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helicopter career comments


skeletor
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So I was looking for some comments from people that fly or instruct.

 

I'm currently 28, work in IT and make an average salary. I got my PP fixed wing license 2 years ago and only fly maybe an hour a month. I've taken 2 lessons in an R22 and loved it.

 

Recently I've been thinking about a career in helicopters. Now would be the time to do it if ever. So my plan is to save up for another year, and then take out a "small" loan and attend a flight school that would put me through their professional pilot program to become a CFI. Instruct for a year or 2 and then, GOM or tours? I'd be prepared for a cut in pay for a few years, being transient, etc.

 

What I would be worried about is job availability. The recent post about 100 applications for a CFI opening sounds depressing. The economy isn't going that well, and if troops pull out of the mid east, there will probably be a surplus of highly trained pilots.

 

So I guess my question is - if I go to flight school (I'll have to move), should I be taking a full time/part time job first and taking lessons on my spare time? I'm hoping the school would hire me to be a CFI, but if they don't, is it very difficult to get an instructing job somewhere else? Is there anything I should be keeping in mind if I go this route?

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It sounds like you have a good idea of what's going on already. If you want a CFI job for sure, make sure you go to a school that would be able to deliver on the "hire all CFI's promise." They need to have the business to get instructors to 1000 quickly and get them out the door to make room for the next guy. Also, make sure your personality fits at the school. If you are constantly butting heads with everyone they will be less likely to hire you.

 

I worked for Quantum in AZ and they are very good about hiring their CFI's, they will also be the first to tell you that they can't guarantee they will be able to hire you. That said, during my time there we hired about 4 or 5 instructors from either Hillsboro or Bristow because they were full and we needed more CFI's. A search through the forums would probably give you similar details about other institutions.

 

As for working, I worked full time while going to school because I didn't want to finance my living expenses. It all depends on how you want to train. Having already gone through the process of getting a license you know what to expect from an instructor and from yourself. If you feel you'll get more from a full time course, that may be the best option, or you may just get burned out.

 

Z

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I think every perspective pilot asks these questions, I know I did and here's my two cents -

 

you either want to be a helicopter pilot or you don't.

 

duh, I know you know that but now its a matter of just doing it.

 

Quote from Sir William Osler " Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand. "

 

In other words.... play the poker hand and let the chips fall where they may. There are no guarentees in life.

 

Good luck, Jeff.

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Sounds like a pretty good laid out plan to me. Granted I only have PPL Helicopter and the instrument rating in a month or two. If you have a school local, you may consider keeping your job, and flying part-time, this would allow you to start now and not have to wait a year, and still have a job if there was ever an emergency or decided it was not for you.

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You've heard the phrase "don't quit your day job" many, many times in your life and it holds true in aviation BIG TIME.

 

Keep a part time or full [flex] time job while flight training. You are not going to be going to ground school or flying 8-10 hrs a day, seven days a week. Also, weather happens, unscheduled maintenance happens, instructors get sick or go on vacation, etc.

 

An afternoon/evening job works great. Go to flight school in the morning from 8AM-2PM. You'll get two flights in, with 2-3 hr break in the middle to do some ground school, take practice tests on the computer, etc. On rain days, go in do nothing but ground stuff with other students or help-out with scheduled maintenance. Then 2 days a week you'll have all day for long cross-countries, night flights, or catch up on a day that you got rained out on.

 

If you try to work mornings, you'll get to school tired or have problems getting in enough time before it gets dark (in the winter.) I instructed for about 5 years, and the guys who flew in the mornings were a lot more consistant and finished faster. The afternoon/evening students had to cancel more because they got tied up at work or had to get home because of family issues. Same went for us, if something broke during the day, weather delayed something, [unfortunately] it was always the last guy on the schedule who got screwed.

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If you try to work mornings, you'll get to school tired or have problems getting in enough time before it gets dark (in the winter.) I instructed for about 5 years, and the guys who flew in the mornings were a lot more consistant and finished faster. The afternoon/evening students had to cancel more because they got tied up at work or had to get home because of family issues. Same went for us, if something broke during the day, weather delayed something, [unfortunately] it was always the last guy on the schedule who got screwed.

 

Not always. I tried to do all my training early in the morning. Unfortunately, I go weathered out much more than the afternoon people. Fog. I did all training part time. It took me two years to get through my Commercial, Instrument, CFI and CFII. I could have done it a little faster. Of course they were all add-ons. It is nice being able to do this training without any loans.

 

As for the industry out look. There are not that many military helicopter pilots out there. Not like Viet Nam. They are not punching them out like a factory cookie maker. Plus these pilots have longer term commitments now. Add in that fact that almost all of the Viet Nam era pilots are in their late 50's to early 60's. And the helicopter manufacturer's are sold out of the next three years production. I don't believe that you will see the job market anywhere near as bad as the mid 1970's were. I entered the aviation job market then and spent over 2 years as a CFI.

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Great topic guys, as new pilot just starting training it is good to hear real world advice instead of blanket statements. I think that most schools have been trying to fast track students in 7-9 months, I have resisted that pressure and kept my day job and look forward to my first flights coming up soon. Thanks!

 

JK

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I worked full time the entire time I was at school, I wish I hadn't. If you can afford to just take the entire time off and live frugally, then do so! I would rather have been able to do nothing but fly, I know I would have finished alot faster. Especially if you work in a part of the IT field that you can pick your own working conditions (like say... your a contractor). Then if you have to you can cut back on school and go back to work.

 

Otherwise work a 4/10 schedual or something like that and go to school when your not working, if you try to combine the two you'll suffer at both since you'll either be exhauseted at work due to the brain power invovled in training, or suffer at school from lack of study and preperation.

 

just m.02, YMMV

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Well, I agree with Delorean. I powered through my PPL, to the best of my financial abilities. That's where you really develop your habits. Don't quit your day job, but if your schedule is flexible enough to allow you to fly when the weather is good, I'd do that. But flying when the wx is good can vary depending on the location of your school, and the sad fact is unless you ask, your school probably won't tell you things like "Well, here in South Louisiana, summer afternoons are bad because of the small t-storms that develop in the gulf until late Sept, Oct, and then you have fog in the mornings with very breezy afternoons" or whatever your case may be.

 

This is part of the research I really hope you're doing as a wanna-be, no offense. Just bear in mind, like has been said: Weather happens. Unscheduled maintenance happens, money happens, CFI's happen. Once you line up the money and clear your schedule, the fates will generally conspire against you. A buddy in the Marine Corps gave me two words to think of when this happens: Semper Gumby; Always Flexible.

 

Bear that in mind at all times. Good luck!

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Thanks for all the responses guys. It's very interesting to hear the different paths people took to start their career.

 

When I first got my fixed-wing private I was working a 3-11 job and was able to train in the mornings twice a week. I ended up moving and taking a different job with 9-5 hours and then it took me a lot longer to finish out the rest of my license. I've always thought I'd continue taking lessons to get my IFR and possibly commercial, but it's a financial drain and requires a lot of dedication. And 2 years later I have neither. So thats when I thought if I was going to do it, it might be worth it just to make a career out of it.

 

I thought a flight school would be a good choice because I would be immersed in aviation from start to finish and I'd have a potential employer immediately. It would be great to get a helicopter add-on now but I figure it will be better to do it all at once and not drag it out over a longer period of time. I will continue to do my research and explore my options.

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