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HEMS hiring minimums


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#1 McGavin

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 15:57

I have seen a lot of openings for HEMS pilots and they all have a 2,000+ hour minimums. I have heard this is some type of industry requirement. Who sets this requirement?

I have heard HEMS is running very short and is having difficulties finding qualified pilots. Do you think they would ever reduce this minimum requirement to fill the shortage?

Is my perception wrong? Are they easily getting pilots to fill the need and is it difficult to get a good HEMS job with the bare min requirements?
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#2 Wally

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 09:32

I have been told that CAMTS (the industry accrediting agency) requires 2000 TT.

 

From the Air Evac Lifeteam career center website page:

To be considered for this position you must meet the following criteria listed below. 

MINIMUM PILOT QUALIFICATIONS Required at Date of Hire :

  • 2,000 Total Time or 1,500 recent Total Time
  • 1,200 Helicopter Time
  • 1,000 PIC
  • 100 Night Unaided or 50 night unaided with more than 100 NVG
  • 500 Hours Turbine Engine Time
  • Must currently meet and weight less than 220 lbs.
  • Commercial Rotorcraft Helicopter Certificate with Helicopter Instrument Rating 
  • Current Class II Medical Certificate.

I'm not affiliated with AEL, so I don't know if these are competitive in the real world. Rumor is that pilots are hired for HEMS positions with that range of experience in the industry.

 

My perception is that pilots exceeding the minimum experience level is a smaller part of a smaller pool of pilots interested in HEMS positions. I've heard, and read, management quotes that support that opinion.


Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...


#3 Azhigher

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 16:19

It's been my experience that the hiring minimums are pretty solid but if you apply for a base that they are having a real hard time filling they might give you a break. Friend of mine got a job with less than the required instrument time (In helicopter, had some extra hood time in fixed wing)

 

The moral of the story is it's worth a shot. Applying for an extremely hard to fill base gives you a bit of leverage.



#4 JDHelicopterPilot

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 00:41

Those minimums listed for AEL are as low as you will ever see. In my opinion those are even to low. Flying EMS with just 1500 hours total time is low. My company looks for 3000 total time, 300 night and prefer 200 hours instrument but will forgo that for the right pilot. Of course the VFR bases do not have the instrument requirement.

EMS is not a place you will build hours. You will be asked to fly to a deserted, dark, wire infested scene at 3am. It is not a place to come and learn decision making, your flight planing and fuel management skills should be very good. Understanding local weather patterns in area where there is not reporting is a must as well. Lastly, we are not here to "save lives". That just happened to be a byproduct of what we do. We are given a point a,b and c flight. Can it be done safely? If not, we say no. The fact that there is a injured kid, out there can not play into your decision making. If it does, one day it will come back to bite you and your crew.

The EMS jobs will always be here. If you are lower time, then I would wait it out and build up some time and experience. There have been way to many accidents in the last few years.
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#5 Velocity173

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 23:06

Don't know of anyone who got hired below minimums. CAMTS and insurance requires it. As JD said they really want a 3,000 + hr guy. Insurance premiums are far cheaper. Our base is almost all comprised of 4,000 + hr  pilots. 

 

Unfortunately with the accident rate being what it is, there's no way those mins are going to come down anytime soon. I won't debate what hour level should be required to do this job safely. The facts are that the EMS companies, insurance and CAMTS have a certain bar set.

 

Basically several reasons why so many openings:

 

1. Primary reason is just not enough qualified pilots. 

2. EMS is still growing and new bases are opening up all the time.

3. Hard to fill bases that not many want to work at.

4. People leaving for more pay elsewhere.

5. Pilots getting fired for a variety of reasons. 



#6 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 15:19

I agree that 2000 is too low.  I doubt anyone will be hired with less than that.  It takes a long time to develop the necessary decision-making skills, and flying skill has to be at a level where you don't even think about it, you don't have time for that.  Spend a few years offshore or somewhere else where you can fly a lot, and get up to 5000 or so before you worry about EMS.  You'll make more money, and live longer.

 

Also note the 220 lb limit.  That's set in concrete by most programs, and has been a CAMTS requirement for decades.  If you're heavier than that, you just can't carry enough patient payload.  It's also a  requirement for most med crew, and I've known people who were fired for exceeding it for more than a month or so.  You will never get hired above that, and if it's a choice between someone who weighs less than 200 and someone at or near 220, the lighter guy will get hired every time.  Companies just don't want to deal with people near the limit, because of the high potential for having to fire them after training.  It's not impossible at 219, but it is harder.  


Best Regards,

Gomer

#7 TANTRUM

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 17:28

While my opinion on this issue isn't quite $0.02 worth, I do think it's important to keep in mind that such numbers aren't just pulled out of people's asses, there is a logic behind the requirements. Quality should never be sacrificed for quantity when lives are an immediate factor.

 

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#8 Rupert

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 18:35

Back in the 70's, the industry had so many pilots coming back from SEA with 1500+ hours that the insurance companies and the USFS could easily mandate a 1500 hour minimum. In those days we flew poorly, even criminally-maintained aircraft that lacked the horsepower to weight ratio to safely do the job. It became an ironic badge of honor to fly worse machinery than the other pilots.

 

Then, in the early 80's, as EMS helicopter operations became more common, the accident rate increased and various agencies and organizations decided, without evidence, that upping the hour requirement would decrease the accident rate.

 

When I got my first EMS job, the hiring minimums required 3500 hours.

 

This did nothing to lower the accident rate.

 

Relevant aside: spokespersons for the FAA have said that the job of helicopter pilot has a 20-year apprenticeship. Given the machinery of the 1970's, and the trend to operate under-powered twins (under-powered to reduce fuel flow and operating costs), I agree. Alternatively, though, I see a trend towards powerful singles with simple auto-pilots, and I believe this trend will negate the need for a 20-year apprenticeship.

 

In my experience, character and good mental health count for more than the number of hours a pilot has.

 

I would happily hire a 500 hour pilot, if I had a machine with adequate power to weight for him to fly, along with clear SOP's and good supervision, meaning leadership. I see a lot of young men out there with good judgement and character, and, to me, they blossom (skill-wise) at about 500 hours.

 

Despite what some say, you can't teach decision-making and good judgement. Some guys have it at an early age; some grow into it; and some never get it. Character and judgement matter far more than hours.

 

That said, the industry requirements will slowly come down as necessary to fill seats. It would help if the helicopter manufacturers would build more aircraft along the lines of the Agusta Koala, with too much horsepower and a simple auto-pilot. The engine manufacturers have done their part, as we see the fuel to horsepower ratio coming down steadily.

 

Twin engines and two pilots work against safety.

 

Single BIG engine with a level-headed single pilot will someday rule the industry (except in Europe, where they persist in the dual-everything fallacy).

 

Eventually we'll see the EMS minimums drop in 500 hour increments to 500 hours. Employers will begin administering personality profile inventories and conducting psychological interviews, in place of hour requirements and interviews by other pilots.


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#9 Flying Pig

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 09:33

Employers will begin administering personality profile inventories and conducting psychological interviews, in place of hour requirements and interviews by other pilots.

 

Oh.... great.  I had a psych with a potential employer once that took an interesting turn.  The psychologist repeatedly asked me about my DUI and how it reflected on my level of personal responsibility.  

 

Me:"Ummmm..... Ive never been arrested or had a DUI sir."  

 

Doc:"Yes, you have, back in Germany when you were in the Army."  

 

Me:"I never went to Germany in the Army"

 

........  long pause....shuffle some papers......

 

Doc: "Hmmmm.... OK, I could have sworn I read about you being arrested when you were younger."

 

Me:"You know Ive been a cop full time for the past 16 years right?"

 

Doc:"You know.... I do 7-8 pre employment interviews a day.  Its pretty easy to get peoples pasts confused sometimes"  chuckle chuckle

 

Me:"Great, because I only do this once every 10-15 years and its a pretty big deal to me that you know who you are talking to."

 

Doc:" OK, if you claim you've never been arrested before Ill take your word for it for the purposes of this interview.  Lets move on then. But you know Ill find out of you are being untruthful."

 

In our extensive 17 minute interview (I timed it) he mentioned 7 times that he had a PhD in psychology.  The majority of my interview consisted if him trying to figure out of I was concealing an arrest.  Good job Perry Mason. 


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#10 Velocity173

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 11:46

Lol! He must have confused your paperwork with mine. I was wondering how I got my job.
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#11 McGavin

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 12:14

Thanks for the responses! I'm not sure I even want a HEMS job and was just curious regarding the market. Although the mission sounds entertaining, it seems like a lot of time building to take a lower paying job at a base that no one wants.

I would think that if HEMS can't fill the spots with 2000 hour pilots, they would need to lower the standards or make the job more attractive to the qualified pilots.

I agree with Rupert and I feel too much weight is put on flight hours alone. Not all flight time is created equal. It's the old adage. Do you have 1000 flight hours or 1 flight hour 1000 times? I don't see how following the helicopter in front through the Grand Canyon 1000 times would ever make me a better pilot. I also agree that there are some qualities that can not be taught.

#12 Wally

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 13:46

Back in the 70's, the industry had so many pilots coming back from SEA with 1500+ hours that the insurance companies and the USFS could easily mandate a 1500 hour minimum. In those days we flew poorly, even criminally-maintained aircraft that lacked the horsepower to weight ratio to safely do the job. It became an ironic badge of honor to fly worse machinery than the other pilots.

 

Then, in the early 80's, as EMS helicopter operations became more common, the accident rate increased and various agencies and organizations decided, without evidence, that upping the hour requirement would decrease the accident rate.

 

When I got my first EMS job, the hiring minimums required 3500 hours.

 

This did nothing to lower the accident rate.

 

Relevant aside: spokespersons for the FAA have said that the job of helicopter pilot has a 20-year apprenticeship. Given the machinery of the 1970's, and the trend to operate under-powered twins (under-powered to reduce fuel flow and operating costs), I agree. Alternatively, though, I see a trend towards powerful singles with simple auto-pilots, and I believe this trend will negate the need for a 20-year apprenticeship.

 

In my experience, character and good mental health count for more than the number of hours a pilot has.

 

I would happily hire a 500 hour pilot, if I had a machine with adequate power to weight for him to fly, along with clear SOP's and good supervision, meaning leadership. I see a lot of young men out there with good judgement and character, and, to me, they blossom (skill-wise) at about 500 hours.

 

Despite what some say, you can't teach decision-making and good judgement. Some guys have it at an early age; some grow into it; and some never get it. Character and judgement matter far more than hours.

 

That said, the industry requirements will slowly come down as necessary to fill seats. It would help if the helicopter manufacturers would build more aircraft along the lines of the Agusta Koala, with too much horsepower and a simple auto-pilot. The engine manufacturers have done their part, as we see the fuel to horsepower ratio coming down steadily.

 

Twin engines and two pilots work against safety.

 

Single BIG engine with a level-headed single pilot will someday rule the industry (except in Europe, where they persist in the dual-everything fallacy).

 

Eventually we'll see the EMS minimums drop in 500 hour increments to 500 hours. Employers will begin administering personality profile inventories and conducting psychological interviews, in place of hour requirements and interviews by other pilots.

 

There's a lot I agree with in this post, and a lot I violently disagree with.

 

I agree character and judgement are highly influential in safety.

 

I don't see EMS as ever being a 500 hour pilot job. Never, ever, ever! It's not a cultural, policy, equipment, or regulatory issue. It's the peculiar fact that the average pilot doesn't fly enough to build hours and acquire experience in the industry. One can't "try it" or "take a look", specifically, so much broader experience base is required to successfully operate single pilot HEMS.

 

Adequate training could build the skills that the 500 hour PIC needs. But "adequate training" is exactly the challenge that the industry as whole has failed miserably at. "Failed miserably" is the kindest expression....

 

I substantially agree that multi-engine and two pilots are a safety issue. Again, a training issue. An industry that can't put together effective single pilot, single engine VFR hasn't a chance with either.


Edited by Wally, 29 June 2013 - 13:51.

Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...


#13 Velocity173

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Posted 30 June 2013 - 13:18

Yeah gotta agree with Wally on the 500 hr min. No way any EMS company would reduce their requirements to 500 hrs. I honestly think the 2,000 hr min is just about right. While at 500 hrs I was a decent pilot, I was no where near as good at 2,000 hrs. Heck, at 4,000 hrs I'm better than I was at 2,000 hrs.

I disagree with the dual plot thing though. I'm sure most of us have read Randy Main's research in the dual pilot, twin eng, IFR platforms. Although I don't believe that would reduce accidents by 80 % like he says, there's no doubt it would reduce accidents. But, this isn't a perfect world and no company can afford that kind of investment. All we can really do is equip our SE aircraft with the latest technology and flown by an experienced pilot.

Strangely enough one of the primary reasons why I went with EMS is to do single pilot stuff. Call me crazy but I prefer to have all the responsibility of flying the aircraft on my shoulders. Did dual pilot for years and never want to go back. Also, I really couldn't imagine sitting around the base with another pilot right next to me.

#14 Wally

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Posted 30 June 2013 - 16:49

Two pilot crew, properly trained and managed is the safest possible configuration: IFR/VFR, single or multi-engine, day or night. It's an entirely different crew management paradigm that would complicate the issues of "3 to go" by magnitudes.

 

The military uses 2-pilot crew whenever possible, but they have eons of command tradition to clarify responsibility. Civilian operators use 2 pilot crews to great benefit, but the equation of med crew to 'cabin crew' would be an immediate management nightmare even if the dream of adequate two pilot crew training miraculously appeared.


Edited by Wally, 30 June 2013 - 16:50.

Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...


#15 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 15:35

A 2-pilot cockpit can be an interesting place.  If the chemistry is right, it's far safer than any single-pilot operation.  But if the chemistry is wrong, and the pilots really detest each other, it can become dangerous.  I've been in both types, and everything in between.  Flying with a pilot you like and trust makes things easy and fun, and much safer.  I've also flown with pilots I hated, and who probably hated me, and the second pilot may as well have not even been there.  Having two pilots is not a panacea, but I would take a second pilot over any other piece of equipment I can think of.  Having a second engine is usually better, but it can kill you.  I've known of it happening - engine fails, PNF pulls off the good engine, and it all goes to hell in a handbasket.  There is nothing guaranteed to make flying safer, but some things work better than others.  I'll take a second pilot over almost anything else, but that ain't gonna happen in EMS, or any other sector that flies aircraft with 9 or fewer passenger seats installed.  That's the break point for requiring a second pilot, from the FAA.


Best Regards,

Gomer

#16 Rupert

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 17:53

I've done some consulting work on this two pilot thing. Crap shoot. Statistically (if you ask the right questions) two-pilot and single-pilot operations wash out equal, with neither having an advantage.

 

I presently fly a sophisticated two-pilot operation, and the cockpit varies wildly depending on the mixture of personalities.

 

A large percentage of two-pilot accidents occur because of miscommunication between the two pilots. I don't mean CRM. I mean misunderstanding what the other pilot said and what he intends to do. Training does not reduce misunderstanding nor bad mental health. Two sets of bad habits or world views do not cancel each other.

 

Best combo, a single-pilot with a good autopilot.



#17 Rupert

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 18:06

Oh, and regarding flight experience:

 

Some years ago a wealthy group of hobby fixed-wing pilots asked me to research the feasibility of them buying and flying a helicopter, for recreation.

 

The insurance companies to whom I talked said they didn't mind insuring low time helicopter pilots as long as they flew helicopters with very high power to weight ratios.

 

Helicopter pilots get fairly competent at about 200 hours, and they get as good as they'll ever get, as a stick, at about 500 hours. They then lack only the weather and wind experience that comes with repeated operations under varying conditions.

 

If a helicopter pilot makes a bad decision, based on inexperience, an excess of horsepower will almost always get him out of trouble.

 

If a helicopter pilot makes a bad decision based on character, he will eventually kill himself regardless of horsepower.

 

TOO MUCH HORSE POWER (TMHP) allows vertical take offs under all conditions.

 

TMHP allows very slow approaches under more wind conditions, with fly-away-go-around ability from out of ground effect, over the trees, below translational lift.

 

TMHP allows some unforecast ice (not much, but some).

 

TMHP allows simple, vertical takeoffs from congested scenes.

 

Think about it, honestly, without defending your position or identity as a pilot.

 

Horsepower makes a huge difference.

 

I would like to see the Koala become "THE" EMS machine, because of its simplicity and horsepower.

 

I do a lot of Class D work (hoisting humans), and I know that as power becomes marginal, the skill and experience of the pilot become paramount.

 

Take the special skills out of it.

 

Horsepower.


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#18 SeahawkDriver-B2S

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 21:43

I got a question. Are HEMS considered part 135 carriers? Why do you only have to have a commercial rating to fly SPIFR/SPVFR for any of these HEMS companies when the industry standard across the board on the fixed-wing side is an ATP rating? Do HEMS operate under a different FAR?

#19 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 23:44

Yes, HEMS operates under Part 135.  Airlines operate under Part 121.  An ATP certificate is not required for pilots operating under Part 135, no matter what type wings the aircraft has, how large it is, or what type operations are being conducted.  An ATP will make you more competitive for being hired, but it's not necessary, or used, for operations under Part 135.  That's the same for fixed-wing and rotary-wing.


Best Regards,

Gomer

#20 Wally

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 08:02

I got a question. Are HEMS considered part 135 carriers? Why do you only have to have a commercial rating to fly SPIFR/SPVFR for any of these HEMS companies when the industry standard across the board on the fixed-wing side is an ATP rating? Do HEMS operate under a different FAR?

 

The commercial is the minimum and most common because HEMS operators want to fill the pilot seat easily and cheaply. As previously mentioned, the ATP is a positive point for an applicant. I would guess ATPs aren't abundant or have other career paths in mind when they planned for the rating, so they're not chasing HEMS slots. There are many days I wish I'd stayed with my GoM operator. I'd have 30+ years of seniority, probably "big ship" but certainly an IFR captain... (sigh) Kids are expensive.


Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...





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