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Is it really worth being a helicopter pilot now?

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Is it really worth being a helicopter pilot now?

Old 23rd Jan 2012, 09:16
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Is it really worth being a helicopter pilot now?

Hey, my name is Ryan, and just today I started Year 12 in Gold Coast, Australia.

I just want to show a little background of myself before you know why I could question such a thing. So...

Ever since grade 8 I wanted to become a pilot. And so I was lucky enough to be enrolled in a school called "Aviation High" which (understandably) is a school that focuses on the aviation industry. I've been flying aircraft since I was 15 and I love it, love it enough to want a career out of it. I had no interested in the Military so I imagined to be a Airline pilot.

But it didn't take me long to realise the rising concern on level of Aircraft automation, decrease in pay (sourced from captain sullunbergs book) and the personal sacrifice of barely seeing your family, spending most of your nights sleeping in a hotel room. (also sourced from his book)

All I wanted was to FLY aircraft, not monitor computer screens. And I realised that Helicopters could be a great option as they are still advanced, Fun to FLY! as they will most likely never become so automatic as airline aircraft. and since most have a comparatively short range, I could always be close to family. (for most jobs atleast) I finally thought I had a solution.

But I've been talking... To other helicopter pilots and its becoming very clear the vast majority of helicopter pilots have a second job or business to co-onside with flying helicopters. I was utterly gutted when I came to terms with this fact.

I vaguely know how much it costs to train in a helicopter in America, (guessing thats where this website is from) but in Australia its about $60,000+. How the hell could I afford that? Without a student loan it could take me like 2-3 years?

So even If I have my CPL, and when I get my first job I dam well know I'm going be a legal slave, working for very little, (and from what I've heard) for FREE. as I'm spending the vast majority of my time doing chores, cleaning hangers helicopters and ect ect. Only then I get rewarded with boasting my hours up.

But if I knew that after gaining enough respectable hours. That I will end up with a secure and well paying job. I'll do it. But (as mentioned earlier) I had a serious talk to a helicopter trainer. He told me how It's hard to come by to have a stable and well paid job. and most of the helicopter pilots he knows, have 2nd jobs and businesses even AFTER investing $60,000 AFTER doing lame chores on ****ty pay for a few years gain hours.

But I do understand not all helicopter pilots are struggling, I'll imagine private hired pilots and corporate pilots especially have a secure and well paid job.

Don't get me wrong I'm a passionate pilots that loves to fly and will do so much for it! but after thinking about these circumstances I would have to face, I can't comprehend why I would invest so much of my money, sacrifice so much, for such a dismal Career...
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 13:51
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Let's look at the content of your question? Is it WORTH.....
If you mean financially, then almost certainly the question is a big NO. 95% of all helo pilots globally don't earn big bucks. A tiny fraction do - so it is feasible.
If you mean worth it from a rewarding perspective, then this is much more achievable and the reason for this is that MOST helo jobs are rewarding. A tiny fraction aren't.

Approach your future with this uppermost in your mind and you won't be disappointed when you get there Rdog.

I have done mil / charter / police / EMS in my time and the most rewarding was the Mil without question - not only because of the challenges of the job but because you were surrounded by like minded people who were all very professional and talked shop 24/7.
A very close 2nd is police for predominently the same reasons.

My batting order for fulfillment(top down):
Flying sophisticated expensive technology.
Challenging tasks.

My don't go there list:
Crappy jobs which are repetitive: Oil rigs/Instructing civvies/wire surveys.
Crappy helicopters: single engine pistons.
Crappy bosses.

IF you want to fly helos to be able to climb into bed at the end of the day and say to yourself: Jackpot! (everyday):
do everything in your power to get your tickets and then target a specific job and go for it full on.
It can be done, I have seen a couple of 'non starters' become fully fledged professional helo jocks within 2 years.

Forget CV's get your face in front of the Boss man....enjoy and keep the ball in the middle.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 14:41
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In answer to your question - depends where you are. In Europe, right now? not really. In about 2 years, though in my humble opinion, it will be wildly different. Many other parts of the world are wide open for jobs and have been for a couple of years.

Oh yeah - better learn a language! my grapevine tells me that in some parts of S America your Spanish skills are more important than your flying skills, although you do need to have a licence and be competent, obviously
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 14:47
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I came up the civilian path: flying on weekends, scraping, studying, sacrificing (actually my wife did the sacrificing - I did the studying)...finally getting a job that paid about half what I made as a computer geek and being lucky to get that!

But I stuck with it, taught students, demo'd helicopters for buyers, swept the hangar...fast-forward and I was in my office at the airport where I flew for a television station. I was in the public eye, and guys would bring me their sons and say, "My son wants to be a helicopter pilot. Help me."

And I would take his son into my office where I always said the same thing to them: "If there is anything in life that you can imagine that could make you quit, then quit now. Because if you can be made to quit you will be."

And so I say that to you. But if there's not, then come aboard! There's plenty of room. Right now I'm a base manager for a hospital based EMS program. I've got a shiny almost-new EC135, a stable job, my mortgage is current...but along the way I passed up a lot of opportunities to quit.

I don't know how much flying means to you. But I can say that is there's anything you would be content doing apart from flying, do that. If there's not, then fly.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 14:57
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I have been flying helicopters for 35 years ...from military, bush and offshore. My son is about the same age as you are having just completed year 12. At the moment there is a great shortage of heli pilots in my country BUT I am telling my son that if he wants to fly Rule no 1 is dont fly helicopters. To fly helicopters and take it as a career you need a certain type of out going personality and in my opinion this is best developed from the military and he is not keen on a military caReer. Rule No2 ..go get yourself at least a degree because most airlines hire only graduates and machines nowadays are geting sophiscated so I believe an education will be an asset.
Dont you know that flying a helicopter is much like flying an airliner esp if you are in offshore work. Not much of hands on. Yes you can argue that bush flying is real flying but you will be flying some old tech machines which are arguably more fun to fly BUT do not fetch much in jterms of pay.
At the end of the day it is your choice.....
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 16:05
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If you were to follow your head then I'd say no, follow ur heart, then yes.

I left a well paid job and did my CPL in Australia and was lucky enough to pick up work soon after my CPL. Showing your face always helps, I remember the base manager of one place in particular (I believe the most busy helipad in the country) telling me that out of every 100 CV's or so only one or two showed their face.

I was on crappy pay, worked long hours, but I was (and still am) single with no commitments so was having a ball, coz I was being paid to fly helicopters, something I love. It made up for all the ****ty moments. I was in the outback, meeting various Euro backpacker girls coming through and working in the pub in my spare time to earn my keep. Had an absolute ball.

Financially I was not well of at all, but I didnt really care at the time. You are very young so I'd say if its in your heart, go for it. If after a 7-8 yrs it hasnt worked out, you will still be young (25 ish) and have time to go for something else.

I am very fortunate to have secured a well paid job now and am will be sent for my IR then TR on a twin soon all going well, fully paid for by the company. If I didnt try, I would still be dreaming. I realise not everyone will have the same luck I have had to date, but if you dont try u dont know, and you have age on your side.

All the best with your decision.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 16:06
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It all depends on what you want from life, and "The Life" in particular.

If you want big bucks, security, celebrity, and a life of ease, the helicopter pilot's life isn't your best bet.

If you want an excuse not to do it, there are plenty of very well founded arguments against the effort- years to qualify for long hours, low pay, and remote work sites. If you absolutely and positively have to do IT, if you must at least make an attempt to be a helicopter pilot- welcome to the club. You might fill my seat in a few years: someone will.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 17:19
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I have done mil / charter / police / EMS in my time and the most rewarding was the Mil without question
My don't go there list:
Crappy jobs which are repetitive: Oil rigs/Instructing civvies/wire surveys.
Crappy helicopters: single engine pistons.
Crappy bosses.
I get the feeling that you think that what you have done yourself is good, and what you haven't done is crap, not correct I think
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 18:42
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In my opinion, being a helicopter pilot has never been about financial worth. If that's what you want, give up your dream now. However, if worth to you means something which is desirable or personally valuable, then, yes it's worth it. For me flying has only ever been about the fun of flying. Maybe I have a low boredom threshold and that's why I've done many things for many employers and I've enjoyed them all. When I was still able to fly, I don't remember a day when I woke up and didn't look forward to flying. I never did a day's 'work' in my life: I just got paid a pretty good salary for going out and having fun every day. It's something for which you're paid a good deal more than the average worker in most cases, but less than most financiers or lawyers, but you don't actually need to be nearly as bright as they are to be a pilot . I've never left one job for another for financial reasons: for me it was never about the money, only the interest, the fun or the love of a new challenge. Everything I've ever done has at some time been enjoyable and rarely boring, even when it appeared to be repetitive. Follow your love of flying, follow your need for adventure, forget following money and like me you'll end up old and poor but with such fantastic memories - that's what being a helicopter pilot is imho
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 20:26
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Camp Freddie - stick to the thread. Don't be a di#k.
You are assuming again...tut tut.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 20:51
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TC - I think the readers can judge for themselves who sounds like a di#k.

I would say that describing many of the rotary jobs out there, including the ones that have the most pilots doing them and the biggest salaries as crappy, is unhelpful to the thread originator.
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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 22:16
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Itīs not about the money

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Old 23rd Jan 2012, 23:03
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Very well said TC. I agree with every word in your original post. BZ
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 02:46
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If you want to be a helicopter pilot and want to follow Thomas coupling's guidance then don't plan to ever make any money. That is unless your daddy owns a helicopter business. For the rest of us we do our time in the jobs that are available and build hours. There is money to be made in the helicopter business but starting out in piston singles, teaching students and working repetitive routes is the path that most of us have to take to pay the bills.
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 03:01
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Even the higher paying jobs (ie B412 circa $150k) can be repetitive/boring. Every flying job in the end is just a job, I still enjoy flying but I enjoy my lifestyle outside of flying more these days.
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 09:22
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If you're doing it for the money, find another vocation.

If you're doing because you love aviation, love to fly, want to achieve a personal goal and don't want to live with any regrets, then go for it!!!!

It took me many, many years to fulfil my dreams of being able to fly helicopters and even though I'm not yet employed, I love the fact that I've achieved it and that I have the capability to just do it!

Let fate do it's think, you never know where you might end up!
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 10:09
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If you have to ask, "is it worth it?", then it probably isn't. If you know that what you want to do is fly helicopters, and everything else is secondary to that, then why are you asking the question? Only you can answer it.
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 11:21
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Pandalet is exactly right, do it only if you just want to fly helicopters. Personally, I feel that is the case in all career fields. As a helicopter pilot you may have some crap jobs and you may find some great ones as you go along. You will also meet some crap people to work with during your career and you will also find some great lifelong friends. You should just do what you love to do and let the rest sort itself out.
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 12:26
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Please don't get disheartened by the negativity shown by some here. There are some crusty old cynics around who fly very little and do shifts of chip-sucking.
Piston-singles are the life-blood of the helicopter industry and the advent of the 44 has created more jobs in the past decade.
There are many pilots who make a good living from flying R44s and do hundreds of hours a year in them. Don't look in the obvious places for your employment. Be smarter. Sniff out the unusual and the challenging.
Be presentable, be personable, always think about the client. Smile. And ensure your skills are, of course, top-notch.
Very best of luck.
If you want it, you'll get it.
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Old 24th Jan 2012, 14:24
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Can't resist my 2 cents worth:

Helicopter flying is absolutely the best thing I have ever done, workwise. Actually its difficult to think of it as work, but I get paid so technically it is.

I joined HM RN the same course as Thomas Coupling and I have to say I think he is being a bit shortsighted. I never made it to flying in the Military so I can't say anything negative about it (that of course does not stop TC being negative about flying he has never done but........c'est la vie)

Some of my best moments have been teaching civvies (like me) to fly piston singles, like the 14 your old that could hover as soon as he touched the controls - amazing natural skill. Or taking an R22 to 12,500' over the Arizona desert and being very very careful how I managed the RRPM. Its a skill every bit as challenging as flying a SK at 100' over the water on NVG.

Now I have flown Corporate, HEMS, Police, USL, winching, singles, twins, piston, turbine, I teach, examine and learn. Did my first ever NVG flight only 10 days ago.

Has it been worth it? very definitely.
Has it been financially worth it? what else would I spent my money on and how many days would I have spent sitting in an office wishing I was a helicopter pilot?
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