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Interested in becoming a Helicopter Pilot


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Hello All,


My goal is to one day become an EMS pilot flying for a company such as Mercy Air because I love the idea of combing my love for flight and emergency response in one career. I'm currently a senior in High School, preparing to go into the world of higher education.


I know that many EMS pilots were once in the Army, however, I'd rather to reach my goal through a college degree or "the civilian way." My question is, what is the best way to get there?


I've already been accepted into many universities that have flight programs such as Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach, Florida Tech (www.fit.edu), and Pacific Union College (www.puc.edu/) (a school that has EMS as a major along side flight).


However, I don't believe any of these schools except for Riddle have helicopter programs. Do you suggest majoring in flight (fixed wing) and transferring to helicopter flying afterward?


Or is it best to go to a training academy such as College of the Sequoias (http://www.cosaviation.org/) and pursue a Helicopter Degree program?


I am interesting in seeing what all of you have done, and what you suggest.


Thanks, any feedback/advice is VERY MUCH appreciated.


Dylan W

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If you want to fly helicopters, then train in helicopters. Yes, it will be more expensive to get the ratings but what you will need to get hired later on is helicopter hours. The fixed-wing hours will be of no good in meeting the helicopter hours required by the industry.


Others on this site can give you the details of those hours but it will be at least 1500 - 2000, I am sure.


I say this because you will have about 250 - 300 hours when you finish your CFII and can start building towards the "number required." If you learn in fixed-wing and then transition, you then only have say 100 in helicopters out of that above number. You will have a harder time getting that first helicopter job if all you have is 100 hours helicopters.


I am sure you will get some great advice on this site. You are doing the right thing and that is asking questions before you start.



One added thought:


Remember, as you begin your career development, continue to live your life as if it were on the front page of your newspaper. More and more jobs today require you to go through a background investigation of some degree. Maybe not to the level of needing a "clearancel" but with all of the competition out there, if there is something in your background vs nothing in the other person's background, guess who will get hired?


Just a word of caution as your prepare to head off into college.


My best,



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I agree with edspilot. Train in helicopters to gain those helicopter hrs. A former student of mine had a SEL license with like 220hrs fixed-winged when he did his private helicopter add-on. He then decided to go for the Commercial helicopter rating (not an add-on). He now has SEL (P) and Commercial helicopter certificates. He cannot get a commercial helicopter job with his total hrs (312hrs) because companies like (ag and logging/firefighting SIC) require 250hrs-500hrs helicopter time and he has only 90hrs helicopter. His total time looks good but he just does not have enough helicopter time. I got my first job as a SIC with Croman and only had 235hrs but it was all helicopter. I now have over 1100hrs. I was offered a job in Oregon doing ag work in the OH-58C while working for Croman and only had 250hrs at that time, but again it was all helicopter. The total time will look good when you have more than 1200-1500hrs helicopter. Good luck and keep asking questions.



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If you are intent on doing it the "civilian" way, you will need a "real job" to keep yourself alive for a very long time!


From what I've read, I would suggest that after college you try the Army's WOFT program. I believe you can apply as a civilian.


I also suggest you look at the "employment" sections of these websites, to get an idea of what employers will want from you to get hired.


By the way, I went to Embry-Riddle in Prescot for a while. Its a nice place, but there were only three girls in the entire school. :o

Edited by r22butters
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Thanks for your responses.


I've been considering going to college (majoring in flight) and applying to the Coast Guard's Blue 21 program or the Army/National Guard's WOFT, as one of my to colleges (Pacific Union) meets all their requirements.


I will also try and do heli-only training! From my research and your advice, it definitely seems like the practical way to go.


Right now, I've been trying to get contacts in the air ambulance business. I've tried getting ahold of Mercy Air (Air Methods) regarding possibly interning/volunteering at a base, but ran out of luck when their chief pilot never called me back. I see that their are plenty of knowledgeable folks like you guys in the EMS forum, so I'll have to start a thread or PM around for some advice there too.


Anyway thanks for all your words!


r22butters: i know what you mean about riddle! :lol:



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What companies are hiring at 250-300 hrs right now?! besides flight school of course. i just got my commercial and would love to know! plus i am a native Oregonian :D

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  • 7 months later...

Hey Dylan,


First, I would like to congratulate you on really thinking all this through. I think it is a very positive indication that you are on the right track and will do very well in your endeavors. I'm excited for you that you know clearly what you want to do and are following your vision.


I want to follow up the excellent advice you have already gotten. Yes, definitely go to college. There are several reasons:


1) There are a number of Online "distance learning" degree programs that will allow you to use Helicopter training to fulfill their requirements. Besides schools such as Utah Valley or U of Phoenix the AOPA website has an online Aviation College directory that you can search through. Then contact the schools you like to make sure they accept Heli Ratings for their flight requirements.




2) This route will unlock access to Federal Student Loans. The balance remaining after you pay for classes you can also use to pay for flight training that is specifically to meet your class requirements. Most of these programs will have classes to achieve all of your licenses and ratings including CFI.


3) Your college degree and flight experience will give you an advantage in any path you choose to follow be it WOFT, The Guard, or civilian. Then you will always have it on your resume as you work toward your goal of flying EMS or HEMES.



I'm sorry if I am being a little redundant from some other posts before me but I think it's a good idea. Good luck!

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