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Careers: Flying & Aviation/Questions on becoming a helicopter pilot


Kyle wrote at 2013-01-07 23:33:12
Hi Julian,

I agree with everything Doug already said, but wanted to offer some additional information regarding civilian helicopter training and the realities of the job market today.

First of all, your goal is a good one! The commercial helicopter pilots that I know love their jobs, sleep in their own beds each night, and look forward to work in the morning. Every day is different and exciting.

Second, it's not too late to go after your aviation goals in the civilian arena. There are helicopter schools waiting to train you now, but you must be prepared to relocate to the school. Expect to spend around $60,000 U.S. to get your Private, Commercial, Instrument Rating, and Certificated Flight Instructor credentials. You'll also need to earn your CFII (Certificated Flight Instructor, Instrument) to build hours... more on this below.

If you decide to go with civilian training, here's what you can expect: It will take close to a year to earn all the above ratings. If you're a great student, hard worker, and a gifted pilot, you can get hired on by your school as an instructor pilot to build hours. You must have a CFII to get hired as a CFI. But keep in mind, getting hired is not guaranteed, and most schools only hire about 50% of their graduates. Getting hired on as an instructor is critical to building the flight hours you need to begin applying for jobs. If you can't get a job as a CFI, you don't have much of a chance of ever working anywhere else because you won't have the required hours to apply for jobs. So let's assume you do get hired as a CFI... what next? Expect to fly for another year or two as a CFI to build at least 1000 hours. 2000 hours is even better, but some commercial operators do hire pilots with as little as 1000 hours. After you have the required 1000 hours in your logbook, you can begin applying for commercial pilot jobs. But again, you must be prepared to go where the job takes you.

Assuming you can make all of this happen, you can be working in the field as a commercial helicopter pilot in 2-3 years.

I hope this information helps. Best of luck to you!  

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Doug Welshinger


Army Aviation, Commercial Aviation including regional and major, EMS helicopter


I flew Blackhawk helicopters for 9 years in the U.S. Army active duty and guard. I flew the SF340 and Canadair Regional Jet for Comair and the DC-9 for Northwest. I am currently flying EMS missions in BK-117 and EC-145 helicopters for Air Methods Corporation. I hold an ATP Turbojet rating, Commercial Instrument Rotorcraft and have been a CFI and MEI airplane instructor in addition to instructing in the military and in simulators.

Professional Helicopter Pilots Organization Nation EMS Pilots Association

B.S. Aviation Science Oklahoma State University U.S. Army Warrant Officer Aviation Course ATP Turbojet Commercial Instrument Rotorcraft In addition I own and operate a small business employing 70 full and part time folks not in the aviation industry.

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