, with instructor, as of this writing. A significant savings over the R-44. But so far, I was having no luck in Southern California, (at least in a part 91 School.)
Then I did it, it must have been fate. I don’t even know what website I was on but clicked on one of those google display ads for Jerry Trimble Helicopters. Hmm…problem solved?
So, I cruised on over to the JTH website and began reading up on Jerry and his operation. This is where the cop part of me takes over. Always looking for the scam. Hey, the very first article I wrote on this blog was about Silver State Helicopters. Need I say more?
I began reading about Jerry and how he had worked for Frank Robinson at the Robinson Factory, as a mechanic, all the way back in 1979. I read about Jerry starting Hillsboro Helicopters in December of 1980 and how he built it up to 40 employees before he sold it. Hillsboro Helicopters was a known name to me. This was kind of big. JTH was starting to look like the real deal to me. And they had an R-22 instrument trainer. But there was one more bit of research I had to do. Find out what former students had to say about JTH.
See, I only had one shot at getting my instrument rating as far as I was concerned. If I got into a bad school, or ended up with an instructor that I did not get along with, or any other myriad of things that could go wrong, then it would all be for not. I could not really afford to make a bad decision here.
Now if you want brutal damn honesty you will not find it any quicker than on a helicopter pilot forum! Trust me on this. I ended up on the Just Helicopters forums praying I would not read anything negative about Jerry or his company. I was elated to find only positive reviews. The clincher was one former student who talked about having dinner with Jerry and his wife Alison at their house. That brought it all home for me. My decision was made. The next day I was on the phone with Alison putting together a plan for my helicopter instrument flight training.
On January 16, 2017, after a 4-hour oral/checkride, the Designated Pilot Examiner handed me my Temporary Instrument Helicopter Pilot Certificate. Yeehaw!
Jerry Trimble is a professional through and through, and his training operation reflects this. Jerry teaches the CFI students himself. More than once I would overhear Jerry teaching in the adjacent room. If I ever seek a CFI rating it will be at JTH. But beyond that, every single CFI at JTH is a friendly professional that seems to have only two goals. Making you a safe pilot and training you to a level that you successfully pass the checkride, regardless of which rating you are pursuing.
But more than that, JTH is family owned, family operated, and a true family atmosphere. You know you are going to get great customer service and have all of your training needs met when the owners are saying good morning to you every day. And trust me, before you leave you will feel like a member of their family.
I can honestly say that I did not have a single negative experience with any person; employee, CFI or student at JTH during my time there. Now the TH-100 Flight Simulator that is a different story, haha, but that is for another article, (seriously- for some people the flight sim will save you a lot of money but there are some tricks for flying it - to make it less frustrating.)
How about my budget? I had a personal budget of $10,000 to obtain my instrument rating. Even if it had taken right up to $10,000 I would have been happy as long as I left Mcminnville with an instrument rating in my pocket. Final costs Paid to JTH was $8,441.50. This included approximately 31 days in student housing, as well as several ground sessions with my CFI. The $700 examiner fee for the checkride is generally paid direct from the student. So, my absolute total costs was $9141.50
In the end, I made two driving trips from San Diego to McMinnville Oregon, 16 hours each way for a total of about 64 hours of driving, all with no regrets. I would do it again.
If you are planning on becoming a helicopter pilot, and you are anywhere in the western half of the U.S., you should at least consider Jerry Trimble Helicopters as one of your schools to research. If you do decide that JTH is your school of choice you will not be disappointed.
I met some really incredible people while training at JTH, both students and CFIs. I plan on writing several more articles on my time at JTH so check back often.