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A simple question from a now (much older) wannabe.

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A simple question from a now (much older) wannabe.

Old 9th Aug 2021, 20:47
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A simple question from a now (much older) wannabe.

Mods, I'd appreciate it if you left this post up as I don't believe it to be the usual "So I'd like to be a helicopter pilot..." question. I won't make this a long post

Let me first start by saying that those rose tinted glasses that I (and I think all of us once wore) at age 18 are fully off and in a drawer somewhere. What I'm after is the same dose of reality I received on these forums at aged 18 as the itch to fly professionally has not gone away and I'm now aged 30.

I posted here back in 2010 as an 18 year old kid looking for advice on becoming an airline pilot. At the time I was advised by members of this forum for both sides of the argument and I took the decision to go to university and get a career in something else. I couldn't afford it and wasn't willing to laden my parents with debt. Over the years I've applied for the BA scholarship twice, and the Aer Lingus one. Most recently Bristow (all unsuccessful - perhaps someone is trying to tell me something). I went to university and studied geology, joined the UAS and was paid to fly for a bit (thanks Liz), met amazing friends and after graduating had a 7 year career as a geologist. Money is good, I don't dread my job but that itch will not go away. I am always looking sky bound.

Here's the thing. This is probably my last chance to go for it before life gets serious and kids come along (probably got around 7-8 years). My goal has changed and I'd like to become a helicopter pilot. The flight school I've been looking at (Helicentre Aviation) are offering a fully integrated CPL and appear to be selling the same dream as the likes of CTC did back in the day. They are also quoting the ever echoing 'pilot shortage' which makes me nervous! These are the facts that I'd like checking:
  • Is there an impending shortage of pilots in the rotary world? They are quoting that 2/3 of pilots in the UK are aged 50+ and nearing retirement.
  • What are job prospects like? I was told on one of their seminars that due to the aging work force and a lack of military pilots coming into the industry, this shortage has exacerbated the situation
  • What advice would you give me?

Thanks for reading
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Old 9th Aug 2021, 22:07
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Originally Posted by ShaunLanc View Post
Mods, I'd appreciate it if you left this post up as I don't believe it to be the usual "So I'd like to be a helicopter pilot..." question. I won't make this a long post

Let me first start by saying that those rose tinted glasses that I (and I think all of us once wore) at age 18 are fully off and in a drawer somewhere. What I'm after is the same dose of reality I received on these forums at aged 18 as the itch to fly professionally has not gone away and I'm now aged 30.

I posted here back in 2010 as an 18 year old kid looking for advice on becoming an airline pilot. At the time I was advised by members of this forum for both sides of the argument and I took the decision to go to university and get a career in something else. I couldn't afford it and wasn't willing to laden my parents with debt. Over the years I've applied for the BA scholarship twice, and the Aer Lingus one. Most recently Bristow (all unsuccessful - perhaps someone is trying to tell me something). I went to university and studied geology, joined the UAS and was paid to fly for a bit (thanks Liz), met amazing friends and after graduating had a 7 year career as a geologist. Money is good, I don't dread my job but that itch will not go away. I am always looking sky bound.

Here's the thing. This is probably my last chance to go for it before life gets serious and kids come along (probably got around 7-8 years). My goal has changed and I'd like to become a helicopter pilot. The flight school I've been looking at (Helicentre Aviation) are offering a fully integrated CPL and appear to be selling the same dream as the likes of CTC did back in the day. They are also quoting the ever echoing 'pilot shortage' which makes me nervous! These are the facts that I'd like checking:
  • Is there an impending shortage of pilots in the rotary world? They are quoting that 2/3 of pilots in the UK are aged 50+ and nearing retirement.
  • What are job prospects like? I was told on one of their seminars that due to the aging work force and a lack of military pilots coming into the industry, this shortage has exacerbated the situation
  • What advice would you give me?

Thanks for reading
Helicentre has a reputation, just be aware of that.

Secondly, when it comes to the discussion of a 'shortage', bear in mind that helicopter pilot salaries have generally gone down in the last 10 years and the expected (required) qualifications for many roles have only gone up. That doesn't happen in a shortage, that happens because there's more pilots than necessary and someone will take a worse deal (for themselves) in order to get ahead of other pilots in the pool, because there isn't enough work for everyone with a CPL(H). The last point is especially true; a CPL(H) on its own is a licence to be rejected. Brace yourself for more qualifications / training / flying required post-CPL in order to land that first job - whether you believe in the 'shortage' sales talk or not, it won't be easy. Best of luck.
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Old 9th Aug 2021, 22:31
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For the US side of the house---there is NO shortage, there is a shortage of pilots with a certain skillset that is not easy to get. (HEC).
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Old 9th Aug 2021, 22:32
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One of the biggest employment area for experienced pilots - Off-shore Oil and Gas support is literally “drying up”. Pay and conditions being eroded. EMS/SAR in many places requires IF and NVG experience, both increasingly difficult to get in the civilian industry - so I believe more and more these positions will be filled by ex military pilots.
Both Australian perspectives, but likely the case in many countries.

Would you be happy flying tourists in an R44 for low wages, or power line maintenance on a three weeks on/ one week off roster as an end game?
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Old 9th Aug 2021, 23:09
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ShaunLanc
I have one question for you.
Would you be willing to leave the UK and probably even leave Europe for a career as a helicopter pilot?

Make a decision based on that answer.
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Old 9th Aug 2021, 23:57
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You asked for a simple answer. If you want to be a pilot then be a pilot. You're certainly not too old. But it has to be your priority. Not relationships or family or any of that other grown-up stuff that kills dreams.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 01:38
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'pilot shortage'
Most of them appear shorter than me, funny thing about the helicopter world.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 02:06
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Originally Posted by Gordy View Post
For the US side of the house---there is NO shortage, there is a shortage of pilots with a certain skillset that is not easy to get. (HEC).
There is a shortage of pilots willing to work for Dickensian pay and benefits. Employers wasted no time turning the screw on their wage bills when COVID came along. Now I think they will pay the price as things pick up. Professional and experienced pilots will factor the risk element very highly into any compensation offer.

You want to become a helicopter pilot. Now which arena interests you? Utility/Fire like Gordy does, Corporate, Oil and Gas, HAA/HEMS, police, instruction, SAR....where do you see yourself being happy and content?
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 03:59
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Many of the jobs available come with requirements beyond a simple CPL(H), might be hours, hours in a particular state or province, qualifications for post service test, training, long lining or cargo sling etc, etc, ad infinitum.

There is a shortage of suitable qualified helicopter pilots around here at the moment. Last year was a) light on fires, b) Covid. This year the companies put off early hiring and put off training and now, of course, it is a big fire year Probably because of last year a number of mature pilots took positions in other businesses or started their own and now won't go back.

On a personal note: I am colour blind so could not get a CPL. I don't believe in regrets but it still pisses me off after fifty eight years. Also I know there are a good number of helicopter pilots out there but you need to go and try it. My view is it takes a whole skill and training level beyond fixed wing. (Three of my kids do it, but then they are all brighter than I am!)
.
Son No 1 is now civil and had no trouble getting a contract. (Most are seasonal. In a good year he can earn in six months what he would have earned as a twelve year CAF captain, in a poor year a bit less but he has six months to make it up with odds and sods, besides he has time to renovate the house.)

The problem for civil ab initio CPLs is that the number of jobs you can do is limited. Flying tourists in an ICE helicopter, traffic reporting, instructing etc. The cost of getting into anything more is huge. Lots of hours and turbine experience
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 04:00
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You're not too old, you have clearly given this a lot of thought, there is a pilot shortage looming, you have a career you can fall back on if this goes wrong. You've played a good hand so far. I know nothing about the school you speak of, being globally mobile is definitely an asset. Do it before you walk into a tree or lamppost and hurt your self. Life's too short, get on with it. There are plenty of people on here who have had a tough year or so and many victims of the negative elements of the business. That doesn't make it a bad business but it does have it's challenges.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 07:43
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply - bit of a mixed bag!

Yes I'd be willing to relocate for a job and I have a very supportive partner that is 7 years my junior so I have a bit of time on my side too.

My plan would be to do the CPL and then a flight instructors course as Helicentre apparently recruit all their flight instructors. After that I'd hope to build hours for a year and then apply for any job I could get. My ideal would be SAR.

What I found really surprising is the poor salary for flight instructors. Starting on £24k p/a is less than what I was on as a graduate! They quote that salaries for first job start around £60k p/a for most jobs in multi-crew. Is this correct?

I'd also be interested to hear more about helicentre's reputation. Can anyone expand on that please?

Many thanks


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Old 10th Aug 2021, 08:05
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Shaun,

I enjoyed a career spanning 36 years, in Aviation, before retirement. I started as an Army helicopter pilot, flying the Bell Iroquois. It took twenty years after graduating Army flight training to become a Captain flying Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets.

The best helicopter flying job I had was flying two different multi-engine IFR corporate helicopters. I was the first Instrument Check Airman for that employer. Anything prior to that or since, flying helicopters was a disappointment. Why? It is the stuff the rat bag employers expect you to do for them. And, they have no compunction telling you, 'if you don't do it, I will find someone who will'. Put your life, your Pilot Licence, your reputation on the line, just so they can make a buck. You work your a$$ off, take the risks, carry the company, then they go out of business anyway, and don't pay you what they owe you, in the end. Goodbye, not even a thank you.

Oh there are a lot of very nice helicopters to fly, but not a heck of a lot of nice employers to fly them for, unless you land a corporate job or maybe a gig flying big IFR twins out to oil rigs for a well known employer. I have flown about 12 different helicopters, mostly twin, and single pilot. And, I was flying the Bell Iroquois in the Reserve, as a weekend or weakened warrior. But, I quickly decided I wanted to pursue more money, more respect for pilots and an airline career, so I aggressively built my aeroplane flying hours, doing lots and lots of Charter and Cargo flying, yet still flying in the Reserve.

If I found I was stagnating at an employer, I would go where there was more flying, more money, and better equipment.

To make it to the career pinnacle of flying the Boeing 747-400 as a captain demanded, demanded a whole lot of personal sacrifice and an absolute determination that I would not do anything that would risk my Pilot Licence. It was easier to tell an employer to go eff themselves rather than push an aircraft or the regs. If you are only 30, you are still young enough to become a Captain flying Boeing 747s, (pre-COVID). But, you may end up divorced. Keep in mind that COVID has put a lot of hungry pilots out of work. I retired before COVID. I am nobody's competition.

Choose wisely.

Good luck.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 08:17
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Originally Posted by ShaunLanc View Post
What I found really surprising is the poor salary for flight instructors. Starting on £24k p/a is less than what I was on as a graduate! They quote that salaries for first job start around £60k p/a for most jobs in multi-crew. Is this correct?
Many thanks
UK Offshore Multicrew starts at £50k(ish) (Starting as a co-pilot first officer) with some small fluctuations across the companies, this will increase as your experience and time at the company increases (some slower than others) - The down side is the UK offshore seems to be obsessed with imploading.

UK Onshore Air Ambo/HEMS - Starts in the £30k+ area, this is for co-pilot first officer but you do get access into the industry and some offer NVG training too. The problem is not many operators operate with 2 crew.

Both of these jobs can be obtained as an Ab-initio, I have seen people in both get jobs this year with very minimal hours, even seen people pay for their own type rating on a Sikorsky S92 to jump the queue and obtain work offshore.

Becoming an instructor is a great route to take into a flying career, A flexible FI working more than one school can easily hit 60-90 hours a month but be prepared to do nothing in the British winter (maybe instruct abroad?) If you are self employed you can expect to earn between £40-£60 per hour flown with a student, at the same time you learn a great deal about the job along with other great benefits from knowing people with helicopters.

If you are flexible and willing to get shafted on the odd occasion, work hard etc..etc.. then yeah its doable. I got into this at the age of 37 and have been loving it ever since.

The pilot shortage stuff, I am not so sure. I have seen people sifting through over a 100 CVs a few weeks ago to fill positions.

Good luck, get to know people and try to be in the right place at the right time.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 08:18
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Originally Posted by B2N2 View Post
Would you be willing to leave the UK and probably even leave Europe for a career as a helicopter pilot? Make a decision based on that answer.
Touche. ..and with a family in tow?

If all goes well you will still need an entry job somewhere. The latest A320 offer in the EU (LH Group!) is 2,8 ppm after taxes for an experienced captain. I know, rotary should pay more for being more demanding and harder work ...

What about some exciting non-flying paths on top of the expertise you already have?

Last edited by FlightDetent; 10th Aug 2021 at 09:44.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 09:00
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We see this case often: sucessfull professional realize he/she really wanted to do aviation but life has changed and either familly, age and other things make it complicated.
it is realitively heart breaking because there are great rewards in familly and a stable job but at the same time nothing can replace an unfullfilled dream.

I would add a point, flying helicopter as a job is not always as great as pictured
_ pressure of the boss (risk management)
_ unfriendly hours or location
_ repetitiveness (tours)
_ low pay (compared to your current position)
_ ultra low ramp up (you really have to pay your due in the hardes ways as an instructor and so on)

working toward private helicpoter ownership, and maybe doing a few side helicopter tasks, and maybe find an angle and get an AOC...
is also an option, fly when you want it, during nice weather only, improve your skills, meet great people...


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Old 10th Aug 2021, 10:05
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Scratch the itch with a PPLH - then at least you can do that part-time and keep earning well. At the end you will have a much better idea of how much you want to spend your whole working life in a cockpit - it is a job and, like any other, has its good and bad aspects.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 10:13
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What Agile said, plus, certainly in Canada, you will need something on top of the basic CPL, such as a mountain course or an IR depending on where you end up.

Employers want people with 10,000 hours, type ratings on everything made since the Wright Brothers, a Master’s degree, the willingness to carry baggage and clean helicopters if they’re not already helping the engineer maintain them, have worked for one outfit only during their career and left only when the owner died, and willing to work everywhere on a moment’s notice for undefined periods, plus 2000 hours single pilot IFR, 2000 hours precision and/or production longlining, with 2000 hours of that above 7000 feet, plus 2000 hours offshore. And be younger and less qualified than the Chief Pilot! I'm not entirely joking. My mum still thinks I went out for a coffee.

Another tip for a low hours pilot is to get another language - only 21% of the world speaks English.

I would be very careful about training packages. You can often source better value yourself. Exercise due diligence and standard business caution.

Phil
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 11:20
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Originally Posted by FWRWATPLX2 View Post
..Anything prior to that or since, flying helicopters was a disappointment. Why? It is the stuff the rat bag employers expect you to do for them. And, they have no compunction telling you, 'if you don't do it, I will find someone who will'. Put your life, your Pilot Licence, your reputation on the line, just so they can make a buck. You work your a$$ off, take the risks, carry the company, then they go out of business anyway, and don't pay you what they owe you, in the end. Goodbye, not even a thank you....
etc etc
What he said. If you have all that money to blow on pilot training, blow it on something else. Your family should be the number one priority and chasing an expensive pipe dream at your age with very little chance of a return on that investment - certainly not in the next 5 to 10 years - is somewhat selfish and not in the best interest of your family. Learn a trade. Roof tilers and plumbers earn heaps more than newly minted commercial helicopter pilots.
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 11:22
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[QUOTE=ShaunLanc;
As a UK mil helo pilot, my advice would be to be wary of any 'pilot shortage' promised by an FTO. There will always be a steady supply of suitably type rated applicants for police, SAR and air ambulance.

Sorry to be so dour!
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Old 10th Aug 2021, 11:39
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Consider doing your PPL-H in Canada or the US.
Still eye watering compared to fixed wing but a great deal cheaper then in the UK.
Then make a final decision.
The problem with the aviation industry is that you learn about the industry and itís possibilities as you go along.
Something which is very difficult to explain to a non-participant.
Canada is immigration friendly, the US is not.
South America generally requires citizenship and language fluency.
Leaves jobs in Africa, Middle East and Asia as Australia is notoriously protective of its pilot market.
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