is right now a good time to get into
the Helicopter Pilot Profession?
On the supply side there is a trend occurring
that is beginning to create a shortage of helicopter pilots. There
are many factors that are influencing that trend. One of the factors
is that over the last decade the rate at which new pilots are being
trained has been steadily decreasing. At the same time the largest
population of experienced helicopter pilots (Vietnam era pilots),
are now beginning to reach retirement age and are leaving faster
than they can be replaced. Additionally the Military, which has
long been a source of pilots, has gotten smaller and are working
hard to retain their helicopter pilots.
On the demand side, in the civilian helicopter market there has
been steady growth in the sector of Public Service (EMS, Law Enforcement,
Firefighting), and with the new security issues relating to travel,
there will most likely be new growth potential in the lucrative
Corporate helicopter market. Of course the Oil Exploration market
which has long been one of the largest employers of helicopter pilots
will continue to do so. With our current Administration and the
instability in the Middle East where the oil supplies are located,
we will most likely see continued growth in this industry as we
look towards more domestic oil supply.
Oddly enough the Flight Training Industry, which is traditionally
a starting point for most new civilian helicopter pilots, is poised
for serious growth which will further improve your chances of entering
this exciting career. As insurance rates continue to rise, one of
the areas which will become the focal point for rate reduction will
be in the area of training. There will be a day when an instrument
rating will be mandatory for all Commercial Helicopter Pilots. Couple
that with the amount of pilots that will need to be trained to keep
pace with attrition and the mantra for the future will be "training,
As far as pay is concerned, salaries are one the rise and the
next decade is looking much better than the last. A shortage of
pilots coupled with increased demand will keep salaries on the rise.
Additionally, there is a movement to Unionize pilots across several
markets and large operators which will also continue to drive up
the value of compensation packages. Depending on the size of the
aircraft and the mission, annual salaries currently range from $28k
to $120k USD. So to summarize, the future for Professional Helicopter
Pilots has never looked better.
Q: Can I go straight into flying helicopters or do I have to
fly airplanes first?
Absolutely! This is a common misconception that a person has to start
flying airplanes. In fact, if you are working towards a career as a Professional
Helicopter Pilot, it would be more beneficial to fly only helicopters
until you get your first job.
Q: Why is an Instrument Rating so important?
Right now, it is virtually impossible to be eligible for any helicopter
flying job outside of primary flight instruction unless you are Instrument
rated. Even in the area of flight instruction, which is typically a civilian
starting point, the CFI with an Instrument rating or the CFII always has
the competitive edge and will get job preference. The bottom line is that
an Instrument rated pilot is a safer pilot. The insurance companies know
it, the employers know it, and the FAA Statistics prove it.
Q: Who is eligible to get an FAA Pilot Certificate?
Currently a candidate must be able to read, speak and understand English.
Additionally a candidate must be able to posses an FAA Medical Certificate
and meet the following age requirements.
PPL age 17 CPL age 18 ATP age 23
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