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Helicopters anyone? (Need advise)

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Executive Freightdawg
Feb 21, 2002
I'm not having any luck finding good info elsewhere, so I'll ask for help here...

I am on the verge of getting my instrument rating and have come to a point where I want to make a decision.
I took my first helicopter ride a few weeks ago, which really got my juices flowing on something I had been thinking about for a long time.
I want to decide whether or not to go rotary wing or stay fixed wing. If I stay fixed wing, I am not dead set on ATP, but maybe something smaller.
Mainly the advise I'd like is :
a. Another source like 'flightinfo' which caters to the rotary
b. Any source of info or advise, concerning the future prospects in rotary aviation.
c. Any source of info concerning the best 'point of changeover' --right now I think it is post instrument, but post commercial may be better--I'm still doing the math with Part 61.50.

Thanks for your time, and any ideas are appreceiated.

Shaun in Colorado

Stick with airplanes unless you go military or law enforcement, for quality of life and pay.

Helicopters are more fun, however.

I've ridden in a helicopter once (a Huey) and have never flown them. I knew someone who was an airplane pilot and TV news reporter. He went somewhere to earn his Commercial rotor and got a job as a helicopter pilot-reporter for a TV station. That surprised me, because . . . . .

Helicopters are a Catch-22. To get the job you need the hours and you need the hours to get the job. And, there aren't that many jobs. Unlike low-time airplane pilots, I don't know of anyone who will hire a low-time rotor pilot except for law enforcement. Law enforcement will hire low-time rotor pilots, but these folks start as police officers whom the cop shop sends for flight training.

I'd stick with airplanes. More jobs available (if such a thing is possible in aviation). It does look like fun, though, but, expensive fun. The March Flying had an article about Lane Wallace learning to fly helicopters at the Robinson factory.

Good luck with your decision.
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One good page you can try is www.aptap.org It is the main message board for helicopter pilots trying to break into airline flying. Unless you go military, I would highly suggest staying fixed wing. Granted, helicopter flying is MUCH more fun but when you go up for a job, you are going to be competing against guys with 3000+ hours of turbine rotary wing time - and its made even more difficult due to insurance regulations (and the fact that most likely you will be flying single-piloted). Good luck with whichever route you choose. "To fly is human, to hover divine...."

I've flown both (have a Comm/Inst in rotorcraft and helos) so I can give you some objectivity. If your looking for fun and adventure then helos are the way to go. But if your looking for that illusive million dollar airline retirement (which most fixed-wing guys seem to be doing) then maybe you ought to stick to the airline path, or just throw your money in the stockmarket and pray.

Hours to get hired for a good helo job use to be astronomical, but are now starting to come down because those Viet Vets are starting to retire and the market is getting bigger. Go to "justhelicopters.com" to get a basic idea of mins. Also, check out "phpa.net" for other helo info.

If your still under 28 years old you might want to check out the military. If it's adventure you want then they will give it to you, good along with the bad, and there is NO substitute for military experience.

Most decent helo jobs pay around 40-90 grand. Helo guys often tend to carry a different attitude then fixed wing pilots. They seem a bit more relaxed and aren't looking to become rich. Also, helo CFI's don't usually walk around wearing brown leather jacks and aviator glasses trying to look like Tom Cruz. Not hacking on FW guys (I'm one), but just pointing out some subtle differences.

Anyway, the CFI route is a way to build time if you don't go military.

If you need more info feel free to e-mail me directly.

Great stuff...

Thats some great info Timp ( and everyone), thanks.
Thats just the point -- I really don't care about getting rich and a 'low key' career in twins, helicopters or even single engine really appeals to me-- I'm one of those 'relaxed' guys you're talking about. Yeah I'd love to fly a lear jet too, but the whole Airline deal doesn''t hold as much appeal for me as for most pilots I think.
I can still join the Army until I'm 34 (32 right now), but while I would gladly serve our country -- I could do without the 'action'--- and they can't give me a guarantee - I already talked to them.

I really apreceiate all of the feedback. I think I will probably stick with fixed wing for a few reasons. Maybe I can just make helicopters a hobby.

Lesee, where's that lotto ticket....

My roomate flew Blackhawks in the Army, and he loved it. However, many major airlines don't count rotory time, so once you make the switch, it won't be easy coming back.

I too loved helicopters more than fixed wing, but I learned that the jobs are not much fun, and difficult to get. But, you can combine the two. I know of a Comair captain that flys a 500D for the movie studios in LA on his free time. Now, that sounds like fun, and he doesn't need to depend on the helicopters for the money. Good luck to you.
As far as this board is concerned, none of the guys coming out of the military are looking to continue rotary flying. Instead, they are looking for 250 hours of King Air time to get a regional job. Maybe the Huey drivers going into retirement will change the picture for the present-day Blackhawk and Apache guys (and the other types, too), but I wouldn't bank on it.

If you have the money (don't need to work, independently wealthy...) then buy your own 'Copter and get the training. Outside of the military, that's the only way I could see getting to fly one.

Have fun.

You stated that the army told you there was no guarantee...that's a line of BS.

The Army Warrant Officer Flight Training program is a guaranteed track to the flight line, without having to serve time as an enlisted soldier first (except for basic tng).

The only thing that might be holding you back is your age. I don't know what the cutoff is these days.

While the training is excellent, if you have the $$$ burning a hole in your pocket and you went the CFI route you would probably get to a dream job faster than if you went in the army. Expect to only fly 150 to 200 hrs per year in the army (if you are lucky).

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