View Full Version : Would you become a Professional Pilot again?

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B Sousa
28th Jun 2002, 17:17
"The pay isn't as good as flying a 747 for BA, but the enjoyment and freedom of being a professional helicopter pilot makes up for a lot. " The quote is part of an answer I gave a Wannabee, reflecting what I believe to be the majority view expressed on the forum over the years.
B. Sousa disagrees strongly.

What do others think?

Note: I've split the thread because it became two separate discussions.

Heliport....How could you do this to the poor guy. "freedom of being a professional helicopter pilot."
Thats an all inclusive statement with the following:
1. Low Pay
2. No Retirement
3. Adverse Living Conditions
4. Long Hours
5. Overworked and Abused Aircraft
6. Zero Job Security
7. And the knowledge that if you turn down a mission based on Aircraft Performance/Weather, you will probably be unemployed.

All this after you have spent years to gain the necesssary experience and many thousands of Dollars/Pounds/Rand/ Pesos.

Fire Away

Hope you don't mind Bert. Interesting points being made.

30th Jun 2002, 12:28
If I were you I'd change jobs Bert.

Flare Dammit!
30th Jun 2002, 16:39
Bert was just being realistic. The "enjoyment and freedom" of being a professional helicopter pilot? Oh please. Yeah, there are some visceral rewards in our "profession," but to say they outweigh the advantages of being a 747 captain for BA is just immature nonsense. I personally know plank drivers who - believe it or not - absolutely LOVE what they do! Imagine that! I dearly wish I'd followed my late father's wishes and not pursued rotorcraft as a career.

We are helicopter pilots because we are underacheivers. We could all likely do better if we wanted to. Aspiring pilots who voluntarily come into our corner of the industry should do it with their eyes open; this still ain't a great career and likely never will be..."enjoyment and freedom" notwithstanding.

30th Jun 2002, 21:15

I can't speak for Bert and Flare and, yes, they may have valid points of view - from their perspectives..., I've worked for some pretty rotten operators and have had similar thoughts from time to time. I have, however been lucky enough to find a great position with a great operator with whom I'm looking forward to finishing out my career.

I'm not trying to rain on your parade here Bert but I'm getting:

1. Adequate pay,
2. Retirement,
3. I own my own place and when I'm away from la casa the crew quarters are top of the line, (I even get a company car)
4. Can't do anything about the hours - that's the nature of "the beast", but I do get compensated accordingly,
5. I get to fly fairly new and extremely well maintained aircraft,
6. Job security? Who has job security - anywhere? Be honest?
7. Within reason and actual conditions, no one exceeds either their personal or the aircraft's operational capabilities. In the same context we are expected to operate to our (and aircraft) limits when called upon to do so.

And I've never considered myself to be an underacheiver. I happen to like what I do and I choose to stay in the business (for thirty years now) simply because of that fact. I have managed to acheive a lot in my life - in fact, I've done almost everything that I've wanted to do and have seen almost everything I've wanted to see. What I haven't done or seen, I'll get around to it in the next twenty years. I do not allow my profession to stand in my way.

Several years ago I got this wild hair that I'd like to move into the "big leagues" and I shelled out a few bucks for starched-wing lessons (I was already counting the $300K a year I would be making with FedEx or some of the others). It took all of three hours to figure out that I'd be one unhappy SOB at the end of every day.

Now, please Flare, don't take offense here because I'm not directing this toward you, you have a good point in that; there are quite a few underacheivers in this industry. But, in my opinion, the underacheivers are the pilots who are tired, miserable, pissed-off, hate what they do, hate who they work for, the aircraft they fly, etc..., and do nothing to change that. No where in the "Golden Book of Rotary Wing Aviation" does it state that everything you desire will be handed to you when you walk through the door. Conversely, no where does it state that you are required to stay in a position or with an operator who treats you like applebutter. (I'm a crusty ol' bastard in my old age)

With all of that said, robpowell69, should you choose to chase the dream, best of luck. There are a variety of paths you may choose to follow; offshore, utility, external load, corporate, EMS, electronic news, tours..., - good jobs, not so good jobs. Heck, who says you can't run your own operation? It may take you a while to acheive your goals, but you can have a lot of fun getting there (yeah, yeah..., you may have to eat some crap along the way and it's hard work and sometimes it feels as though you're sucking on the fuzzy end of the popsicle stick...).

Last of all, looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. Guess I'm the lucky one.

Good luck,

C Ya

30th Jun 2002, 21:26
Well said Desert Dude - and you are not the only one.

Flare Dammit!
1st Jul 2002, 13:53
Hey Desert Dude-

Happy that you found your little slice of helicopter nirvana. Trouble is, yours is the exception rather than the rule.

The helicopter industry is tiny. Just how many actual positions like Desert Dude's do we think there are out there...100, tops? Maybe not even that many. And this is something that pilots want/try to aspire to?

The sad irony is that a new helicopter pilot cannot even direct his career to end up at Desert Dude's job. Oh, he might aim in that general direction, but too many outside factors will come into play for robpowell69 to say, "Yes, I'm going to have Desert Dude's job one day!" Get real. Desert Dude lucked-out and he knows it. Or he should.

Meanwhile, the path to the left seat of an airliner is clearly marked. While you or I (e.g. older guys) very well might not end up making $300,000/year, the financial rewards are certainly there. Hey, I'd would even take $100,000/year with all the other bennies that come with being a captain for an airline. Because *THAT* is certainly and easily do-able, even at my age. Can we say the same about helicopters? Nope.

Ol' Desert Dude evidently doesn't like being called an underacheiver. He obviously could be doing anything he set his mind to. He said himself that he had his sights on a FedEx airline job once, but settled for being a helicopter pilot and righteously defends the choice. Good for him! But being an underacheiver has little to do with our own personal goals, and everything to do with what we are capable of.

Some of us have a neurotic need to fly helicopters, I suppose - something I've never quite understood. I've always loved to fly both fixed-wing and rotary...just LOVE to fly! And hopefully, I'll continue to fly for a long time to come.

Helicopters are not magic. They're just machines that do a job...machines that will kill you quick if you let your attention lapse for even a second. Yeah, they're neat and cool. Whoopee. Young pilots ask me all the time, "Man, how could you EVER get tired of flying helicopters??" They ask it with such a breathless, wide-eyed, disbelieving tone...the kind of look I used to have on my face, I guess, when I thought I wouldn't be able to breath without being a helicopter pilot. I say, call me back in twenty years and 10,000 hours. It's just a damn aircraft.

And it's not that I'm tired of them. It's just that if I never saw another helicopter ever again...that'd be okay. Really. I don't want to fly them for money anymore. Call me...

Mr. Underacheiver No More

1st Jul 2002, 17:02

Flare, it's a shame you didn't find your "piece of the pie". Hope it all works out for ya. However, I still have to disagree with you regarding the underachiever part. You stated:

**"But being an underacheiver has little to do with our own personal goals, and everything to do with what we are capable of." **

Is that to imply I should have been a trauma surgeon simply because I am capable of it? If so, then yes, I am an underachiever, BIG TIME. But, in doing so, what exactly have I achieved? Looking at it from another prospective, shouldn't we also aspire to be happy and content with our lives? As I earlier stated, I wouldn't be happy as a fixed-wing pilot, nor would I be happy as a banker or an attorney or a doctor, etc...

Call me what you like, I don't mind - I'll just be the happiest, most contented underachiever around this neck of the woods... as I walk off into the sunset while the rotorblades slowly unwind.

*****If you want it - get after it, robpowell69!!! Why don't you talk to that Whirly-whatever-her-name is from the other post. Sounds as if she's got something going on.

Anyway, good luck to all.

C Ya

Up & Away
1st Jul 2002, 19:59
Disappointed at the general attitude of the rotary brotherhood!!!!'Underachievers' indeed!!

I went fixed wing with the rest in the late 80's got command got loads of money paid off the morgages of two houses and now enjoying the freedom of helicopters again.. Fixed wing flying is easy!! Helicoptering is a joy!!

I feel better now

1st Jul 2002, 21:14
This is not my post. Although now showing under my name, it was posted by Steve76 It didn't transfer with the others so I moved it.

At the very worst of it (and we can trade horror employment stories if you want), it still rates miles above the 5yrs I did on the workshop floor.
Spare a thought for the poor individuals who pump your gas or work the counter at Tims, Canadian Tire and the host of other mass employers. Some really never had a choice as to their future.

I think any person who attempts a "career" as a pilot can never be considered an "underachiever". The only underachiever is the person who gives up after the first couple of years of job searching, unemployment or constant rejection.

It seems also that plenty of helicopter drivers think the slabwing guys are raking it in. WRONG!

I have been a part of aviation since the 70's and can confirm that the only ones on the six figure incomes are the heavy drivers. It takes a lifetime to get into those jobs.

Eg: I was chatting with a lear driver in Windsor the other day. He drives a 10,000,000 aircraft has 3000hrs + 1000hrs on the lear = $35000 Canadian a year.
Most guys I know can easily double that in a summer. Its only taken them 3-5yrs to reach that level.

As for manipulating your career, it only takes some strategic planning and a little awareness that all the advice you will receive is not all good.
For instance; there are those who think co-pilot time is worthless. WRONG. Cojoe time is gold. It is the link from the bush to the city. Get it where and whenever you can.

I once went from the S76C to a B47 and back again after 3yrs on the 76. I felt I needed the change and a new challenge. 2yrs later hopping back to the 76 was just a matter of looking and waiting.

Ask how many robbie/JR/hughes drivers are sick of their jobs. Now see how long they have been stuck in the rut. Ask them what their ambitions were at the start. Was all their thinking about chasing deer, mustering, heliskiing and flying robbies or maybe a AS350?
They have not continued their education and development of new skills. Most have multi thousand of hours out bush. Have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and never bothered to investigate an IFR ticket! No forethought. They are all great drivers but all the complaining at age 40 about how they would like to be home etc.... its no one elses fault but theirs.

SO! is it easy. NO is the definate answer. Wages and conditions are abysmal for a long time. Its hard on the kids and wife. But at the end of the day I look foward to going to work. I get a great office, stimulation, job satisfaction and I feel I am living and not just existing through the weekly grind.

How to get a Job?
Get a licence and go to Africa, Nothern Canada, South America, a tuna boat or anywhere else that the softer guys don't want to live. That is where you will find your first opportunity. Waiting for Bristows to let you fly the North Sea for them is a pipe dream. Spend only what you need. Leave the IFR for later, maybe just get a turbine endorsement. Don't spend all your bucks on the JR. Think about where to spend your money. The UK pound buys a lot of Aussie/NZ/SA and canuk dollars and the flying hours are accepted everywhere.
Get off your arse and do a little pushing and a few years of bush and the future will be bright.

Rant over :cool:

1st Jul 2002, 21:32
Time for my two-pence worth I think!

Before I took up commercial helicopter flying, I was working in IT. I was working contract, perhaps earning £750 / week in the early '80s. I was working about 3 months at a time, then blowing it all on hours building. I got one job working for Thames Tv (sorry about [email protected]<hidden>@<hidden>@<hidden> up the royalties payment progam, guys!!) The office I was in was located next to the Thames, and every day I watched those helis flying down the heli-routes into London. My friends who were with me at the time are now earning £1500 / week in IT, and have huge pensions when they retire. I am earning about a third of that, with no pension (oops) but the view from my office window changes every day. I would not change it for the world. The hell with the money. I am doing what I always dreamed of doing, and when I look back on my working life it will be with a smile at what I, a boy from a council estate, has (under?) acheived.

Yes, sometimes when I am in my 5th hour of pleasure flying I get a bit bored. But take a look at the big picture boys and ENJOY it. The alternatives just don't bear thinking about.

And before you ask, it cost me about £45,000. And if I had the choice again tomorrow, I would still do it.

Helicopters - if you have to make no money, what better way??

1st Jul 2002, 23:13
Stevie Terrier

Bert Sousa
Flare Dammit

Perhaps we ought to have Rotorheads' first ever poll?

Nick Lappos
2nd Jul 2002, 00:45

Time for me to weigh in. Flying is the ONLY way to make a living that allows the freedom to make your own judgements, the fun of handling a machine in three dimensions, and the satisfaction of knowing that your fate is literally in your hands.

Those who are bitter about their flying occupation certainly have valid points, but also underscore what my Dad told me - You vote with your feet. They get up each day and do it again, and again and so on. Something must be right with their lives.

As for me, I have flown professionally since I was 18, I am 53 now, and I don't intend to stop. Its a gas, its not usual, and every now and then I see something that a ground pounder can only dream about.

Were I 18, and looking for a job, I'd certainly become a pilot, all over again.


2nd Jul 2002, 01:09
Is there something in the atmosphere? Someone has a similar thread started over in JetBlast (under: Be Honest).

Keeping score Heliport?

What-ho Squiffy!
2nd Jul 2002, 03:18
I've done both fixed and rotary and consider myself a helo driver first and foremost. I have had a break from flying, and never missed the plank flying at all. When making the transition from helo to plank, the plank drivers loved to caution the helo guys about how difficult it is with the higher speed etc. Well it is a load of old cobblers, and does not take long to get the hang of climb/straight and level/descent. Do that 6000 times and you have the life of a plank driver. Yawn.

I am convinced that what draws people to fixed wing is the lure of the airlines with the high pay and cushy conditions (i.e. a career choice). I really believe that helicopter pilots fly helicopters for the challenge, the variety and the satisfaction (try rescuing someone in a 747). If they wanted big money, they would have chosen airlines, banking, stockbroking or real estate. If you are smart, you can eke out a good living flying helicopters, and do some of the best flying.

So, I wouldn't have it any other way - and if I want to retire from flying, I'll apply to an airline ;)

Flare Dammit!
2nd Jul 2002, 03:37
What- ho Squiffy! wrote:
"I am convinced that what draws people to fixed wing is the lure of the airlines with the high pay and cushy conditions (i.e. a career choice). I really believe that helicopter pilots fly helicopters for the challenge, the variety and the satisfaction (try rescuing someone in a 747). "

And I'm convinced that most helicopter pilots are neurotic nutjobs.

People are drawn to the airlines by "high pay and cushy conditions"???? Say what? Hey buddy, why not just slap the faces of all fixed-wing pilots! How elitist.

Flying is flying. If you're good, it matters not what type of aircraft you're in. I always preferred flying low and slow and down-in-the-contour-of-the-land of helicopter flying. But I could easily have been just as happy up at FL330 in the pointy end of a 757. Those who call airline flying "boring" or "unchallenging" are just being dumb. It might not be to your taste, but don't demean it. The requirements are just...different.

The original poster, Rob Powell, was trying to contrast the two careers. It's a no-brainer: if there's a choice, GO AIRLINES!

If I had it to do over, would I become a professional helicopter pilot again? Yeah, probably. But hopefully, this time I'd quit before I got trapped. I don't regret becoming a helicopter pilot, but I kick myself for thinking for so long that it was the *only* thing that could make me happy. What a doofus.

What-ho Squiffy!
2nd Jul 2002, 04:11
FD - I had to smile when you reckoned I am elitist and slapping airline pilots in the face. The last person I accused of having a (relatively) secure, highly paid job that wasn't too taxing, while being served meals and coffee ad nauseum was far from offended. I know a lot of airline pilots, and I attempt to offend them regularly with this method - to no avail.

And, they think I am a little strange for pursuing a career in helo's when I could throw in an application to the airlines. They just can't understand it. It's horses for courses, but the plank flying I have done is not a patch on the helo flying I have done and hope to do.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. If you choose to follow what you love doing, the money will come (or so I keep telling myself).

2nd Jul 2002, 05:05
Where is the encouragement from the guys with the 'dream' jobs - Heliskiing, EMS, Police, SAR, Mediterannean VIP shuttles etc?

I gave up a life of sailing in the Caribbean and Med to do my CPL(H) - Far too much sun, vodka and lose women in sailing you see - it's a nightmare.... :-)

Attacking the airline guys is either jealousy or just misguided. I'm a new CPL(H) with no fixed wing experience but, IMHO, putting a 767 with 300+ souls on board on the deck in crappy viz is every bit as exciting as doing full-down autos, FMC or not.

What-Ho Squify - if money is a big motivator for you (nothing wrong with that sport) may I suggest the most profitable industry sectors.... Narcotics, Investment Banking, I.T., Real Estate, Oil. Several of them go quite nicely with helicopter support! Hell, if you're Australian all you have to do is work in the U.K. for a few years and you go home loaded! :-)

2nd Jul 2002, 07:25
Stevie Terrier
Nick Lappos
What-ho Squiffy!

Bert Sousa
Flare Dammit "I'm convinced that most helicopter pilots are neurotic nutjobs."

What-ho Squiffy!
2nd Jul 2002, 08:10
Hey Mr Buttline,

If money was my motivator, would I be a helo driver? I think not, and that was the whole point of my post. You must have skim-read it.

And I agree with the other post regarding encouragement from those dream-job dudes. C'mon guys!

What Limits
2nd Jul 2002, 10:26
I must admit that I never expected to be rated with the dream job dudes but as a veteran HEMS driver I can tell you that this job is the best thing you can do and remain legal.

I too had a dalliance with fixed wing flying in the Armed Services and it was good, with lots of demanding flying (mainly IFR) throughout Europe. When I left I made a conscious decision NOT to do Fixed-Wing. After all, its only got money going for it (and lots of it!).

The job I do now is the best. Legalised hooliganism, and I get to save lives occasionally. I work for the best employer I know (me) and I get well paid with a pension to boot.

What could be better than that.

(Mediterranean VIP Shuttle should not be included in the list of dream jobs IMHO!)

2nd Jul 2002, 15:11
Desert Dude,

Whirly-whatever-her-name-is hasn't really got the helicopter flying experience to comment, but since you mentioned my name - well, nearly anyway :D

I guess it just depends what you want out of life. I've done all sorts of different things, and yes, I've been called an under achiever too, just because I never followed a conventional career path or made lots of money. But I did whatever I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, and that kind of freedom is what's important to me. If the rest of the world disapproves, that's their problem not mine.

Five years ago I inherited some money and decided to learn to fly; two years later I discovered helicopters. I keep saying I wish I'd started flying them years ago, but if I had, maybe I'd be as disillusioned as some of you are now. As it is, maybe I can actually get paid to fly them someday, because otherwise I won't be able to afford to. That's about the sum total of my ambitions, flying-wise, right at this moment. If that makes me an under achiever, so be it. It's what I want to do right now. It may not work out, but life is a dangerous and unpredictable business.

When I was considering spending huge amounts of money on a CPL(H), a man in his 70s told me to go for it. "You never regret what you have done, only what you haven't", he told me. I always remember that. I don't intend to end up looking back and saying: "if only..." I'll know at least I tried.

2nd Jul 2002, 23:10

My roster is 5 on 2 off 5 on 2 off 3 on 2 off 4 on 5 off every 28 days with 4 weeks paid leave and £60,000 PA, I usually have one flight per day and on earlies I am home by by 12:00 hrs I have loss of licence, medical cover and numerious other benifits that I have yet to discover, This my friend is a far far cry from my previous employment and If you think that this is hard work then you have never worked hard in your life.



Nigel Osborn
3rd Jul 2002, 06:17
As Heliport was good enough to send me an email to join in the conversation, I guess I better.
After reading the adventures of Biggles ( don't laugh ), I decided I had to become a pilot. As a nervous young teenage cadet, I had my first flight in June 1952 in a fairly new Tiger Moth! In 1954 I blew my medical for the Royal Navy when I stupidly admitted getting sea sick! After that I managed to get some private flying while chasing various other career paths but none really satisfied. In 1962, older and wiser I had another RN interview and denied ever getting sea sick! It worked and I have flown helicopters ever since with a 5 year break as an ATC at Sydney airport.
Some jobs were great, some lousy but if I was unhappy, I simply moved on to another company in any part of the world. I confess jobs were easier to come by then, but there is still a huge shortage of experienced pilots now. Giving up flying was easy, I did it many times! Now that I am semi retired, I still find that there are jobs out there for us oldies. At least in Australia they don't stop you flying on reaching 60 as in most countries.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, maybe differently but I would always want to fly. 4 sons and not one of them wants to fly!:(

B Sousa
3rd Jul 2002, 06:25
Sorry Folks, I almost missed being drug or dragged through the dirt. Had the Niece and Nephew down at Disneyland trying to scare hell out of me on the rides.
Just because I stated that "Generally" Helicopter Pilots have a hard go of it, DOES NOT mean I dislike it. I just want to let these bright eyed kids see what life is like for MOST of the folks, before they invest all the profits of a great train robbery into flying for a living......
YES some guys have great jobs with tons of money.....but for sure its not the majority.
I have sampled a bit of most types of work, from Alaska to Africa, in the Caribbean and here in the 48..... Fires to Slingloads, Search/ Rescue, Law Enforcement, Military and Tourists so big you would think a Chinook was needed......All this in 33 years of flying. I/We can go to almost any operator in the U.S. that provides the services I mentioned above, and Im sure you will hear the comments I mentioned, repeated. Most of those folks wont say it, but they HAVE to work as they have nothing at the other end. Its a sad but true story of this industry.
I dont claim to be Gods gift to Aviation, but Ive flown safe over those years and gotten into more than one battle over some jerk who would risk my ass for his wallet.
Max Ng I dont need to send you a resume, Ive had my share of hard work..
Read the book.....

B Sousa
3rd Jul 2002, 06:45
Almost forgot.... I saw this Steve76 Special posted somewhere here.....

"Eg: I was chatting with a lear driver in Windsor the other day. He drives a 10,000,000 aircraft has 3000hrs + 1000hrs on the lear = $35000 Canadian a year.
Most guys I know can easily double that in a summer. Its only taken them 3-5yrs to reach that level"

Hes drive a $10Mil Aircraft..............Duh, which he does not own....
and makes $35k/yr Canadian???..... Excuse me, I believe thats Poverty Level flying.
I see adds like "fly in our muti-Million dollar Aircraft". But does it say anything about the $8/hr Pilot.....

Folks ask me about flying, I tell them get a good MBA, work for a company that pays no less than $300K a year and then while you a cruising along to a Grateful Dead Concert, with a Martini (shaken , not stirred) and doin the CEOs Daughter in His Super Puma (sorry Nick......S-76). Ask the Pilot how he likes his job...

Bert. Edited your first line - it was Steve76's post. It picked up my name in the transfer.

3rd Jul 2002, 08:21
Okay, someone asked to hear from some law enforcement types.

Been flying all of my life, flew the fixed wing stuff and was teaching to build up those preciouse hours. But saw the writing on the wall at the time. Never knowing when I would be home and always on call until I made the big leagues. And not having my degree finished kinda threw a wrench in the big leagues at the time. So, I became a law enforcement ground pounder and after working the streets made it to our helicopter division.

Now, tell me that this is not heaven. I have a helicopter assigned to me, in a hangar (no one else uses the hangar), close to home, and a very good observer partner. I go to work, call the brass (home base is 80 miles away) to tell them I am at work, preflight, fly around five hours a day, call the brass and tell them I am going home. I have a blast doing the law enforcement work, and if there is a search for someone missing in the mountains, I get the call. What a blast it is to search for someone, find him/her, and know that you just might have saved their life, or in fact did. I am responsible for 2,000 sq miles and deal with 100+ temps of the high desert, to the 9,000 foot mountains, to the beach. And of course winds usually in the desert of 20-40 kts most of the times.

The flying is challenging as I have to operate my helicopter at the max of its performance, and dealing with the turbulence in the mountains can really get ones heart beating fast.

I plotted my path and made it. Tell me if any fixed wing can do this. And I get paid fairly well. And not shot at too much:eek: . Most of my ex-students and childhood friends that are airline pilots keep trying to ride along with me.

If you love flying, find out all the good and bad of both sides, make your decision and have fun. If you don't like it, get out of it. I watched my dad, a very well respected engineer for a leading aerospace industry company, and could not comprehend the 9-5 at a desk.

Thomas coupling
3rd Jul 2002, 09:31
Flare damit:

You've got a cheek, taking a pop at helo drivers and then having a go at us for taking a snipe at you (in your latest post).
You've definitely got a large chip on your shoulder without a doubt. Somewhere, somehow perhaps you have been professionally abused :D
I suspect, by the way you respond to individual posts, that you are having difficulty understanding how people tick!
I also observed your predereliction towards remuneration.

Please try to appreciate that one man's meat is another man's poison. (notwithstanding female pilots).

There are innumerable helo outfits leeching off their pilots and providing less than satisfactory working conditions. But I can think of the same number of FW operators doing the same. 4 pilots who work (and worked) with me, are/have been FW. 2 of them are premier division (BA, Virgin,etc) and the remaining 2 lower down the rung (rhymes with Bear 2000 / Thirsk) . BOTH sets of pilots bitch and moan incessantly about their situation, too. It's a mix of pay and conditions.
It's horses for courses - each to their own. Try and accept that there is no perfect solution, too many variables, uncertain outcomes.
The main thing is: do you get out of bed in the morning and look forward to what you are about to do for a living :)

Carpe Diem

the coyote
3rd Jul 2002, 09:35
I think its like motorcycles and cars. The bike ends up costing more, is seen to be more risky, ocassionally is downright miserable when your wet and cold but man, no car gives you quite the same ride!!

If you disagree, stick to fixed wing. Simple.

John Eacott
3rd Jul 2002, 13:10
In reply to the thread title, Yes, Yes & Yes.

I was lucky enough in 1967 to get into the RN as a helicopter driver, and have had a variety of jobs around the world. Independence, variety, initiative and challenge are all features of our job, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Neither, I suspect, would any of you.:cool:

Youthful foolishness initially led me to the RAF for a career, and I still recall the utter astonishment shown by the selection board when I showed a preference for Helicopters. I swear a Group Captain just about fell off his chair! Needless to say, Dartmouth became more attractive than Cranwell.....

I cannot recall any job I've had as a helicopter pilot that has been poorly paid (although my wife may have other ideas...:rolleyes: ), low on benefits, time off, variety (some offshore runs, but they change over a few months) or interest. The couple of times a year that I run up and down runways in a plank wing reminds me how lucky we are, and helps me value the jobs that we have in helicopters.

Flare Dammit!
3rd Jul 2002, 13:34
For all you guys who get bitchily defensive about how helicopter flying is such a great career...all I've got to say is that you're delusional.

Helicopter flying is a great JOB, but as a *career* it blows. This has ALWAYS been the case. And unless the unions bring about some major changes, it always WILL always be the case.

Look, you like what you like. If you dig helicopter flying, you'll find any way of rationalizing it and claiming you've got a great job. Eh- maybe you do. But as Bert pointed out, the MAJORITY of line pilots do not. They work paycheck-to-paycheck, always hoping that the *NEXT* job will be "the one." And sometimes they go their entire "careers" without finding it. Yes indeedy, there are risks associated with doing this for money! Noboby promised any of us that we'd get rich. But money is beside the point, right? It's all about "job satisfaction."

The difference between us and airline pilots is that *they* have a clearly defined path to better pay/benefits. And yes, whether you admit it or not, at the end of the day it IS about how much money you have to support yourself when you cannot fly anymore. (Oh gee, we're not supposed to think about that, are we?) And in this case, airline pilots beat us hands down.

For someone who's just entering the industry and wants to know which way to go, the airlines are CLEARLY the wiser choice...unless, as I've said, the person has that neurotic need to fly helicopters. Don't tell him/her that one type of flying is *better* than the other. Don't tell him/her that airline flying is "easy" or "unchallenging" or "cushy." As proud as you may be of the demands of our job, that's just silly. On the other hand, don't tell him/her that the road to "success" in helicopters is easy and short and that every working day will be pure heaven on earth (as some of you have indicated). We all know differently, even if we don't want to admit it.

If I have a chip on my shoulder, it's because helicopter pilots have forever been taken advantage of by our employers. But that's only the half of it. They've been able to do that because too many of us have let them. We think that helicopter flying is "better than a 9-to-5 desk job," as if that's the ONLY alternative.

Not long ago I got a call. Friend-of-a-friend kind of thing. This guy was offering me an ENG position in N.Y. as a pilot and perhaps pilot/reporter. First question out of my mouth: How much money are we talking about? He hems and haws and says they *might* be able to go as high as $45k/year. I said that we would START talking at $90k. Taken aback and flustered, he goes, "B-b-but this is NEW YORK CITY!" I said big deal, and that he needed to find some low-time kid with stars in his eyes who would try to live "in NEW YORK CITY!" on that kind of money. And I guess that's what they did. I have not lost one wink of sleep over it, nor is it likely that I will.

$40-45k/year for a 24-7, no-drinking, no days-off ENG job, AND be responsible for scheduling the maintenance and stuff like that, AND live thirty minutes from the bird? Oh yeah! This business still blows. No doubt about it. Why would Rob Powell choose any other??

3rd Jul 2002, 13:57
My career in helicopter flying is one of those things that you would not pay anything for ....but at the same time would not take any amount of money for it. As a career, it has been rewarding but only due to the ability I have had in setting money aside for my retirement and that took some very real sacrifice.

I remember all of the good times, the wonderful friends I have made, the sights I have seen, the events that have filled me with satisfaction, and those that have shown me my mortaility. Through the years I have been fortunate to work in dozens of countries and experienced an education that is only possible by doing that and one that is beyond any university degree possible.

My advice to youngsters....is simple....if you like life at the end of the road....where the pavement ends....then flying helicopters can be a rewarding life's work. If you need the city, routine, and are not happy being on your own, using your wits, and need a worn path to follow...then maybe helicopter aviation isn't for you.

If wealth is measured by the friends you have, then helicopter aviation has made me a millionaire......and I hope I have contributed to their net worth as well.

3rd Jul 2002, 14:31
Eight years ago I self-financed myself through flight school. Sold everything I owned to travel to another country and spend all of it, plus a little bit more.

Would I do it again???

Yes, I would.

I enjoyed spending the money and now I'm enjoying earning it. Regardless if it's enough for you it's enough for me.

I do pity those that haven't found what I have from this career. But just like many things, if you don't find what you are looking for, move on.

I've heard many talk about switching to fixed wing and joined in the conversations but I have never been slightly tempted.

3rd Jul 2002, 15:57
I've just subscribed to pprune, on a recommendation from a friend. I had my first lesson on Saturday ........

Your friend was right, and I'm sorry to delete your first post, but please check the title of threads before you post.
PPLs are always welcome on Rotorheads, but this is clearly a discussion between professionals about a specific topic.
If you try the 'search' function, you'll find numerous threads where professionals give advice about becoming a helicopter pilot, job prospects etc.

3rd Jul 2002, 17:08
Stevie Terrier
Nick Lappos
What-ho Squiffy!
Nigel Osborn
Max ng
What Limits
Thomas Coupling
The Coyote
John Eacott

Bert Sousa
Flare Dammit "I'm convinced that most helicopter pilots are neurotic nutjobs."

3rd Jul 2002, 18:16
Again? Heck I'm just trying for the first time! :D

I've never figured I would make a lot $$$ flying helicopters.

It's not the $$$ that draws me in the first place.

I want to fly helis. Period.

To me, the most important thing is to do what you want with your life. Not how much you make, retire, etc. (sure it's important, and I have other things going on woirk wise to address that)

My point is that if you are not happy doing what you are doing, stop doing it, don't settle for less.

I've had co-workers who ask me why I still slog, sloooowly gaining hours.

I ask them "What cjob would you love to do, if you could pick anything?" They tell me, and I ask them "What are you doing TODAY to move towards that job?" :D

I may make it, I may not, but it's the road traveled to me that is important.

I hope that fit in somewhat to the topic ...

3rd Jul 2002, 18:54
Yes I would definately do it again, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't have money coming from other source than flying.

Flying has definately given me great experiences and has given me a steady flow of satisfaction, but I really don't see it as the way I will be making a living forever.

There are a few, cool, good paying, stable, jobs, these are VERY rare, also most of the time these jobs are Corporate Related, and trust me, if you are going to fly helicopters for VIP's you WILL get bored, and you are much better off flying Corporate Planes. At least instead of going from the company helipad, to the ranch, the airport, the other facililty, the country club, waiting endlessly asleep in the helicopter, you will at least go all over the world, know places, stay at neat places.

Also I would not live as a helicopter pilot in certain countries where they have the perception that line helicopter pilots are just uneducated numbers, and make you feel unappreciated.

B Sousa
3rd Jul 2002, 18:58
I see so bright and early that Flaredamit and I are at the Alamo and the guns are blazing. I also look at the list of those who think this career is so wundaful and find a few flaws.
I also did the military thing and those folks should be eliminated from this as they also make a good living with benefits and retirement.......
Nick, is doing a technical job and is also making great money....
Law enforcement for the most part pays way above the average Helo Pilot, at least here in the states. Mainly due to Law Enforcement first, Pilot second. Few are Civilian Pilots( non-sworn)
Some others have said they are also compfortable.
My comments should be considered by all those folks I fly with as line pilots for companies doing work in the field as in fire fighting, Government contracts, oil rigs, tours and ems, seismic, logging etc. and yes CFIs
Again, without beating a dead horse, many are making good bucks as corporate, manufacturer pilot etc. The rest are struggling....
Believe me folks, Im not unhappy about helicopters and I have a guaranteed income fly or not. For me its not a big deal. MANY Pilots cant speak out due to fear of losing their jobs.
Shall we make this a Union issue??
Flare, Toss me some C rats and ammo, look like a long firefight........

ethereal entity
3rd Jul 2002, 19:14

Allow me to present perhaps a slightly different slant on this thread. I am early/mid thirties, have been a professional helicopter pilot for 12 years, and love it. I earn £48000 per year, which is enough for me look after the family rather well, own a lovely house, and drive 2 cars, one of which is a porsche 964 convertible. My helicopter is less than 1 year old, costs 29 000 000 (that's 29 million) per copy, and comes with all the bells and whistles that you have ever heard of, and a whole bunch that you haven't. I have a guaranteed job until I'm 55 - I only lose it if I decide to leave. It's no big secret how I did this - I'm in the RAF. I am still (and will hopefully remain!) a junior officer, but am a senior pilot. I fly 300 'ish hrs per year, more than 200 of that is below 100 ft, and that includes the night flying (on NVG using FLIR backup). The flying that I have done is unbelievable by the standards of any civvies I have talked to, but standard by military terms. Hovering with blades 5 ft from a cliff, at 3500 ft, IMC, in snow, at night? Yep, easy peasy compared to operating in the Falklands.

Would I do it again? What do you think. Plank drivers - good lads, but Sooooo boring.

3rd Jul 2002, 19:31

To prove your point...ask any long serving Gulf of Mexico offshore pilot about how lucrative the pay has been. Get them to tell you the story of going ten years without a cost of living raise....or the Britiish pilots.....the bullcook who made my bed on the offshore rig I lived on made exactly one Pound Sterling a month less than I did.....look at some of the adverts for pilots even now....less than 4000 US per month for a 212/412 Flight Instructor and Maintenance test pilot in Saudi. Companies that offer a 6/6 schedule but want to cut your pay if you take that offer versus an 8/4 rotation. How about that wonderful Saudi gig on the Kawasaki's....barely 4000 US and a whopping 41 days leave.....or some of the grand EMS jobs flying Jetrangers at night over hostile terrain......for less than 4000 US per month.

Go fly the corporate turbo props and jets....at least you get to live in a Motel 8 with cable TV and meals provided.....even at the shoddy outfits. Aviation is not an easy life....nor will it change as long as people will do it for the sheer enjoyment it gives instead of being completely mercenary about it.

There are excellent jobs out there.....have had some....almost had others....but I have also had some real winners....each of us has to decide what it is in life we want....and then go get it. I wanted to travel and see the world....and that I have done. Now, all I want to do....is throw out the anchor....make a decent living, fly safe machines, and have some time off to enjoy my leisure actiivities.

3rd Jul 2002, 20:39
What a lot of negative comments from people! I've been flying helicopters for 37 years now and every day when I get up I think what a great time I've had and am still having. It's not a job, it's fun. I went the military route which was great for teaching self-reliance and variety. I also worked in the North Sea and was fortunate that my employer had overseas contracts so I could try other countries and types of flying. The money has never been great, but it's always been enough and I've always paid into a personal pension which hopefully will support my retirement. If I've become bored or disillusioned with what I'm doing for more than a month or two (hey, no job's utterly perfect!), then I've looked around for something else and usually taken a pay cut to go and try it. Where I'm now working it's with a great bunch of guys, with a lot of Ozzies and Kiwis who have a very positive approach to what they're doing and like it a great deal. I still love flying helicopters and hope to go on doing so professionally until well into my 60's. Every day I wake up, am grateful for all the fun and travel I've had from my job and hope I'll continue to do so until the day I'm forced to retire

A Grey Man
3rd Jul 2002, 21:29
EE.........I am with you mate. I spent a year with the airline industry (Air France) and have flown military fixed wing. My soul, passion, heart and way of life is rotary. I am HM Forces, but that is not the point........its the passion, do you look up into the sky when something flys over, do watch/read flying related stuff, do you enjoy 36,000 feet or 50 feet on goggles/FLIR. Those are the true questions. Underachieving is just mudslinging as if you really want to do something you'll do it (medical permitting) even if it means working in Mac Donalds for 50 years to get your ATPL.

Some people like the airline ' I'll have the chicken please' way of life others prefer the 'wobble heads'. If you are up there looking at someone else then life is too short and you are either too lazy to change or you don't have the true flying bug/passion previously talked about. Just like some people like blondes, others brunettes....we are all different with mutual respect.

I know that I could impress a BA Captain by doing NVG under wires in poor viz..........on the other hand he could impress the socks off me by sorting out a serious emergency IMC, just after take off or just about to land with 300 pax down the back.....its all relative. I don't want his job and I doubt if he wants mine!


3rd Jul 2002, 21:42
TC you refer to getting out of bed and the coyote refers to motorcycles. In your case I've heard that you were lucky to get out of bed after your experiences with motorcycles - true or false?

As for me, I'd rather be a merchant banker (left or right handed) or a fund manager. They are always on the make and only the clients lose:p

B Sousa
3rd Jul 2002, 22:47
So far your numbers are not stacking up. Those who are so happy are doing what I mentioned, is not the bulk of the industry.....
Lets here it from some guys on Contract for some Geologists in Alaska, or some GOMER stuck on a platform......See what kind of pay, benefits and security they have.....
I think this is about over.....Flaredamit and I can hold them at the pass.......

3rd Jul 2002, 22:49

One big question in my mind now is: If it's so bad for the few of you, whay are you still here? Is someone holding a gun to your head making you hang with us neurotic underachievers? If the grass is so much greener on the other side, get after it - climb the fence and go. (Could it be that I'm not the underachiever in this discussion?)

Why are you folks so upset that I, along with some others here, should be happy and comfortable doing what I/ we do? It sounds to me like you are condeming everyone else for the poor choice or choices you made (and continue to make) for yourselves (rationalization).

Bert, what's the "military thing" have to do with this discussion? By your own admission...:

*** "I also did the military thing and those folks should be eliminated from this as they also make a good living with benefits and retirement....... " ***

...your opinion should be eliminated and deleted from the thread. Hey, that's what happens when you try to change the rules after the ball's in the air. (BTW, I started 30 years ago, did everything on my own - zero military - my own money, blood, sweat, NO tears and NO whining. I've been a line pilot doing those things you mentioned - and I was, and still am happy and content). Please don't try and load the jury box. IMHO, assuming everyone here is a pilot - military background or not - line pilot, corporate pilot, LE pilot or whatever pilot, each deserves equal press.

Further, this thread's question is not a debate about unions (that's the "other" websight), it's a debate over personal preferences and whether we would make the same choices again.

Just so you know when you start throwing stones at me; I am considered a line pilot. In this position, I am making $48K and will "top out" at around $55K USD (notwithstanding any future [non-guaranteed] cost of living allowances). I consciously made the decision to take this position over quite a few others - most offering a much better salary. I have everything that I desire and enough money left over to play at whatever it is I choose. I do not have any supplemental incomes. I'm not hoping to advance in the company as I've "been there and done that" - all the way to the top.

Now, please, direct me to the "Big Book of Life" that sets forth the criterion for personal happiness and show me the paragraph that madates that I have to be a miserable SOB while living the life I have chosen so I can see what the fuss is all about.

Again, to robpowell69, Whirly, and the other aspiring pilots looking in on the debate, best of luck, keep pluggin' away and make yourselves happy. In all my travels, it's been my observation that, no mater what the chosen field, no mater what the salary or conditions, there's always going to be someone standing around, crying and complaining.

C Ya

"We all wear the chains we forge in life"

B Sousa
4th Jul 2002, 02:25
Desert Dude
Take it back to square one. Heliport brought up something about the bulk of folks in the Helicopter Industry are happy campers. Thats when I said something too the effect of low pay, no retirement etc.
Those who responded were saying they have great jobs and great pay etc. Those folks were not the bulk of the industry. and I walked on that a few posts back.
Military Thing....Military pilots today have good pay, benefits and retirement. I admit though as of late they also have their fair share of deployments. But for someone in the Military who isnt happy, I say come on out and join some tour company or others mentioned and see what kind of future there is....
By the Way I didnt Start this thread.....Heliport used my name.....
Once again, I AM NOT unhappy with flying helicopters, I love it too.....but I did not have to do it for a career. I just happened to have flown for 33 years, lately for some lunch money.....
P.S. If your happy with $48k topping at $55k in this day and age, your goals are not that high. I do hope you are not satisfied there and, as you mentioned, plan to advance or move on where you can. Great for you, but today anything less than $80-100k/yr is not going to help much at the other end.
But thats your choice.
I have yet to see some GOMER/EMS guy in here, albeit I did get an email from one who is driving a nice new EMS rig and working his ass off for less than you get........Ah, but he loves it....
Good Luck

Flare Dammit!
4th Jul 2002, 04:47
...And here I was getting to feel kinda bad because Desert Dude seemed to have a job that made him deliriously happy. I figured he really must have hit the motherload! I mean, in a previous post, he said:

"I'm not trying to rain on your parade here Bert but I'm getting:

1. Adequate pay,
2. Retirement,
3. I own my own place and when I'm away from la casa the crew quarters are top of the line, (I even get a company car)
4. Can't do anything about the hours - that's the nature of "the beast", but I do get compensated accordingly,
5. I get to fly fairly new and extremely well maintained aircraft,
6. Job security? Who has job security - anywhere? Be honest?
7. Within reason and actual conditions, no one exceeds either their personal or the aircraft's operational capabilities. In the same context we are expected to operate to our (and aircraft) limits when called upon to do so.

And I've never considered myself to be an underacheiver. I happen to like what I do and I choose to stay in the business (for thirty years now)..."

Wow! Thirty years! He must really be making some coin by now, eh? But wait! Then he posts...

"Just so you know when you start throwing stones at me; I am considered a line pilot. In this position, I am making $48K and will "top out" at around $55K USD..."

Oh. My. God.

This guy has been in this industry for THIRTY YEARS and he's only making $48,000 per year?!?!

I'm really, really, really glad that Desert Dude gets such personal satisfaction out of his job. But I would suggest that if he ever attends a dinner party at which a psychologist or psychiatrist is also invited, he doesn't admit his salary. The aforementioned health care professional might take him on pro bono.

Hey, you know what? "Job satisfaction" has to weigh-in there someplace. It's not 100% about money, I know that. I didn't spend nearly twenty years as a line pilot for nuthin'. (Oh wait...or did I?) But I really have to wonder about someone who would spend thirty years in an industry and only be making $48,000/year. When I quit PHI - not my first flying job- I was at the thirteen-year level and had just clicked into the $50,000/year level. Good-bye!

In closing, Desert Dude ain't exactly a poster boy for how great this industry is, no matter how much he enjoys it. At least, let's hope not. I sincerely hope that Rob Powell (the original poster) hasn't picked up on this thread. He'll run from helicopters faster that an altar boy from Fr. O'Brien.

4th Jul 2002, 06:56
Bert Sousa

All Heliport said to the Wannabee's question was In a nutshell, the advice most commonly given on this forum is -
# Obtaining your professional licence and building enough hours to get a job costs a fortune - consider the military route where you'll get outstanding training all paid for. It's not easy to get in because the competition and standards required are very high, but most things in life worth doing involve a challenge.
# Sponsorship in the civvy world for your basic licence is virtually non-existent.
# The pay isn't as good as flying a 747 for BA, but the enjoyment and freedom of being a professional helicopter pilot makes up for a lot.
Hit the 'Search' button and see how you get on.

That's a fair summary of what people regularly say here, and what most people are saying now.

I'd do it again. The money isn't great compared with the major airlines but for me the fact that I enjoy going to work every day makes up for that. I get paid for doing somethign I love doing - to my mind that's worth big bucks itself. I'd hate going to an office every day.

It's good you put the other point of view Bert - it's made a good discussion.

Flare Dammit
Sure psychiatrists, lawyers, captains of industry etc earn a lot more. You've got to compare jobs at the same sort of level.

Thomas coupling
4th Jul 2002, 09:55

Having looked thru your inputs to this thread, whether you want to believe it or not, you're bottom line is:

Just take a look at your responses.

Now that this has been clarified, what do the following have in common (in your view):

police officers
social workers

apparently they are all under achievers......
they don't earn much and there is no career structure. They struggle with their daily tasking working all hours, abused by their managers, etc etc. Isn't this what you've been telling helo drivers for the last few days? WHY DO THEY DO IT?

Don't throw that old chestnut at me that there is a career structure with airline pilots you get to become captain and thats it. The rest is all about MONEY.
Next you'll be telling me that being an airline pilot is on a par with a consultant/chief accountant/barrister...get a life flare, ANYONE CAN BE A PILOT (FW or Helo). You don't need to be a rocket scientist to be one..you need DRIVE and enthusiasm. It's not HARDER to become a FW jockey, in fact it's probably harder to become a helo pilot (costs, etc) So why doesn't everyone become a plankdriver?

Wake up and smell the coffee sunshine, get off your high horse and accept reality......there are those of us out here who unfortunately don't want to fly a plank...sorry old boy :eek:

sling load
4th Jul 2002, 11:32
YES. The grass is always greener, i always enjoy the stories my airlines mates tell me about where theyve been and what theyve seen, very few stories about their flying because its all routine.

What i consider routine in helicopters is almost held in awe by our fixed wing brethern.

What they do, i think is pretty good too.

If you dont like helos there are other jobs you can do.

Would i do it again, you betcha.

Helicopter flying is like ----ing, its great fun, just dont tell everyone how often you do it!:) :)

4th Jul 2002, 15:57
Update on this unrepresentative, unscientific (but very interesting) survey ...........

Stevie Terrier
Nick Lappos
What-ho Squiffy!
Nigel Osborn
Max ng
What Limits
Thomas Coupling
The Coyote
John Eacott
Ethereal Entity
Soggy Boxers
Grey Man
Sling Load

Bert Sousa
"Those folks (above) are not the bulk of the industry."
(Loves it really, probably would do it again, but helping the debate! ;) )

Flare Dammit
"I'm convinced that most helicopter pilots are neurotic nutjobs." :eek:

4th Jul 2002, 16:16
I guess it just depends which is most important to you: money or job satisfaction/fun. And how much you like flying helicopters.

4th Jul 2002, 18:45
Absolutely !!


4th Jul 2002, 20:07
Flippin Heck! I didnt check the forum untill a few days after my original wannabe posting. Didnt expect to open a big can of worms. Theres some good stuff here though raising all the issues involved with choosing heli flyin. Cheers Heliport for the no nonsense honest overveiw and to the rest for joining in.

Flare Dammit!
5th Jul 2002, 03:32
People accuse me of being a mercenary...just being interested in the money. As if being paid a decent salary for something technical and challenging is somehow...wrong.

Heh-heh, I get a big kick out of these wierd helicopter pilots who wear their pathetic salaries like some friggin' badge of honor. ...As if they're PROUD to forego a respectable, honorable salary just to be able to say, "I love what I do!" ...As if the very IDEA of being paid well for who we are and what we do is repugnant. It's like they feel guilty about getting paid for something so enjoyable, and the pis*-poor salaries are the unavoidable penance we endure for it. I know them well - because I was one of them for more years than I care to count.

I'm better now.

Okay, I'll bite. What do:

police officers
social workers

...all have in common? Well, for one thing, they all serve a "greater good" in society. To do that sort of work, one must have a special calling. But let's ask ourselves what helicopter pilots do for society? Answer: Not a damn thing. We ferry spoiled CEO's around? We ferry oil workers back and forth to the rigs/platforms? We ferry tourists around NYC and El Canyon Grande? Oh yeah, well, some of us fly air ambulances...but the debate rages whether or not such pilots actually "save lives" or just drive the machine.

I've always been amused by the dichotomy of helicopter pilots. On one hand, they have such HUGE egos, yet on the other they seem to have such low self-esteem. It's strange. Many think they're truly God's gift to aviation (a belief that may or may not be privately held), yet at the same time they allow themselves to be horribly abused by their employers in the name of "job satisfaction."

Throughout my career, I've met many, many pilots who had the barest, most gossamer connection with aviation other than what they did when they were specifically on-duty. They subscribed to no aviation magazines, did not read newsgroups such as this one, did not keep abreast of happenings within our industry, and in general had surprisingly little interest in helicopters at all! Yet if you asked - and even if you didn't, all of these pilots would tell you they were consummate professionals and experts at their job and in their field.

My questions to them about advances in TCAS or avionics would be met with blank stares. If it did not directly effect them, they weren't interested. And nevermind asking a question about some aviation topic other than helicopters!

I've studied helicopter pilots all my life (my dad was one before I was born). I entered this business full-time in 1976. I've always wanted to know what made helicopter pilots tick? And after all these years, I haven't the faintest clue. I've made a lot of observations, and come to a bunch of conclusions, but I do not know what drives men to be so oddly passionate about these wierd machines. Only that they are.

Would I become a professional pilot all over again? CERTAINLY! Would I become a professional helicopter pilot again? Well...ahh...umm..."maybe." Yeah, okay, I would. Just maybe not at first. And of the eighteen years that I spent as a full-time helicopter pilot, I readily would've given up the last thirteen spent out in the Gulf o'Mejico. No offense meant to any of the great people I've met and friends I've made along the way, but I stayed in this strange industry for faaaaar too long.

...Until it was almost too late.

John Eacott
5th Jul 2002, 04:00
Flare it,

Apart from being a bit twitter and bisted, you sound awfully like Bob B., who always seemed such a nice sort of fellow :cool:

Flare Dammit!
5th Jul 2002, 05:23
That's not even funny, Eacott. I heard he died.

What-ho Squiffy!
5th Jul 2002, 08:57
Flare Dammit, after all the bitcing and moaning, you tell us you would become a professional helicopter pilot again! Not only are you contradictory, you are also illogical in your arguments; insinuating that helicopter pilots know ******-all aboout fixed wing and/or hi-tech aviation. Try asking the average airline pilot about anything other than airline-secific aviation, and you might get a surprise.

The problem with you is that you see the world like the multi-level marketing converts - you cannot see why absolutely everyone isn't involved in this fantastic, bullet-proof way of making shed-loads of money, and everyone that isn't involved in it is either deluded or insane. The thing is that not everyone sees remuneration as the defining criteria for an occupation. People that do are uni-dimensional pains in the tailskid.

You must be great to have a beer with at the end of the day - sitting at the end of the bar, alone...with all your mates, moaning about your lousy pay.


B Sousa
5th Jul 2002, 15:43
Flare seems to be taking fire so I found a little ditty that should take a bit of the heat off.
Someone on just helos posted a site for "Pay Comparison". I dont think the numbers are WHAT is being paid rather WHAT SHOULD be paid. However its something for DesertDude to look at as it shows his goal in life to be about 25% lower than the lowest on the scale. I see the low scale for Las Vegas was in the $60k/yr range and Im certain that the tour drivers here, and I know EMS are getting much less on a per year basis. They comprise most of the local Helicopter Pilots...


Click on this site and it should work. Plug in your own city. The salarys on this scale would give a comfortable living and be more in line with the work than the numbers I previously posted. MY numbers were in line as to what a good Professional should make as an average so that there is something on the other end (thats Retirement). Not all Helicopter companies have those things called Benefits. Mainly because a lot of the workers are seasonal, firefighters, tours etc. And thats a big share of the Pilot Pool...
And Yes I still love Helicopters....

5th Jul 2002, 15:55
Hmm. I think Flare it has a problem with life which wouldn't be solved if he was paid a vaaast amount for his helicoptering skills. You really can't lambast folk for actually being quite happy with their lot in life. Clearly money is not the only issue - my best (yester)year as an R22 instructor was £42k gross but even though instructing was fun, eventually - like everything you do day after day it can become dull... A co-pilot job offered to me Up North paid 27k but the routine put me off ( or was it the proper job aspect, and HAVING to report for work?!) I still fly singles, do not instruct, am very poor and some days I hate helicopters, But if I was told I could never fly a helicopter (or aeroplane,sorry!) again I'd be gutted.It's what I do - fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly etc etc
So to summarise: I have spent a fortune to get my licences, and sometimes I hate what I do; but would I do it again? Of course I bloody would!! Flare it life is shitty sometimes but at least its better than no life which evidently is what you have(nt) got. I bet you were still One of Us in the beginning: 'I could could fly all day and every day, just for food, 'an I wouldn't even need to be paid, mista..'
PS I still want to be a bush pilot.....

6th Jul 2002, 00:22
Hey Bert, Hey Flare, (and all the rest),

Sorry I missed the past day or so, been out eeking out my pittance (gosh, have I been having fun!). Some intersting stuff been posted here since I last looked in!

Thought I'd expound on my miserable little life a little, for Flare's sake. OK, Bert, you may as well read along too, although neither of you will like it much.

Flare, you seem very concerned that, OH MY GOD, after thirty years I'm only pulling in, WHAT!?! Well, let's look at this a little closer. Please, keep in mind throughout my rambling that I have not worked in any other field - helicopters only - for the past thirty years.

I'm not a bit sorry to say this, Flare, but I do feel as though I have hit the mother load. You're choosing to ignore several important things that I have said and using the rest in an attempt to convince everyone else here they should be as miserable as you and Bert because of their personal choices in life.

To start, I've been in the gulf, I flew EMS, fires, seismic, etc. I've sat on the four pile platforms in "Vermillion 4 million" for six hours in the middle of August, with no wind, sniffing the four layers of seagull shitt covering the deck. So what if Boudreaux did make a little more than I did. You know those dudes - honestly, would you have traded lives with any of them? Not me, OK? Things like that were an inconvenience at most. Geeze, I didn't get pissed at my life and sell my house just because the mesquite roots grew through my sewer line, I simply did what I had to do and made the best of it (you'll never hear me say my shitt don't stink).

Bert, I think you misread into my previous post a little - the reason I am I'm not looking to advance is because I've already been there. I've done it - I enjoyed it while I was there, but I no longer want to be in that position. I want to take the orders, "do the Dew", have the fun, sling the load, it's what I feel I do best, or have the most fun at anyway. I want my toughest decision of the day to be; "where am I going to eat dinner?".

Would it help to tell you two that in the previous eighteen months I have chosen NOT to accept five great offers (the operative word being; chosen)? Would it help to tell you that one offer started in the low six figures after "performance pay", two started in the mid eighties, one in the mid sixties and the fifth I didn't get as far as asking about the salary?

Would it help to tell you several years ago I gave up a managerial/ pilot position for a small operator, that I was making $90K+ with unbelievable perks?

You're right, Flare, I'm not a poster boy for anything and never wanted to be (besides being a neurotic, delusional underachiever, I'm not much to look at and, well, a poster of me would be rather comic if not sad). I guess what I'm trying to say here is, I believe that if I can be successful at jobs such as these, anyone can. With your experience (Flare and Bert) why aren't you in these positions. I haven't done anything you haven't done. You have just as much experience as I do - maybe more. You're probably better aviators to boot - I don't know - don't care. These jobs are real, they're out there. Granted, they may not happen along every other day, but what's a year in the grand scheme of things?

Let's switch gears a little now and look at what else rotary-wing aviation has done to my life. As I said earlier, I own my home. It's a small three bedroom house on several acres, and I have a car and a pick-up truck. All paid for. I have a couple of dogs and an old cat cruisin' around for company. Yeah, I'm single, again, although NOT from "AIDS" (Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome, for all of those new to aviation who may be looking in). I have some money (a little) invested in two personal retirement accounts, and with my company's retirement I'll be in good shape. Even with my paltry salary, at the end of the month I have money left over that I don't have to spend. All of this has been financed SOLELY by my thirty year helicopter career. I'm happy to say that I want for nothing (well, yeah, sometimes it'd be nice to have a gal to sit with in the movie theater, but what the hell) and if the sawbones were to tell me that next week was to be my last, I'd spend it no differently - I'd still go to work and enjoy myself and I'd still come home and enjoy myself.

I'm not sorry that I'm happy with my life and I don't need a fancy salary and a cush schedule to offset my miserable existance. I'm not sorry that I've had a wonderful thirty years flying helicopters. I'm not sorry that I'd do it all over again.

Robpowell69, you didn't start anything with your question. This crap has been going on since forever. I'm just here to tell you that helicopters have been good to me and they can be just as good to you. There's no magic involved, a little self discipline, maybe, depending on what you want in return. And, you can have the time of your life along the way.

Whirly, you keep plugging away. That Russia deal sounds neat. I'll just have to be content, all by myself, with my trusty ol' two by twelve...;)

Good luck to all!

C Ya

B Sousa
6th Jul 2002, 02:23
Good On ya. At least this Thread hasnt been a gang war. We may have to get Flare and talk about this over a Beer in some Mesican Taco joint someday. Or at our Annual gathering in the sand on New Years between Maricopa and Gila Bend. Bring yer own Sauce and Airplane.

6th Jul 2002, 05:12

I just wish the general pay for helo pilots would rise to a just level sometime.

As long as people feed their addiction with working for nearly free, I do not see a lot of hope though!!

3top:) :) :)

6th Jul 2002, 18:59
Would I do it again? This is such an interesting question that it actually took me back through my entire career.

I remember working in Memphis flying for $500.00 a month and no benefits. I was actually ashamed to tell my girl friends at the time how much I made as a "Helicopter Pilot". They all thought I made plenty, but then I am sure they wondered why I drove a run down second hand Volkwagon that had to be pushed off half the time because the starter only worked part time.

I remember getting married and my wife having to work so we could afford rent and groceries, but at least everyone "thought" I was a high paid helicopter pilot. Never told anyone what I made, too embarassing. Been married for 29 years now so she must not have minded too much.

I remember learning that the pilots at Ft. Rucker were making three times as much as me and had real benefits. Of course I had been married for five years when I discovered this and had a son to take care of then.

I remember getting my first paycheck at Rucker and thinking I was the richest man in town. I also remember how much those insurance benefits meant to me as a young family man with a wife and son to take care of.

I also remember discovering a few months ago that I am now making less spending money today than I was back then. I knew for some reason that even though I was getting raises on a regular basis, my money just wasn't going as far today as it did back then. Consequently I did a little research and found that even with the raises I had received, my actual spending power was being reduced by the cost of living rising faster than my wages. I figured I actually have $3,000.00 plus dollars less to spend today than I had in 1986. So basically I have been losing money in this profession for the last fourteen years.

Do I love the job? Of course I do. Would I do it again? Maybe with hindsight, if I thought I could effect changes sooner than what we have experienced so far in the profession.


6th Jul 2002, 19:53
Hey Bert,

Sounds interesting. Haven't been up that way in a while - used to have some friends living in Rainbow Valley. That's a long time ago, now.

C Ya

6th Jul 2002, 21:21
Tomorrow morning i will get up,give my son his breakfast and kiss my wife on the way out the door.I will get in my little car and drive to the airport.I will then make my way to the hangar in about 38*c + find out if it is my turn to fly (2 crew operation) and if so i will check the weather,notams,read and initial files,etc before i make my way to the line office where i will check which aircraft i am due to fly,go outside,preflight,sign the techlog and then grab a coffee and wait for the call to say that the pax are ready.

I have been doing this or similar in crew rooms from the Irish Sea,to the west atlantic,to the north sea,to St.Georges channel,to the USA,to the middle east for 20 years.I have been lucky enough to have flown both fixed wing and rotary both as a crewman and as a pilot.

I have been soaked,frozen and baked over that period of time on innumerable occasions and have cursed and ranted on about why the hell i ever got into this business :confused:

Money has never been a factor except now with the responsibility of a family to consider, i have to be conscious about what i earn.

So why am i sitting up in the middle of the night writing this ?

Because one day i looked up into the sky and saw a silver bird go over my head and i knew(if a 5 year old can know) that somehow i had to get my feet of the ground and into that sky.Years of building model aircraft,days sitting at the fence below the threshhold during school holidays,scrounging pocket money to buy Flight and poring over those old photographs of past airshows,classic aeroplanes and classic pilots.

And here i am,flying for 20 years and still looking up for the silverbird or any flying machine that happens to drone by.

Helicopters,i love them.I made a conscious choice to go the rotary route and have never regretted it.They are the nearest thing to levitiation that we can find.Fixed wing,i love them,nothing like diping a wingtip into a fluffy cu on a summers evening and seeing a students face light up.This is the kind of flying i like to do and i don't feel like i have missed out on anything.

Flying,what is there to say except that apart from my wife and son nothing has given me as much pleasure and frustration,boredom and excitement,fun and challange in my life.

So for thoses of you who are fed up with your lives as helicopter pilots or as fixed wing pilots perhaps you need to be looking elsewhere or perhaps you need to look back and try to find what you have lost.I do not regard myself as an underachiever or an overachiever,i have a job that is also my hobby,so i am lucky.

Would i start all over again ? absolutely. Would i favour rotary over fixed wing ? Yes if i want to remain having fun in what i do.Thats whats good for me,it doesn't necessarily mean that it is good for someone else.There have been many post from people who have done it the military way,the self improver way,those who like it,those who don't.Each to there own so long as they get something out of it and don't snipe at those who are not in their camp.

Je ne regrete rien !

6th Jul 2002, 21:28
I recall reading at helicopter.com that as your experience goes up and you get into better aircraft of greater value that often the number of flight hours per week goes down. So its just the initial thousand hours or more of effort thats the hurdle.. I'm thinking specifically of a job flying people from new york city to the hamptons out on long island, as you aren't offshore somewhere at an oil rig or yanking logs out of the ground all week long but just acting as a courier for rich business men going out to their vacation homes on the weekend, looking to beat the road traffic that always builds up for hours on end down below. Does anyone know how much this particular job pays, and the hours, or one like it? With the cost of aircraft so high and regular maintenance for certification to go with it, its a shame pilots are somehow kept out of the money loop.

7th Jul 2002, 01:31
B Sousa and Flare.

Why didn't you haul your a** into another profession?

I admit that I didn't read the whole thread but most of it, seems that I missed something important out?

I really have to agree with the so many helicopter drivers here who actually like their jobs. It is an affection or maybe I should say its becomes an addiction.

My job is very interesting "me thinks" tomorrow can never be expected to be like today was. F.ex. it consist of flight training, aerial photography and filming, sightseeing, geological survey, laning on top of glaciers and I can go on forever. I get a decent paycheck for what I do and that is the bottom line.

One can always question what others have contributed to society. One day I was fortunate enought to be able to show a very old woman a glacier for the very first and maybe the very last time in her life. I find that very fulfilling and like the feeling when I come home at night.

After all helicopter flying is "just" a job and of course we should get well paid. It will always be the fuel for flaming discussions about pilots wages. My theory is: if you don't like it, try something else. You can always try to figure it out why people decide to become heli pilots and stay in that job for the rest of their lives. Some people want to do it and some don't.

I believe that everyone can change carrers if they don't like their current one.

Helicopter flying is not for everyone I think and beeing a lawyer isn't either. I don't think that it is fair to call helicopter pilots "under achievers" just because they want to work in this business.

I know that many of us could have gotten a into something else but as some have said that they made the decision on becoming heli pilots and stand by their decisions. I am very happy to be a helicopter pilot, I could have done everything else but I decided not to.

Best wishes,


Ps. Bert, I don't post only to have my name in here, I just found the need to defend myself. ;)

7th Jul 2002, 02:06
I once had enough of flying helicopters and all that it entailed....invested some money into a hard wood sawmill business in Washington State.

At the time, I deemed it right to get a commerical drivers license to complement all the flying licenses I had. Heavens, I even drove truck for a period of time until one day the cellphone rang and one of the reasons I had left helicoptering offered me a flying job.....and I accepted.

The whole time I drove the truck, people asked me if I were crazy for not being in flying......really didn't have a good reply for that except it was easier to tell my dear Mum that I was a trucker than have to lie to her and tell her I played piano in a brothel (knowing her son was a chopper pilot would have broken the old dear's heart!). So here I am again, flying helicopters, lying to Mum, and now I am asking myself if I am crazy for not being a truck driver!

The main differences I can see between the two jobs, is the air horn.....and management at trucking companies know good drivers are not a dime a dozen.

Ever wonder why we get the managers we do? How dedicated they seem to be at furthering the welfare of the boys and girls that fly and maintain the aircraft! (Not!) It is said at a "Bitter Helicopter Company" in the Gulf Coast.....that pilots feel like they are at war with the management......wonder what a warm feeling the managers must have to know the staff made public those sentiments to the CEO during a company wide visit.

At least in the big truck....when I tooted my train horns....I could get people's attention! What does it take in the helicopter industry to get people's attention?

The union movement in the Gulf Coast has made a significant change in pilot pay and in time will also work to improve the work environment as well if the pilots work together towards that goal. Hopefully, at least one group of pilots can get the attention they deserve from management. The rest of the story is the union could have been avoided by good management alone. :rolleyes:

B Sousa
7th Jul 2002, 16:27
You obviously have not read the entire thread and must be posting to see your name in Print.
Helicopter Flying is great, its fun, its personally rewarding, BUT it needs some improvement in the items mentioned on page one (1)<<<<thats the first page...

7th Jul 2002, 17:38
So far I've only made it to the second page of this thread and I'm sure I'll have more to say but I must reply to Flare Dammit.

You tell this kid to "go for the airlines" like it is the ultimate and INEVITABLE end goal of a fixed-wing career. What a load of bull****. Compare the number of airplane licences in any country to airline jobs and you'll discover a lot of these people are not in the big iron. The bottom end of airplane flying has INVARIABLY, in my experience, been far worse than anything I've seen in rotary aviation.

Low-time instructors who should be out learning how to fly are working for minimum wage, passing their inexperience on to the next crop of dreamers. The next few steps up are just as low-paid all because the CHOSEN FEW make some ungodly sum of money in their golden airliners. And all along the way the employers and outsiders encourage this idea that all the crap is justified because of this mythical golden ring.

You said that there are perhaps 100 such DREAM JOBS as DesertDude had in the industry. Pardon me? I work for a company with stock purchase plans, good wages by the standard of the society I live in, pension plan, medical, equal time schedule, and on and on. And there are 120 pilots IN THIS COMPANY ALONE. I've had VFR jobs that had even better benefits. One of the best VFR companies I worked for had 90 pilots employed.

If your inner child needs to make a quarter million dollars a year in order to feel adequate then good for you, but that has NOTHING to do with the industries we are talking about.

If this kid decides that he wants to try to accomplish something with his life and decides that a 747 captaincy is his end goal, I'll applaud his ambition and do my best to give good advice. But I would also council him on how UNLIKELY his goal is of being realized. Just like I would say the same to a prospective helicopter pilot who decides he wants to be a west-coast helilogger making the big coin in the front of a chinook.

If we have gone through years of pain and suffering in our various jobs then WE HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. On the other hand I have voted with my feet or in less severe cases just called someone's bluff when he said fly or get fired.

Compare apples with apples or stay away from the next generation of pilots.

Given the choice of 747 Captain or Puma Offshore IFR Captain, my choice was and IS easy.

What do you think it is??

Flare Dammit!
7th Jul 2002, 19:43
HeloTeacher wrote:

"Given the choice of 747 Captain or Puma Offshore IFR Captain, my choice was and IS easy.

What do you think it is??"

Well, judging by what a nitwit you are, I'd say helicopter pilot.

It's amazing how helicopter pilots get their panties all in a wad when someone says that we have a sucky career.

To tell an aspiring pilot that making it to the airlines is an impossible dream, or even a ridiculously impractical dream is just nonsense. Just look at how many pilots are employed by the domestic U.S. airlines alone, then look at the number of commercial helicopter jobs in the U.S. Now tell me that the odds of acheiving "success" in both are the same. Get real.

To prejudge that someone will have the abject and irrational love of helicopters that "success" in our industry requires, and he/she will therefore have a "better life" or "enjoy flying more" or any of that other crap I've heard spewed on this forum is just crazy. The original poster of this interminable thread is simply a guy at the beginning of his career who wanted to compare the jobs with an eye toward pursuing one or the other. Then all these helicopter pilots started waxing poetic about their loser, low-paying jobs and how great they are, and what fun old Rob Powell will have if he'll just "go helicopters" and how helicopters compare favorably to flying with the airlines.

Yeah, well...maybe. Then again, maybe not. YMMV, as they say.

I wonder why it's so impossible for helicopter pilots to think that someone would find any other line of work enjoyable? I wonder why helicopter pilots feel so adamantly that they themselves would never find happiness in any other job? (What kind of a ridiculous, self-imposed limitation is that??) ...And why some of them continue in the field for THIRTY YEARS at a pay level that most non-aviators would find laughably pathetic? Helicopter pilots frequently refer to their avocations as "addictions," then get all uppity and defensive when told that most addictions (drugs, internet porn, masturbation) are psychotic or at very least neurotic. But one needn't be Siggy Freud to know that.

As for myself, although some have presumed arbitrary figures for what I would consider a "decent, honorable, and dignified" salary for what we do, I have never mentioned a specific number. I just think that, in general, helicopter pilots are not paid nearly enough considering the qualifications we have to have to even do our jobs and the risk we take every time we pull up on the collective. It does not equate, and those of you who think it does are simply delusional.

But what I find perpetually and infinitely puzzling is the fact that so many helicopter pilots have this self-defeating attitude that we'll *never* make any more than we make right now. They seem to be indicating that "big bucks" (whatever they are) are elusive and we don't deserve them anyway so why try? I don't know how many helicopter pilots over the years have told me in an exaggerated huff, "Oh, we'll NEVER be able to make good money in this business!" Right! With an attitude like that, we never will!

I am 46. I've been a helicopter pilot for twenty years. I have my fixed-wing ratings. Today, if I started with a commuter airline (never mind shooting for the majors), I could finish out my career making $100,000/year or maybe more. (Who knows where the pay is going to go in the fourteen years I have left?) That's not bad. But more than that, it wouldn't take very long at all until I was at a salary/benefits level that FAR surpassed what I was making during my last year as a helicopter pilot. And yes, salary and benefits are important to me. Hate to burst the bubbles of you guys who think we should do this job for free or at a mere subsistence level.

For a young pilot who is just coming into this industry, the goal of a seat in the pointy-end of an airliner is a worthwhile and attainable one. Yes, you'd have to prostitute yourself for awhile to get into the "good stuff." But unlike helicopters, you wouldn't have to prostitute yourself for your ENTIRE CAREER. And, concomitantly, you wouldn't have to justify prostituting yourself for such a long time that you start believing your own crap.

True, it's not all about money. But it's *SOME* about money, because we all have to eat and adequately take care of our families. And frankly, I'm not all that "addicted" to helicopters. It was great fun and I had a good time. But in the end I saw how selfish I was being. So it's over for me. I wish I had quit a good ten years sooner. Good ten years.

Would I do it again? Sure! But only for a little while. Heh- I may be dumb, and I may love helicopters, but I ain't sick. I'd ultimately go airlines. And you know what? I'd love it just as much as I love helicopters. I'm funny that way; I just love to fly.

Thomas coupling
7th Jul 2002, 21:16
Flare: You're at that age where you're questioning everything, especially where you are now and where you should have been by now. You've obviously reached a conclusion and it doesn't rest easy with you. So to help alleviate the dissappointment, you're offloading amongst others around you whom you believe feel the same as you (or should do).
It'll pass, you'll mellow, time will numb the conflict and you'll either knuckle down and get on with it or retire.
Wisdom comes later with some individuals don't be alarmed. Join those of us who are comfortable with our lot, it's painless sunshine... :)

8th Jul 2002, 00:01
Very well spoken, T. coupling!

Flare, if you're so unhappy and miserable, why are you still hanging around?

Oh, gotta go now, my favorite Pink Floyd song is comin' up: "Brain Damage".:p

C Ya

8th Jul 2002, 05:02
Thomas Coupling,

Good stuff old boy! I hope your couch is free when I'm having my mid-life crisis! ;)

Flare Dammit!
8th Jul 2002, 05:32
You guys make me laugh. Life is all so black and white for you all, eh? So full of definite and clear extremes and easy decisions. Desert Dude asks, "If you're so unhappy and miserable, why are you hanging around?" Others have voiced alternatives of the same question.

The problem is, it assumes that I am a) unhappy and b) miserable (depressed?). It assumes that I am filled with self-loathing and constantly whip myself over a lifetime of poor career choices. It assumes that I find flying helicopters unbearably unpleasant. The truth, for all you amateur armchair psychologists out there (T. Coupling), is quite different.

As I've said, I love flying, and love flying helicopters. It gives me great joy to know how to do it. The twenty years I've spent doing it (although the last two have only been part-time) have been a gas...fun and thrilling and challenging and all the good that we know it can be. However (now try to follow this), IN RETROSPECT, I see that to do it as long as I did simply was a mistake...a waste of time and that I should have done things differently.

When I came to that conclusion, I changed things - I quit. I never did fly around, angrily thinking, "Gee, I hate my life, hate this job," and I don't now. In fact, now that I fly on my own terms (how much I want to or don't want to), things are a LOT better. My life is now in balance. I will never have another full-time flying job, fixed-wing or rotary.

I'm amused that it actually pisses people off that someone might not be as irrationally addicted to helicopters anymore as they are still. If you don't love it, GET THE HELL OUT! It sounds so resentful and immature.

So kill the messenger if you want to. Some of you need to grow up.

8th Jul 2002, 13:20
Very good, Flare. NOW I get it.

Don't know about anyone else, I was simply curious. (After all, I'm the underachieving delusional who's going to get the pro-bono shrinks to work on the wiring harness - you know, things come a little slower to dudes like me).

And, you're right, I was making the assumptions you spoke of, because you sure sounded unhappy. Anyway, the ship sank, let's move on.

Glad to hear you enjoy it again - on your own terms.

Whatever your chosen field, I hope that you get the same satisfaction and personal rewards that I've taken from this one. It's been a good run so far.

(Hey, the same goes for all the rest out there as well)

C Ya

almost canadian
8th Jul 2002, 15:51
Ever since I was a wee boy, I knew I wanted to fly, so at the age of 17, I had the chance to start flying. Fixed wing of course.
For some reason I always looked up to those men in the nice suits flying the big jets. I couldn't think of a better job.
100 something hours later in a c150, I was already bored out of my mind.
Although I still enjoyed being up in the air, I knew that a carreer sitting in an expensive office at 30 something thousand feet, realy wasn't for me.
But I wanted to fly, so the switch to helicopters was made.
Best choice of my life, after that first flight I was hooked, I don't know if most of you guys remember that magical moment of your first helicopter flight, but I will never forget. (we landed in a field! in a field..., no plane could do that!)
The flying was tons of fun, although also very expensive, but hey I was going to make that back within the first year of my first job, right?
Not really, first job took 3 years to come along and just about payed the bills, but who cared, I was flying a helicopter for a living now and enjoying it.
But then I learned more about the industry, I noticed that a lot of the fling wing drivers were complaining about their wages, either just by talking to them or now by reading forums such as this one, and you know what, a lot of the negative atmosphere rubbed of. I still enjoy flying more than anything, but it's the people in the industry bitch'n about how underpaid they are, that are taking the fun out of it. Yes, with my current pay it will still take me 50 years to pay of my tuition, but who cares, I'M HAVING FUN, but just for listening to al the complaining I think I need a pay-increase.
These forums get are a great source of information, and a lot of kids that one day want to be a helicopter pilot, might consider not getting their licence because of the negativity surrounding the job, so we might be losing some really good future pilots.
Maybe a seperate forum to discuss pay would be good, so we keep al the B.S. away from this forum and just keep it about flying...
Just my 2 cents (actualy 1, rest goes to the bank).
Fire away...

B Sousa
8th Jul 2002, 16:01
"Yes, with my current pay it will still take me 50 years to pay of my tuition, but who cares, I'M HAVING FUN, but just for listening to al the complaining I think I need a pay-increase."

Almost Canadain,
Check back its not ALL about Low Pay. Im also glad to hear your having so much fun. The statement above is for fun lovers and not those who are concerned about being independant or responsible. Sort of like not reporting an overtorque, because it was only there for a short time.
At Least in Canada you can always fall back on the Government for a stipend/medical in your later years. It seems to be the general feeling amongst a lot of Professions, both in Canada and for certain in the U.S. Those who try to be responsible and plan down the road subsidize the fun lovers in our taxes...

almost canadian
8th Jul 2002, 19:05
Bert, does having fun really equal being irresponsible?
Sad, very sad.
You don't know me the slightest bit, yet because I still find some pleasure in the job I must be some wacked cowboy pilot who doesn't care about anything.
I can tell you that safety for me is the most important thing on the job, it makes it possible to have fun (without being scared something might happen) and makes me able to come home to wife and 2 kids.
Must be a lot of irresponsible pilots out there, having fun and all that...

B Sousa
8th Jul 2002, 22:06
Dont put the monkey on my back. you stated it would take you the next 50 years to pay things off. Indicates heavily in financial debt. Must have been an exageration. Purpose is to provide for the family then have fun....for me anyway, you have your own choice.
If you put things on these posts lightly you get slammed, ask me Im always getting slammed......

almost canadian
9th Jul 2002, 00:07
Believe it or not, having fun WHILE providing for the family is possible, you should try it.
That's all for me and to get back on subject:
Yes I would do it all over again!

Thomas coupling
9th Jul 2002, 16:34
This is Bosher's contribution:

"....£250 per day is not that good for an IR rated twin pilot, you can get that flying shag jet rangers.

IR twin drivers should, and can get, £300- £350 per day. (well thats wot i get)

"...It's time some people stopped "doing it for the love of it" and let the pros earn some more money..."


9th Jul 2002, 18:06
Time to unstick the thread and let it continue or fade naturally.
There have been excellent contributions by so many people, but I can't let the moment pass without a special word of thanks to Bert Sousa for allowing me (with barely a word of complaint ;) ) to use something he said to start the discussion - and for responding when required. I think we've all worked out the truth is Bert loves his job and would do it all over again.

Looks like the overwhelming majority of pilots on this forum would do it again. There are so many I gave up keeping the running total.

I'm sure everyone wishes Flare Dammit well in his new career and will often ponder over his memorable assertion ..... "I'm convinced that most helicopter pilots are neurotic nutjobs."

Frightening thought .......... What if he's right!! :eek:

11th Jul 2002, 22:19
Heliport, thanks for the email allerting me to this thread.... OK I know it was ages ago, but I'd just got in from the pub, and you know how it is.....

Apologies if I go over anything said before, but I have skipped through the whole thread in the last 15 minutes, and at my age, can't keep all that stuff in my head at once. Anyway, I've just got in from the pub again.

I went helicopter flying in the RN because that's what they did. I loved almost every minute of my career and looked forward to a second career in police flying. That turned out to be 1% unforgettable, fantastic flying and 99% staring at each other in the crew room, or hovering over a long cold crime scene. The slack time allowed study for the fixed wing licence, and simply because it was different, and a new challenge, that was next.

Someone had said that helicopter pilots will always work for a living, where planks just sit and bank the dosh.

Right to a degree. Freighters were a good intro, but the anti social hours were draining. Finally got into a proper airline and, to be frank, I enjoy the job. Doing anything right is an ongoing challenge.

Just now, I'm (courtesy of Osama) back in the right hand seat, and my take home pay is about £300 a month more than it was with the Navy in 1994. (A pay cut in real terms). But as someone else pointed out, money (beyond providing for family) isn't everything. (And ethereal is welcome to his Porsche. A bit of humility is worth ten of them).

Would I do it again? I'd love to do a bit of both. I don't need that bum clenching thrill of military flying any more, but just to hover again would be nice (tried it in the jet the other night and it didn't work:eek: )

It's horses for courses. We are all so lucky to make a living at what we love to do, and would (do) pay for if we weren't paid to do it.

So I guess I score for both sides, Heliport.

Now... If I could go back to bus driving.......

20th Oct 2002, 19:10
Jesus, is it really that bad!!! I've just come from the wannabies forum and i feel like topping myself, all doom and gloom......Is this a fw thing or does it apply to GA.....i must admit that when i read the posts in here i always (well, nearly always) feel that i have learnt something new or have read some good for/against arguments etc etc and i myself have posted questions with regards to the state of the industry and have had some excellent replies. I think i've been given a fair and unbiased opinoun from others within this forum and feel fairly confident that although it will be extremely difficult, that there is a career in rotary aviation for me..

I appreciate that external facters play a major role in the industry; terrorism, war looming etc, but there seem's to be a real negative view towards the industry at present.

I dont know why im writing this, its not like im looking for a particular answer, i just wanted to say something!!!!

If you havn't all follen asleep by now, thanks for listening!!


21st Oct 2002, 01:19
Congrats on your decision. :) It's as bad as they say, and it's as good as they say. With a positive outlook, and quite a bit of persistance you will find your way into a seat. It won't be easy, far from it in actual fact, but anything worthwhile is never easy. Although the pay isn't the greatest, it can be highly rewarding and fun. Just remember that it will take persistance to get that first job, but if you keep smiling, and a positive attitude then you will eventually succeed.

Good luck !!


21st Oct 2002, 05:30
Randy is right.

You have to love flying helicopters. You have to take the good with the bad. Every job comes with its share of bulls**t.

It won't make you rich but it is a very rewarding career.

You just have to love helicopters. Loving what you do is the most important part of any job. If the guys on this forum didn't love it..... they would be long gone.

That's a decision only you can make.


donut king
23rd Oct 2002, 21:28
Agree with everything you stated XNR!

I'd like to add...... love what you do( flying helicopters) but don't let THEM take advantage of that!!!!

All the newbies or wannabies should be told this from the start.


26th Oct 2002, 11:15
1/ You love helicopter flying, put up with all the bull **** in the industry!! not too much money to make especially when living in the UK. bite your teeth and have a rewarding career.

2/ After roughly five years in the industry or at the age of 35, which ever comes first, you will seek an Fixed wing Airline career.

3/ You have realised that an exit from the rotary wing world is too costly!! (assuming now you are at the top, and doing really well, i.e....Captain Offshore) NOW you become bitter and twisted!!!

The truth always hurts....

I jumped ship, some five years ago. Now very happy and coffee on the flight deck with a smile.

26th Oct 2002, 16:34
Flying is a unique occupation. You need to really like it, and has to be in your blood if you want to stay with it long-term. Someone once said, ďwe fly because it gives us that euphoric feeling.Ē

Perhaps now is the best time to train as the economy is slow (as in the U.S), this prepares you for the jobs once the economy gets better. Most people probably wait for a good economy to train in and once they are done with training we are back in a recession. Business cycles are here to stay so get use to it, use them to your advantage and focus on the long-term.

I would suggest that you put together a development plan for your training and initial flying jobs. The plan may have to be revised as time goes on and things change. You may need to position yourself for a job opening. In my case I started off in FW, became an instructor and worked for a year at a small airport flying single-engine Cessnas and Pipers. Wanting something bigger I went to a flight school as a student at a larger airport to fly several hours (about 10) building multi-engine time. The school was very professional, the air taxi department had light-twins and a couple of Lear Jets. It was actually owned by Kaman Aerospace and I did meet Charley Kaman one day, he did seem strange, but when you build your first helicopter in a garage you have to be strange. I acted professional and eventually got the nerve to ask for a flight instructing position. The boss said they did not have an open position but if I wanted we could go for an hour as a check flight. We went out and I showed him how I flew and instructed, when we landed he said he had an opening and I accepted. At that time many years ago I had about 400 hours TT, the air taxi department requirements were an ATP and 3000TT to be a captain on a Beech Baron and 5000TT for Lear Jet Captains. I instructed for about a year and a half and moved over to the air taxi department with about 1200 hours TT. I was a co-pilot on Lears for a year and then moved over to dedicated client service on an HS-125-700. About five or six guys were applying for the HS-125 co-pilot position but I was selected, I found out later that I had a good reputation on the Lears. Hard work and no whinning pays off. Not bad at age 24.

Later I got out of flying for a number of years and then discovered helicopters. What I like about helicopters is that it is raw flying, you donít have your head buried in the cockpit looking at a flight director as was the case in the HS-125. The over thing I noticed in helicopters the people are real, in corporate jets there seems to be a few pompous and conceited people running around. My initial career goal was the almighty airlines but it seems like that job has changed where the pilots are more like computer programmers and system monitors.

By going to the larger airport as a student it got me some exposure to get noticed and get into the instructing position. The instruction position got me exposure for the air-taxi department. The Lear jet position got me the exposure for the HS-125 position. Being there in person Iím sure helped out because chief pilots usually have a stack of resumes 8 inches high at any given time, being there in person helps out.

Maybe down the road for your career you can attend, at your own expense a Super Puma GS and get some sim time at Bristow or Helicopter Services, this way you are at the facilities getting some exposure and you get to put it on your resume. If you do this and itís a tossup between you and another chap who has not shown such initiative you can guess who gets the job. Another positive aspect is that you will have contact with crews and administration personal, perhaps in GS you will sit with company crews. You can notice how they act and talk, what their values are. Remember, offshore helicopters operators donít really hire co-pilots, they are looking for Captain material, people that fit in.

26th Oct 2002, 20:19
I'm always amused when I hear helicopter pilots say something like: "Oh, go with choppers! Even though the pay sucks, the living conditions suck and the time you spend away from your family sucks, it's worth it!" Or alternatively, "...it's a very rewarding career." B0LL0CKS!

Question: How does one person know what will be "worth it" or "rewarding" for another person? Why make such statements? But we do. We try to tell other people how they'll feel if they just get their commercial helicopter rating and follow in our footsteps. Yeah, right. Maybe.

Actually, for the most part, I had to agree with ATPMBA's post. He's pretty good at hitting nails on the head and his advice on how to get a job is invaluable. In aviation, it's all about being in the right place at the right time and having enough spunk to ASK for a slot. You want to stay home and send out resumes? Fine, but don't expect to get a job (or at least, a very good one).

However, ATPMBA tipped everyone off as to how things really work in aviation. He was at that flight school getting some multi time when he asked about a position as an instructor. Er- I'll let him tell it: "The boss said they did not have an open position but if I wanted we could go for an hour as a check flight. We went out and I showed him how I flew and instructed, when we landed he said he had an opening..."

Lying bastards. Learn this early: they're all a bunch of lying bastards. "We don't have any openings...well...we miiiiiight if you take another hour of instruction with us..." Clever! But no worries, they probably won't lie to YOU after you get hired. Oh no. NO WAY! They have MUCH too much integrity for that <insert sarcastic chortle here>. :rolleyes:

Then I read this funny bit by ATPMBA: "The other thing I noticed in helicopters the people are real, in corporate jets there seems to be a few pompous and conceited people running around."

Oh man, I never laughed so hard in my life. Milk spewed out my nose and all over my keyboard. Hoo boy! Haven't been around helicopters much, have you old sport! Stick around awhile - you'll meet some egomaniacs that make the most pompous G-V captain seem like Gandhi. Helicopter people...real? Real uneducated, maybe. Not many MBA's among those at our end of the aviation spectrum. I'll probably think about that as I nod off to sleep tonight and the wife will wonder what I'm chuckling to myself about.

There is no predicting what will make someone happy. Back in the old days (yeah, I met Charlie Kaman too but I don't like to admit that I'm that old), I thought being a helicopter pilot was the ONLY thing that I'd ever really enjoy. But that was a self-imposed limitation. Now, looking back, I see that I could have been just as happy in the corporate fixed-wing or airline world. I just love to fly! Lucky for me, now I just do it when *I* want to :cool: And mate, that is what it's all about!

26th Oct 2002, 21:10
Oh dear we have got our knickers in a twist haven't we?
Pompous you do sound, arrogant you certainly are...
UNEDUCATED? How dare you. What the hell do you need an MBA for to fly a bloody helicopter?
I've known quite a few MBA's , Phd's etc who couldn't tie their own bloody shoe lace let alone fly an aircraft of any sort so SHUT UP! :mad:

27th Oct 2002, 03:57
Cyclic Rick:
Oh dear we have got our knickers in a twist haven't we?
Pompous you do sound, arrogant you certainly are...
UNEDUCATED? How dare you. What the hell do you need an MBA for to fly a bloody helicopter?
I've known quite a few MBA's , Phd's etc who couldn't tie their own bloody shoe lace let alone fly an aircraft of any sort so SHUT UP!

Heh. Proves my point, eh what? It matters not what the mechanical abilities of PhD's are. They're beside the point - which was that many helicopter pilots take your exact view, to wit: "What the hell do you need an MBA for to fly a bloody helicopter?" High school to flight school. All together now (you all know the tune): "We don't need no education..." and most helicopter pilots don't have one. Look at the way most helo pilots write! There have been spell-checkers on the market for years now, but many of us "can't be bothered" using them. Pathetic.

"Pompous?" I've been called worse (by better men than you). Bob Suggs once called me a "pompous, arrogant bastard." I took it as a compliment. "Arrogant?" Never knew a helicopter pilot worth a sh*t who wasn't arrogant, as long as he could back it up with ability. "Knickers in a twist?" Nope, just many, many years (too many, probably) of watching helicopter pilots like yourself make utter fools of themselves trying to convince really educated people that they are too. We're not a highly educated mob. Get over it.

27th Oct 2002, 05:37
educated or not is not the point
experience is all you want !!!

all we want is work !
here I am on my 100 hour; a little after half way to the CPL still 50 to go .
don't get me wrong, I enjoy every minute of it (almost - except ...)

are we that dangerous when we are "young", just finish using our dippers (our flight ins. - that have to put out with all our ****) ?
is the only way is to spend more money be a dipper (flight instructor)?
or maybe cross the fingers and hope to win the lottery ?
or maybe change profession and work as a stripper (which is a problem since I will have to get more money for a gender change op) !!???
when you look backward where you dangerous after flight school?

I know that experience is a key thing in every thing in life, but doesn't the course give us that experience ?

Thomas coupling
27th Oct 2002, 16:22
Hmmm(spell checked)....

still think you are someone else PPF#1...

now who might it be;)

and why does the forum need it :confused:

unless.....you're a pigment of my constipation, er sorry, figment of my imagination:)

27th Oct 2002, 21:13
"Better men than me"?
"Making fools of themselves like you"?

Well you certainly seem to know alot about me, pray tell how and where from?

I'm intrigued

29th Oct 2002, 14:01
The late Bob Suggs must have been quite a guy. His observations on you seem to have been most perspicacious if the nature of your posts is anything to go by.
I do have a degree, but never found it to have any relevance to my career in aviation. Most of the really arrogant pilots I've met (whether fixed wing or rotary wing) have eventually met their come-uppance as a result of their arrogance.


I've flown for quite a few employers over the years, some good and some bad. Reading through the fixed wing forums (or fora - for PPRUNE FAN#1 - either is correct, though the use of fora is rarer) it seems there is just the same mixture of good and bad employers in all branches of aviation. You should just try not to allow it to sour your enjoyment of flying. There are a lot of moaners in the world of flying, but some are just moaning about things under their control. It's no good going for a well paid job on the North Sea and then moaning that flying to oil rigs is boring. It's possible to go and work overseas and earn more money (albeit that some of the extra money may be due to having no liability for income tax - depending where you're from and whether you are able to establish non-residency). Sometimes we pilots are our own worst enemy. The salaries in the Middle East at the moment are very poor and a lot of helicopter pilots are leaving. However, there are always lots of their fellow pilots who are willing to work over their leave periods for extra money, thus removing any pressure from the employers to increase salaries.
Remember that a lot of fixed wing pilots also spend a lot of time away from their families. There are many helicopter jobs where you can be at home every night if you wish, and many of the overseas positions nowadays are on an equal time-on/time-off basis so the separation is not too bad and all the time off is quality time.
I still enjoy flying, I earn a reasonable salary, I have a nice house and I get a reasonable amount of time with my family. Yes, I'd like more of all of these, but there are few flying jobs that offer excellent salaries, lots of time at home, exciting flying and being based in safe, beautiful countries. All life is a compromise. If you can find somewhere that you don't have to compromise too much you'll have a satisfying (and sometimes enjoyable and/or fun) life as a helicopter pilot.

29th Oct 2002, 15:09
MamboBaas wrote:
The late Bob Suggs must have been quite a guy. His observations on you seem to have been most perspicacious if the nature of your posts is anything to go by. I do have a degree, but never found it to have any relevance to my career in aviation.

The thing is, many helicopter pilots wear their lack of education like a badge of honour. It's like they're proud that they do this relatively complex task without having/needing the higher education to go along with it. They think that what they've learned on the street or in The School of Hard Knocks is sufficient and perhaps even comparable to the education received by what they derisively refer to as "college boys."

This is why many helicopter pilots are so myopic and narrow-minded. It's not that they're unintelligent, it's just that they wrongly think that because they've mastered a particular task that takes some unusual skill, it automatically imbues them with extraordinary deductive abilities, powers of reasoning, and comprehension. (And for those of you having trouble translating that paragraph, just read it thusly: "Helicopter pilots think that because they know how to fly, it makes them *smart*.")


Most of the really arrogant pilots I've met (whether fixed wing or rotary wing) have eventually met their come-uppance as a result of their arrogance.

If that totally unverifiable thought gives you comfort or some smug sense of satisfaction, I will not deny you that. You're entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine. Perhaps I will crash and burn spectacularly soon. Perhaps the next 10,000 hours will be as safe and accident-free as the last. Time will tell.

Side note to CyclicRick: When I said "helicopter pilots like yourself..." I was merely connecting you to other pilots on the assumption that you are one. I do not know if you have in fact made an utter fool of yourself yet, but it would not surprise me in the least.

29th Oct 2002, 15:17
Thanks Momba

That was a really good reply. I am absolutly determined to achieve my goals and i too have a degree and work as a project/marketing manager at present. I know that i will never be rich if i fly for a living, but money is something that has become less important to me over the last few years. If i stay where i am I would earn far more than i ever could as a pilot but i hate it, with a passion and all i really want to do is fly, i dont care where, who for or for how much i just want to fly. Sounds corny i know, but its the truth!!


mike papa delta
11th Jul 2003, 20:42
is flying helicopters a good way to make a living or has it become just another day at the office?
do you chaps still get a twang of enjoyment when you lift into the air or would you rather be doing something else?
is it just a job or do you feel lucky to be paid to do what you do?

to many people it looks like an exciting career and i just wondered what you would all say the realities of it actually are (other than it seems you are lucky if you get a job at all!).

many thanks...

11th Jul 2003, 21:32
I think we all enjoy the flying aspect of our jobs , but unfortunatly there is alot of waiting about in fields/airports which can be very boaring. Beats working for a living though!:ok:

Devil 49
11th Jul 2003, 23:37
Usually, a great way to make a living.
I've flown professionally 20 of the last 35 years. There are times that I wish I was doing something else. Then I remember that when I was doing "something else," I always wished I was flying.

11th Jul 2003, 23:49
Of course we enjoy our jobs. I think it's safe to say that each and every one of us truly loves to fly or we wouldn't be doing this. After thirty years in this business and umpteen-thousand hours, I still get a big kick out of lifting up on that little lever next to my seat and seeing the world gradually drop away. It is a sublime pleasure, as fresh today as it ever was.

But make no mistake, this is just a job. J-O-B. It is a job that must be taken *very* seriously, and done with all due diligence or the penalty is death to you, your passengers and possibly people on the ground. We're not up there skylarking. The trouble is, when you look at the accident reports, it is painfully obvious that some pilots do not perceive commercial flying in this way. But flying is work...real, honest, legitimate work. Could it be that the "beats working for a living" attitude might be a factor in some accidents? I'm no psychologist, but I think so.

You'll often hear pilots say that flying "beats working for a living." That's the conscious thought. Sub-consciously, some of these pilots make a connection that since flying isn't "working for a living" then they're darn lucky to earn any money at all from it. Therefore, they are deathly afraid to:
1) Demand any more money for doing what we do; and
2) "Rock the boat" by voicing any criticism because it might cost them their job...which they were lucky to get in the first place.

You don't have to be Freud to figure that out.

The end result is that helicopter pilots have been compensated poorly over the years, and will probably continue to be for years to come. Or at least until we run out of pilots who will fly for free, which is not likely to ever happen as long as this activity is perceived as not "working for a living."

Is it all about money? Obviously not. But you have to have some dignity. If you work at a job in a field in which you are undervalued and undercompensated, resentment WILL creep in sooner or later. ...Unless you are one of those who think that since flying isn't "work" then we don't deserve to be paid very much. In which case you can stand there and cast stones at those who disagree. You can say silly things like, "You're a pathetically, terminally unhappy person," and "If you're not happy flying helicopters, then quit and go do something else." Happy flying helicopters meaning, I guess, accepting whatever pay/benefits/working conditions are offered.

Personally, I love to fly. And at this stage of the game I make a pretty penny doing it. But there were many, many years when my pennies weren't so pretty. *THAT* is the reality of helicopter flying. I love a great many things in this life. And if I couldn't ever fly a helicopter again, I would go and do something else that I love. We humans like to pigeon-hole ourselves, thinking that what we do defines who we are. We think that without flying, life would not be worth living or some such nonsense. Just read between the lines in some of the posts on this very board to see what I mean. I have been as guilty of that as anyone. Fortunately, I overcame that particular neurosis without the need for therapy.

So, is flying a good way to make a living? Yes. And no. It all depends on you, your goals and dreams, and what you are willing to settle for. Life is all about compromises, is it not? Would I do it again the same way? Absolutely...not. If I had it to do all over again, I would quit at the 5,000 hour mark and go do something truly meaningful with my life. But our foresight is not nearly as acute as our hindsight. (Oh, and before anyone gets their knickers in a twist that flying helicopters isn't "meaningful," keep in mind that getting pleasure by pulling up and down on a little stick all your life isn't meaningful, it's masturbation plain and simple.)

Just remember this: If you are paid to fly, then flying is a JOB, period, end of sentence. If you get some pleasure out of your JOB, great. If you have the talent to be a helicopter pilot and that's the only thing that "makes you happy," wonderful.

Whatever you do, just don't sell yourself short.

12th Jul 2003, 03:40

I do enjoy flying around for a living very much, but I know more pilots who are bored and would rather do something else than satisfied ones.

I don't think I want to be bouncing up and down all day in a helicopter for a a living when I am say 50-55 years old. (I'm 32).

12th Jul 2003, 07:26
Do I enjoy working very long shifts, sometimes for quite little job satisfaction? Making less money than younger fixed wing colleagues who work about half the hours that I do, some of whom I know failed rotary training and would faint at the thought of having to do what we do? Walking past the row of shiny new plank wing pilots' cars to get to my own 11 year old car because it's all I can afford? Let me see.... :hmm:

Yes, I enjoy doing it to the best of my ability, knowing that we are doing a pretty good and safe job. I still try to do it that little bit better every day.

BUT! After 25 years or so of being shut in, shut out, shouted at, shot at, sat upon, and shat upon, if I never had to do it ever again I would just shrug my shoulders and find something else.

Maybe I would even just dust off that old FW commercial licence :E

Ascend Charlie
12th Jul 2003, 08:38
Well, I must be one of the lucky pilots who has had job satisfaction in every job I have had and in every sphere of my work. The only time i found myself shat upon was instructing in a civil flying school - I left there and started my own school, and the satisfaction returned.

Now, after 34 years and 12,000 hrs since first solo, i still think flying is a real hoot, and i love to introduce new people to helicopters. They are the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

I didn't like the early starts of police work, and the constant strain of low-level powerline inspections would pall by the afternoon of the fourth day in the field, but now I am paid to be on standby in my house, 200m from the hangar holding the three toys. Just finished my first cappucino of the day, I love this job.:p

mike papa delta
12th Jul 2003, 18:03
thanks for your replies guys - extremely interesting reading.

i asked the questions as i have the opportunity to pursue a career in the field and wondered whether the enthusiasm that exists in intial training dispurses (the novelty wears off) as your hours increase and it becomes "just a job".

basically i wondered if you thought it was worth all the money, exams and effort. did it turn out as you hoped? (only one way for me to find out!)

ultimately i guess i already knew what i have read here; that it is different for everyone, just wanted an insight...

ta, mpd

p.s. any more replies really appreciated.

12th Jul 2003, 19:07
Twenty years and counting and I don't regret a minute of it. I'll be one of those old guys that won't retire until they force me to. I love it so much; my wife says I get downright ornery if I don't get out flying on a regular basis.

Just don't let yourself get into a rut. If you don't like what you're doing, try a different aspect of the industry, it has a lot to offer. I used to love hanging my head out the door and slinging drills all over the hills, but the family-life/conditions made me move on. EMS was alot of fun, I liked the professionalism and excitement, and the schedule and homelife is much, much better, but I found the odd taste of actual IFR just wetted my appetite for more, so now I'm flogging heavies in the clag all day, yet home everynight, and making good coin to boot. If traveling is your thing, I doubt there are people that have seen more than guys touring offshore. Itís a great life, but you may have to work abit to make it fun. Life's too short to be miserable!

12th Jul 2003, 19:32
For me, it's not a job...it's my life , I think I would die of sorrow if I had to do a "real" job for a living now,
My only concern is the age of 60 limitation...I still have 13 years to go and I am desperatly trying to become "RPM saturated" in flying more and more and go sailing instead.
But I know that when the time of my last rotor brake will come I shall not be cured, maybe microlights...
Anyway, I am already aware I had been lucky.

12th Jul 2003, 22:57
Tis the pity that the most enjoyable of the flying I have done....Bush Flying is seasonal and not year around. If I could just find a way to do it year around. Bounding around Alaska in a Hughes 500, slinging core drills, hauling geologists to their traverse routes, fishing everyday......was fun.

13th Jul 2003, 04:48
PPF *1
Don't get me wrong , I take this job very seriously , Three engine failures a tail rotor control failure plus the fact I have lost five friends to aviation help me keep focusd .
what i meant when i said it beats working for a living was that i couldn't see myself getting up every morning in dread of the job waiting for me.
Just because i am working hard doesn't mean that i can't enjoy myself a little bit , does it?:\

I wholeheartedly back your opinion on people flying for free and it really gets my knickers in a twist when i hear of people flying for ten or twenty euros an hour when i am trying to explain to my boss that i am worth ten times that.

Lama Bear
13th Jul 2003, 12:13
Life is too short not to enjoy your job, any job.


Letsby Avenue
14th Jul 2003, 19:34
As soon as I am 50, there or thereabouts, I shall release the squillions of equity in my house and retire to France, never to fly in a Helicopter again! Just another day in the office for me I'm afraid

14th Jul 2003, 20:11
You know, Letsbyavenue, I have seen more than one saying that and then come back, even after retirement.
Maybe for some of us flying is just the result of a choice between others but for the great majority it has been a long story lasting since childhood.
In both cases it seems there is often some sort of syndrom of "adiction" we are not even aware of, it's maybe a side effect of these big rotor blades that have kept turning over our heads for so long after all

mike papa delta
15th Jul 2003, 01:26
hi and thanks for your input.

i have a question:

has it always been another day at the office or has what initially attracted you to helicopters as a career gone?

cheers, mpd

Letsby Avenue
2nd Aug 2003, 05:07
Sorry for the delay Ė Iíve just realised that you were asking a question!

Iíve been flying for about 23 years which includes 18 years of military flying and I think itís a case of seen it, done it! Believe me, nothing-quite compares with planning, briefing and flying as part of a 10 ship NVG sortie at 100 ft, 100 knots and 2 rotor spans, itís kind of difficult to top thatÖ Or as part of a helicopter display team for a season in the UK Ė Great fun! I fly for the Police now and life will be pretty sedentary for the near future..

Having said that, I have never regarded my job as normal and would rather retire than do anything else!

Rich Lee
2nd Aug 2003, 07:21
Do you know what is bad about being a helicopter pilot? Nothing, absolutely nothing!

Helicopters are like crack cocaine--more addictive and far more expensive--but that is not a reason to consider ever doing anything else.

In all seriousness, few people get to live their dreams. My profession has provided me the ability to travel to places and see things very far off the beaten path. Few people who are not helicopter pilots can relate to my experiences because they are so unique. I can tell you story after story about people and places I have experienced and most would seem like fantasy. There are still places in the world that are so far removed from civilization that they remain virtually untouched unless you have a helicopter. The deep Amazon or Borneo jungles, high mountain regions of the Andes or Himalayas, the deserts of the middle east, northern Chile, and a million unnamed islands in the various seas and oceans. I have hunted with tribesmen in New Guinea, been asked to mate with the daughter of a Dyak headhunter in Borneo (I declined with humorous consequences), was nearly killed by a Dani tribesman in Irian Jaya, robbed in Bolivia, nearly froze to death in Finland, almost died in an earthquake in Turkey, flew with pink flamingos over the Abadan plains of Iran, have eaten Hagis (or however you spell it), war, the occasional life-saving and have experienced hundreds of other adventures. I have never envied anyone for few people could ever live the life I have lived. All of these things I experienced only because I am a helicopter pilot! That said, it is not for everybody.

Lu Zuckerman
2nd Aug 2003, 08:55
Iím not a pilot but the opportunity to be one was offered to me not one time but two. The first was a direct commission as a full Lieutenant in the USCG as a maintenance officer with the option of attending flight school. The second was a direct commission in the North Carolina Army National Guard as a maintenance officer on helicopters and a slot in flight school with an option to go into the US Army aviation program. It may sound foolish but I turned both opportunities down. However my professional life has not been dull. I was a techrep on helicopters for four years, I was a manager of product support on helicopters for three years and I worked in an engineering function on what at the time was state of the art. That included the Cheyenne, the Apache, the A-129, the EH-101 and the V-22. In the fixed wing arena I worked on the Panavia Tornado, the A-310, the FD-728, the Bombardier challenger 604, the Bombardier Regional Jet, the A340, the 767-400-ER, the F-16 and right now I am working on the engine upgrade for the Gulfstream G-IVX. On the non-aviation side I have worked on ballistic missiles, spacecraft, ships (two types) and heavy industrial equipment used to make medicines and animal feed. (The smells on this job were terrible).

My work has taken me to Iran (3 years), Germany (4 years), Italy (3+ years) and Holland (13 months) as well as to England, France and Yugoslavia.

The money is excellent and right now I sit at my computer at home doing my job.


Rich Lee
3rd Aug 2003, 01:30
As I said, being a helicopter pilot is not for everybody. Some, like that grand old man Lu for instance, opt for a quieter, more sedate occupation.

3rd Aug 2003, 12:52
I think that many helicopter pilots assume that any other job in any other field must necessarily be sheer torture. So they cling to flying for a living as a lifeline. And no matter how bad it is, it's still "better than working for a living."

I feel sorry for those who have no other apparent talent, drive or desire - for those who derive no other pleasure in life than from flying helicopters. Sad when you think about it. How empty and shallow their existence must be if their happiness is tied to the operation of one cantankerous machine. How miserable they must be when they're out of the cockpit, out of their element. How enjoyable it must be for others to be around them...not! Ironically, some wear this personality "quirk" as a badge of honour.

Yes, flying is great, wonderful, exquisite and all that. Yes yes, we love it more than life itself. Funny though, the rest of my family and nearly all of my friends lead perfectly happy, rewarding, fulfilled, content lives and...can you believe it?! they're not pilots! So ask yourself what you would do if you lost your medical tomorrow. Would you fall into a deep depression? Would it be the end of the world? Or would you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go out there to find what ELSE life has to offer?

3rd Aug 2003, 22:06
Prune Fan.....If I lost my medical tomorrow....it would be like Lincoln freeing the Slaves! The Quacks would make a decision for me that I have struggled with and failed to do over the years. The tragedy is that I have waited till so late in life to make that decision. My long-term disability insurance will pay me the same net salary as I make now.....and I get to stay home....until age 72. I think I can handle that.....to quote another poster...."Get out of my chair!"

Where is my fishing rod when I want it....?

4th Aug 2003, 03:30
An Australian airline captain once said to me that having a Helicopter Licence was like having a passport to the a**hole of the world, because when he flew light twins, he would get to some out of the way place with his passengers, and there would be a helicopter waiting to take them further on their journey into whatever wilderness.

BUT - Do I enjoy my job?? After 33 years of flying helicopters, I still get out of my aircraft at the end of a day's flying with a big grin on my face. I love it!!:D :ok:

15th Nov 2003, 10:02
Okay all of you "this is the greatest industry in the world except for the guys who run the companies."

Would you work in this industry for less money?

Would you risk your home for a shot at owning your own machine?

I ask because I am thinking about doing that very thing.

Sound off.

belly tank
15th Nov 2003, 13:19

We have recently set up a new company well about 12 months ago. We have a 206 and a R44.

Do your research, on markets you are targeting, depending on the work you are most likely going to be doing.

Marketing, advertising and a bit of networking are a must, it took us about 6 months to get all our brochures, advertising material etc to circulate and we are now just starting to see an increase in monthly hours flown.

If you can secure a contract of sorts weather it be long term or short this is also a good kickstart. I dont know your flying background but you need good sound and knowledgable pilots due to the fact that no-one knows your company you need to have a lasting impresion on your clients. you know the term first impressions!!

The secret is plain old hard work, you need to eat sleep breath aviation. its a hard slog but with a good sound start and a solid background in flying and management skills you should do well.

There are highs and lows and i assure you you will experience many low's but hang in there.

The Nr Fairy
15th Nov 2003, 15:39
I do some work now and again for a company which does "experience days" for Joe Public, plus corporate events.

They have a sim of their own - FS2004 in a burger van, with an old Enstrom cabin fitted out with dual controls, and it works pretty well for people who've never flown a helicopter before (i.e. it's realistic, but not so sensitive as to be unflyable for a novice). The punter also gets to have a 15 minute flight and an optional extra is a 5 minute go at hovering.

The two guys involved did their homework - they are running the company as a marketing exercise, with the aviation "product". My point ? Get your marketing right and the rest will follow - as belly says, know your market and exploit it to the full, the rest will follow.

IIRC, they broke even 1st year, modest profit the second, and increasing year on year.

Thomas coupling
15th Nov 2003, 20:38

I think (GENERALLY), buying your own and renting it out, doesn't pay. I know a lot of owners (from single cab to major operators) who will tell you there is little or no money in it.
Where there is money, is in the add on bits, like:
renting out crews (pilots/crewmen, etc).
contract work (preferably government contracts).

Work out how much it costs to keep your cabs, then translate that to how many hours you would need to rent it out for, per year to break even, and go from there. It might surprise you how many hours you need!

All the successful guys I'm aware of, dabble in the above list.

However, there are always exceptions to the rule:

I saw in one of Autorotates mags (I think), a guy in Aus who bought himself a Kawasaki 4 seater with floats and does tourist flying to the reef and outlying islands. He stated he made enough to 'relax comfortably', but the great thing about it was:
(a) the scenery
(b) the lack of pressure
(c) he was the boss!

Good luck................:ok:

16th Nov 2003, 05:32
What! Buy my own helicopter! Run my own business? Subject myself to all the stress involved in running a company? Have to put up with whingeing pilots moaning about pay and wanting days off? Are you kidding? I'd have to sell the BM or the villa in Spain to finance it. How would I pay the servants? Who would run the Estate? No Bl**dy chance, the £80K+ they pay me here for flying 600ish hours a year is far more than I could earn being self employed. Anyway I don't fancy having to work for a living, perish the thought.

Fly safely,

16th Nov 2003, 08:29
Now that seems like the most honest reply to any post on this board that I have seen in a ling time.

It tells me that I should never grow my business any larger than myself. This business seems to be crippled by a desire to have each of the players (customers, management, and pilots) take as much as they can and collectively more than they deserve.

16th Nov 2003, 10:52
Paperwork Pilot sayeth:This business seems to be crippled by a desire to have each of the players (customers, management, and pilots) take as much as they can and collectively more than they deserve.Oooooh, so close! He almost had me believing that he was a sincere guy considering chucking a decent career and starting a fledgling helicopter company. And at the end of the day, he's just another schmuck who's going into business with a bad attitude about his customers, his managers and his pilots. So Paperwork Pilot, you think pilots don't deserve their salary, eh? Gee, what a surprise.

I can't wait until Paperwork Pilot finally tries to learn how to fly a helicopter and sees that it's not the piece of cake he evidently currently believes.

Here's a little history lesson, Paperwork Pilot: For decades (since the beginning of the helicopter industry, actually) helicopter operators have taken advantage of helicopter pilots because we pilots are idiots who love to fly and will do it for peanuts. This paradigm has come to be known as "the industry standard." Anyone who dares suggest anything otherwise is called a "whiner" (or erroneously, a "whinger") or worse.

Me? I believe that helicopter pilots are worth EVERY DAMN PENNY they make. In fact, ask me what helicopter pilots are worth, and I'll simply say, "More." More than they're getting now. Am I ashamed or embarassed about this belief? Not in the slightest. As a group, we DESERVE to be paid top dollar for our time and services. And if you want to hire me, that is what you'll pay. You can hire a less experienced pilot, or a more-experienced one who'll work for less; that is your choice.

Or, you can keep your one-horse operation small so that you never have to deal with it. And that is my fervent wish for you.

16th Nov 2003, 11:02
Helicopter pilotting. (piloting?)

The best way for me to make a living without actually having to work for it.

Would I do it for less money?

When I'm busy,....Hell no.
When I'm not,.....Of course.

All in line with the democratic principles of a free market economy and the influence of 'supply and demand'. Get as much as you can when you can, when you can't....take less.

My advice as a once upon a time owner, if you want to be a great small business person more than you want to be a great helicopter pilot, buy in, you'll probably do really well. If you just want to buy yourself a job, forget it.

17th Nov 2003, 03:15
I think I am doing it for less money...

17th Nov 2003, 03:44
Mmmmmh . . . . . ?

I think I am doing it for Less money already FOR A GOOD REASON.

I choose my present job because there are very different kinds of helicopter piloting jobs, but two main groups are . .

1.- The boring jobs

2.- The fun jobs

I could easily be making twice as much flying a B430 with a rich guy from
Bldg. "A" to Bldg. "B" always with bitchy pax on board and flying 20 hours a month, or going up and down the same hill all the time.

This is not for me, I became a helicotpter pilot to escape from routines, to be where the action is, if were about money I go for my familly's business instead.

MY PRESENT JOB PAYS LESS THAN THE PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, but is NEVER the same, I fly 5 different types, and rarely do the same type of flying twice in a week, I might start the week doing some ENG/News thing, the next day is doing all the flying required on a helicopter that's coming out of the shop after the skids were left smiling, and finish the week going to a Bullfighting cattle ranch to take pictures and upon return I went to pick up an injured skydiver to take him to the hospital (this was actually my week)

So you see to some pilots like yours truly, its not ONLY about the money . . . .

The flying has to fun! that is priceless.

22nd Jan 2004, 22:38
Hours spent finding and merging 'training' threads made me think it might be a good time to resurrect this discussion.

Our membership continues to grow and newer members may not have seen this thread.

Well .................... would you?

22nd Jan 2004, 23:22
Rotary Wing (RW) aviation has many disciplines, IFR, VFR, aerial work (external load, long line), rescue, resource flying, offshore, EMS, mountain ect., ect. There are only a handful of pilots that can claim to be a master in all disciplines.

RW pilots recognize the professionalism required for each discipline, and therefore an IFR Super Puma Captain can respect the skill required of a JetRanger pilot working in the mountains.

The PLANKERS on the other hand only respect the guys flying the bigger iron.
Example a Dash 8 pilot will respect the professionalism of a B737 pilot but not a twin otter pilot, the 737 pilot looks up to the A340 guy ect.,ect..

Of course I could be full of crap, and the opinions I express are my own.

Would I do it again eh; yea. Itís better than cutting trees for a living.

23rd Jan 2004, 10:47
IHL..well said! There is alot of mutual respect within the profession regardless of the type and profile of the work concerned. Unfortunately, the pay is not always the same.
But alot of small machines can and do make good revenue for operators and pilots alike. Because we are so diverse in our groups, it is very hard to standardize the pay we earn. Union's and other association have attempted to do this, and with some degree suceeded. But only for pilots in large companies with specific profiles. However, as one gains experiance thru their collective experiance ( pardon the pun) they usually can command a better pay and operate bigger and more sophisticated equipment...if thats what they want. When I was in the Army we received flight pay, even in training. As we put in the years we had significant increases in pay..including any promotion and time in pay grade. Compared to some of my friends who are Plank Drivers, I actually earn more. Some Helipilots have to get creative in how they earn their income.
You can work with the Police and expect £37k to £47k.
Or you can work Offshore with relatively the same flight hours in a multicrew environment for 10 years and get significantly more.
Please xcuse the spelling...it's getting late!!!!
Or go logging in Juneau, Alaska for 6 months and earn as much as $150k .......Gulf Helicopters pay their Captains $48k to $52k, 6 weeks on and 6 weeks off. Thats about £31k to £33k, but then
thats without paying tax! The skill qualifications determines the pilots ability to have a greater choice of aircraft. Having said that there is a shocking dilemna in our biz: How can you get a job with hardly any experiance, when you can't get experiance without a job!!! Unless you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join the military, be very wealthy, or just damn lucky, it takes along time and alot of sweat, blood and tears from adolescence to sitting at the controls of a multi-million pound
machine and getting paid for it. And when you get there, your are either to old or too scared to give it up...because your life has been consumed and focussed arriving at this point;):zzz: :zzz:

23rd Jan 2004, 11:38
I think one of the reasons that the pilots here have been so quick to justify what they do reguardless of pay or conditions is that I imagine most of us have no choice about what we do.

From that first horrible morning when you wake up and realize that you want to fly your life is no longer your own, you have no choice, you don't choose to fly helicopters...they choose you and if that happens it doesn't matter how you justify it or how else you look at it their is nothing else that feels like it and you won't be happy doing anything else.

So I suggest that we bend over take it like men and get on with it because that's what we do best ;) ;)

25th Jan 2004, 02:20
It has been quite a walk, going thru these posts starting from Bert's first. Thank you Bert for raising the subject.

My flying experience has been privileged. I have listened to and read about the experiences of others who went the civilian bush route, both fixed-wing and fling-wing, and I recognize it must have been much harder for them than for my route to aviation through the military.

Some posts have commented that people fly because they can't do anything else. Well, there are others like myself - high marks at university, completed the degree, worked in a professional capacity, then left the profession to join the military and became a pilot. I like to tell people that I left my profession for a life of travel, excitement, and adventure - which I got in spades!

I had never flown before, didn't know a schmick about flying, and the only predictor of possible success at it was the aircrew selection centre experience. Military flying when I joined, provided training on prop jobs, then jets, and included a variety of exciting things like low-level flying, aerobatics, and formation flying that a civilian training path did not provide. But on wings grad I was assigned to helicopters and that opened a whole new world to me and an unbelievable variety of jobs and experiences, including tactical (bush), shipborne, SAR, and instructor roles. Later in my career I came back on to fixed-wing.

While suffering in a ground job for a few years, I got my commercial heli licence and flew some civilian contracts - firefighting on one job and geological survey on another.

Since leaving the military, I have also left flying and now work for a charitable org.

In the Air Force we used to say flying beats working for a living!

Heli flying was like the sports car of the air - always hands on and quick reaction required around each unpredictable corner. As many in this forum have said, there were a lot of fun times. But there were also things to complain about and I recognized some of the drawbacks that commercial guys faced everyday, most of which we in the military didn't have to worry about, but some we did.

Fixed wing on the other hand took you to some great and exotic places but to get there, the only interesting things were some take-offs and some landings. The rest could be pretty boring.

Piled on top of the flying were some good things about the military and also the not so good.

But I can't imagine my life having been any more exciting and rewarding doing anything else, including what I had been doing in my profession before joining the military.

Any flying job has this in common with any other job - do I really want to keep doing this or would I give anything to be doing something else? Military pilots have to do that in relation to the option of civilian flying or other work. Heli pilots have to do that in relation to other flying options or other non-flying jobs.

And the pay? Some army guys would complain about the extra flying pay the pilots received. A proper response? Submariners allowance was higher than flying pay but I wouldn't trade my job for theirs. Bottom line - if you want the same pay as somebody else, go out and get that job or one with that same pay. But one thing is for sure, from those who have been there and done that, its not worth pursuing a job just because it pays more. Somehow, most of us survive in the end, regardless of the pay differences.

If we would rather keep at our current job, then we should sit back and enjoy the ride, making the most of what's good, and doing whatever we can to minimize or change the bad stuff.

When the time comes to leave it all behind, that's a different kind of challenge and it takes all you've got to keep leaving it all behind.

So enjoy it while you can. Life is shorter than you think.

3rd Feb 2004, 05:13
Just wondered if anybody out there had the lowdown-ie not crewroom gossip- on what jobs are out there. I have 2500 hrs on a variety of helicopter types and have reached that point where working outside is more than something to be whistfully talked about. I have the usual helicopter pilot committments to support - maintenance, large mortgage and a young family...so can anyone give any advice?

ATPL(H) is on the way and I am not really interested in being an airline pilot and want to remain in the South East. Any clues?

3rd Feb 2004, 16:18
It sounds like your in the forces, well no doubt you get plenty of time to read the pprune pages. Employment on the outside is not at the stage of begging for pilots. For heli work you've got on-shore, where you're going to have to either take a pay cut or try and get one of the direct employment police jobs (which are like hens teeth). Off-shore work is much better paid but again browse the threads and you'll soon get a feel for where the jobs are, or rather are not at present. On the plus side when you do get a job you'll fly alot more and do less paper work. If you're tied into the old 12 month PVR thingy then go for it, twelve months is a long time in civil aviation. Good luck!

11th Feb 2004, 05:13

Thanks for the reply, and I kind of figured that it was difficult to get a job (even though I wished I had time to sit and read PPrune loads). As you guessed, I am a mil pilot, but the time draws near where I have to start making decisions and either sell my soul and stay in and risk becoming the guy in the corner of the crewroom, or step outside.

Outside interests me since things have changed and I want to offer my family more stability. However, I want to remain in the SouthEast and I have to earn enough to pay the maintenance to my first family (not my fault!!).

So really, what jobs are out there? Who do we approach? What tips can people offer? Any good steers for someone with 2000hrs+, ATPL(H) on the way and enthusiasm?

I know it's scary, but it's sometimes too easy just to stay in and take the money and accept that spending increasing amounts of time away are a feature of life. I dearly love what I do, I have to be pragmatic.

So, anyone offer any help/guidance out there?

11th Feb 2004, 05:39
Network, network and then network some more. You must know someone who is working on the outside. The onshore market has a small turnover but there are jobs that are never advertised. The money is not great but with a pension you can just about break even. The flying I have found to be challenging and varied, and flying is all you have to do.

The offshore market - just read this forum for an idea of opportunities.

The grass is greener (if you don't mind living on contracts) but is just as hard to cut!

5th Jun 2004, 22:31
With some (major?) cutbacks in the military in the offing, what's the job market on the outside like for those of us facing a P45 through the door? Where are there good opportunities, good packages, and what do the police helo units/air ambulance outfits look for for recruitment?

8th Jun 2004, 22:40
Just putting this back to the top...any ideas?

10th Jun 2004, 13:03

10th Jun 2004, 15:31
Guess not then!

The Nr Fairy
10th Jun 2004, 15:52

I've heard tell of a 3000 hour civil pilot, instructor rated, Twin Squirrel rated, with a reasonable amount of turbine time, who's currently the newbie pilot at an ASU in the UK.

Perhaps that's what HOGE means, or - seeing as the post was some time ago - perhaps he means something else.

10th Jun 2004, 16:24
Sorry Huey, welcome to the harsh real world. Basically, there are no good opportunities, even fewer good packages and Police/HEMS want thousands of relevant hours.

There have been a number of threads on this subject so please do a search. There is a lot that you would need to consider and research including IR and type conversions.

I'm afraid the lack of response is because nobody has anything positive to say or it has already been said.

Best of luck



10th Jun 2004, 19:18
Whoooaaaaahhhhh there boy!
Does that mean that you've had enough of the Blockheads and are returning to these shores?
Now why would someone like me tell you where the jobs are when I'll be looking for a job too?
Met Nivs and Langers a couple of weeks ago, they'll tell you about the civvy job market...they're working for PAS and PDG respectively.
Get yourself out to the Gulf, that will sort you out, plenty of opportunities for people who can't choose where the money comes from!!
Hope all is well, but I'm afraid my int is oonly valid for the Frozen North!

10th Jun 2004, 20:25
EESDL..have you got their contact details? Would be nice to talk to them both after soooo long.

Whirly-Wotsit..Ta, Yep I'm not under the impression that I'll walk into the perfect Job without a bit of searching/hard work and compromise...however I do have a lot of very varied experience (sea+mountain SAR/chasing naughty chinese drug+car smugglers) and would hope that might help persuade the likes of PAS/PDG/Bond/Bristows etc!!

10th Jun 2004, 22:47
Flying around a mega-rich middle east family on their over-expensive aircraft and getting paid bucketloads.

My presidential accomodation would have to be air conditioned.

Can anyone get me THAT job??


11th Jun 2004, 06:03
For me, I'll have to go along with Johns first post on this threadMine, because I enjoy (nearly) every day, don't feel jealous of what the next guy is doing, and have a different type of flight almost every other day. Without the nearly or the almost! :ok:

11th Jun 2004, 10:41
Dream job?

Sitting in a hover, in an Apache, outside the third Reich headquarters in Gatwick house, and levelling the place with Hellfire missiles.

11th Jun 2004, 18:41
My favorite was fire fighting. The crews were professional, and fun to be around. The flying was interesting, and varied. Flying initial attack, and performing a hover exit. Then putting on the bucket and helping to cool off the area until the crew can get the hose to it. There is also the high of helping to save peoples homes, and property.

11th Jun 2004, 20:22
The best job has to be SAR/EMS.
I spent 18 months on an EMS unit: it was my best job ever! I am ashamed to admit that I moved back to the North Sea for the money (and the promise of SAR - shafted by company during week one!).
The high you get when a patient comes back to say 'thank you', is unbeatable! I had one where a 17 year old motorcyclist came off his bike, giving himself multiple life-threatening injuries. My paramedic team did a fantastic job keeping him alive during the 10 minute flight to the major trauma hospital. Hot unload at the helipad, and straight in to Resus, twin chest drains etc. He came to visit the unit (in our leaky portacabin) about 4 months later, still on crutches but looking much better than the last time we had seen him!!
Makes all the sh1* worth while! :ok: :ok:

12th Jun 2004, 06:00
Nr Fairy,
I've heard tell of a 3000 hour civil pilot, instructor rated, Twin Squirrel rated, with a reasonable amount of turbine time, who's currently the newbie pilot at an ASU in the UK.
He would be a newbie pilot in any ASU in the UK.

1. Newbie for being the most recent to join. (I thought that would be too obvious!)
2. ASU pilots(UK) are all civil pilots.
3. 3000hrs is probably low for any ASU pilot.
4.Twin Squirrel rated, who isn't? (+ they are being replaced.)
5. Instructor rated, what use is that in an ASU? (until he/she moves on?)
6. 'Reasonable' amount of turbine time! (Normally a lot is required!)

It's just that you sounded surprised. :confused:

12th Jun 2004, 06:57
The jobs are there in the police world and like any other career... If you have the skills, you will get a job. It might not be the 'golden' one, but you should be ok. JT

12th Jun 2004, 13:27
Flying offshore on Canada'a East Coast. The people are the most down-to-earth and friendliest people I've ever met. Lots of flying, plenty of nasty-winds, fog, ice and bad weather to keep it interesting, good pay and a great schedule. Home everynight and out surfing almost everyday...granted in a 6mm wetsuit!

That or perhap's TC's job of flying Magnum around the Hawaiin Islands in that 500! (Heard George Clooney is doing a movie)

The Nr Fairy
13th Jun 2004, 19:13

I suppose the word I left out was "civvie trained" pilot. I know they're unusual in the EMS/SAR/Police flying world - and my point, far from being surprised, was that it is possible - if you have the right skills, the right attitude and a little bit of luck.

13th Jun 2004, 23:48
At the risk of starting World War III....

To be the Little Bird Pilot that guns down Osama Bin Laden...forget the pay!:O

....But I would settle for being the Chinook driver that gets to cart his ambient temperature carcass to the press conference.

14th Jun 2004, 20:46
For me (going back a bit):

Summer Season - "The SHARKS"

Winter Season - "The Ace of Clubs"

Rich Lee
14th Jun 2004, 23:52
I think the mountain rescue pilots who work the Alps have the best job in the business. Nothing beats the job satisfaction of rescue and it is helicopter work that requires the pilots to apply almost every helicopter skill there is. The pilots I have flown with in France and Switzerland (have yet to fly with an Italian pilot in the Alps) are some of the best all around helicopter pilots in the world and the most accomplished pilots I have ever been acquainted with.......and what about that scenery for an office?

What-ho Squiffy!
15th Jun 2004, 02:31
Tourist pilot on the East Coast of Australia somewhere.

Flying a nice new machine, only on nice sunny days, only on weekday afternoons (or at a pinch from 11 am), taking only nice people over nice locations,

Earning $150k.

And six weeks leave. And a company car.

Can't believe nobody else mentioned it...:ok:

21st Jun 2004, 00:04

Banjo George
30th Jun 2004, 15:17
Blimey, wish I'd found this forum months ago.

Need some advice guys and gals. I'm 39 and want to become a CPL(H). I have a class 1 medical booked for next week and hope to start flying in Sept (I have zero hours).

The '39' and the 'zero hours' are a bit of a git obviously, and the medical - well, I'll pass or I won't. The single advantage I do have is access to enough cash to get me through all the training to CPL(H).

I've read with interest the arguments for/against pilot shortages and frankly, my biggest concern is blowing 50 grand and ending up with no heli job (I can't live life as a Project Manager any more)

My general question is should I even bother to start training ? I'd appreciate some 'informed' comment rather than the blurb from flying schools.

(Also, anyone got any tips re. flying schools ? Currently looking at one based at Liverpool Airport).

30th Jun 2004, 15:29
If your lifestyle/situation allows, go to Helicopter Adventures in FL, USA - your $50k will get you a LOT more training and fair-to-good opportunity to work after your training is complete.

The exchange rate, difference in fuel & aircraft cost, and shortened training duration will mean your travel costs and housing are essentially "free". If you do the JAA/FAA combo, you will have a FAA CFI(I) and a JAA CPL.

Of course, if you are unable to make such a drastic commitment...
...never mind! :hmm:

(ps - this advice is from a 43-year-old 300-hour CFII)

Banjo George
30th Jun 2004, 15:33
Thanks FlingWing. Errrrm, I'll have a look into it. Originally I was looking at doing it in NZ but then found out all the red tape re. license validity etc, which I still don't understand.

BTW, that\'s £50k not $50k. I\'ve done a lot of saving to get me out of this godawful job in the UK !!!!

One other general question - does flying involve a lot of mental arithmetic - fuel vs distance vs headwind - all that kind of thing, only I\'m a bit thick at Maths ....................... oo-er.

30th Jun 2004, 16:42
Banjo, there's at least an even chance that when you start having to learn the maths, you'll find it quite a lot easier than you think - simply because now you can see what it's for. That's an enviable position to be in.

'Sir, what use is algebra', I keep getting asked at the school I teach in. I usually reply 'you'd be amazed'. Which is shorthand for 'b*ggered if I know'. It is difficult to think of a practical use for a lot of it. However, you'll only have to learn the stuff that does have a practical use.

30th Jun 2004, 16:42
Why don't you go to a reputable training organisation (and there are several near you) and take an initial flight? Then talk through the syllabus with them. Because - yes you do need mental arithmetic. You need to be able to do weight & balance calculations on the move, you need to know the maths of navigation and the science/maths of weather. And the physics of flight, and airframes, and, and, and.

Wish you lots of fun, some frights and some of those obstacles in life which make you wonder "Can I really do this ?"

Like - after about 7 hrs of training and you still can't hold a hover....and your fist is getting tighter on the cyclic...I've seen people weep. And then at about 10 hrs, they smile and wonder what all the fuss was about. They're holding it perfectly still with just finger and thumb.

All of which is nothing compared to your first auto. :ooh:

Banjo George
30th Jun 2004, 16:48
Ta HeadsetHair (great name)

Errrm, I have flown a copter twice so far, and a jet provost (aerobatics) and a glider. On all occasions I seem to have at least better than 'some' aptitude.

Sadly, I've always been a bit slow at the old Maths - I can do it but perhaps not quickly enough. Need to practise.

The Liverpool School appeared to be the best in the area - I did check 3 or 4 out. I tried Cabair a few years ago and they said quote :

'you're too old and it'll cost too much. You can't compete with ex-military for jobs'. Naturally I left, refreshed and not even slightly subdued ..............................

Anyhow, better not slate Cabair though at the time, I did indeed think they were doing me a favour.

Thanks to Hilico too - all good advice. Luckily the dynamics and science of flight interests me greatly so I\'ve got more than a laymans knowledge.

I really just wondered how \'involved\' the maths actually got when you\'re in the air - stuff like air density calculations and stuff got me a bit worried.

Right now, 300+ hours looks like a monster hill ...............

cyclic flare
30th Jun 2004, 17:17

Did you try the schools at Blackpool i think the Liverpool school also has a site a Blackpool, You've also got Barton Manchester with Bill Bailey who's a very experienced pilot.

Banjo George
30th Jun 2004, 17:42
Thanks Cyclic, yep, I tried Blackpool (Liverpool is an offshoot of that organisation), also Barton, and one in Leeds.

Leeds was a bit too far, and Barton only does up to PPL(H). Liverpool seemed to be the friendliest, best selection of machines too and no more hideous than any others in terms of price.

I'm told that an 'advantage' of Liverpool is that the school is located at the John Lennon airport, and therefore the flight protocols are much stricter 'cos of all the commercial traffic going in and out. Seems to make sense.

I'd probably consider the States too but I still need to support myself through training somehow. Anyone got any experience or advice re. going abroad ?

BTW thanks everyone, this is really helpful stuff. After several enquiries, one begins to disbelieve how genuine the flight schools are - still, they have to make money.

Camp Freddie
30th Jun 2004, 17:58
Banjo Man,

have you tried reading this? designed for people in your situation.

Training Questions (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=122944&highlight=training)

written by many people who who actually been through training from scratch.



Robbo Jock
30th Jun 2004, 18:27

Given that your £50k is worth about $80k, what Flingwing207 said about value holds even more true.

It would be a good idea to mull over what Cabair said, though. As a 200TT, 43 year old graduate of Cabair, I can concur. To put it in perspective I graduated at 39 with about 196 hours. I paid my money, got the licence and have hardly flown since. (Partly my own stoopid fault - I went and got myself married and hence nailed to the ground, weighted down with a mortgage :( )

Once you've got your licence, you will be in competition with a lot of more experienced people, and/or with a lot of younger people and/or (possibly) a lot more mobile people (I'm using the term "a lot" relatively speaking here. There isn't "a lot" of anything to do with helicopters in the UK in absolute terms really!) (particularly jobs) So it certainly won't be easy.

Heading over to the States, getting the qualifications FW207 mentioned and, if you can, working there until you get your ATPL is definitely worth considering. You can then come back with the hours and the JAA quals and have a damned sight more chance at employment than others such as me.

Just read your last. In terms of how genuine flight schools are, you've got to give a bit of credence to what Cabair said - you walked through their door with fifty grand to give them and they said 'go away and think it over'. A lot of schools would have had your wallet out of your pocket as soon as they'd finished shaking hands !

30th Jun 2004, 18:38
Consider coming down here to South Africa if you want an instructor's job. We are nearly always short and there' s the game industry if you want to scare yourself now and then.

The airforce has about three pound fifty budget for this year so you don't have to worry too much about competition for a job.

It's pretty cheap to get your licence too although possibly better to get an FAA/UK licence first and transfer.

R22s are about R 2000 an hour here - less than 200 quid and hour and it's relatively cheap to live.

Not much going at the top end unless you join CHC and go fly in Africa but don't know what your end goal is...You could always get some hours and then go back to Europe if you wanted (although I don't think I ever would).

(36 year old 2000 hour ATP; also former Project Manager in UK)

30th Jun 2004, 18:44
Blackpool and Liverpool Helicentres are now run totally separately and are under different management. I don't know much about Blackpool, but Liverpool seemed well organised - they nearly gave me a job, but I spent too long actually getting my FI rating. Manchester Barton has Enstroms, an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your point of view, but more expensive than learning on an R22.

As for work, if you get 300 hours and an instructors rating, and like instructing, there's work around. You can hourbuild up to the 300 abroad, which won't cost as much as over here, and is loads of fun - I speak from experience. There's not a lot of work, and most of it is in the south of the country, so you'd need to be mobile. You won't make a fortune, but you can probably make a living. I'm older than you, only wanting to instruct part time as I have other work that I enjoy, but I could have got fulltime work, and age never came into it.

However, by the time you qualify, all of the above could change, for better or worse. This is not a reliable industry, never has been and never will be.

30th Jun 2004, 19:21
Having instructed at HAI in California (the good old days) and in two provinces in canada, I can only advise going ot Florida to HAI, or come to canada with your money, and build time with it. Like what's been said before, you can't beat the cost of living, and you'll literally get more bang for your buck (quid). Here in Canada it's 100 hours to commercial, but jobs are harder to find. However, it is easier to convert to a JAA license(ce) than the FAA should you only do that.

It took me a while to get going to, but now I'm a Chief FLight Instructor somewhere in Ontario!;)

30th Jun 2004, 20:12
I hope he doesn't mind, but it might be worth pm'ing vfrpilotpb, I know he is familiar with the area and the flying schools, and may have some good advise for you.

Worth a try, and good luck!!

30th Jun 2004, 22:09
its all very well going abroad and training at cheap rates,the problem will be getting a job back in the uk ,if thats your ambition.
Most of the uk jobs appear in my limited experience appear to be by word of mouth.

If you train in the uk (ppl at one place ,hourbuilding at another or overseas,cpl course different place and instructor course somewhere else )you will get to know the people and the industry who may give you some work.

i would have a lot more faith in someone i'd seen train in any of the above circumstances than a guy with a converted faa license who hasn't flown much in uk

just my thoughts

GOOD LUCK whatever you choose

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 08:35

thwock, Helieng, Winnie, Whirlybird, goaround7, Robbo Jock, Camp Freddie and all the rest, thanks very much for this advice.

To an extent, you are all confirming a lot of what I've already been told. Frankly, I'm amazed that the heli industry seems to be A. difficult to get into and B. potentially piss poor when you get in !!!! I'm guessing fixed wing ain't so bad.

My plan was to do the PPL(H) and see if I enjoyed it as much as I expected to, then decide whether to commit to going for CPL(H). The school I'm looking at have 'suggested' that at worst, they would be in a position to give me a trainers job at the end of CPL, even if the money is crap (I gather trainers earn maybe £15k pa ?).

I expect almost all of you have faced a similar decision - you get to a certain age and work is just crap and you think what do I REALLY want to do ? I'd be gutted blowing 50 grand on training and then going back to PM or something when Icould have used the cash to train as something else. Any of you lot ever considered fixed wing instead ?

(PS shooting at animals from a helicopter is a bit sick ain't it ?)

1st Jul 2004, 09:24
Banjo George,

Firstly, take "suggestions" from schools that they'll give you a job when you finish with a pinch of salt. They may, and who you know makes a lot of difference in this industry. But they tell a lot of people that, and it'll depend on how things are when you qualify...it may not happen; don't rely on it. Schools can't give all their students jobs, but they can get them in by implying they can.

I started off flying fixed wing. I only ever planned on doing any flying at all for fun. I went for a trial helicopter lesson for something different to do, and got totally hooked the moment I managed to hover for a few seconds. I got my PPL(H), and then couldn't bear the thought of only flying occasionally and never really getting any better. I figured if I felt that way there were only two options, since I had the cash (from a windfall, not a regenerating money tree) - do lots of flying and have nothing to show for it, or structure that flying, pass lots of exams, and maybe eventually get paid to fly. It's sort of worked, though I'll never recoup what I paid out - but that wasn't the plan. Whatever happens, I'll never regret it; it's been great - though very hard and absolute hell at times. I still fly f/w now and then, just a C150 I have a share in. By comparison with helicopters it doesn't grab me really, but it's a fun social activity, and I like touring by air. Have I ever considered it as a career? No, but if you can get an airline job (rumours of a shortage soon, but don't know if it's true) it's probably a more "sensible" option.

Not a choice anyone else can make for you. Why not get your PPL(H) and then see. You could always do that, fly helicopters for fun, and spend the rest of the cash on something else. But you might have a better idea of what you really want to do when you've done that much flying.

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 09:41
Wise words whirlybird, wise words indeed. You have me intrigued now aboute the situations that were absolute 'hell'. Were they in or out of the cockpit ?

Sorry, being a bit nosey, but I have this picture conjured up in my head of a pilot heading for power lines or something ????

To be honest, the more one reads, the more uncertain one becomes, but I think I'm still pretty much fixed on getting the PPL(H) and then taking it from there. The BMW LT1200 touring bike will just have to wait ....

The thing that started me off again along the route to heli-flying (this is my 3rd 'attempt') was going up in a Hughes over Fjordland in NZ. Man, what a job that bloke had. In the 25 mins we waited for him, he lifted a load of hunters up into the mountains, came back and slung a small boat underneath, took someone else up into the mountains with the boat, and then took us for a flight around a frozen caldera at about 10,000ft.

I thought 'I've gotta do this, even if the pay is crap'. Of course, maybe he was bored shitless by it all, who knows .........

'ChickenHawk' by Bob Mason has influenced me quite a bit too. Great book. Anyhow, thanks again.

1st Jul 2004, 10:00
Hi Banjo,

It sounds like you are in a lucky position - to have the cash to do this. There are many out there with big loans and no job.

If I was you start by flying for fun - after all you can (by the sound of it) afford it. I would do the ppl (as quickly as you can) and then see how you like it. Build some hours up, but be structured about it, practice the navigation, handling, emergencies etc and remember to enjoy it too. If you still want a career from it (and I bet you will) start to do the exams for the commercials. and then the flying course. Then hour build, then instructors etc....

If you take it one step at a time, and then find that you don't like it, can't get a job, run out of cash, then you still have your old job to fall back on. And you will able to continue flying for fun.

There is no one in this industry who can predict what the job market will be in a years time - it is a gamble. But it can work out for you, just don't hold your breathe. It took me 4.5 years from starting my ppl to getting a commercial job, and that was quicker than many others. I know that makes the full time course sound more attractive, but unless you are certain you can get your old job back in a years time, to me at least, it would be too big a risk.

Don't worry too much about the maths, it is not as advanced as the O level maths I did. If maths is still a worry, I believe the open university do an introductory maths course which I hear is excellent.

If you want it - go for it. I did and I have been lucky - I am flying that dream!

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 10:35
Thanks Boomerrangben, I think I've had better advice from the people on this site in the last 2 days than in about 6 months of research !!!!!

Anyhow, very interesting and motivating to hear your particular story. You're right, the cash is a big advantage and I'm in a very strong position from that POV. I know I want to change career, badly, but there's a major gamble blowing the cash on heli or spending it on some other re-training. I'm unlikely to ever be able to replace that kind of money !!

1st Jul 2004, 11:13

Re-train as a plumber, invest yr cash in the business, build it up, using yr skills in PM etc, and then you'll be able to afford to PPL(H) when you like.

OK, perhaps not entirely serious, but I suspect there's more work for plumbers with a couple of years experience that pilots right now, and expansion of the EU will only bring more people with ex-mil skills that will work for less than a UK guy/guyess, with a UK mortgage.

You've not outlined your other commitments so it's not clear if you are a totally free agent, or just someone totally fed-up, and having sensibly tucked away something to use in phase 2.

1st Jul 2004, 11:20
You have me intrigued now about the situations that were absolute 'hell'. Were they in or out of the cockpit ?

Sorry, being a bit nosey, but I have this picture conjured up in my head of a pilot heading for power lines or something ????

No no no, nothing like that! I was thinking of...

a) The course for the CPL ground exams. I really struggle with technical stuff, and I found them hard. A month's course didn't sound long; living it was. I told myself if I failed more than half first go I'd pack it in; I passed 7 out of 9 and wasn't sure if I was elated, or annoyed because that meant I had to resit two and then do the other five.

b) The instructors course. The first time I've ever not liked flying. There may still be a thread about it somewhere, if you do a search. Thinking back now, I'm not sure why I had such a hard time with it, but I did. Maybe it was just comparing myself with a 30,00 hour instructor, and realising just how little I knew about flying.

The exciting bits - flying down canyons and auto-rotating off an 8000 ft mountain with an instructor in the US, landing in a tiny clearing in the forest in Russia with a crazy ex-army instructor...that was FUN! :ok:

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 12:24
Hmmmm, interesting stuff Whirly and Airborne.

Ironically, my brother has just left the aircraft manufacture industry (which is pretty dead in this country) and trained to become a plumber. Allegedly the 'plumber shortage' hype is pretty much 'hype' unless you live in a blackspot. Sadly, it has major headaches too, like getting people to pay. It's certainly something I've considered, albeit briefly.

However, I'm single, own my house (which is worth a fair old crack) and have money to spend on heli's if I want. I expect several people would think me insane NOT to try the heli route as I have advantage and disadvantage in equal measure probably. I think perhaps I'm a bit too cautious by nature, but learning abroad could be great I should imagine.

I live not far from Manchester Airport and even at the anoraky age of 39, I still love to watch 747-400's taking off etc, so I guess it is in the blood.

What are the CPL exams like ? Is it mainly interesting stuff ? I'm actually quite interested in navigation 'cos I do a lot of hill-walking with a GPS/compass etc. I expect air law is somewhat 'dry' ................................

1st Jul 2004, 15:06
I'd be gutted blowing 50 grand on training and then going back to PM
And how gutted would you be if you got the the age of 50, were still in PM and still had your £50,000 in a nice safe high interest account?
I do a lot of hill-walking
Then you'll know that it is often the steepest, hardest climb that gives the best view. Mountains, life, it's all the same.

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 15:15
JAFO - you're completely right of course - thanks for reminding me. It was EXACTLY that '50yrs old and still a PM' thought that made me decide benefits outweigh risks.

Thanks for all the encouragement, generally.

Probably no time at all and I'll be making a complete arse out of myself in a Schweizer or something and ruining the trainers day.

1st Jul 2004, 15:18

Why don't you buy (a share in) a helicopter ? Then, do your PPL much more cheaply as long as you don't crash and then if you don't want to continue to CPL you can play as much as you want, sell again or trade up.

If you do want CPL, sell the chopper or use it to build hours cheaply and then you use it commercially eg. instruction afterwards. Friend of mine did just that here.

Also, apart from eg. off shore guys, many experienced heli pilots and for that matter, airline guys, have second businesses often not related to aviation, on the side. Most guys like us who paid for the training (rather than military route) are half decent at something else and make some real cash that way.

You don't have to be full time either - plenty part time instructors. Depends on your addiction (which it is by the way.).

Oh yes, and we rarely shoot animals dead. Only in fact in a cull which can be a bit sickening or if the animal's been wounded, say by a hunter. Usually we are darting for capture or with a vaccine or an injured animal that needs attention. That's actually pretty rewarding. And a wee bit challenging at times...

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 15:43
Thanks goaround. Yet ANOTHER possibility to consider, and a good idea. The impression I get is that other countries tend to make far more use of heli than in the UK - where it's used almost as a 'speciality' vehicle - don't know if the guys in the trade would agree with that or not. UK airspace seems to be somewhat crowded ?!?!?

I'm almost certaion that any long term future I would have in helis would be abroad.

Don't want to stray into politics, but the word 'hunting' makes me see red. Glad to hear there's a purpose behind using helis not simply to shoot at things for a laugh.

1st Jul 2004, 16:16
What are the CPL exams like ? Is it mainly interesting stuff ? I'm actually quite interested in navigation 'cos I do a lot of hill-walking with a GPS/compass etc.

Some of it is interesting. Much of it is fixed wing orientated facts and figures which you need for the exams, and will forget immediately afterwards. As an instructor on R22s, I've yet to find much use for my now forgotten knowledge of machmeters, jet streams, or which degree of freedom it is if one country overflies another country's airspace but doesn't land there. :eek: On the other hand, I do now understand met a lot better, I have a reasonable idea how my instruments work, and a much better understanding of helicopter aerodynamics. It's just a pity that my overworked little brain can't selectively remember the useful stuff and forget the crap.

Hill walking nav is somewhat different, I'm afraid. However, the ability to read 1;50,000 OS maps will help when you come to the CPL flying...except I bet you never tried to follow one while flying at 70kts! As a walker since childhood, I still remember my instructor's face when he told me I'd probably never seen one before, and I said I'd been using OS maps for years and years.

1st Jul 2004, 16:50
Ok mate here goes, I've done it. That is I had a wad of cash (sold my house) and went off to be a helicopter pilot! You might be able to tell from my username that I made it and currently fly the best light twin helo for the best onshore company in the uk doing the best job around (duck - incoming!!!)

Here's how I did it - at 30 I went off to the States and did the full program there, private, commercial, CFI etc came back to this country, spent a shedload more cash and got all the same ratings again.

Advice? get only quality hours while training, don't fly around for the sake of flying, have an instructor with you every hour you can and make sure you practice until you can fly it with your eyes shut - I still do! (that was a joke - pax)

Get a company that will employ you as an instructor, build hours hard and fast- NEVER turn down a flight and look smart too.

Make sure you have enough hours to COMFORTABLY exceed the UK CAA minimums for the ATPL(H) Get an instrument rating too, doesn't matter that it will probably be in a single, just get the hours in.

Don't let the military "junta" here in the UK put you off, it's not rocket science and a thousand hours "dipping" in the SW approaches doesn't make you a better pilot at Silverstone GP time (more incoming!)

Apply yourself at all times to every aspect, practice, practice practice and then practice some more.

I had it tough of course - I had to persuade my wife it was a good idea! - one more thing, don't even think of making back the money you spend - it won't happen. But I haven't regreted a penny of it

Do it

p.s remember to practice

Banjo George
1st Jul 2004, 16:57
Thanks Whirly and ec135.

How did you support yourself whilst training in the States ? I'm assuming you didn't live in a motel and suchlike.

Also, roughly how long did it take you - I'm guessing you're pretty good at it so maybe it'll take longer for others.

Is a CAA class 1 medical valid in the States do you know ?

Any guesses as to how much it's cost you - if you don't mind ?

Brilliant advice, thanks.

1st Jul 2004, 19:47
£50,000 or $85,000 will get you 6months training, PPL, CPL, CFI IR etc all exams (written and practical)

Rent of an apartment, food, a cheap car, gas, beer, a few haircuts and still leave money left over for conversion in a few years when you get home.

Try Helicopter Adventures, they are serious about training.

I can personally recommend Quantum Helicopters in Chandler Arizona, speak to Neil Jones (owner) They have a website too.

Keep us up to date will ya?

1st Jul 2004, 20:33
I too can recommend Quantum. I received a PPL, IR, CPL and an R44 transition program and spent less than $40,000.

Banjo George
2nd Jul 2004, 10:23
Thanks diet and ec. I'll look into your suggestions as a matter of urgency.

At the minute, I'm a bit overwhelmed with all the possible routes I could be taking - which is good.

I'm kicking myself now that in the 15 or so trips I've made to the US, I've never once thought to look into flying there. Doh ........

2nd Jul 2004, 15:16
A year or so ago on a plank wing thread on Pprune a "Wannabee" was cautioned that, "Pilots eat their young." If you read some of their threads you get the point.

But Rotorheads does not. They tell it like it is to new enquirers, which is generally hard and expensive and requires sacrifices. But after a while reading the forum you realise that this is one group of people who are doing what they want to do in life.

Mostly the pay is moderate to low, but they accept that as the price they pay for lifting the collective each morning. They go back to their moderate dwelling in a used car after a day that varies between mundane and the peak of the aviation profession.

Perhaps the highest level of heroism in the world today is found in the helicopter air sea rescue services. To see that as the pinnacle of what you hope to do gives the junior guys a feeling of being part of a very respected group of professionals.

The change from your social environment in the office of a Project Manager where your status depends on your latest car or the latest plasma tv will be dramatic. I have seen that professional helicopter pilots are not interested in what you own, but what you can do. Your position in the hierachy is based on your flying ability, on your experience, and your reserve in telling anyone about your skills.

UKL50,000 will buy you many things. If you choose to spend it on the start of a helicopter career it may be the best money you've ever spent. As long as you realise that it will not buy you Sunday colour section riches, but the richness of having made a difference.

Banjo George
2nd Jul 2004, 15:51
Thanks Moosp, infact thanks to all who've taken the time to read and/or reply.

You are right in your observation that the Heli pilots are a close knit bunch on the face of it. Maybe that's what attracted me to becoming a heli instead of fw in the first place ?!?!?!?!? Despite knowing relatively little as a beginner, I detect a rich vein of cameraderie - probably similar to those in the fire service, police or army I guess. Sadly lacking many other places however ......

I am indeed going to 'go for it' and keep reading / contributing to the forum.

One minor point - us PM's don't all have plasma screen TV's !!!! No, we just have 'live' dancing girls on the projects, har, har.

....but you're right, I'm NOT going into aviation to make a wad of cash as I genuinely believe flying will be more fulfilling. A wage substantial enough to not have to worry excessively about making ends meet will be quite sufficient.

Brilliant Stuff
2nd Jul 2004, 19:59
Well I just read the whole thread and I can only agree with everything everybody said .
We are a tightnit comunity, this industry is small which means we have to look after eachother and support eachother.
When you start your training you will soon know if it is really for you or wether you should change your mind.

Do not worry about the job side there will be jobs outhere waiting for you. Why? Because people are retiring due to age.

Just concentrate on learning everything you can.
Why don't you train here and do some hour building in the states, where else can you fly the morning traffic report in a Jetranger over build up area and do some pinacle landings for relative peanuts like Flying lawyer did.
If you have a broad sprectrum of experience and are professional, you can not go wrong.
The salary will pay your living expenses.
And it means you no longer have to work.

I only worked one day in my life and that was spent 2 hours in the hover over bristol waiting for a nutshell to leave for it's sail across the atlantic.

The people I can recommend from my training are Bristol Groundschool for your NAVS, Mike at Bonus Aviation in Cranfield for your techs though you might have to remind him you fly helicopters and not FW.

THE Mike Green who I am told is now the Chief training Instructor at the Helicentre in Blackpool before he was working at Fast in Thruxton.

You might want to check P.A.S. at Gloucester they have a sister company which do Instrument training using simulators.
Currently a Instrument rating costs £28000 plus conversion onto a twin engined helicopter like a Twin Squirrel which would another £3000.
I am told they are trying to convince the CAA that more hours on the simulator are just as good as on the Aircraft thus saving a bundle.

Now my recomendations are 10 years old but I was not told any different.

Definitely do the Safety Course at Robinson in California (best $350 dollars you will ever have spent) and some Mountain flying in the States as well as our Snowdonia.
If you ever wish to work offshore try Humberside, Norwich or Blackpool.That way you will land at least once every hour or even up to 7 times an hour. Aberdeen means flying in a straight line over blue water or in cloud on autopilot for 90-300 minutes when you might perform one landing before you return.

Of course Offshore is where the money is. Starts at £35 for entry and after 25 years of service finishes at £80. Command might take forever.

And when you get that Job be it flying into Silverstone, filming, pleasureflying, wedding parties pipeline inspection etc.
You know it was worth it and as I said earlier you will not have to work another day.

Now I wish you all the very best and that your take off's tally with your landings.:ok: :ok: :ok:

3rd Jul 2004, 08:36

"If you do want CPL, sell the chopper or use it to build hours cheaply and then you use it commercially eg. instruction afterwards. Friend of mine did just that here."

Are you perhaps talking about Linda?

BTW: IMHO a very smart move.


One of these days
3rd Jul 2004, 13:40
Hello Banjo (& All)

I came on to pretty much ask the same question and this forum has been pricless.

Banjo I'm in a similar sort of place as you, I've saved and saved, had 2nd jobs etc to do this. I have finally booked a PPL(H) course and CPL(H) course with HAI, www.heli.com. and I'm crapping myself! But it is only money, I know I have to try because I have already spent three years picking up drunken gits in cabs and working 18 hour days and hell if that's all been for nothing! If nothing else I'm going to have a great year of flying helicopters and living that dream and at the end I've lost nothing. If I don't do it I will regret it for the rest of my life, oh and own a flashy car for while...big deal! My brother is a FW pilot and I've seen him struggle, but now he's laughing, he said to me "You can't not do it because you're scared of failing" and that ticks me over on times like now when I look at the price of those courses.

So go for it mate and enjoy that year if nothing else!

Thanks to everyone who replied to Banjo's thread, there are many encouraging and forthright views, and thanks banjo for being another me!!!

Good Luck:ok:

4th Jul 2004, 03:27
Hi Banjo George,

Good on you for giving it a go.........I did the same and got my CPL after I was forty. Now doing my instructors (in a few weeks) and have to job when I've got the piece of plastic. Life is too short not to give what you want a go. I'd always wanted to fly since about 12.......but being a female (you know marriage, kids etc) stopped me until the kids were old enough to take care of themselves.
I would encourage you to come to NZ to do hour building. You'd get more bang for the pound. (Doesn't sound as good as bang for buck).
Then go back to England to finish off your CPL and exams. I know an English guy that trained with us that did that. PM me if you want his addy for info.

Best of luck..........

Cheers Helinun ;) :p

4th Jul 2004, 21:52
One of These Days

I have already spent three years picking up drunken gits in cabs and working 18 hour days
The only thing that'll change will be the price of your cab, then.

Banjo George
5th Jul 2004, 14:51

Once again, I'm somewhat overwhelmed by all the advice, encouragement and good wishes - thanks to everyone.

I'm definitely going to have a crack at it and the doubts I had at the beginning of this thread have been all but eradicated. I've always known it would be a tough change of direction, but as so many have pointed out, you work hard at it and the benefits will accrue eventually (albeit probably NOT financial). Toss in a splash of luck too.

Next step is the class 1 medical on Friday - that is make or break for me - flying simply for pleasure would be great, but I want it as a career rather than a pastime.

Letcha all know when me bits are prodded and tested. Don't suppose all the Docs at CAA are gorgeous young ladies willing to marry and support a trainee pilot ??????????

Thought not ...........................

Anyone know how soon after the class 1 you find if you've passed or not ? I've read through the medical thread and that's the one thing not covered. Cheers,

Brilliant Stuff
5th Jul 2004, 16:26
I can not remember much of my initial exam, but I think it is rather instant.
All the renewals are definitely instant.
After all they do all the testing there and then.
Good luck and do not fret.

regards Brilliant Stuff

5th Jul 2004, 16:28

I just spent a week where I did mostly non flying work, doing my bit for an IT product launch and preparing a bunch of helicopter technical exams for students. Five days without flying - the l longest for years without a hover - can't bear it. Flew this morning and it's just like the first time all over again. Magic carpet time !

'To fly is heavenly; but to hover is divine.'

You don't really work (except if you go into the grey soup often) once you start flying helicopters. Somebody just pays you to do what you would do anyway. Ask yourself what you would do if you won the lottery (lotto - whatever). Most of us would just carry on with what we do already, except maybe get a couple of new ratings and drive to work in a nicer car. Makes you think...

Oh, and discobeast, I didn't think of Linda buying her own helicopter. It was someone else but there you go anyway. There's another person who did it.

5th Jul 2004, 18:37
goaround7 wrote:You don't really work (except if you go into the grey soup often) once you start flying helicopters. Somebody just pays you to do what you would do anyway. Ask yourself what you would do if you won the lottery (lotto - whatever). Most of us would just carry on with what we do already, except maybe get a couple of new ratings and drive to work in a nicer car. Makes you think...Makes me think you're a complete twat, is what it does.

This was a troll, right? I mean, you're not serious; you can't be. We don't really work? Somebody just pays you to do what you would do anyway??? Not me, mate. If I won the lottery, I would quit flying helicopters IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. I might never fly (or even fly in) one ever again. (I guess that means that I don't love helicopters enough for you and should therefore leave this industry at once, eh?)

But thanks for perpetuating this situation in which helicopter pilots are not fairly remunerated for what we do. Your co-workers, many of whom have not even entered this industry yet, appreciate you devaluing their careers for them and turning our profession into nothing but a mere hobby. Wanker.

(Please tell me that goaround7's post was just a troll and that I am, typically, missing the "joke.")

5th Jul 2004, 19:38
If I won the lottery, I would quit flying helicopters IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. I might never fly (or even fly in) one ever again. (I guess that means that I don't love helicopters enough for you and should therefore leave this industry at once, eh?)

Probably just means you've been flying for too long!

Still, a PPF1 reality check never did any of us any harm.

5th Jul 2004, 20:05
Apart from the usual "twat and wanker" name-calling, which I would never condone on a thread like this, I have to say for once I agree to some extent with PF#1.

In UK the price of a heli pilot's services has to some extent been artificially held down. Historically people have worked for less than they perhaps ought to be paid, especially in light of the training costs of a self-improver. This is in part due to the fact that military folk some years ago were appearing on the market in droves and were desperate for a job outside. Unlike a fixed-wing pilot, they were employable without an IR. Some of them also had pensions. Figure it out for yourselves.

I speak as a dual qualified (fixed and rotary wing) ex-military pilot. I chose the rotary route. Had I not, I would perhaps be retiring a few years (10?) earlier. :\

P.S. PF#1, Wanna go halves in a lottery syndicate? :E

5th Jul 2004, 20:42
Fair enough PPF#!, I see your point - as always, very eloquently put!

However, how about I train you to be a Chartered Accountant; it's very easy and money is very good and then, when you've qualified, I can have your job?

When you are too bitter to enjoy your job, then that is the time to get out, just as there are Project Managers and ACAs on this site wanting to retrain in a different career because THEY realise it is time to get out.

PPF#1, there are other things you can do, if you really want to.



Banjo George
6th Jul 2004, 08:51
'There may be trouble ahead, but while there's moonlight etc ...............................'

Banjo George
6th Jul 2004, 16:08
Oh yes, one more thing - Schweizer or Robinsons - I know they cost different to learn in I'm tempted by the Schweizer 'cos it's dual stick (I'm told), though more expensive per hr.

Anybody got any views or advice ? Thanks a lot.


Power Up
6th Jul 2004, 17:01
PPf#1 Sounds like you are getting hyped up over another persons perspective. I enjoy flying, and am doing the commercials so I can get paid to do something I enjoy, more concerned with enjoying work than living a life of misery, even if it will be a long slog. If some people do for the enjoyment, they may not consider it as working as they would possibly do it as a hobby otherwise if they could afford to, I know I would - but then I guess I am young and foolish.
Most of the guys and gals in the industry started because it is something that they always wanted to do and enjoy it, not because they thought that they would get rich from it.

In terms of the robbos and schwiezers, can't comment on the schwizers, but the robbos have the teetering cyclic, so dual is no isue, but it is an expensive career change, so costs you should take into deep consideration.

Brilliant Stuff
7th Jul 2004, 08:49
I only know about the R22 which I can highly recommend, especially after having been to the factory safetycourse.
I was told if you were to own an R22 it would cost you something like £100 an hour to run it and if you manage to hire it to your training organisation it earns its keep.

Regards to making a mint in this rotary business I believe the young ones are flying Helicopters because they love flying and quality of life.
Now how can one put a price on quality of life?

Also do not forget you already bought all your toys, you already own your house and I imagine you own a car so all you need to earn is money for food and the mortgage.

And somebody is paying to fly helicopters which can be worth millions, with views which are priceless.

regards Brilliant Stuff

7th Jul 2004, 09:50

The advice I received (which I took) from a number of reputable pilots, was that if I had any thoughts about taking my PPL further to CPL, then learn on a Schweizer. It has a "proper" cyclic (please, Robbo flyers - don't have a pop at me for that!!) and is robust aircraft that was designed for training whereas a R22 was designed more as cheap, personal transport rather than as a trainer.

There is also a theory (and I don't have any figures to back it up) that an R22 is harder to learn on and could therefore take more hours to pass which could wipe out the hourly savings compared with a Schweizer.

On the other hand, there are more R22s in the country from which to choose. If you want any info on the place where I trained, please PM me.



7th Jul 2004, 09:55
PPf#1 Sounds like you are getting hyped up over another persons perspective.

I have to agree with PPF1. For a professional pilot to make comments like those that prompted PPF1's post, sends shivers down my spine - it stinks of complacency. The moment you stop working when you are flying is the moment you open yourself up to disaster.

I hope that Goaround's post was misinturpretted. It might not seem like work, but being a professional pilot is no walk in the park.

For those of you starting out in a career in helo's, the most important attribute is attitude. Just about anyone can learn to fly a helicopter. Many will have the grit to pass the CPL exams. But it takes a professional attitude to get a job (in the UK at least).

Banjo George
7th Jul 2004, 10:15
Personally, I feel Goaround was just trying to explain that flying is perhaps more than just a job, but I fully accept that consuumate professionalism is required at all times.

If I cock up a project plan or a financial breakdown, I live to see another day. Not so in a heli potentially.

That's a thing I admire about Cabair - whilst it may be superficial to some, I think having uniforms and keeping the machines clean after usage shows a degree of care and method.

As I am wholly new to all this, I can't speak with any authority on the matter, but that's how it seems.

7th Jul 2004, 10:22
It might not seem like work, but being a professional pilot is no walk in the park.

As a very new CPL and FI(R), I have to agree with that. I'm still at the point where it's all new and exciting and I can't believe I get paid to fly. But walk in the park it is not! When you're a PPL, you fly when you want to, when you feel like it, when the weather is nice - it's only down to what YOU want. The very moment you start getting paid to fly, commercial issues come first. I was doing trial lessons last Saturday, with a nasty wind 14kts gusting about 28 and changing direction all the time. I was told to take up this succession of people for 0.4 hour trials, in an R22 which gets thrown around by the wind, to get back on time, and don't scare them! Not easy (at my level anyway) and doesn't fit into most people's definition of fun flying. I enjoyed it actually; must be a masochist or something. Actually, what I enjoyed was proving that I could do it; the satisfaction of a job well done.

But the point I'm making is that unless it actually got to the point of being dangerous, I couldn't turn round and say that actually I didn't like the weather and didn't feel like doing it. And that's something that no-one pointed out to me when I was a starry-eyed PPL thinking it would be great to get paid to fly.

Banjo George
7th Jul 2004, 10:27
Hmmmmm, all jobs have crap bits or very crap bits.

There's probably only a handful however where potentially, you're putting your life on the line.

Would it be fair to assume however that if anyone was really really unhappy about going up, then the job would just have to be sacrificed if some bean counter was saying 'go up or else ?'

Brilliant Stuff
7th Jul 2004, 11:01
Yupp, if you are in any way unhappy or get a funny feeling before you get in the maschine stop there and then and return later. If you can talk to somebody who might be able explain your concerns.

If you are in the air and the weather changes and you feel uncomfortable land and wait it out.
If your passengers start to complain just point out to them they are paying you to deliver them safely and alive at their destination and weather is unpredictable.

Just because we see the Job not as work does not mean we are not unprofessional or lax in our attitude. It just means we are looking forward to going to work and do not dread Monday to Friday.

regards Brilliant Stuff

Banjo George
7th Jul 2004, 12:33
Hello all,

does anyone have a contact for Mike Green (ex FAST) - or does anyone know if he's on this forum. I'm told he may be able to give some cracking advice.



Brilliant Stuff
7th Jul 2004, 14:24
Try here

Helicentre Ltd
Squires Gate Lane Blackpool Airport
Blackpool Lancashire

Tel: 01253 343347

regards Brilliant Stuff

7th Jul 2004, 20:43


7th Jul 2004, 22:27
Okay, Fan #1

So I was waxing a little lyrical there, I do know that flying to rigs in IF is not all fun and games, and it was a arrogant to speak for a whole profession. However I stand by what I said in relation to the pilots with whom I spend my time.

I also agree that, especially compared to airline pilots, we are underpaid but thatís true for any industry where there are a large number of people, (obviously not you) with a passion for what they do.

You sound like someone who never had to commute to the slow death of an office job every day and donít appreciate what you have. I also suspect you didnít pay for your own training and take your privileged position too lightly.

If you hate it that much, (and judging by your language you do) then get yourself an office job, stop flying and leave a gap for someone else whoíll appreciate it (like Banjo maybe !).

7th Jul 2004, 23:45
To goaround7: Apology accepted. You're a bigger man than I gave you credit for being.

I'm always curious when people make personal judgements about others on the basis of internet posts. I suppose that there are those who assume (like ol' goaround here) that I am bitterly disgusted with flying, that I hate my job, hate my life, hate my wife, hate my dog, etc.

...Simply because I'm not all starry-eyed and ga-ga about flying anymore. More curious is that I detect an attitude in some people that I should therefore quit flying(!) and leave the industry to those who get all squishy and dreamy at the mere thought of rotor blades a-twirlin'. Yeah, that's me: bitter, old PPRUNE FAN#1 who gets up every morning just dreading the fact that he has to go fly a helicopter, and then whining about it later. Yeah. Right. Grow up.

The idea that I did not pay for my own training, that I hate what I do, that I've never held any other jobs, never commuted, or that I do not appreciate what I've got are simply the laughably naive, unfounded speculations of dolts.

Look, I have worked very hard to get where I am in this industry. I take my *JOB* very seriously...extremely seriously! I do not consider it a lark or a hobby, and I would *NOT* do this (work) for free. Make no mistake, people- it is work...dignified, valid, valuable work. And it should be treated as such. I reject the notion that if you have a passion for something then you should accept substandard wages simply so you can pursue that passion. Hypothesis: Rejected!

To anyone who feels differently: perhaps it is YOU who should get out of this industry and leave it to us professionals who know the value of performing a service for remuneration. How's that for an idea!

On the other hand, I love to fly! My passion for flying has never abated. I fly helicopters, I fly airplanes...heck, I'll fly the box the thing came in if need be. When I'm not flying for money, I'm flying my own airplane for pleasure. But friends, flying is not the only thing in life that gives me such pleasure. Nor is it the only thing that makes my life meaningful. It's a big part of what makes me who I am, but it does not define me. I pity those for whom life offers so little else.

Hypothetically, if I won a pot o' gold, I would be a fool to continue flying commercially. I've got all the flight time that I could ever hope for. There is nothing anymore that I want to do with a helicopter that I have not already done. And as risky as it is, there is a huge chance that the only persons enjoying my windfall might be my heirs and survivors. Now wouldn't that be ironic!

No, there is too much more to life, and too much at risk to continue unnecessarily, had I that option. But does that mean I'm disillusioned and angry enough to quit right now? Not hardly!

I know this is long, but let me address one other point. Banjo George wondered:Would it be fair to assume however that if anyone was really really unhappy about going up, then the job would just have to be sacrificed if some bean counter was saying 'go up or else ?'It's not that simple. In fact, it never is. Most pilots are quite loathe to summarily quit a job when there's a mortgage (or other bills) to consider. It would be reckless!

Too, there is a line between something being "uncomfortable" and something being "unsafe." Believe me, there are mornings when the weather is crappy, when the rain is pounding and the wind is blowing, and the very last thing on earth that I want to do is climb into another g*ddam helicopter and go fly. But you know what? I don't only get to fly on days with clear blue skies, little white puffy clouds and flute music blowing softly in the background. I don't get that choice. For the most part, I fly when the customer tells me to fly.

We all draw lines over which we will not step. In my many years in this industry, I have been pushed right up to that line, but never beyond. Never has an operator asked me to do something that was patently illegal or unsafe. Most won't...at least not directly. They might leave that door open for YOU to walk through, but they won't push you through it.

And so we find ourselves in these rock/hard-place situations, faced with tough "life or death" decisions and choices that are not always easy. In fact, sometimes they are gut-wrenchingly tough. THAT is why they pay us the big bucks. And THAT is why commercial aviation has no room for dilettantes, hobbyists, or the unprofessional.

8th Jul 2004, 07:44
With the comment made by some, to a simple set of points asked by banjo, it would seem that quite a few folk NEED a holiday!!:hmm:

8th Jul 2004, 11:27

I'm always curious when people make personal judgements about others on the basis of internet posts. I suppose that there are those who assume (like ol' goaround here) that I am bitterly disgusted with flying, that I hate my job, hate my life, hate my wife, hate my dog, etc.

Well, I did think that...because you'd very definitely implied it. But after reading your last post, I don't think it any more.

We don't have anything to go on here, other than people's posts, do we?

Banjo George
8th Jul 2004, 11:31
Oh no, my thread is falling out with each other .........

Well, I have to respect the views of all the posts on this 'cos I know diddley about the industry, and in a way, a bit of disagreement has churned up views that are very useful and incisive.

I think I love to fly 'cos I've always loved every minute of the little flying I've done. As I said before however, I think my goal is to be as professional and SAFE as I can be. Sure it would be nice to stand in the pub with aviator shades and glinting teeth, but that's a bonus really. I'm long enough in the tooth and been round the block enough NOT to be blown away by terms like 'glamour' etc. To me, it will simply be enough of a challenge to pass everything (and pass it WELL I hope) and then get a blooming job.

Regarding money, well I take the points about it being a professional industry etc, and remuneration should be commensurate. Taking a different view however, and a slightly 'lefty' one at that, one could argue that people should be paid more for doing the shite jobs in life - cleaning bogs, sweeping roads, looking after old folks etc. It's the lucky people who've actually had a 'choice' of career. I know life ain't like that, but it's markets that dictate wages, not ability or experience. If there were only 20 heli pilots in the UK, they'd all get paid shedloads. The supply and demand does NOT favour heli pilots, irrespective of professionalism or training or anything - that's just the way it seems, like it or not.

At my age, I will accept what I'm given in the heli world and just accept the fact that A. It was my choice and B. If I don't like it, I can piss off elsewhere.

Heli pilots per se may be 'underpaid' but compared to other jobs ??????????????

I hope I don't get systematically taken apart for this mail now ....


BTW, thanks Dave for your post - very inspirational and wise words too re. financial status.

In the 10 days or so that this thread has been running, I\'ve already doubled my pre-requisite ideas and questions prior to starting. I\'m re-considering where I\'m going to do the training now as well (which will go down like a lead balloon I\'m sure with HC).

More importantly, everyone bar none has given massive encoragement and that\'s very, very heartening - I really appreciate ALL the contributors taking time out to help a novice - says a lot about the people working in the industry IMHO.

It\'s a minefield starting out but I\'m far better equipped now than I was before - even the little things like ascertaining when a flying lesson \'starts\' (when does the \'hour\' commence). Such a small thing, but 15 mins in every hour over 250 hours is a lot of cash for eg. Little tips like that are priceless. On the subject of which, does anyone know how open to \'haggling\' the schools are ? If I\'m about to splash 15 grand, I want a discount for a block booking (I guess loads of schools read this too).

Any other tips ? Cheers Guys ........................


(PS Thanks too to PPrune)

8th Jul 2004, 12:07
Hats off once again to PPRUNE FAN#1, I don't think it is possible to put it any better then he put it.

And if you don't agree with him now, and you do go ahead and loose everything you have just to qualify, come back in a few years and read his posts.

And then see how you will feel about
starry-eyed and ga-ga about flying,
newbies who think you deserve to be paid F'all cause your JOB is classed as "Cool" and seem oblivious to the inherant dangers, and quality of life in some of the absoloute S***holes that you have to live in to get a job think you may love.

Banjo George
8th Jul 2004, 14:04
Didn't entirely understand that rant, but assume it was directed at me ?!?!?!

Ga-Ga and starry eyed ? A tad condescending ?Are all beginners starry eyed and ga-ga 'cos if so, maybe I'm too pragmatic to be a heli pilot/beginner. Presumably all pilots on this forum were also starry eyed and ga-ga at some stage too ?

Being a PM, I'm fully aware of risk analysis etc and have weighed up the pros and cons very carefully. Risks are events that MAY happen, not necessarily WILL. When you weigh them up and the worst case scenario is acceptable, then the risk is ameliorated and thus acceptable. Before you get to that however, you can try to either prevent, reduce, transfer or use contingency.

Regarding making mistakes, well some people say it's the best way to learn. If I make a mistake, I'll try and learn from it, but I won't keep re-reading web forums to beat the shit out of myself for even trying !!!!

Cheers, BG

8th Jul 2004, 15:54
but assume it was directed at me ?!?!?!

No, I doubt it was directed at you but probably to anyone who wants to become a pilot via the civilian route as there seems to be a faction who get a tad bothered by this and similar posts.

I'm sure BG and others don't get to their positions in life (socially, financially etc) without have some nouce with respect to risks, mortgages etc. so patronizing comments are not helpful. Sure, point out pitfalls but it would be nice to have some advice on how to avoid such pitfalls rather than "don't come running to me when it all ends in tears".

PPF#1 - I know that you're a soft hearted old chap really and understand the points you make but sometimes they don't always come across as you obviously intend. Watchoutbelow - did you forget to take a happy pill this morning?



8th Jul 2004, 16:43
And then see how you will feel about
starry-eyed and ga-ga about flying,
newbies who think you deserve to be paid F'all cause your JOB is classed as "Cool" and seem oblivious to the inherant dangers, and quality of life in some of the absoloute S***holes that you have to live in to get a job think you may love.

A friend of mine cleans the local toilets, and earns in a week about what a helicopter pilot earns in a day.

My local dustman has his hands in s***, even if he doesn't work in a s***hole, and he makes peanuts too.

I know people who trained for years in all sorts of fields who don't make anything like what pilots make.

It comes down to supply and demand like everything else. What makes helicopter pilots think they're so special?

Sometimes I really hate this industry!!!

(in uncharacteristic rant mode)

8th Jul 2004, 16:50
Ga-Ga and starry eyed
Is a quote from PPF1, but I see it every day

Its not aimed directly at you, but looking back I realised I fell into that bracket aswell, fortunately I had no dependants, but have seen A FEW people loose all their savings, and wives etc over training for this industry, then to be left with nothing cause they can't afford to finish all the ratings or meet minimum requirements.

I genuinely hate seing it happen, the thought of quiting your secure job with a pension, selling your house, moving wife and kids to a new country/environment lifestyle so you can live out your dream, may seem romantic, but their is Rarely a silver lining.
Getting a job as a Flight Instructor is not a success story, no matter what way a flight school tries to dress it up.
Getting a job as a F/O in the middle east isn't any better either.

Saying you are familiar with risk analysis so you understand what you are getting yourself in for, is just comparing apples and oranges.
If you are one of those stubborn type people who thinks the song "I did it my way" was written about you, fair enough, role the dice hope it works out, but if you have a moral concience and think of your family's future, if not your own.
I would advise you take on board what people who have been there and done that have to say, and not to dismiss them as grumpy old bitter fools who don't realise how good they have it!

And Whirly what type of Pilots salaries are you referring to?
Most Flight Instructors make $15 an hour, some would be lucky to get 2/3 hours flying a day if the weather is good, while sitting around 12 hours, if weather is bad, tuff crap.
After spending all that money on training, and going through all the hoops, and all the commitment do you not think that deserve a small bit more then a Mcdonalds drive thru service assistant?

8th Jul 2004, 20:15

I don't know where you live/work. In the UK, helicopter instructors make £30-£60 per hour, dpending on the school and area. Yes, you may only work for about three or four hours a day on average, it's true. That's around £120/day. Toilet cleaners are on minimum wage - around £4 per hour. Most work about a 35 hour week; that's £140. I rest my case. ;)

Bomber ARIS
8th Jul 2004, 21:30
Well, praise the Lord and letīs count our blessings! - We earn more than toilet cleaners!!

I am, at last, relieved that we've established the benchmark against which our profession is to be judged. For that, Whirly, I thank you.

From Banjo George

The supply and demand does NOT favour heli pilots, irrespective of professionalism or training or anything - that's just the way it seems, like it or not.
You are wrong! It is the the brigades of "starry eyed newbies", willing to pole for free, that do not favour (pro-)heli pilots.

From Whirly

It comes down to supply and demand like everything else.What makes helicopter pilots think they're so special?
It is you. It is Banjo George. It is every dreamer who opines "you don't really work", who thinks that to be a helicopter pilot is so special. And to that end, you offer to work for free, naively thinking that someone is doing you a favour! Worse still, you have the gaul to pipe up with a "supply and demand" here, and a "make way for us keenies, you bitter & twisted curmudgeons" there. We sincerely thank you for that industry overview.

Once again, the amateur legions rail against what they deem to be an unpalatable post by PPRUNE FAN #1. An easy target, maybe, but imagine yourself the other side of 10,000 hours and now let's hear YOUR replies to the same provocation.

Half a bottle of Rioja ago, I smugly assured myself that I would never post whilst drunk:yuk: . Sadly, I am a weak, weak man and fell off the wagon and onto my laptop; defeated by Whirly and her toilet-cleaning sidekick.

Yours, PPRUNE FAN #1 FAN!!!!

8th Jul 2004, 22:46
I wonder if toilet cleaners spend years of training and thousands upon thousands of pounds learning how to clean toilets, and get to see their friends and colleagues die doing there duty for the sacred throne!

The "Will fly for food" crap goes on the hole time, not only high profile places like Boat Pics, or Traffic watch, but also among private owners, getting flown into the races or safety pilots flying left seat.

Their are quite a few people making a lot of money from helicopters, its just a shame that they have fooled us into believing that the most important part of the machine is the cheapest.

8th Jul 2004, 23:26
PPF#1 is quite correct. You do sound VERY new 'goaround7'.

You make yourself sound that way by a couple of comments like "buy a couple more ratings" WTF would you do that?

It sounds like you are trying to make yourself more employable. It is folly to try and argue with someone who has a lot more experience dealing with life as a pilot.

This is a very very very difficult industry to get into and if you are close to, or over 30 you better think very carefully about choosing to spend a lot of money on a feeling.

Getting a start in this industry is not about 1yr of training, its about the 3-4yrs of poverty, post that delightful time.

Banjo, ask yourself if you have the stamina to compete with a 21yr old who can, and will; hold on, grovel, work for nothing, exist on a shoestring and sleep in his car to eventually end up with a job. If you cannot deal with that then invest the income somewhere else.

Then ask yourself if it is worth your marriage, children, girlfriend, stability of life, retirement and friends.

If you think you are going to be working in a city, investigate the industry some more.

If you think you will have time off in the summer, investigate some more.

If you think that it will be easier to have a resemblence of a normal life at 3000, 5000 or 10000hrs, investigate some more.

If you think you will have a pension and retirement when you are old, investigate the industry.

Another reply had this comment in it:

"And when you get that Job be it flying into Silverstone, filming, pleasureflying, wedding parties pipeline inspection etc.
You know it was worth it and as I said earlier you will not have to work another day."

Sorry, but if that is all the english industry has to offer then I seriously advise you to spend your money in Africa or Canada. Described above is a list of very very boring tasks for a pilot.

Oh the stories we could all tell.....eh guys!!

...perhaps I should start a thread on the subject of "getting a start" stories??

9th Jul 2004, 07:19
perhaps I should start a thread on the subject of "getting a start" stories??

That would actually be very interesting.

9th Jul 2004, 11:27


Helicopter flying is one of the most satisfying careers there is. Imagine being paid for doing your hobby. I have been flying for 8 years and have NEVER looked back. I begged, borrowed and would have stolen if I had to in the persuit of flying helo's. I'm STILL paying for it, but hey, it's worth it, every step of the way.

There are some good schools in SA, so cruise the net and see what you can find. With the current Rand/Pound exchange, you are sure to save some boodle.

Good luck anyway

:ok: :ok:

9th Jul 2004, 12:24
Charlie s charlie

I agree with that plan of yours. Sounds quite good. I'm not 100% sure of the work rights in S.A, but know a couple of guys that did either f/w or r/w training here, and actually got work. Regardless, no one can take your hours away, and a licence can be converted at any stage of the game.

Just a couple of helicopter ops in S.A : Training, charter, film work, Fire Fighting, EMS, Game capturing, corporate etc. etc. etc.

The best is, as CSC says, find out about the work rights before starting training abroad.

DD;) :cool:

9th Jul 2004, 14:43
Approximately 1500 of these licences are Rotary Wing. These are only the CURRENT licences on register. Welcome to the jungle....

From CASA:

NOTE: In Australia there are currently more than 14,000 Commercial and ATPL pilots who are not employed as pilots. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) is reviewing the requirement for the continued immigration of Pilots under the Skills Assessment for the Purposes of Migration (Aircraft Pilot, ASCO code 2541-11).

It is anticipated that in the near future, Aircraft Pilots will be removed from the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) which applies to applications lodged under the points-tested migration arrangements.

CASA has been advised that once the pilot occupation has been removed from the SOL, the change becomes effective immediately and no further applications will be processed by DIMIA under this category, including those already received and not yet finalised.

Due to the time and financial costs involved in converting an overseas licence to the Australian equivalent for migration skills assessment purposes, potential applicants should take these factors into consideration before deciding whether to convert their licence when this avenue may not be available


Brilliant Stuff
10th Jul 2004, 18:08
Well after reading all the individual responses, two points have crystalised.
1. People are willing to fly for food because when you are new and green behind the ears that is the only way of getting your foot into the door.
After all the Insurance will be loaded against newcomers and the employers of course are not very keen entrusting you with their very expensive maschine and of course reputation.

2.It's a question of view point, whether helicopter flying is work or pleasure.

I am lucky enough to say it is pleasure and I know it can finish tomorrow.

Life is what you make of it. And I for one wish to fly in the Great British Isles doing anything I can which involves flying Helicopters returning nightly to my loved ones.

Regards Brilliant Suff

11th Jul 2004, 09:24
Dear All,
Seldom do I read all, or nearly all of a thread, but I've been away for a while and this one caught my eye.
I just wanted to comment on something said a little earlier about the "newbies" keeping the pay down. It's quite simply BS in my opinion.
I fly in the US and I know that most of the posts seem to come from the UK but I think that the general principle is the same.
It's the senior guys who are willing to fly for crap who keep a cap on the pay. I see it all the time here in the US. Too many who remember the day when just to get a job to put (some) food on the table was a major achievement. Now many of these fellows who I have and still do fly with, and whom I have the utmost recpect for, think that after 30 years and 15,000+ hours, that $60,000 p.a. is satisfactory......!!!!! It's not, and in fact there are many who fly for a lot less.
I have been flying for ten years, paid for it myself as most of us do these days and have scraped together a fairly respectable 5400+ hours. Currently working an Alaska season, 500Ds etc, etc......
I refuse to work for crap pay. Yes it might mean that when I move on, that it may take a little more effort and time to find that employer who finally realises that to get quality, he needs to be prepared to bloody well pay for it. But so be it. Have some guts, pride and don't sell youselves low. The message will get across. It may take some time but it will happen........
Ok thats all.

Banjo George
11th Jul 2004, 19:57
Too many posts to comment on each individual one.

There seems to be a major issue over pay and the fact that somehow 'starry eyed' fools like myself are artificially keeping pay rates low. That may or may not be true. However, would employer X let me get into their new Hughes if I had a rating and say 300 hrs on the clock for £20 per hour or do you think they would give it to pilot Y with 3500 hrs on the clock for £60 per hour ?

I don't know the answer to this, but were it my helicopter, I'd probably transfer the cost to the customer and have the experienced pilot.

Another thing, if this is such a s..t industry to be in, why on earth did any of these 5000 hrs + pilots enter it or indeed stay ? Surely any of these people are savvy enough to get another, and better paid job ? Oh no, must be something to do with enjoying it ?

Well, I think I've just passed my class 1 medical. I have all the finance in place, I've crossed the 't's and dotted the i's, and I've accepted the gamble. If it all goes pear shaped, I'll bail out after the PPL(H).


4th Aug 2004, 05:03
Im 33 years old and have been a Police Officer for 10 years. I no longer enjoy my job and have always wanted to fly helicopters. I currently earn $70, 000 as a cop and in less then 10 years I will lock in a pension that will pay 50% of my salary for life. However, I cant collect it till age 50. Thats 17 years from now. Im married with a 13year old step son.

I currrently enjoy great job security, good benefits and good pay. Should I give it all up for my dream of flying helicopters?? My wife supports me and will do whatever I want. If it were just me I'd quit and take my chances, but I have a family to think about too. Im not happy being the Police. I feel I will regret not chasing my dream, but Id also regret not waiting 10 years to lock my pension in. Any advice would be helpful, its driving me crazy.

4th Aug 2004, 05:40
To give you a quick idea of the financial investment, I am taking my Instrument check ride and still have another 30 hours of flying time until I can take my Commercial. I have already spent $25,000 US. I figure it will be close to $50,000 US before I am finished with my CPL/CFII. At which point I can only hope that I will be able to get a job as an instructor and make a measly $1,500 to $2,000 per month. That is the figure that I have been told by current and former instructors. Just some food for thought.

Also, if you do a search you will find where this question has been raised by numerous people in similar situations.

I myself make in the same ballpark as you, but I am all too happy to give it up to pursue my dream. I also have two young children and they are my best source of support. They ask all sorts of questions that help me study. They want to know everything and trying to explain it to them allows me to know the material better. I can't wait until I have enough time to safely take them for a flight. I also know that it was the right decision for me, as I have not had a second thought....ok maybe on my first check ride but it passed quickly as did I. If you have any questions feel free to PM me. I would be happy to discuss what little (can't stress that word enough) I know.

edited to correct some horrible spelling errors, so feel free to pick it apart......where's the spell check?!?!?

4th Aug 2004, 07:46

Thought about doing both?

There are seats around that are part time or seasonal.

Good luck.

4th Aug 2004, 10:45
Hey , you know that 17 years you have to go to get your pension? well I have been flying for the last 17 after giving up my office job at age 30.

My pension will be poor but the last 17 years have been FANTASTIC!!!

Do it

Arm out the window
4th Aug 2004, 12:27
Mate, do the next 10 or so years in your police job until you get your pension requirements met. Hopefully your entitlements will be not subject to future changes in legislation; by that, I mean if you have been told they will be avialable to you, they will be there no matter what.
In the meantime, take whatever spare money you can come up with, and use it to start getting licenses, ratings and so on.
By doing this, you are starting down the flying road whilst ensuring you have a decent superannuation for your family (not sure what other super schemes you may be contributing to, but a government guaranteed pension is pretty hard to beat), and you will find out how badly you really want to fly for a living.
Sounds like your wife is understanding, so the reality of giving up some spending money to further your flying aspirations shouldn't be too much of a heartache.
Good on you, and good luck.

Robbo Jock
4th Aug 2004, 12:37
I don't know how feasible it'd be, but once you've got your Commercial, couldn't you try for a post in your local Aviation Unit. You'd have the best of both worlds then, still in the force so racking up the pension, plus flying for a living.

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