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Vietnam Pilots retiring


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I'm embarrssed to say that I have been wanting to go to Heli school for a long time. Like almost 10 years now but "I-must-not-finance". Anyway, back in the day(10 years ago:)) schools like to say that Vietnam era Pilots will be retiring so Helicopters pilots will be in big demand. Trust me, I'm skeptical of anything that someone says who can get my money. But, I find that some schools are still saying that. So, I decided to do a little math. I believe I'm pretty close when I say Vietnam was from about 1966 to 1975. I can't be too far off. I would say most pilots were about 19-22 years old. Lets average it to 20. So, if they were 20 in 1966 that would make them about 62 years old. Still able to fly but soon to retire. If they were 21 in say 1973 then they would be about 55 with plenty of more time before retirement. So, in reality the statement that Vietnam era pilots are close to retiring is true. Now, my next question is how many Vietnam era pilots are still flying. A whole bunch? I kinda doubt it. I mean, after Vietnam, how many civilian helo jobs were there to be had? I'm thinking that there were more pilots than jobs at that time. Maybe I'm wrong. Plus, I have read many, many books authored by Vietnam Helicopter Piots and many of the authors after the service did not countinue flying Helos. Hmmm. Does anyone have any insight to add to this?

I know this, when its time for me to go to school I'm not going to worry about the job market. It may take a while to find that "job" but by not having loans I will be able to be patient. Besides, who can say for sure when that "perfect time" is?

Matt

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I'm an EMSer and Vietnam era Army. Half the pilots at my base are also Vietnam vets, that's down from 100% 4 years ago.

I might have 5-10 more years of work in me- when this recession gets done with my investments, I'll probably need them- but the clock doesn't stop for anybody. It won't be instantaneous, but we are leaving the fleet, and there are/were a lot of us.

Luck is being in the right place, at the right time, with the ability to exploit an opportunity.

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Hey Wally, thanks for the reply. I also forgot to mention how much I respect you guys. After reading those books it just blows me away what you (those) pilots had to face. Sometimes just reading the books are so intense I have to put it down and try to comprehend what those guys must have felt. You don't just read those books...you feel them!

Matt

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I hate to rain on the parade of flight schools using the Vietnam-Era excuse, BUT

 

NOW YOU HAVE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ALL OF THE PILOTS THAT ARE RETURNING FROM IRAQ AN AFGHANISTAN!!!

 

Right now there is a SURPLUS of pilots with low experience levels.

 

And operators are raising minimums.

 

 

But, if you want it you can get it!

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It's interesting that many people seem to need that "reassurance", be it real or not, of all those Vietnam pilots retiring. For some, I guess it makes them more comfortable spending the money on flight training. No-one wants to spend a bunch of money training for a career that is predicted to be declining in demand, however most people also don't seem to need the assurance of a predicted massive INCREASE in demand before they elect to pursue their career choice. I don't hear about droves of Vietnam era accountants retiring though, and yet people out there are still signing up for accounting classes!

 

I think if you are justifying your decision to undertake flight training by the argument that there will be a pilot shortage due to Vietnam era pilots retiring, you are quite possibly going to be disappointed. There seems to be some truth to it, although it seems to have been exaggerated.

 

There will always be openings due to people changing careers, moving cities, and various other personal reasons - this is just as true in aviation as it is with any career. The number of openings will fluctuate according to the state of the economy among other things, but I doubt that there will be the disproportionate (and extreme) demand that has been advertised by just about every flight school.

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You know, my problem with the Vietnam strategy isn't that it's not true. I'm sure that most of those guys who still fly are really looking hard at retirement soon. But it's not like ALL the helicopter pilots from, say, 1975 on are Vietnam guys. There's not going to be some critical point where all the high payers, the utility, the longline guys, the corporate guys, the EMS gigs are going to run around begging for applications. The only shortage is on the back end of the curve, as I understand it. Guys with 8,000 plus hours who have been there and done that. People like you and I, on the wrong end of that curve, will most likely be fighting tooth and nail over the first two or three jobs. More than anything else, that's what I've learned in my first year flying.

 

I've seen places where competition wouldn't even begin to describe the fight to get a CFI slot. And the people that don't get that first job, in my experience (I know about 20 who may never get one) are SOL. They lose their currency, they lose their proficiency, they go to work at Best Buy and walk away from it. My personal thought is don't worry about those "magic 1000 hour jobs". They'll be there for the ones that make it. Worry about that 200 hour job. That's the one that will make or break you.

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I hate to rain on the parade of flight schools using the Vietnam-Era excuse, BUT

 

NOW YOU HAVE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ALL OF THE PILOTS THAT ARE RETURNING FROM IRAQ AN AFGHANISTAN!!!

 

 

Not sure I agree with that statement. Our armed forces seem to be much more pro-active to keep pilots re-signing. Perhaps Chad or someone really close to the field could chime in.

 

Vietnam was a huge rush out in the end. For those old enough to remember, Huey's were being pushed off the side of ships to make more room for both troops and refugees. I really dont see that large of a pull out under any administration today.

 

Now I feel old...thanks,

 

Goldy

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I agree with Heli.Pilot,

I feel a little insulted when schools use that "line". There are so many other factors involved that having Vietnam Pilots retiring isn't going to be the main issue. People are always quiting, changing jobs, taking different positions, losing flight medicals...being fired..that I think the key is being proactive towards getting a job. When I finally do go to school I will plan on being unemployed after my my 200hrs and plan on "knocking on doors" for my 1st instruction job. If I'm hired on at the place where I was instructed so much the better but I want a "worse comes to worse" plan also. Plus, I want to have some money set asside for traveling. I want to be able to go at a moments notice to a job interview and/or relocate. In way for me its almost fun the not knowing part. I just don't want to run out of money...but then again..who does?

Hmm, I got away from the topic a little bit but I think we can all agree that retiring Vietnam Pilots is not a line we should put too much faith in.

Since I am here in Iraq I may try to talk to several of the Helo pilots and see what their plans are. With the way the economy is I might think many may "re-up" instead of going civilian just yet. Time will tell.

Matt

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$.02 incoming

 

Where I work All of our pilots are Vietnam vets. Out of 6, one had medical complications with surgery, and 2 retired this year. The other 3 are 58,59 and 60. We are all DAC's and our sister units have all Vietnam era pilots also.

About Iraq and Afghanistan, I don't think the military is cranking out nearly as many pilots as they did during Vietnam. I just sent a job announcement to an old friend of mine still on active duty, he said he would love to apply for the job but with the economy the way it is he was going to stay in.

Not saying this is the case all over, but the DAC pilots I know are ALL Vietnam Vets and majority of EMS pilots around here are also. I wouldn't base my training solely relying on this fact but who knows, with lack of civilian pilot funding and Vietnam pilots retiring....every little bit helps.

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Hey Wally, thanks for the reply. I also forgot to mention how much I respect you guys. After reading those books it just blows me away what you (those) pilots had to face. Sometimes just reading the books are so intense I have to put it down and try to comprehend what those guys must have felt. You don't just read those books...you feel them!

Matt

 

Books are written to sell. Not doubting anybody's word or work, just saying take that fact into account. My experience in Vietnam was that it was a lot of very, very hard work, which isn't very exciting reading.

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This is good stuff. I'm glad I brought this up(for me anyway). Darkhorse- I'm reading a book right now called Low Level Hell by Hugh Mills. He talks about Darkhorse..and Blackhorse. He flew for the "Big Red One" flying Scouts. Good reading!

Question for the guys that were Vietnam Pilots: You have obviously been flying for a long time. Maybe a long, long time:). Anyway, how do you feel about flying now. Do you feel like your ready to be done or do you still feel a certain amount of excitment when you get called out. I know some older pilots seem unhappy and they don't have much positive to say but I'm curious about other pilots that have been flying a long time.

For example. Even though I drove 18 wheelers for 11 years I still felt a certain amount of excitment when it was time to hit the road. It never really felt like it was a "job". I guess that means I really enjoyed it.

Matt

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Ok, I'm not who you are targeting in the question, but since I work with them and have asked the same questions this is what they say;

Only one of them really enjoys flying still. The others say that flying is better than working for a living. They "like" flying but none of them get their skirt blown up very easy these days. They prefer flying to sitting in the office for extended periods but they don't like flying "too" much. They all have between 10.5k and 14.5k hours.

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This is good stuff. I'm glad I brought this up(for me anyway). Darkhorse- I'm reading a book right now called Low Level Hell by Hugh Mills. He talks about Darkhorse..and Blackhorse. He flew for the "Big Red One" flying Scouts. Good reading!

Question for the guys that were Vietnam Pilots: You have obviously been flying for a long time. Maybe a long, long time:). Anyway, how do you feel about flying now. Do you feel like your ready to be done or do you still feel a certain amount of excitment when you get called out. I know some older pilots seem unhappy and they don't have much positive to say but I'm curious about other pilots that have been flying a long time.

For example. Even though I drove 18 wheelers for 11 years I still felt a certain amount of excitment when it was time to hit the road. It never really felt like it was a "job". I guess that means I really enjoyed it.

Matt

 

The only reason I'm still doing it is because I LIKE IT!!!, a lot. I still step outside when I hear a helo coming... Yes, there are situations where I wonder why a grown-up who can do other things is still doing this after 40 years. Those situations are the exceptions.

It is a profession that I take very seriously from sign in until sign out.

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The average age of pilots at PHI is about 48 years old...

 

A large number of those pilots is from that era...

 

In my experience, there is a huge empty gap between the 10K hour pilots and the 3K hour pilots... I know very few 7K hour pilots...

 

None of this will help you get a job if you can't get along with others, can't network, don't know how to be a professional, and do not work hard...

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  • 3 weeks later...
This is good stuff. I'm glad I brought this up(for me anyway). Darkhorse- I'm reading a book right now called Low Level Hell by Hugh Mills. He talks about Darkhorse..and Blackhorse. He flew for the "Big Red One" flying Scouts. Good reading!

Question for the guys that were Vietnam Pilots: You have obviously been flying for a long time. Maybe a long, long time:). Anyway, how do you feel about flying now. Do you feel like your ready to be done or do you still feel a certain amount of excitment when you get called out. I know some older pilots seem unhappy and they don't have much positive to say but I'm curious about other pilots that have been flying a long time.

For example. Even though I drove 18 wheelers for 11 years I still felt a certain amount of excitment when it was time to hit the road. It never really felt like it was a "job". I guess that means I really enjoyed it.

Matt

 

I have a friend who knows a guy that flew in Vietnam and apparently the guy said that flying civilian now was too boring for him. He'd also been shot down 3 times.

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Guess I missed this topic earlier...

 

At my base, about 1/3 are vietnam vets. And they are going strong with no desire to retire anytime soon. I hope they hang on for a while. They will be severely missed when the day comes that they do retire.

 

Flight schools have used the tactic FOREVER. During these tough economic times, I'm sure we'll see all kinds of "creative" advertising to get students in the doors.

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I can relate being on the job for a long time. I think this may be the real reason many are leaving as well as from other careers too. I've been parts and service for about 20 years now. I am very sick of it. I am known around town pretty good. I can't go to church, out to eat, or even wal mart without someone wanting me to do something for them. Course they all want a buddy discount or they beat on my door before I go in to work to look at or fix something and of course do it on the cheap or next to free.. It's almost like most people don't respect my time off or my need of being away from fixin everyone's problems..

 

I miss wrenching in the USAF, at least I didn't have everyone wanting me to do something. I had free time for my family unless I got paged in on my weekend to be on-call. Only one time I was called in for something I wasn't responsible for. On the next Monday, I spoke to my Veh Maint Supt Sgt and he fixed that problem with the fire dept. so it never happened again... ha ha.. I am trying to get on with one of the rail road systems working in the locomotive shop. I won't have to worry about people bringing locomotive's to me, ha ha..

 

I am scared if I fly full time I will eventually get burned out. I am there now and see pilots posts who are burned out, too. It happens a lot from what I have seen. Our maint clerk is a pretty darn good wrench. I had asked him about bringing his tool box to work and helping out. He made the same statement. "If I wrenched everyday at work it wouldn't be fun or my hobby anymore and I might quit working on my race truck. I don't want to take that chance."

 

I am thinking I am gonna try and let it be a hobby or part time job later for fun.. I know of several kids that are interested in flying planes and heli's. I figure it would be worth while to be able to help kids get into it when I am able to do so later.

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  • 4 months later...

We have 5 pilots in our company. We mainly do firefighting and utility. 3 of our pilots are from the "Vietnam Era" They range in age from 61 - 64. Pilots from that era are unfortunate because very few companies offered 401K's or any retirement plans, combined with the massive losses in retirement money already saved due to the economy and stock market delcine these guys are going to keep flying until either they hit the Lotto or god forbid, get their medicals pulled. I went through flight training in 1993 and heard the same line about retiring Vietnam Pilots and here I am 16 years later with 3 "Vietnam" Pilots and 3 Vietnam Mechanics/Ground support on my payroll and I hope they continue as long as possible because it is very hard to find Pilots and Mechanics with not only their knowledge, but their dedication to their employer and the industry!!!

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