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Helicopter or Fixed Wing?

flight training special issuance medical fixed wing helicopter airline pilot cost salary rotorcraft airplane

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#1 johnw2156

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 16:05

I am 16 years old, and I want to begin flight training. I originally wanted to be a fixed wing pilot, as they make significantly more money than helicopter pilots, at least at the airline level. However, I was only able to get the special issuance medical from the FAA. I have read that the major airlines only hire people with "unrestricted" medicals. If this is true, then I may never reach airline-level salaries anyway. In this case, the salary advantage of fixed wing may not apply to me, which is why I'm now considering rotor-craft training.

It is hard for me to say which one I prefer, as I have only been in one helicopter. I am more familiar with airplanes, and the training is a lot cheaper. However, because the training is more expensive, there are fewer helicopter pilots. This means it is probably easier to find a job, especially considering I have medical conditions. Helicopter airlines might be more lenient.

If it weren't for the medical conditions, I would just go for fixed-wing. I can't be sure that major airlines would hire me with this special issuance. It would be nice to have a definitive answer to this, as it's a tad risky to spend thousands on flight training to no avail. Even if they would hire me, it's probably a good idea to try and get the unrestricted medical. I'm not sure if I can, however. So, what should I do?
 

 



#2 SBuzzkill

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 11:47

It's a lot harder to find a rotary wing job than an airline job right now.



#3 r22butters

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 12:44

It's a lot harder to find a rotary wing job than an airline job right now.


Gee I don't know about that? I mean, I got my first job about six months ago, and if someone like me could find a job, then just how hard can it be?
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#4 avbug

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 14:58

You're very non-descript about your medical condition and the nature of your medical certificate, but rest assured that numerous airline pilots hold waivers on their medical.  It's not a matter of an "unrestricted" medical, but holding a first class medical.   

 

The airline pay will be considerably higher in the long run, but you'll starve for the first fifteen years of your career.  


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#5 helonorth

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 17:38

I would ask this question on an airplane forum rather than this one. I would also either call and/or visit several airplane flight schools and see what their opinion is. 

 

If you want to fly airplanes (this is a good decision, IMO) just go that route. I don't think you medical issue would be any easier to deal with in the helicopter world, anyway. Many pilots have restrictions on their medicals, but I don't think many started out that way. I could be wrong. Good luck.


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#6 adam32

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 17:48

What's a helicopter airline?

#7 johnw2156

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 18:23

You're very non-descript about your medical condition and the nature of your medical certificate, but rest assured that numerous airline pilots hold waivers on their medical.  It's not a matter of an "unrestricted" medical, but holding a first class medical.   

 

The airline pay will be considerably higher in the long run, but you'll starve for the first fifteen years of your career.  

Okay, these are the medical conditions:

Addison's disease - this is a chronic condition that I take medication for daily. As long as I take the medication, I am able to live a normal lifestyle.

Autoimmune Encephalitis - I have this diagnosis for some neuro-psychiatric symptoms I was exhibiting, including OCD (I'm pretty sure everybody has some OCD).
Currently I take daily medication, and I have received monthly IV infusions for the past few years. As the symptoms have continued to improve, I will be weening off the infusions. If I remain stable without the infusions, then I may ween off the daily meds, too. If I am still doing well, then I may ultimately be able to get rid of this diagnosis.

The letter I received from the FAA says that I am "ineligible for medical certification," but that I may be granted "Authorization for special issuance" for the 3rd class medical certificate. When the AME examined me, I tested at 20/20 vision, so shouldn't I be able to go all the way up to the 1st class medical?


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#8 johnw2156

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 18:32

I would ask this question on an airplane forum rather than this one. I would also either call and/or visit several airplane flight schools and see what their opinion is. 

 

If you want to fly airplanes (this is a good decision, IMO) just go that route. I don't think you medical issue would be any easier to deal with in the helicopter world, anyway. Many pilots have restrictions on their medicals, but I don't think many started out that way. I could be wrong. Good luck.

I already have asked this question on 3 airplane forums. I figured I would ask it here because the airplane websites are probably biased towards fixed wing.

 

The reason I thought the medical would be easier with helicopters is because helicopter operators aren't as well-known and established as the airlines. For example, Temsco Helicopters in Alaska is probably less stringent than United Airlines.


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#9 johnw2156

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 18:33

What's a helicopter airline?

Wikipedia has a list of them: https://en.wikipedia...copter_airlines


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#10 Wally

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 18:53

"The letter I received from the FAA says that I am "ineligible for medical certification," but that I may be granted "Authorization for special issuance" for the 3rd class medical certificate. When the AME examined me, I tested at 20/20 vision, so shouldn't I be able to go all the way up to the 1st class medical?"

First choice- you need to find a "senior"(?) AME and ask specific questions referencing your specific situation. The qualifications for an FAA medical are the same for each class, irrespective of fixed or rotary wing you fly professionally. A third class woth a waiver is useless. IF the FAA has already declined to issue the minimum 2nd class required to fly commercially, that is on record and must be addressed. That requires expertise, time and you will pay for it, money well spent. There are issues that can't be overcome with medical qualifications issues that seem to have very little relationship to the real world...

2nd choice- join AOPA and access their medical cerification database. You might find that others have faced this issue.

Edited by Wally, 03 November 2016 - 18:56.

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


#11 johnw2156

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 19:01

"The letter I received from the FAA says that I am "ineligible for medical certification," but that I may be granted "Authorization for special issuance" for the 3rd class medical certificate. When the AME examined me, I tested at 20/20 vision, so shouldn't I be able to go all the way up to the 1st class medical?"

First choice- you need to find a "senior"(?) AME and ask specific questions referencing your specific situation. The qualifications for an FAA medical are the same for each class, irrespective of fixed or rotary wing you fly professionally. A third class woth a waiver is useless. IF the FAA has already declined to issue the minimum 2nd class required to fly commercially, that is on record and must be addressed. That requires expertise, time and you will pay for it, money well spent. There are issues that can't be overcome with medical qualifications issues that seem to have very little relationship to the real world...

2nd choice- join AOPA and access their medical cerification database. You might find that others have faced this issue.

How is a 3rd class medical w/ a waiver useless? I can get my PPL, Instrument rating and more with it. It's much better than that Sport license. I haven't attempted to get the 2nd class yet, but I don't know why I couldn't because it just bumps up the vision requirements.


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#12 helonorth

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 20:24

 

 

If it weren't for the medical conditions, I would just go for fixed-wing. I can't be sure that major airlines would hire me with this special issuance. It would be nice to have a definitive answer to this, as it's a tad risky to spend thousands on flight training to no avail. Even if they would hire me, it's probably a good idea to try and get the unrestricted medical. I'm not sure if I can, however. So, what should I do?

 

 

 

 

Okay, now I'm confused. You have a question about flying for the airlines but say those sites are "biased" towards airplanes so you decided to ask on a helicopter forum? I would hope they would be "biased" towards airplanes. What did they tell you?

 

As far as the medical, I would get some advice from an AME that deals with airline pilots and find out if you should proceed or scrap the whole idea. Gambling your future on hoping a diagnosed gets removed is a risk I wouldn't take. Nobody on here can answer your questions. 



#13 adam32

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 20:41

Wikipedia has a list of them: https://en.wikipedia...copter_airlines


Craziness

#14 avbug

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 01:49

Okay, these are the medical conditions:

Addison's disease - this is a chronic condition that I take medication for daily. As long as I take the medication, I am able to live a normal lifestyle.

Autoimmune Encephalitis - I have this diagnosis for some neuro-psychiatric symptoms I was exhibiting, including OCD (I'm pretty sure everybody has some OCD).
Currently I take daily medication, and I have received monthly IV infusions for the past few years. As the symptoms have continued to improve, I will be weening off the infusions. If I remain stable without the infusions, then I may ween off the daily meds, too. If I am still doing well, then I may ultimately be able to get rid of this diagnosis.

The letter I received from the FAA says that I am "ineligible for medical certification," but that I may be granted "Authorization for special issuance" for the 3rd class medical certificate. When the AME examined me, I tested at 20/20 vision, so shouldn't I be able to go all the way up to the 1st class medical?

 

 

I wasn't really looking for your confidential medical information, but rather the nature of your FAA medical certification.  

 

You've received notice from the FAA stating that you may be grated special issuance for a third class medical certificate.  Your vision is irrelevant in this case, as that's not the limiting factor.  If you have a medical condition which has restricted you to third class, having good vision won't make that go away and get you a first class.

 

Vision is only one part of the medical certification criteria.  Given that Addisons can cause loss of consciousness, and a separate diagnosis of psychiatric symptoms, it's no surprise that the FAA has notified you that you're inelligible for medical certification.  

 

It sounds like you have some possibility of reaching a point where no medication is necessary, and once you've been free of medication (and symptoms) for an adequate period, you may be able to pursue a medical.  Don't make the mistake of thinking it's simply an eyesight requirement.  It's not.

 

 

How is a 3rd class medical w/ a waiver useless? I can get my PPL, Instrument rating and more with it. It's much better than that Sport license. I haven't attempted to get the 2nd class yet, but I don't know why I couldn't because it just bumps up the vision requirements.

 

 

A third class medical is useless for commercial operations when flying for compensation or hire.  

 

 

The reason I thought the medical would be easier with helicopters is because helicopter operators aren't as well-known and established as the airlines. For example, Temsco Helicopters in Alaska is probably less stringent than United Airlines.

 

 

United Airlines doesn't set the medical requirement.   The FAA does that, as well as establishing the standards and issuing the certificate.  To fly for United Airlines one requires an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and a first class medical.

 

Temsco is not a Part 121 operation and does not require an ATP pilot certificate.  The first class medical is only necessary when using the ATP privileges; if one is using only a commercial, then one needs a second class medical.  

 

A third class is adequate for private pilot operations, but you can't fly for compensation or hire as a private pilot.


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#15 Ares_83x

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 06:39

I believe this is what it comes down to: The paying jobs in f/w or helicopter all require a 2nd class medical. Right now from what you've said it doesn't look like you currently qualify. Helicopter training cost between $70-100K. First are you able to spend that type of money right now? Then if you go through your training and the FAA will not allow you to receive a 2nd class medical will you be able to get by after spending the money on training and not being employed?

 

I'm not trying to sound harsh, but that is the reality of flying. If you have tons of money and its not a problem then great, go for it. Otherwise, I don't think it would be financially prudent.


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#16 johnw2156

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 10:42

 

Okay, now I'm confused. You have a question about flying for the airlines but say those sites are "biased" towards airplanes so you decided to ask on a helicopter forum? I would hope they would be "biased" towards airplanes. What did they tell you?

 

As far as the medical, I would get some advice from an AME that deals with airline pilots and find out if you should proceed or scrap the whole idea. Gambling your future on hoping a diagnosed gets removed is a risk I wouldn't take. Nobody on here can answer your questions. 

My question is whether I should go helicopter or fixed wing. The airplane websites said that I should go fixed wing, because there are very few helicopter jobs available right now. Of course they are going to be biased towards fixed wing, so I asked the same question here to verify that there indeed few jobs available.


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#17 johnw2156

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 10:56

 

 

I wasn't really looking for your confidential medical information, but rather the nature of your FAA medical certification.  

 

You've received notice from the FAA stating that you may be grated special issuance for a third class medical certificate.  Your vision is irrelevant in this case, as that's not the limiting factor.  If you have a medical condition which has restricted you to third class, having good vision won't make that go away and get you a first class.

 

Vision is only one part of the medical certification criteria.  Given that Addisons can cause loss of consciousness, and a separate diagnosis of psychiatric symptoms, it's no surprise that the FAA has notified you that you're inelligible for medical certification.  

 

It sounds like you have some possibility of reaching a point where no medication is necessary, and once you've been free of medication (and symptoms) for an adequate period, you may be able to pursue a medical.  Don't make the mistake of thinking it's simply an eyesight requirement.  It's not.

 

 

 

 

A third class medical is useless for commercial operations when flying for compensation or hire.  

 

 

 

 

United Airlines doesn't set the medical requirement.   The FAA does that, as well as establishing the standards and issuing the certificate.  To fly for United Airlines one requires an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and a first class medical.

 

Temsco is not a Part 121 operation and does not require an ATP pilot certificate.  The first class medical is only necessary when using the ATP privileges; if one is using only a commercial, then one needs a second class medical.  

 

A third class is adequate for private pilot operations, but you can't fly for compensation or hire as a private pilot.

I don't know if the medical conditions will restrict me to the 3rd class. I thought getting the third class was the biggest hurdle. According to this article, for the second class medical, (https://en.wikipedia...es#Second_class) pilots must must meet the requirements for the third class certificate plus:

  • Distant vision: 20/20 or better in each eye separately, with or without correction
  • Intermediate vision: 20/40 or better in each eye separately, with or without correction, at age 50 and over, as measured at 32 inches

I already met the requirements for the third, so now I just need to meet the increased vision requirements of the second class. Unless they are some hidden additional requirements of the second and first class medicals.

 

I have never lost consciousness due to the Addison's. As long as I take the meds, I live a normal lifestyle. The Addison's is likely a lifelong condition, but I might be able to get the Autoimmune diagnosis removed.



#18 johnw2156

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 11:01

I believe this is what it comes down to: The paying jobs in f/w or helicopter all require a 2nd class medical. Right now from what you've said it doesn't look like you currently qualify. Helicopter training cost between $70-100K. First are you able to spend that type of money right now? Then if you go through your training and the FAA will not allow you to receive a 2nd class medical will you be able to get by after spending the money on training and not being employed?

 

I'm not trying to sound harsh, but that is the reality of flying. If you have tons of money and its not a problem then great, go for it. Otherwise, I don't think it would be financially prudent.

Well, I qualified for the third class medical. I haven't attempted to get the second class yet. Obviously I'm not going to spend 100K BEFORE seeing if I qualify for the second class. I would not pay for anything more than the PPL without knowing whether I could get the 2nd class.



#19 r22butters

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 11:43

...so I asked the same question here to verify that there indeed few jobs available.

Well according to HAI there is an "ever worsening looming pilot shortage"! They write about it about every two years or so.

,...then again I heard the airlines were also crying out pilot shortage, so...?
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#20 Nearly Retired

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 15:06

Anybody who plans on getting into aviation as a career and the first question they ask is about money... I suggest they find another career. If it's not about the flying *first*, you're going to be disappointed.
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