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Interested in becoming a helicopter pilot

1TallTXn

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I'm pondering the idea of getting into flying helicopters as a profession. Currently not licensed for flight in any type of craft.

My question is for those in the field already, do you have any advice for someone interested in the field?

Looking around a bit, all the decent jobs require over 2000hrs to get into before that, its probably going to be CFI/CFII instruction till I get enough hours accrued.
Are there any companies that would hire with fewer hours? It seems strange to me that they'd let you teach before you have much real world experience.

Any thoughts on what to look for when scoping out the training places?

I've pondered going .mil for the training, but I'm not ready to sign my life away to uncle sam for long enough that they'd train me. Nothing against .mil in the slightest, just not ready for that kind of a sign up for a small chance I'd get a pilot slot.

Thanks in advance
 

BushwickBill

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Unless you can't figure out what to do with that 100k you have lying around go with the military. They were screaming for Helo pilots in 2004. I don't know what it is like now. No way will civilians be able to compete with all of the former military guys getting back and looking for jobs with the experience in equipment that civilians will never see.
 

Hobit

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look at www-dot-verticalreference-dot-com

Lots of good info there.
 

AirCobra

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I'm pondering the idea of getting into flying helicopters as a profession. Currently not licensed for flight in any type of craft.

My question is for those in the field already, do you have any advice for someone interested in the field?

Looking around a bit, all the decent jobs require over 2000hrs to get into before that, its probably going to be CFI/CFII instruction till I get enough hours accrued.
Are there any companies that would hire with fewer hours? It seems strange to me that they'd let you teach before you have much real world experience.

Any thoughts on what to look for when scoping out the training places?

I've pondered going .mil for the training, but I'm not ready to sign my life away to uncle sam for long enough that they'd train me. Nothing against .mil in the slightest, just not ready for that kind of a sign up for a small chance I'd get a pilot slot.

Thanks in advance

The eight year commitment will go by in the blink of an eye. You will also probably move at least two or three times so it won't get boring. I would look at it this way, you probably don't want to be a CFI or flying for a low paying job with a bad schedule, but that is more than likely what you will wind up doing for the first three or four years of your career as a civilian pilot until you build up enough time to get a carreer job with a salary. So if you figure a year to a year and a half to train and three or four years to get a stable job you want to stay at, you have already made a five year commitment and where will you be? Making a low salary with nothing saved in the bank, scuffling to get turbine time, just like fixed wing CFI's try to get multiengine time. Where will you be after eight years with the military? Free flight training that you were paid to go to, at least 1,500 hours of turbine time if not more, making close to six figures, and you will still have that money you would have spent on flight training in the bank. To top it off if you get laid off you can still have income from the Guard or Reserve or go back on active duty. I will also add if you go Navy or Marine Corps helo's you will get both fixed wing and helo time at Pensacola and may have flexibililty to alternate between the two in your career. Plenty of helo guys also fly C-12's, T-34's and 44's, C-9's, and C-130's.

I would say if you can get in the military versus going the civilian route it would be a no brainer. Seriously eight years is nothing in the scheme of things at its not like a prision sentence. I would say you will even have more financial freedom and more options on assignements than going the civilian right where people run hop from job to job trying to get that elusive turbine time.

Just my two cents but best of luck in whatever you choose. As far as Helicopter schools go, check out HAI in Florida. They seem to have a good rep.
 

1TallTXn

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The eight year commitment will go by in the blink of an eye. You will also probably move at least two or three times so it won't get boring. I would look at it this way, you probably don't want to be a CFI or flying for a low paying job with a bad schedule, but that is more than likely what you will wind up doing for the first three or four years of your career as a civilian pilot until you build up enough time to get a carreer job with a salary. So if you figure a year to a year and a half to train and three or four years to get a stable job you want to stay at, you have already made a five year commitment and where will you be? Making a low salary with nothing saved in the bank, scuffling to get turbine time, just like fixed wing CFI's try to get multiengine time. Where will you be after eight years with the military? Free flight training that you were paid to go to, at least 1,500 hours of turbine time if not more, making close to six figures, and you will still have that money you would have spent on flight training in the bank. To top it off if you get laid off you can still have income from the Guard or Reserve or go back on active duty. I will also add if you go Navy or Marine Corps helo's you will get both fixed wing and helo time at Pensacola and may have flexibililty to alternate between the two in your career. Plenty of helo guys also fly C-12's, T-34's and 44's, C-9's, and C-130's.

I would say if you can get in the military versus going the civilian route it would be a no brainer. Seriously eight years is nothing in the scheme of things at its not like a prision sentence. I would say you will even have more financial freedom and more options on assignements than going the civilian right where people run hop from job to job trying to get that elusive turbine time.

Just my two cents but best of luck in whatever you choose. As far as Helicopter schools go, check out HAI in Florida. They seem to have a good rep.
Thanks very much for your insight and information. I've perused the Coast Guard site and, according to the site at least, I'm qualified for one of their programs that would put me in flight training. Didn't say fixed or rotor, but its at least flight training.
Talked to a friend in the AF and the odds of me getting a rotor spot there are slim to none.
Haven't checked into Marines, or National Guard. Maybe I need to talk to some recruiters. I don't trust what they have to say.
 

mudkow60

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Don't go the military route unless you want to... not worth the BS if your heart is not in it.
 

AirCobra

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Thanks very much for your insight and information. I've perused the Coast Guard site and, according to the site at least, I'm qualified for one of their programs that would put me in flight training. Didn't say fixed or rotor, but its at least flight training.
Talked to a friend in the AF and the odds of me getting a rotor spot there are slim to none.
Haven't checked into Marines, or National Guard. Maybe I need to talk to some recruiters. I don't trust what they have to say.

The recruiters for Air Force, Navy, and Marine officer programs are not the same as their regular recruiters. They will not hold your hand and try to get you in and only want to talk to competitve applicants, so you really have to seek them out and sell yourself. Once you express interest they will take a look at you and things like grades, education, and leadership potential, and assess what kind of chances you have. If you decide to continue with the process you will also be evluated with tests and an interview and if going for the Marine Corps you will have to pass a USMC Physical Fitness Test. I don't think their is much "lying" that can go on.

The Army Warrant Officer program (WOFT) is done through a regular Army recruiter and the only thing they may tell you is that it is better to go enlisted first. This is not necessarily a lie, but more of an indication the recruiter may be misinfomed. Your chances for getting Flight Training if you are in the Army are not much different than a person coming off the street. All you have to say is you only want to process for WOFT and then go from there. Again not much lying can go on because you told the recruiter what you wanted. They are not going to go through the trouble of getting you a Class 1 flight physical and AFAST test only to mislead you so they can make you a truck driver. You also will not go infantry unless you want to since they only have SSBT at Fort Benning and don't crowd it up with people going to basic training for other jobs. So there can be no bait and switch there either.

The Coast Guard has two programs, regular OCS and Blue 21. They only take a handful of Blue 21 people per year, and its not too easy to get selected for OCS either. Again you will be assessing for those particular programs, so not much lying can go on. If you go the OCS route you will have to excell to get your first choice of jobs. Only about 10-20% of OCS graduates actually get picked to go to flight school straight out of OCS. If not selected you can keep applying until you are too old and most people physically qualified who do a good job as a junior officer are eventually selected.

I actually think the toughest thing at this stage will likely be how disinterested recruiters will be in you when you tell them you want to go OCS and to flight school. You will have to basically prove to them you are worth their time and effort. I wouldn't worry much about lying, I would worry more about making a decent impression by showing you are motivated and organized.
 

Caveman

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Lots of good advice already posted, but let me add my two cents. In the interest of full disclosure I'm a fixed wing only pilot. However, I did manage a flight school that did both fixed and rotary wing training up to CFII/ATP and a turbine transistion. The running joke at our school was if you could afford helicopter flight training you didn't need a job.

About a third of the guys I know that started out as helo pilots now make their living flying fixed wing a/c. Another third quit flying altogether. The main reason is the dues you have to pay to get to a job that pays a liveable wage. Turbine time is the holy grail. Even more so than fixed wing flying. The problem is you can't get turbine time unless you have turbine experience. You will be competing against former mil guys that have nothing but turbine experience. It is extremely difficult to break out of a nonturbine CFI-H job and find your first turbine job. It can be done, but a lot of new helicopter pilots just don't have the desire to stick it out. It looks good on paper but the reality of 5 years instructing in an R22 is a whole different deal. Your first turbine job will probably be some sort of VFR only sightseeing gig. Think Grand Canyon. After a few years of that you then have to convince somebody you still remember how to fly IFR.

The typical civilian only career path for a helicopter pilot is a marathon. Unless you get lucky, it will take probably 8-10 years before you start to make a reasonable salary. Make sure you know what you're getting into or you'll end up with a mountain of debt and barn full of busted dreams and frustration. I'm not trying to talk you out of it. Just make sure you go in with both eyes wide open and understand the reality of what it's going to take to get to where you can make a comfortable living flying helicopters. No matter how tough you think it will be add in another 50% degree of difficulty. Plenty of folks did it and you can too, but don't kid yourself about how arduous the journey will be.

If you meet the requirements, go military. It really is a no-brainer. You'll grow up and be mentored by bonafide heroes, you'll get all the experience you need for a civilian career, you won't have $100K in flight training debt, you'll see a little bit of the world, and last but not least you'll be serving your fellow countryman. There is no downside.
 

AirCobra

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Good advice by Caveman with a few exceptions. A few larger schools like HAI have formed partnerships with companies like AirLog and PHI to place people flying offshore in a relatively short amount of time, usually at 1200 to 1500 hours if you go through their program. That could mean as little as two years as a CFI before moving on. Problem is those companies do have to be hiring when you get the enough flight time as a CFI to qualify. Northeast Helicopters in CT places a lot of low time guys around New York flying tours in turbine equipment also, but once again they have to be hiring and they sometimes lay people off during the winter. The plus side is even though these are considered entry level jobs, starting pay is usually in the mid $40's to low $50's so its a lot better than a regional airline FO pay.
 
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