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I don't seem to hear much about flying tours on the forum. I'm curious how the life of a tour pilot is. Seems like it would be a sweet gig in a very nice aircraft. Are the hourly requirements the same as the Gulf ? What work schedule do you work ? Thanks in advance for your responses.

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Are the hourly requirements the same as the Gulf ?

 

This thread answers some of your questions. Temsco and Coastal minimums are in-line with the gulf. From the ads I've seen, operators in Hawaii seem to have higher minimums than Canyon/Vegas tours. Schedules vary...others will know better than I do.

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How are things going right now? That thread is almost 6 months old, although I don't know if things usually slow down much in the ditch or not over the winter months, so that might be hard to tell for another month or so.

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Blue Hawaiian's minimums were about 4500 hrs ATP preferred. This was about two months ago, it sounds like they have had to lay off some pilots and support personnel. The contact I talked to said this was one of the first times they have had to lay off people since the company started.

 

Hawaii's economy is much more contingent on tourism, though. It sounds like Alaska's tourism industry is also expecting to get hit with a slow season. As far as the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas go, certain operators there have laid off people as well, however others are hiring as usual for the summer season. All in all, it looks like tour helicopters might be one of the hardest hit helicopter business' by this economy, not counting corporate departments of course.

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I think blue Hawaiian is the exception out there. They are probably the biggest tour operator out there, but there is at least a dozen out there. In fact when I was on Kauai there were two airports there operating tours. The pilot we flew with said the minimum is usually 3000 but he had heard companies hiring at the other airport pilots as low as a 1000.

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is the pay for tour pilots in hawaii significantly more than that of tour pilots in the continental? or do they consider the fact of you livingthere to be a raise in itself!?

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I don't understand why the mins are so high sounds like pretty simple flying to me.

 

Hi

 

I would have to guess that the operators are looking at and using these minimum numbers because their insurance provider is setting them on the policy. I suspect that some operators will set the minimums higher than the what the insurance provider would have as well. Most flights are going to be part 135 while some might be part 91. Part 135 requires a bit more from the operator to comply with to keep that certificate. And generally that operator wants a pilot who is checked out already with a 135 check ride.

 

I flew tours in L.A. on a part time basis and it isn't super demanding flying. Since we would discuss segments of the flight with the passengers (Over Sunset Strip now and moving on to Downtown Hollywood...that kinda thing) it helped to have some people skills. There wasn't much demand for a full time tour pilot and operator in the greater L.A. area, the last one I knew of was AlexAir flying from the Ports 'O Call village at the L.A. harbor. I fly on that tour as a kid in a 500C!

 

Just some of my thoughts on the minimums and flying tours...

 

Regards,

IFlySky5

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I don't understand why the mins are so high sounds like pretty simple flying to me.

There's been a couple of high profile helicopter accidents in the Hawaii tour business in the last couple of years. I suspect the insurance has gone through the roof and the 3000 - 3500 hour range is a break point on the premiums.

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Kill a few dozen people, as the Hawaiian tour operators have, and things tend to change. The flying there is pretty demanding, because of the changing weather and changing altitudes. Far too many tourists have been killed over the past few years, and the reputable operators are changing. Personally, I wouldn't even consider setting foot on a tour helicopter, nor allowing any of my family to do so, even with the changes that might have been made. There were good reasons for the FAA instituting special rules for tour operations, and I don't think those went far enough.

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Gomer is right on. Don't just assume flying tours is easy cause it's not as easy as you may think. In HI there is a lot of different weather patterns and many a pilot has gotten in trouble.

 

The Grand Canyon is very good as all the helicopters go the same way and for the most part it's all one way traffic. Weather is pretty much a non issue most of the time except the late winter and spring, that's when the high winds come around.

 

Remember, your have to navigate, comunicate and aviate. Not in that order. Add in the distraction of music, passengers talking and trying to ask you questions it can become a distraction. So it's not all easy.

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I fly tours in the R44 under Part 91. I had about 400 hours total helicopter time with 50 in the R44 when I started. Now I'm up to almost 1400 hours with over 600 in the R44. It's seasonal work so I am a starving flight instructor in the winter, but in the summer I rack up the flight hours (about 300 to 400 hours in one season). The pay is pretty bad (either $75 or $150 per day depending on ticket sales). The tips were good last year (around $120 to $150 per day), but now they are tapering off too (around $40 to $80 per day). The hours are long (usually start pre-flighting at 11:00 and work until close which is between 22:00 and 02:00), but obviously that means more flying. :-)

 

If you work for a good operator, which I do, it's really a fun job. I'll probably end up flying for him again next year.

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I fly tours in Vegas and as JD said, it's not all easy.

There are high winds, mountainous terrain, high DA, pax with questions, tour to give, company radio, other traffic radio, thunderstorms (occasionally), lot's of traffic (like JD said, most is going the same way but there is an occasional "WTF is he doing??"), you're trying to smooth out ANY turbulence to minimize pax discomfort (read:puking), HEAT, etc.

Nothing you can't get used to and be proficient at but a lot more to it often times than people think.

 

As far as the OP questions.

It really is a pretty sweet gig IMO. We have a more normal schedule than many other pilots out there. We are home every night and have a schedule we can usually depend on. We get vacations and normal days off so planning on doing things is not a problem. We do fly nice aircraft (although all tour company pilots are not proud of what they are flying).

Hour requirements depend on the specific operator.

Maverick requires 1200-1300 hours (I don't recall) and 300 turbine. I don't think that the other LV operators require turbine time.

 

Hope this helps

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I'd have to agree, tour flying isn't exactly easy flying. Hell any kind of rotary wing flight isn't easy flying, there's so may facets to helicopter flight along with all the factors to go with it. You know what's funny? We all still enjoy flying these machines with all of these situations and associated stress that we'd probably be classified as borderline Masochists. Well... Some of us anyway :rolleyes:

 

Where I operate you gotta keep your head on a swivel. There's all kinds of traffic surrounding my area of operation like Banner tow-ers. They crowd the coast line and less than 40% have on board radios and even if they do they don't say anything. The Coast Guard, and State police is always whizzing by, chopper traffic coming in and out of a multitude of hotels, blimps that get in your way. Recreational flyers barreling through the area who are oblivious to what's going on around them to name a few hazards. Oh and let's not forget seagulls! I just hit one during a night flight @ 100 kts ha ha ha. One of the passengers was a 8 yr old girl, and before she boarded she asked: Are we going to hit a seagull? I said Nah they're very good flyers, they always avoid us. a minute later I'm airborne then BAM!!!!!!!!! right on the windsheild. Of course my passengers were a little freaked out and asked what was that? In my infinte wisdom or should I say stupidity, I said "Seagull" in embarasment <_< . I was just thankful that it didn't go through the windshield which is why I wear eye protection ha ha ha.

 

This is just a few of the things I and any pilot has to deal with. I'm not saying it's any worse than any other job by any means. No matter what though, The satisfaction and enjoyment of my clients is the biggest reward I can possibly receive. Flying tours has been very rewarding for me I enjoy it even though I sit in that God awful seat of pain for long hours of the day. Someday I'd love to fly tours in Hawaii.

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