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Career paths and flight time


Parafiddle
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I'm curious about how much flight time a pilot gets in the different career paths (EMS, ENG, tours, etc.). Can anyone give me some average numbers? I completely understand that it can vary by what you fly, where you fly, etc. An answer to a previous message I posted mentioned that EMS could vary between 5 and 30 hrs. per month. What about instructing, tours, ENG, etc. I am looking at this from a career planning perspective (several years out). I just want to fly, especially after spending all that money on training. I also realize that some of the high flight time jobs require lots of hours to get. Mainly I'm looking at finding a good balance between flying regularly but not putting myself at undue risk. I've lived long enough to know that I want to live a lot longer, and just because I can get multiple thousand hours flying ag at crop-level doesn't mean it is a good risk/benefit ratio for me. Additionally, it would be a follow-on career after retiring from the military, so making a lot of money is a secondary consideration.

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As a flight instructor I averaged about 80 hours a month. 100 hours a month wasn't uncommon. 6 days a week, up to 6 2 hour blocks a day.

 

I've actually done 8 hours of flight instruction in a 24 hour period, once. Night cross country the night before with an early morning stage check.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Part of the reason I asked about how much people are flying in different types of jobs is to use it as a measure of the difficulty of maintaining currency, not just for the FAA, but more importantly by personal "I'm safe to fly" currency level. I realize this level will change based on weather, mission, my own experience, etc. In a different thread that was discussing flight altitudes, BOATFIXERGUY posted the following:

 

"As far as the ems CFIT problem... let's see... Just my 2 cents: most EMS pilots are lucky if they fly 2 hours a week (unless on a patient transfer/taxi route), then they make you fly at night, poor viz, poor weather, into a hazardous condition and all while the skills just aren't as sharp as they used to be. A recipe for disaster. I know several EMS drivers that fly only 4 hours a month. I'm lucky that I get a ton of time in the gulf. But I'll tell you, on the first day of the hitch after 14 days off, I'm not as sharp as the last day of my hitch. Anyone that says they are is fooling themselves. An EMS guy that gets woke up at 3 am and hasn't flown in a month is not going to be on his/her best game."

 

BOATFIXERGUY - I I uhope you don't mind that I copied your response to another thread.

 

ALL - Please realize I'm am in no way trying to point a finger at the EMS industry. I AM trying to generate some discussion on how to maintain currency to stay SAFE. Some jobs will have you flying every day so currency isn't a problem. However, what about a job that you fly infrequently? I am not a helo pilot yet, but have over 240 hrs. FW and I can definitely tell when I haven't been flying enough. AOPA's flying magazine had a good article some months ago about how to keep "current" when you have a limited amount of time to fly due to job, money, etc.

 

Any thoughts/suggestions on how to do it? It is obviously easier if you fly for recreation as you can take the aircraft up when you feel the need (and it is much cheaper to do so in a FW). What about in an RW. I'm assuming the boss isn't going to let you just go fly because you "feel" like you need to polish up on some skills.

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There's a good reason EMS companies require a lot of flight time. You have to be able to fly to unprepared LZs in the middle of the night, without having flown a lot recently, and be absolutely on top of your game all the time. I probably average 3 or 4 flights per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I can do this because I've been doing it for 40 years, and a lot of it is done with muscle memory built up over the years. The rest is done from the experience of almost having killed myself and learning from that. Young and inexperienced pilots are dangerous in this industry, both to themselves and to the med crews and patients. Even very experienced pilots buy the farm far too often. Build flight time somewhere else, and switch to EMS when you get near retirement. The GOM is a good place to build time quickly, or at least it used to be. I haven't been there for awhile.

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There's a good reason EMS companies require a lot of flight time. You have to be able to fly to unprepared LZs in the middle of the night, without having flown a lot recently, and be absolutely on top of your game all the time. I probably average 3 or 4 flights per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I can do this because I've been doing it for 40 years, and a lot of it is done with muscle memory built up over the years. The rest is done from the experience of almost having killed myself and learning from that. Young and inexperienced pilots are dangerous in this industry, both to themselves and to the med crews and patients. Even very experienced pilots buy the farm far too often. Build flight time somewhere else, and switch to EMS when you get near retirement. The GOM is a good place to build time quickly, or at least it used to be. I haven't been there for awhile.

 

Great post. Gomer is exactly right.

 

I will put myself up as an example on this one. I have enough time for EMS and have had some offers... I do not think I have the experience that is required now as of yet to be on top of my game with little flying over a month or so and into a dangerous call out like Gomer states. I will stay and learn.

 

They (EMS) have lowered the requirements down and down to get pilots. Not always a good thing.

 

I've been flying helicopters since 1998 (airplanes since 1985). Not a lot of years like so many of my role models have. Here's an experience problem I see: I see many young pilots in the gulf that have maybe 2 years flying total and after just 6 - 9 months in the GOM, they are at the 2,000 hour mark. They are all ready to go and jump into the EMS field as some sort of status trophy for their ego. Ya, ya... being closer to home is good also. But, I tell them, "Why? Get some more experience here. Its not just hours that equals experience. You're not going to get much flying ems."

 

What's fun to watch is that on every hitch, I see these same young pilots get better overall at flying. And when I say flying, I'm talking about the entire picture: ADM, attitude, confidence, and skill level.

 

Hours in the GOM? I'd say on average 40 - 100 hours a hitch. Depends on the contract, weather, etc.

 

And to Parafiddle, no problem with the copy. It keeps these topics interesting with good debate!

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Great post. Gomer is exactly right.

 

I will put myself up as an example on this one. I have enough time for EMS and have had some offers... I do not think I have the experience that is required now as of yet to be on top of my game with little flying over a month or so and into a dangerous call out like Gomer states. I will stay and learn.

 

They (EMS) have lowered the requirements down and down to get pilots. Not always a good thing.

 

I've been flying helicopters since 1998 (airplanes since 1985). Not a lot of years like so many of my role models have. Here's an experience problem I see: I see many young pilots in the gulf that have maybe 2 years flying total and after just 6 - 9 months in the GOM, they are at the 2,000 hour mark. They are all ready to go and jump into the EMS field as some sort of status trophy for their ego. Ya, ya... being closer to home is good also. But, I tell them, "Why? Get some more experience here. Its not just hours that equals experience. You're not going to get much flying ems."

 

What's fun to watch is that on every hitch, I see these same young pilots get better overall at flying. And when I say flying, I'm talking about the entire picture: ADM, attitude, confidence, and skill level.

 

Hours in the GOM? I'd say on average 40 - 100 hours a hitch. Depends on the contract, weather, etc.

 

And to Parafiddle, no problem with the copy. It keeps these topics interesting with good debate!

 

 

Is that 40-100 hours per hitch working a 14/14 rotation? Do you mind if I ask what company you work for down there?

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Is that 40-100 hours per hitch working a 14/14 rotation? Do you mind if I ask what company you work for down there?

 

Yes. and RLC.

 

My contract averages 56 hours. I carry the same guys everyday. Platform maintenance. The Apache contract guys usually come in around 100 doing field crew movements and changes.

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Gomer Pylot,

Thanks very much for the info/insight. It was EXACTLY the type of info I was looking for. I am still a very low time pilot (FW only), but have lived long enough to learn a few things in life. As BOATFIXERGUY mentioned, I have wondered about the EMS route but have started to think that I don't want to do it to soon (if at all) in my career regardless of the hourly requirements because of the reduced opportunities to stay current/proficient as well as the increased risk (night, confined off-field landing, minimal sleep, weather, etc.). I want to fly, but I don't want to put myself at excessive risk to do it. Before a bunch EMS pilots jump on me about how training offsets risk, etc., some lines of work entail more risk by nature than others. Earlier in my military career, I jumped out of perfectly good airplanes. I loved it and tried to never miss an opportunity to do it. The inherent risk was offset by strict adherence to proper procedures (just like in flying). However, over the years I have met many people that were seriously injured doing the same thing. My current assignment has taken me off of jump status, and while I miss the camaraderie and prestige of being a paratrooper, I don't necessarily miss the risk to life and limb. At my current age (early 40's), I've come to realize that life is both short and precious, and I want to do everything in my power to both prolong it as well as safeguard it while still pursuing the activities that make life worth living (like flying). Sorry for the ramblings. Late night on a deployment with too little sleep for too long. Thanks all again for the great discussion.

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I once jumped out of perfectly good (and a few not so good) airplanes. I enjoyed my time in the 82d Airborne, but I discovered that there were better ways to have fun. I went directly from there to flight school, and didn't have a single paycheck without incentive pay. Back then none of those was safe, but being young and stupid (redundant, I know) I didn't care. If you're young, having bullets whiz by you can be exhilarating, but the novelty soon wears off. Now I'm looking for ways to be safe and stay in one piece.

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I once jumped out of perfectly good (and a few not so good) airplanes. I enjoyed my time in the 82d Airborne, but I discovered that there were better ways to have fun. I went directly from there to flight school, and didn't have a single paycheck without incentive pay. Back then none of those was safe, but being young and stupid (redundant, I know) I didn't care. If you're young, having bullets whiz by you can be exhilarating, but the novelty soon wears off. Now I'm looking for ways to be safe and stay in one piece.

 

 

My body seems to be falling apart by itself... I don't figure it needs my help!

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