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Why such low pay for LEO pilots?


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#1 peewee

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 19:57

Flying as a LEO is what I'd like to do as a career. I see it is a job that could be extremely rewarding. What seems like a great opportunity in the county next to me in Florida just opened up. I'am about to apply, and concerned with the pay. I fly offshore now, and make in the low 60's. I also fly in the National Guard. This job only pays $39k a year. That's before taxes.

How could a man justify that switch?

#2 Flying Pig

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 20:34

It depends on where you are. Most LE pilots are paid as cops, not pilots. As my position, my pay has nothing to do with me being a pilot. I am paid as a top step Deputy based on my years of service. I get an additional flat $400 a month pilot pay. Other agencies I know of do a percentage. I think the CHP gives their pilots 18% of their base pay as pilot pay. So a CHP pilot easily makes over $100K. More than that when you factor in pay, bennies, retirements, etc.
So if cop pay is low where you are looking, then so is the pilot pay. If you are looking at a position that is a civilian LE pilot, it will generally be something like top step officer, plus a percentage added because you are a pilot. Other agencies will hire or recruit for pilots specifically and make them Lt's or Captains for the pay scale it offers. I think the Louisiana State Police do that. Pilots are LT's as an incentive to stick around because the pay me be lower than a pilot with those needed skills would expect.
What you need to look for also is promotion opportunities. In my unit, I cannot promote as a pilot. No Sgt, Lt, we dont staff a Chief Pilot. The only way I could ever promote would be to leave the air unit. And Im not about to do that !!!! .... So I am literally topped out as far as pay goes. So if the pay is low to start, you may find yourself in a flying job with nowhere to go when it comes to pay raises, benefits, etc.

Edited by Flying Pig, 20 November 2012 - 20:45.


#3 peewee

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 20:59

Here is a link to the job.

http://agency.govern...ob&jobID=553196

#4 Retreating Brain Stall

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 07:47

Surprise surprise, Volusia County Florida, seems about every year or two they are on the look out for pilots. The low pay corresponds to the minimum hiring requirements as if they are purposefully looking for low time pilots that are willing to take the low pay in exchange for experience on the B407. Looks like a fun job, but who can afford that when flipping burgers might get you more money. Sure appears as they don't care about quality or longevity of employees. Most places compensate employees and give incentives to continue with them. Places like this make me run like it was the plague- I want $$$ & incentives by my employer in exchange for work.

Edited by HeliFun, 21 November 2012 - 07:49.


#5 Flying Pig

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 11:29

I dont know anything about VSO. So this is a civilian pilot? Or do they make you go through an academy as part of becoming a pilot? When it comes to aviation, LE agencies are often their own worst enemy. You will find agencies where there is no way they are going to pay someone anymore than a cop makes. Thats just their perspective. They dont understand aviation or what it takes to become a skilled pilot. Other agencies, they bring their pilots in and give them bars and stars and cant do enough for them. Others have the mindset that if you leave, there will be 20 more to take your spot. Other agencies where pilots come up through the ranks have just accepted that their pay is based on being cops and are fine with it. I am in that particular boat.

From the web site showing the Deputy pay scale, it looks like the pilot is probably on the same pay scale as a Sergeant. So with that, Sgt tops out at about $30 an hour. So there may be some room for about $11p/h worth of pay raises. So from the perspective of the agency, thats pretty good. I would say you probably get a county issued take home car also because Deputies get take home cars per their web site. If its not a sworn position, there would be opportunities to become a reserve deputy if thats something someone was interested in.

Tuition reimbursement, probably decent overtime, probably more training opportunities than you can shake a stick at. With my agency, if I want to go to a training, I fill out the request, and in about 5 minutes I get back an email that says "Approved". So who knows. If someone is interested, there may be more to the story than just $19 per hour.

It wouldnt be my thing. A 1400sq mile area would be like a rat in a cage. Im used to flying around 4-5hrs a day and never covering the same place twice and coming back at the end of the day dirty and sweaty and being able to land on a mountain top and pee if I want to.

Edited by Flying Pig, 21 November 2012 - 13:23.


#6 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 19:10

The reason for low pay is always the same. People are willing to accept the pay. If everyone held out for higher wages, then wages would be higher. That ain't gonna happen, though. Helicopter pilots will never, ever stick together. There has been more than ample evidence of that.
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Best Regards,

Gomer

#7 Flying Pig

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 15:39

Curious what you think the standard should be? In an LE agency do you believe the pilot is the most qualified guy in the agency and should he paid the most? Should the helicopter pilot be making $80K a year when the Sheriff is making $70K?
Should an LE pilot in southern AL be making the same as a pilot for Huntington Beach, CA? There is no way pilots nationwide are going to hold out for a standard wage across the board. Should the 3 helicopter 2 employee company I work for part time pay the same as guy flyig the same model Huey in NY? Helicopter companies are in competition with each other to make a profit. If you think the pilots for company X in CA are going to come together and demand higher wages for the pilots of company Y in Georgia... its not even reality. If you want to demand higher wages, work for a company with a union. A county government that has determined they are willng to pay a pilot at a Sergeants pay grade is not going to swayed by what some pilot flying in oregon makes. They would rather park it and do without. There will always he pilots willing to acceptthat pay and benefits package. If you are holding your breath thinking a nation of pilots that have nothing to do with each other are suddenly going to bond together...... dont hit your head when you pass out and fall over.

Edited by Flying Pig, 23 November 2012 - 15:42.

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#8 McGavin

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 22:40

$19.00 an hour for a 500 hour min doesn't sound so bad. I though most instructors make less than that? Also remeber that you will get paid to sit on the ground unlike a instructor that gets paid off the hobbs. It just sounds like you exceed the experience level they are willing to pay for.

I think its a good opurtunity for a low time pilot that doesn't want to instruct and needs turbine time or LE experience for the resume.

The non sworn LE pilot positions I have seen in my area (California) are all part-time and pay $30-$35 a hour with no benifits. Most guys that get these job have a lot of experience and do it one or two days a week in addition to other jobs. The flip side, I made over 100k a year to fly as a full-time sworn pilot. I was paid to be a cop that had wings, not a pilot that was a cop. I made 12% more than a street cop for my pilot classification and I feel I earned it

#9 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:26

I didn't say there should be nationwide pay standards. There isn't now, for any job, of any type, and there won't be. But as long as people accept low pay in any location, the pay will be low. That's just the way it is. If the workers in any area all refuse to accept a wage, the wage will increase. But the fact is the employers have much more power, and wages in all sectors are stagnant or decreasing, and I don't see that changing radically in the near future, especially for helicopter pilots, since as I already said, they will never stick together.
Best Regards,

Gomer

#10 palmfish

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 12:32

I just looked at the Volusia County Sheriff job website.

A Deputy II (whatever that is) starts at $15/hr. A Lieutenant earns only $50,000 - $80,000/year.

It's not just pilots earning peanuts. It's just the way it is in the South. Always has been...

#11 Spike

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 17:19

At my agency, pilots make approximately 18% more than a Patrol Officer with equal service time. With that, our Officers often negatively comment on the pay disparity. I calmly remind them, it’s not that I make too much, it’s you don’t make enough…..
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#12 peewee

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 20:07

Seems like I'am trying to jump too soon. LE experience would be what I'am after, beings CBP is my ultimate goal as a career. It's one county away and a 407 position. As of now, I fly 2 to 3 hours a day with over 30 landings. And only see shore once every few days. But, the schedule is nice. 14/14.

I would think that LE experience is what CBP is looking for, and this is a place I could get it. But wow, what a crappy pay scale for an aviator. It's a hard pill to swallow. I'll apply, maybe get an interview, and then can ask the important questions. Besides, interview practice never hurts anyone.

Thanks guys for all the responses.

#13 OH58A

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 16:29

VSO uses both sworn and non sworn pilots and does EMS flights on a 135 Cert. The helicopters were purchased through the Halifax Hospital system. I heard a rmor that the hospital may be looking at another vendor for the program. Most agencies I know of in FL have not gotten raises in a long time. In addition the Fl Retirement System was changed for employees hired after July 1 of 2011 and is now basically worthless. I would pass on this one.

#14 Francis Meyrick

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 20:53

Years ago I applied in writing for an LE job in Florida, and I got a phone call immediately along the lines of:

"We would LOVE to hire you! But before we go any further... this is what it pays...."

And I couldn't live on the low salary.

 

Then you look at the high accident rate in LE flying (a unit I worked for had a dismal record).

 

If you pay pea nuts... eh?  And what has the cost been of some of these LE accidents? In Dollars, lives, reputation? Some units got closed down after accidents.

 

Terrible pity, because a good LE operation can do wonders.

 

And, dammit, $$$ or not, I still miss it. 

 

:o


"Flying is a Privilege, and not a Right"

 

 

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#15 Flying Pig

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 00:17

I don't know about the unit you worked for but the LE accident rate is pretty low when you consider the 10s of thousands of hours that are flown and the types of missions that are flown.  Now, I will agree 100% that there are agencies who have no business having aircraft at all.

Interesting, when this was first posted I was an LE pilot in Ca, now I'm an LE pilot in FL.  If you had told me when this was first posted back in Nov 12 that Id be flying LE in Florida I would have laughed at you :)

 

Funny how things happen.  Although Im pretty sure I don't work for any of the agencies discussed in this thread. But yeah, now that I live in FL….. the pay down here for a lot of professions is borderline food stamp level. 


Edited by Flying Pig, 16 February 2014 - 00:53.


#16 Francis Meyrick

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 20:43

I'm not quite sure how/what NTSB data base we would invoke to look at the hard facts/statistics. My impression has been that LE accidents were well above average. I can't back that up with empirical data, so my impression is debatable. I just seem to have come across a great many incidents and accidents..

 

My unit had managed to write off no less than three TH55 helicopters and one fixed wing (double fatality) prior to my arrival, and the insurance mandated requirements were correspondingly high.

1500 fixed wing

3,000 helo

turbine time.

IA

 

That was to fly OH58 and Cessna Turbo 210.

 

Of the 35 applicants, I was one of only two that met those requirements. Except I had an A+P, not an IA.

 

Pretty soon it was obvious that nobody had much confidence in the helicopter, and it took me months to reverse that attitude. Then we finally really got going, but we were always fighting budget battles. Demoralizing.

 

Pity. The helicopter, properly used (and funded) is a superb tool. A "force multiplier" that can more than pay for itself.

 

The trend, unfortunately, these days, seems to be away from those "expensive" helicopters.

 

Lots of former LE pilots looking for work.

 

Personally, I miss it. A lot. Hard to say no to double the salary, and a week on/week off.

 

I have a series of "Cops & Robbers" tales on my blog. More in note form, I need to go write up. After I quit making excuses... (takes time, time, time)


Edited by Francis Meyrick, 13 April 2014 - 08:52.

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#17 PorkChopper

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 19:57

LEO pilot pay isnt low every where my friend...

in fact, professional pilot magazine did a salary survey and published the results in a recent issue...think the range was low 60's to mid 90's and it wasnt too shabby when compared to other facets lf the helicopter industry
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