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Old 02-08-2006, 08:54 AM   #1  
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Default Any insight into fixed wing v. rotary?

I am going to start my flight trining this summer and i pretty much have made my mind up as far as flying planes and what school i am going to. I am not closed minded about possibly going helos though. Can anyony offer any insight into training, career path, or time to first decent job for helos? thanks
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Old 02-08-2006, 09:26 AM   #2  
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Some flight training company in the Seattle area is radio advertising for helo pilots and claiming you don't have to pay until landing a job. They claim there is a shortage of helo pilots.

Helos are cool. I might go that way if I had to do it again.
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Old 02-08-2006, 10:02 AM   #3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miker1
I am going to start my flight trining this summer and i pretty much have made my mind up as far as flying planes and what school i am going to. I am not closed minded about possibly going helos though. Can anyony offer any insight into training, career path, or time to first decent job for helos? thanks
Helicopters are a BLAST to fly, no doubt about it.

BUT, here's the supply and demand reality of helicopter pilots...

The training is 3X the cost of fixed wing. Fixed wing pilots usually buy their first 280 hours, then work as a flight instructor to get up to 1000+ hours (insurance minimum for almost all commercial ops) It's difficult to get a helo CFI job if you have less than 1000 hours, so you might have to actually BUY 1000 hours at $300/hour...if you want to be a pilot, I assume you can do math...

Then when you get your 1000, you find out that all the commercial helo ops use turbine (jet) engines. Your training was done in a small piston engine helo...OK, so somehow you figure out the turbine engine experience requirement, you have 1000 hours plus a little turbine experience...

Now it get's REALLY tough...the US Army has more helicopters than the all the commercial helos in the US. They use enlisted men (called warrant officers) to fly most of them. These men (not being commissioned officers) are paid less than other military pilots. They typically stay in the Army long enough to get a retirement, then they get out with a $25-40K pension and enter the workforce. They don't really want a desk job, and since they already have a decent retirement income, they are willing to fly helos for less than they would otherwise. So you're competing for a civilian job with a guy with years of experience, thousands of hours in heavy, high-performance, turbine powered helicopters. And he was flying at night, at tree-top level, on NVG's, while being shot at and shooting back. If he wasn't REALLY, REALLY good, he wouldn't be alive to go to the interview.

Even if you somehow get the job (does your uncle own a helicopter flying service?), you are still living in a salary economy that's artificially depressed by the extra supply of military helo pilots. Plus a pilot's max possible pay is ultimately dependent on how much revenue can the aircraft generate...an airliner with a gross weight of close to (or over) a million pounds can generate a LOT of cargo and pax revenue. Helos are obviously much smaller, so they are limited as to how much paying cargo can be carried.

There are a few relatively high paying helo jobs out there, but it takes years to get one. If you absolutely love the idea of helicopters, and can't imagine doing anything else, go for it! (but I recommend the military for your training!) However, if you just dig aviation in general, fixed wing is easier to get into and will probably pay you significantly more.

Oh, another route to helos is to join a law enforcement agency that has helos and hires pilots FROM WITHIN. Some agencies hire outside pilots, who are all ex-military of course. Those that hire within will require normally three+ years of regular cop duty before you can apply to their flight ops. BUT you usually only need a fixed wing commercial and a helo private to apply, and they will then train you to commercial helo standards (in turbine aircraft). Pay and benies are usually great too.

Last edited by rickair7777; 02-08-2006 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 02-08-2006, 11:56 AM   #4  
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THat was awsome and very insightful. Thanks.
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Old 02-13-2006, 11:14 AM   #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickair7777
Helicopters are a BLAST to fly, no doubt about it.

BUT, here's the supply and demand reality of helicopter pilots...

The training is 3X the cost of fixed wing. Fixed wing pilots usually buy their first 280 hours, then work as a flight instructor to get up to 1000+ hours (insurance minimum for almost all commercial ops) It's difficult to get a helo CFI job if you have less than 1000 hours, so you might have to actually BUY 1000 hours at $300/hour...if you want to be a pilot, I assume you can do math...

Then when you get your 1000, you find out that all the commercial helo ops use turbine (jet) engines. Your training was done in a small piston engine helo...OK, so somehow you figure out the turbine engine experience requirement, you have 1000 hours plus a little turbine experience...

Now it get's REALLY tough...the US Army has more helicopters than the all the commercial helos in the US. They use enlisted men (called warrant officers) to fly most of them. These men (not being commissioned officers) are paid less than other military pilots. They typically stay in the Army long enough to get a retirement, then they get out with a $25-40K pension and enter the workforce. They don't really want a desk job, and since they already have a decent retirement income, they are willing to fly helos for less than they would otherwise. So you're competing for a civilian job with a guy with years of experience, thousands of hours in heavy, high-performance, turbine powered helicopters. And he was flying at night, at tree-top level, on NVG's, while being shot at and shooting back. If he wasn't REALLY, REALLY good, he wouldn't be alive to go to the interview.

Even if you somehow get the job (does your uncle own a helicopter flying service?), you are still living in a salary economy that's artificially depressed by the extra supply of military helo pilots. Plus a pilot's max possible pay is ultimately dependent on how much revenue can the aircraft generate...an airliner with a gross weight of close to (or over) a million pounds can generate a LOT of cargo and pax revenue. Helos are obviously much smaller, so they are limited as to how much paying cargo can be carried.

There are a few relatively high paying helo jobs out there, but it takes years to get one. If you absolutely love the idea of helicopters, and can't imagine doing anything else, go for it! (but I recommend the military for your training!) However, if you just dig aviation in general, fixed wing is easier to get into and will probably pay you significantly more.

Oh, another route to helos is to join a law enforcement agency that has helos and hires pilots FROM WITHIN. Some agencies hire outside pilots, who are all ex-military of course. Those that hire within will require normally three+ years of regular cop duty before you can apply to their flight ops. BUT you usually only need a fixed wing commercial and a helo private to apply, and they will then train you to commercial helo standards (in turbine aircraft). Pay and benies are usually great too.
Rick has excellent insight into helicopter flying. If I may add one more log to the fire.... What are your long term goals? If you want to fly for a commercial airline in the future please bear in mind that a majority of your helicopter time most likely will not be considered when you apply.
If this is your long term career goal then maybe consider learning to fly helicopters later just for fun? Food for thought.
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Old 02-24-2006, 09:58 AM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickair7777
Helicopters are a BLAST to fly, no doubt about it.

BUT, here's the supply and demand reality of helicopter pilots...

The training is 3X the cost of fixed wing. Fixed wing pilots usually buy their first 280 hours, then work as a flight instructor to get up to 1000+ hours (insurance minimum for almost all commercial ops) It's difficult to get a helo CFI job if you have less than 1000 hours, so you might have to actually BUY 1000 hours at $300/hour...if you want to be a pilot, I assume you can do math...

Then when you get your 1000, you find out that all the commercial helo ops use turbine (jet) engines. Your training was done in a small piston engine helo...OK, so somehow you figure out the turbine engine experience requirement, you have 1000 hours plus a little turbine experience...

Now it get's REALLY tough...the US Army has more helicopters than the all the commercial helos in the US. They use enlisted men (called warrant officers) to fly most of them. These men (not being commissioned officers) are paid less than other military pilots. They typically stay in the Army long enough to get a retirement, then they get out with a $25-40K pension and enter the workforce. They don't really want a desk job, and since they already have a decent retirement income, they are willing to fly helos for less than they would otherwise. So you're competing for a civilian job with a guy with years of experience, thousands of hours in heavy, high-performance, turbine powered helicopters. And he was flying at night, at tree-top level, on NVG's, while being shot at and shooting back. If he wasn't REALLY, REALLY good, he wouldn't be alive to go to the interview.

Even if you somehow get the job (does your uncle own a helicopter flying service?), you are still living in a salary economy that's artificially depressed by the extra supply of military helo pilots. Plus a pilot's max possible pay is ultimately dependent on how much revenue can the aircraft generate...an airliner with a gross weight of close to (or over) a million pounds can generate a LOT of cargo and pax revenue. Helos are obviously much smaller, so they are limited as to how much paying cargo can be carried.

There are a few relatively high paying helo jobs out there, but it takes years to get one. If you absolutely love the idea of helicopters, and can't imagine doing anything else, go for it! (but I recommend the military for your training!) However, if you just dig aviation in general, fixed wing is easier to get into and will probably pay you significantly more.

Oh, another route to helos is to join a law enforcement agency that has helos and hires pilots FROM WITHIN. Some agencies hire outside pilots, who are all ex-military of course. Those that hire within will require normally three+ years of regular cop duty before you can apply to their flight ops. BUT you usually only need a fixed wing commercial and a helo private to apply, and they will then train you to commercial helo standards (in turbine aircraft). Pay and benies are usually great too.
First, let me second what Lori wrote. If you want to fly for the airlines, then fly airplanes. I made the transition from helicopters to airlines, as have many others (Kit Darby was initially an Army helicopter pilot), but it is a slower and tougher route. Eventually you will have to fly airplanes if that is what you want to do, and any time you spend flying helicopters is not spent flying airplanes.
Generally what Rick7777 writes is true, but there are some errors I would like to correctand some things to add.
1. Warrant officers are NOT enlisted, they are officers. They are initially appointed as WO1s instead of commisioned, but they are still officers and given the respect due officers. I won't go into the differences between the two here (commisioned verses warrant), as it is besides the point and delves into history. When a warrant officer is promoted to CW2 they become commisioned, however, with the authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that all commisioned officers have. This is why in the Army warrant officers are able to command ships and other units, although there are very few commands for them.
2. As a civilian helicopter pilot you will normally start out making more than your airplane counterpart, but the pay goes higher for fixed wing pilots. EMS (civilian medivac pilots), normally start out at $40,000-$50,000 a year, far more than an FO at a regional, but the pay tops out earlier for the EMS pilot. The reason for this was not because the pilots were paid less while in the Army. It is supply and demand. Almost all military helicopters require two pilots. Even those certified for single pilot operations (such as the UH-1H), are flown with two pilots. On the civilian side, most helicopters are flown with one pilot. During the Viet Nam war the Army in particular was cranking out tons of pilots for their aircraft. Well, when you have all these helicopter pilots hitting the streets, and all the civilian helicopters only need one pilot, there is a glut. One large helicopter owner was famous for saying if his pilots asked for too much money, he could just go to any city gutter and find 10 more Viet Nam pilots to replace each of his pilots.
3. Times are changing. The glut of Viet Nam era pilots are retiring, and the FAA and NTSB are looking long and hard at helicopter operations (there were even a few USA Today articles on this). I think you will see the training requirements, hour requirements and in some cases even the number of pilots required change. Also, some civilian operators are begining to use NVGs. With these changes will probably come more money for qualified pilots. But, as Rick7777 pointed out, the only place you will probably get these qualifications will be in the military. Some civilian operations are now training pilots on NVGs, but the cost is probably very high.
4. The civilian tilt rotor is about 5-10 years from being fielded. When it is fielded, and if there is a demand for it, I believe there will be a demand for pilots who are dual rated- meaning pilots who are rated to fly airplanes and helicopters, especially those with ATPs in both RW and airplanes. There is a power-lift rating that will be required to fly the tilt rotor, but the only pilots getting this now are either the military pilots in the fielding program, or those civilian pilots involved in the development. It is an aircraft that will require pilots to know both fixed wing and helicopter aerodynamics. Until some of the military pilots with this rating get out, the only source of properly trained pilots will probably be dual rated civilian pilots who can be sent through the powered lift courses with minimal extra training.
Rick7777 kind of hit the other points. Getting your first helicopter job as a civilian will be TOUGH. Your best bet is to get your rating at a school that might hire you. Other jobs are chasing tuna, helicopter tours, and some others. It is a VERY hard field to crack if you do not have the military qualifications.
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Old 03-04-2006, 01:06 PM   #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lori Clark
Rick has excellent insight into helicopter flying. If I may add one more log to the fire.... What are your long term goals? If you want to fly for a commercial airline in the future please bear in mind that a majority of your helicopter time most likely will not be considered when you apply.
If this is your long term career goal then maybe consider learning to fly helicopters later just for fun? Food for thought.
Years ago PHI had a program for licensed mechanics with a commercial/instrument helo license with low hours. But not anymore.
Due to insurance ... most helo jobs require a min. of 1000 pic helo.

You are better using those funds to get fixed wing time, I am chopper rated
and love flying, but most airlines will not count that time when applying or
upgrading. I have friends of mine getting out of the military, so I think that
there is a shortage of helo jocks is not quite true.......thanks to our many
wars overseas the military is letting plenty of these guys and girls out. Same
after the Vietnam war. Due to the air mobile concept of modern warfare,
helicopter pilots are trained in the hundreds to thousands, and most get out
as soon as they can, today the army uses modern ifr turbine helos.
 
Old 03-04-2006, 01:07 PM   #8  
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Oldscout,

Did you work for PHI?

-LA
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Old 03-06-2006, 01:53 PM   #9  
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As a USMCR helicopter pilot and NWA airline pilot...Been lucky to do it all....Have you considered Navy/USMC training? Start out training in the T-34C and then select Jet, Helo, Prop, or Tilt-rotor pipeline....I believe the committment is 10 years, but let me tell you it will take 10 years for this industry to dig itself out of the hole it finds itself in, so your timing is good..
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Old 03-07-2006, 05:50 AM   #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldscout
Years ago PHI had a program for licensed mechanics with a commercial/instrument helo license with low hours. But not anymore.
Due to insurance ... most helo jobs require a min. of 1000 pic helo.

You are better using those funds to get fixed wing time, I am chopper rated
and love flying, but most airlines will not count that time when applying or
upgrading. I have friends of mine getting out of the military, so I think that
there is a shortage of helo jocks is not quite true.......thanks to our many
wars overseas the military is letting plenty of these guys and girls out. Same
after the Vietnam war. Due to the air mobile concept of modern warfare,
helicopter pilots are trained in the hundreds to thousands, and most get out
as soon as they can, today the army uses modern ifr turbine helos.
I generally agree, but I am not sure yet about how the helicopter industry will pan out in the near future for pilots.
Hundreds of thousands of RW pilots is a great exageration. I went through flight school at the hight of the Reagan build up and our class size was 60 students, 3 classes a month. Now, I think, it runs class sizes of 40 students, 2 classes a month. Hundreds of pilots maybe; hundreds of thousands, hardly.
Also, I do think the FAA is being spurred to action, finally, by the NTSB to change some of the work rules, training rules, and aircraft minimums. I think some of the positions that don't require an instrument rating will go away.
Also, the Army is not increasing the RW fleet as they did during the Viet Nam war. Some new aircraft are coming on line such as the light utility, but UH-1s are finally being slowly retired from the Guard, so it's a wash. Again, I don't know how it will work out; we will see.
Hey RedDog25- are you guys finally back?? I was on the other side of the ramp with the Guard and it seems as if your unit was gone for a while. You left before us and were still gone when we returned over a year later. When I upgraded my sim partner Doug was in the unit. Haven't seen him back yet.
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