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Professional Helicopter Instructors Making $200/Hour


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I have been talking with a few other people here about starting a professional helicopter pilot organization. The goal would be to establish a minimum hourly rate for helicopter flight instructors. Eventually, the goal would be to have instructors making $200/hour. I am looking for input from others.

 

The organization would target current helicopter flight instructors and flight training schools. We would look to set a minimum rate for all schools in order to reduce the problem of losing students due to competition. We would have specific dates when rates would go into effect. For example, September 1st, 2010 would be $100, then 6 months later $150, and anther 6 months would be $200.

 

The schools who are a part of this professional organization would agree to use a more stringent syllabus. The syllabus would be designed to produce well trained professional instructors. Probably closer to 200 hours versus the current 150.

 

What is in it for the students.

 

The students who are currently paying around $60,000 and receiving 150 hours are paying on average $400 an hour. Let's assume $50 to the instructor, and $350 for the aircraft. Now they will pay $550 an hour for 200 hours. They will be paying around $110K for their training. If we take out 30% of the original instructors fee for insurance, 401K, Fica, etc, then they are probably making $35 an hour. If they fly like crazy, they may fly 1000 hours a year and make $35,000. They have to live on that and pay back the $60K. This does not look good to a bank. Even if in a year they find an EMS job and start making $60K a year, that will likely be paying back the $60K in flight training for a long time.

 

Now let's assume $200 an hour minus 15% for insurance, 401K, Fica etc. Insurance will remain the same price and won't change on your wages. Fica is 7.65%, and 401K has caps. So, now you are making $170 an hour! If you fly 1,000 hours in your first year, you can pay back the $110K in loans, and still have $60K to live on.

 

This looks much better to a bank and will make financing flight training much easier.

 

What is in it for the flight schools.

 

There are many people who would like to become helicopter pilots but realize the poor pay and high cost of training make it a poor financial decision. If instructors could make professional wages, then the cost wouldn't be as much of an issue. In addition, the higher pay means more instructors would stick around longer so you have more experienced instructors teaching. This produces better pilots, increases safety, and reduces insurance premiums.

 

Commercial operators will need to raise their salaries for pilots in order to pull instructors away from the schools. The trickle-up effect will mean all professional pilots wages will increase making all helicopter pilot jobs a much more financially desirable career choice.

 

Flight schools may see a significant jump in students when flight instructors start getting paid professional wages.

 

Flight schools can also make more money on the aircraft because it will represent a much smaller percentage of what needs to be paid back. $100 more an hour increases the total cost of training by 15%, but increases the net profit on the helicopter by 100% or more.

 

 

 

I'd like to hear some ideas or suggestions as well as problems you might see in having a professional pilots group set wages. Call it a union if you like. It may be what this industry needs to have helicopter pilots be looked at as professionals.

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I think that would be great if you could combine it with some bachelor's degree type program and open the door to federal student aid and the more common types of student loans, but I have no idea how an existing school would go about doing that to a greater degree than being affiliated with one of the already-existing programs out there.

 

I just remember balking at the price when the going rate was 56k for 0-200 hours. 110,000 dollars? I think in a perfect world if you could get a whole bunch of flight schools across the nation to agree to take that initial hit (lack of students) it might work. But there will ALWAYS be someone who will undercut that rate, and at 200 dollars an hour you really leave yourself plenty of room for someone to do that.

 

"Flight schools may see a significant jump in students when flight instructors start getting paid professional wages. "

 

Really? Because overall we're still talking about a system that demands a 25% success rate or therebouts. I don't know of a helicopter operation whose sole function is flight training that can guarantee they will hire every student that makes it to CFI/CFII. So now you've got one guy who made it, and he's making the big bucks and paying off his loan... the one that is almost twice as large as the ones people are currently taking on if they're lucky enough to get it. What about the other three or four guys and gals? With interest I think a 50k loan from SLM turns into 160,000 over the life of the loan. I don't even want to think about what an unsecured loan for 110k would be like, or who could get one.

 

I'm not trying to be TOO negative. I think for the guys and gals who managed to get a job and get paid that much, it'd be a god-send. I think you're right on every count there, but in my mind the risk vs reward just gets way too skewed to one side in your scenario if I had to do it all over again.

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I think that would be great if you could combine it with some bachelor's degree type program and open the door to federal student aid and the more common types of student loans, but I have no idea how an existing school would go about doing that to a greater degree than being affiliated with one of the already-existing programs out there.

 

I just remember balking at the price when the going rate was 56k for 0-200 hours. 110,000 dollars? I think in a perfect world if you could get a whole bunch of flight schools across the nation to agree to take that initial hit (lack of students) it might work. But there will ALWAYS be someone who will undercut that rate, and at 200 dollars an hour you really leave yourself plenty of room for someone to do that.

 

"Flight schools may see a significant jump in students when flight instructors start getting paid professional wages. "

 

Really? Because overall we're still talking about a system that demands a 25% success rate or therebouts. I don't know of a helicopter operation whose sole function is flight training that can guarantee they will hire every student that makes it to CFI/CFII. So now you've got one guy who made it, and he's making the big bucks and paying off his loan... the one that is almost twice as large as the ones people are currently taking on if they're lucky enough to get it. What about the other three or four guys and gals? With interest I think a 50k loan from SLM turns into 160,000 over the life of the loan. I don't even want to think about what an unsecured loan for 110k would be like, or who could get one.

 

I'm not trying to be TOO negative. I think for the guys and gals who managed to get a job and get paid that much, it'd be a god-send. I think you're right on every count there, but in my mind the risk vs reward just gets way too skewed to one side in your scenario if I had to do it all over again.

 

 

I believe the 25% success rate is because too many instructors have to quit instructing because they aren't making enough to live on. I know I moved to fixed wing because the wages were too low in the helicopter world.

 

It is easier to get an unsecured loan for $110K when you have the potential to make $100K+ a year, than to get $60K with the potential to make $35K a year. The risk-to-reward is actually much better in my scenario than in yours.

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I can honestly say that I actively seeked out an instructor with experience and gladly pay more than the going rate just to avoid being trained by someone with wet ink. I know its not fair to say that someone with wet ink is necessarily bad..... but its my money and that's how I feel.

 

I agree with the princple of your idea and ideally only people with ATP should be able to get an instructor's certificate in my book. If instructor pay reflected that then having instructors of that caliber wouldn't be a problem.

 

Plenty of experienced instructors at Mother Rucker making very good wages however Uncle Sam is footing that bill. I submit this because if there is a cheaper way to get the same product then they would have figured it out. Case in point, all my meals at basic training were valued at a cost of less then $4 and I ate very very well. Even the Army sees the value of experienced instruction and has determined the price point to be appropriate.

 

My opine is that we need more entry level jobs because just like has been said someone will always be out there to undercut you.

Edited by Rogue
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When I get to the point of hiring an instructor, thats right I said HIRE an instructor. not paying someone to teach me to fly. It will be because I've spent time to get to know who the person is and how well we mesh. Paying someone a fair wage for thier skill level is not a problem with me what I do have a problem with is the holyer than thou attitude this type of program would become. arrogance is worse than ill experience IMHO.

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When I get to the point of hiring an instructor, thats right I said HIRE an instructor. not paying someone to teach me to fly. It will be because I've spent time to get to know who the person is and how well we mesh. Paying someone a fair wage for thier skill level is not a problem with me what I do have a problem with is the holyer than thou attitude this type of program would become. arrogance is worse than ill experience IMHO.

 

Nice try

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There's only a few problems that I can see:-

  • * You're describing a price-fixing cartel, which is illegal in most of the world. I think that the Sherman Act applies in the States;
    * You're also describing a Ponzi scheme - each instructor would need to train 5 instructors to achieve the first year figures that you're looking at, who'd each then need to train 5 themselves, and so on. 1000 instructors in year one would lead to the entire world being in training in year 10;
    * Market forces mean that the gross oversupply of instructors that would result from such a scheme would result in the rates which they could charge dropping.

Apart from these, go for it ;-)

 

--Dave

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Apparently some peoples sh*t doesn't stink. I think the idea reeks of greed and will make it harder for people to start training. Being a pilot isn't that big of a deal and I don't think it deserves 200 an hour. People who started training knew what they were getting into and you have to do what it takes. Get a second job.

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There's only a few problems that I can see:-

  • * You're describing a price-fixing cartel, which is illegal in most of the world. I think that the Sherman Act applies in the States;
    * You're also describing a Ponzi scheme - each instructor would need to train 5 instructors to achieve the first year figures that you're looking at, who'd each then need to train 5 themselves, and so on. 1000 instructors in year one would lead to the entire world being in training in year 10;
    * Market forces mean that the gross oversupply of instructors that would result from such a scheme would result in the rates which they could charge dropping.

Apart from these, go for it ;-)

 

--Dave

 

Unions are not illegal.

 

You are assuming that all those students will become instructors and that all instructors will only teach.

 

Worldwide, there is a huge shortage of helicopter pilots.

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Apparently some peoples sh*t doesn't stink. I think the idea reeks of greed and will make it harder for people to start training. Being a pilot isn't that big of a deal and I don't think it deserves 200 an hour. People who started training knew what they were getting into and you have to do what it takes. Get a second job.

 

 

If your instructor screws up and kills you, you will think it is a big deal.

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I think RockyMountainPilot is trying to think outside the box here. I don't think he has a greedy bone in his body. DP does think BIG but rest assured his heart is in the right place. He is trying to approach a problem we are all facing (or going to). The market for helicopter pilots is coming to a head. There is almost no money available for training at the present time. Which is driving a lot of schools out of business. This is going to create a demand for helicopter pilots somewhere down the line. It's like a production line that suddenly looses a part for a widget. The whole line is halted and suddenly everything is back ordered and demand goes up. DP is trying to figure out a way to address this issue before it becomes a problem.

 

I've spent time with DP and I stake my life on the man’s honesty, integrity and his complete lack of ego. DP is really looking at the whole industry rather than just his little school. And he is a guy who is in a position to actually do something about it. There is no hidden agenda with his post and I assure you his only intent was to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks. You guys brought up some good points that I am sure will have DP back at the drawing board again.

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I think RockyMountainPilot is trying to think outside the box here. I don't think he has a greedy bone in his body. DP does think BIG but rest assured his heart is in the right place. He is trying to approach a problem we are all facing (or going to). The market for helicopter pilots is coming to a head. There is almost no money available for training at the present time. Which is driving a lot of schools out of business. This is going to create a demand for helicopter pilots somewhere down the line. It's like a production line that suddenly looses a part for a widget. The whole line is halted and suddenly everything is back ordered and demand goes up. DP is trying to figure out a way to address this issue before it becomes a problem.

 

I've spent time with DP and I stake my life on the man’s honesty, integrity and his complete lack of ego. DP is really looking at the whole industry rather than just his little school. And he is a guy who is in a position to actually do something about it. There is no hidden agenda with his post and I assure you his only intent was to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks. You guys brought up some good points that I am sure will have DP back at the drawing board again.

 

I 100% agree about DP's approach to the industries situation and his thinking and actions toward resolving and advancing the helo industry is the way to go. given time and a joint consortioum of the training sector, the FAA and the insurance industry to come to a joint agreement has to how training and the on going advancement of pilot hours is conducted will we only then see the advanced level of instructor pay as it will then be an "unregulated" system of providing hired instruction instead of paid instruction.

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I am not DP, but we do have similar names on the forum. DP is one of the people with whom I have discussed this idea.

 

The industry as a whole is becoming more unsafe and the primary reason is a lack of pilots. Instead of raising salaries due to the lack of experienced pilots, companies are hiring less and less experienced pilots. It used to be EMS only hired pilots with thousands and thousand of hours. Now they hire at the 1200 hour minimum or less for some positions. This is because many experienced pilots realize they will have no retirement to live on and change careers.

 

In addition, the average experience and knowledge of CFI's keeps dropping more every year. The focus of instruction today is on doing pirouettes, quick stops, and touchdown autos. Critical decision making skills are ignored. A good pilot isn't one who can auto between two park cars in a parking lot, but one who keeps himself or herself out of a position that requires such a skill.

 

$200/hour is not that much for a professional. Because of the difficulty in flying 8 hours everyday, most pilots would probably make something in the $80K a year range. That comes out to around $40/hour for a full-time 8 hour a day job.

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Opps! My mistake, the original poster is not who I thought it was (very similar names). However my assessment of his post still stands. I just can't back up his intentions or "karma". But this is an attempt to better things for all of us and anyone looking for ideas for the betterment(?) of everyone can't be too much of a bad guy. Like I said, you guys gave him some good things to go ponder and readjust his flight plan.

 

This industry (training) is ready for a new direction (and needs it badly). Edison went through a few ideas before he got the formula for the light bulb right. We will too. I applaud anyone who is at the forefront looking for new ideas. We should be supportive of anything thrown out for comment. It's in all our best interest to foster and guide new strategies with the measured voice of experience.

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I think overall it is a good idea. I think $200 an hr is pretty high though. $20 -$ 30 is of course way too low, I made way more than that installing garage doors in Philly! Considering the skill, hard work, education, and financial investment necessary to be a helicopter pilot, it should definitely be considered a professional position, and worth closer to the $100hr mark. That would be pretty good money for a first year job. I can't think of anything I could do to help this move forward, but I would be glad to help if an opportunity were to come up. Good luck RMP!!

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$200/hour is not that much for a professional.

 

Greedy lawyers are the ones who charge this type of fee to their clients.

 

An experienced pilot being paid 50, 60, 75 dollars an hour is a reasonable fee for the industry and I'm sure many pilots here will agree. But the greed of an industry to require a pay rate of 200/hr is far outside of anything that is current for any industry other than greedy lawyers and law makers of these united states.

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Greedy lawyers are the ones who charge this type of fee to their clients.

 

An experienced pilot being paid 50, 60, 75 dollars an hour is a reasonable fee for the industry and I'm sure many pilots here will agree. But the greed of an industry to require a pay rate of 200/hr is far outside of anything that is current for any industry other than greedy lawyers and law makers of these united states.

 

 

Ah yes. Blame the lawyer, but not the greedy person who hired the lawyers services.

 

As I mentioned before, $200/hour is not that much because the average number of hours a professional pilot flies is less than 400 hours a year.

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$200.00 a hour, maybe if your name was Igor Sikorsky! As a student I believe instructors should make a livable wage, I also don't know many people in any profession who think they are paid enough, but $200.00 a hour seems a touch on the high side. I don't think its greed, but to think you should be able to pay back a large student loan in a year is unheard of in any profession.

Edited by Snowman
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$200.00 a hour, maybe if your name was Igor Sikorsky! As a student I believe instructors should make a livable wage, I also don't know many people in any profession who think they are paid enough, but $200.00 a hour seems a touch on the high side. I don't think its greed, but to think you should be able to pay back a large student loan in a year is unheard of in any profession.

 

As I mentioned a couple times previously, most pilots won't fly 1,000 hours a year and will be closer to 400 hours. The point I was trying to make is that a pilot would have to fly 1,000 hours a year to even be able to just pay the bills making $35 an hour. Paying of the debt will take decades. However, if an instructor wants to work their butt off and fly 1,000 hours in a year, then they could make a lot of money. Flying 1,000 hours is a LOT of work. I did it one year. It was grueling and very hard on the mind and body.

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Here's my opinion.

 

1. The flight instruction business as a whole is a pyramid scheme. It's just the way it is. Let me explain.

 

One student going through training to become a professional pilot has to log 200 hours generally.

 

There are no jobs for low time guys so the only option at this time is to become a flight instructor.

 

In order for one flight instructor to instruct enough students to get the experience required to move on to an entry level turbine job (Currently 1200-1500 hours) they would have to teach at a minimum 6 students.

 

That's 6 students vying for one job at the end of their training. If hypothetically a school had jobs for all 6 of them, now they need to train 36 more students in order to get their required experience.

 

You can't just create more jobs for each flight instructor that comes along by getting more students. That has been tried before and as hundreds of out of work CFIs and the thousands of students of Silver State can attest, it doesn't work.

 

2. If this came to be, people would never leave instruction jobs making that kind of money, causing further problems with entry level jobs.

 

3. The insurance business runs aviation. They dictate at what hour level pilots can get what jobs.

 

Until you can magically create some entry level job that people can get besides instruction and get the insurance companies and the companies that hire for this position to buy into it, there is no alternative.

 

You're talking about a major overhaul of the way the entire industry works. You're also not taking into account (that I've seen) the fact that instructors spend a lot of time teaching ground so what is your new going rate for that instruction time? How much is a student looking at for total cost of training now taking that into account?

 

I don't know where you're getting the idea that accidents are caused by a lack of pilots. Accidents are caused in large part by poor decisions which can't be cured by more pilots.

 

I also don't know where you're coming up with a shortage of pilots. If anything, right now there is a surplus of entry level (1000-1500 hour) pilots who are unemployed. There may be a shortage of experienced pilots willing to do some jobs for lower pay, but that isn't going to be solved by raising instructor pay.

 

I don't know what level you're at in the industry, but to me, your understanding of how and why things work the way they do is flawed.

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A couple things, it won't matter if the CFI is paid $200/hr or $15/hr when it comes to safety. And it won't matter to a bank if a guy has the "potential" to make $100k+ a year, they still won't give you a $100k+ loan unless you have equity, co-signers etc...

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Here's my opinion.

 

1. The flight instruction business as a whole is a pyramid scheme. It's just the way it is. Let me explain.

 

One student going through training to become a professional pilot has to log 200 hours generally.

 

There are no jobs for low time guys so the only option at this time is to become a flight instructor.

 

In order for one flight instructor to instruct enough students to get the experience required to move on to an entry level turbine job (Currently 1200-1500 hours) they would have to teach at a minimum 6 students.

 

That's 6 students vying for one job at the end of their training. If hypothetically a school had jobs for all 6 of them, now they need to train 36 more students in order to get their required experience.

 

You can't just create more jobs for each flight instructor that comes along by getting more students. That has been tried before and as hundreds of out of work CFIs and the thousands of students of Silver State can attest, it doesn't work.

 

2. If this came to be, people would never leave instruction jobs making that kind of money, causing further problems with entry level jobs.

 

3. The insurance business runs aviation. They dictate at what hour level pilots can get what jobs.

 

Until you can magically create some entry level job that people can get besides instruction and get the insurance companies and the companies that hire for this position to buy into it, there is no alternative.

 

You're talking about a major overhaul of the way the entire industry works. You're also not taking into account (that I've seen) the fact that instructors spend a lot of time teaching ground so what is your new going rate for that instruction time? How much is a student looking at for total cost of training now taking that into account?

 

I don't know where you're getting the idea that accidents are caused by a lack of pilots. Accidents are caused in large part by poor decisions which can't be cured by more pilots.

 

I also don't know where you're coming up with a shortage of pilots. If anything, right now there is a surplus of entry level (1000-1500 hour) pilots who are unemployed. There may be a shortage of experienced pilots willing to do some jobs for lower pay, but that isn't going to be solved by raising instructor pay.

 

I don't know what level you're at in the industry, but to me, your understanding of how and why things work the way they do is flawed.

 

There are many other ways to build hours beside flight instruction. I did several hundred hours flying powerline and tours. Also, you fail to realize that not every student is vying for a career.

 

The major industry players are moving toward two pilot operations. That means many commercial pilots will be able to be hired right out of flight school with a couple hundred hours as SIC.

 

Let me explain why a lack of pilots is leading to a lower level of safety again. With fewer pilots, the companies that would hire them have fewer options. Instead of raising the pay, they lower their requirements. They hire less experienced pilots because the more experienced pilots don't want to work for those wages. I know dozens of experienced pilots who left the industry because of the poor pay.

 

As far as ground instruction is concerned, look at my posts again. I have 200 hours of dual instruction included in the price. Some of that time in the helicopter is probably going to be solo time.

 

What level am I at in the industry? Well, I make on average well over $200 an hour. I am just trying to convince the rest of the pilots to consider they are more valuable then they think. I pay $115 an hour for a 45 minute dance lesson to a young and relatively inexperienced instructor, so $200/hour for a pilot is not greedy, ridiculous, or excessive. It would be a minimum.

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