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My question is a simple one, without a simple answer I'm sure. I'm looking into flight schools in Southern California (Orbic Helicopters in Camarillo, CA being my first choice, because of its proximity to where I'm located), and I'd just like to hear some input as to whether this plunge I want to take is at all worth it! I have heard lots of negativity about the industry, the economy, and the pay scale for pilots. Just a little background: I'll pass my medical, I have financing (more or less <_<), and I'm willing to relocate.. not so much for training, but for future job opportunities (that includes overseas).

 

My decision is mine alone, and your posts will be taken in stride, and with a grain of salt. I have heard this is a good resource, and I'd love to hear LOTS of opinions, be 'em good or bad. I'm sure the question in this thread has been opined on hundreds of times, so feel free to share links. Please don't parse words, but try not to be negative just for negativity's sake. I have racked my brain over and over about what I really want in a career, and THIS is what I want. I would just like to hear from YOU whether or not I'm on a fool's errand. Thanks everybody. :)

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YES! It is definitely worth it. I trained at Orbic (CMA), with instructor Dave Williams, and got my rating last July. My husband trained there too, and I know a few other students who have trained there and were just as happy. So far I haven't found anyone who doesn't think flying helicopters is THE most fun thing to do. Whether you make it a career or not, it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

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It depends on how you define worth it. It's not a glamorous lifestyle, no suits and ties, and 3 martini power lunches. You won't make great money at it, in fact first 3 years you will get slave wages. Depending on what you fly it could be downright disgusting. Like Gulf flying with guys who don't shower for days, AGRA with all the chemicals, Military with the heat cockpits become downright ovens in some places (Once actually saw 140 degrees in the cockpit while in full life support gear), not to mention dodging bullets and missiles.

 

However nothing beats trading work stories with the neighbors....

 

Neighbor one "What did you do today?" Neighbor two "Oh, I worked on the TPS report in a cubicle with no natural light for my boss who took all the credit. What did you do today?" Neighbor one "I was on the phone all day making cold calls trying to sell life insurance to old people close to death. What did you do?" Me "Oh not much, flew a helicopter down to the beach to pick up a couple of bikini models for a photo shoot, stood around all day to watch, got a date with one because she "always wanted to ride in a helicopter". (Actual conversation I participated in).

 

So how do you define worth it?

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You couldn't have picked a better time to become a career pilot. With all of the "old guys" retiring there's a huge gap in the industry. There will soon be more openings than pilots to fill them. So get your ratings as quickly as possible, because the invaluable skills you'll develop are greatly needed, and will be well sought after! <_<

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In my opinion it is totally worth it! While it's true financially it may not make good sense, but I don't believe many helicopter pilots get into it for the money. With regards to the helicopter industry, I think it has done better than the fixed wing side through the recession. Plus overall I really do think the Vietnam veterans reaching retirement ages helps out. The school I'm at now has had a handful of CFI's get hired on by commercial operators recently. The school also started hiring a couple new CFI's already, and it doesn't look like it will slow down. I look at the career as somewhat of an adventure. There is a huge variety of jobs out there for helicopter pilots, almost all of which look pretty cool. I'm hoping for the best going forward, but also trying to keep a backup in mind in case I don't find that CFI job right away. When I started looking into this career field I also came across a lot of pilots that actually tried to steer me away from pursuing it. Not sure why that is really, I have a hard time understanding why anybody would not want to fly helicopters actually. You sound like you have the right attitude so I'm sure you'll have a blast with it and do well.

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It's a difficult time to be getting started in this business. CFI jobs are difficult to come by, 1000 hour jobs have literally hundreds of resumes to choose from, student financing is hard to get which in turn effects the CFI jobs further.

 

All of that said it is a wonderful profession to be in as far as job satisfaction goes. Rarely does a day go by that I don't wonder why I get paid to fly a helicopter. (Hypothetically of course)

 

One more thing. Persimon, I have never flown anyone offshore that didn't shower daily; some of them more than once. If any job in helicopter aviation leans itself towards flying guys who haven't showered it would be utility much more than offshore. Don't believe the horror stories until you've lived the life. It's not for everyone, but no sector of the industry really is.

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EP, you have the live the life you choose. All that any of us in this forum can do is give you information you can use to make your decision. What you might want to do is mentally flash forward to age 66 and look back at your life. Will be you satisfied with it?

 

As for retirements, a large percentage of the Viet Nam pilots have already left the industry. In 1985 the GOM had a major slow down and many pilots left the RW industry to do other things, like fly FW or do some other career. PHI for many years after VN had several Vietnamese pilots flying for them. I haven't heard of many of them still around.

 

Unless DOD does a major RIF, I don't believe that we will see the job market be flooded with ex-military pilots. First of all these pilots now have a much longer duty commitment than what was required during VN. So when they can leave they are just about halfway to retirement. Next DOD is contracting out a lot of support flying. This will very likely be brought back in house when things slow down.

 

I started flying when VN was winding down. The job market was soft and the military was dumping pilots left and right. The first few years were tough, but I have still managed to have a pretty good career. Personally I would change very little. Find a good school, network with anybody and everybody you can. Don't be afraid to ask experienced pilots for advise about maneuvers and procedures. There is a big difference between school and the real world.

 

Good luck.

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If you’re thinking of doing this just as an alternate career choice, then you may have some problems. If you think flying helicopters for a living is a “cool” thing to do, then you may have some problems. If you have to “think” about it, then you may have some problems. However, if you really, and I mean “really” to the extent as you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, want to fly helicopters, then you might be okay.

 

My first helicopter ride was 5 minutes in a replica Magnum PI Hughes 500D. I was immediately hooked and spent the next 10 years doing whatever I could to break into the business. It’s no doubt a hard road but even now 18 years later, I have to pinch myself when I’m out doing what I do.

 

Flying helicopters is not a career choice, it’s a calling.

 

Is it calling you?

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It's a career that has changed my life for the better and made me happy even on my worst day. Just be realistic with your self, you will have to make more sacrifices than you think, personal and financial. You will have to be able to move at the drop of a hat for the first few years. It's a very high level of commitment to make it work. Jobs definitely won't be falling into your lap.

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You couldn't have picked a better time to become a career pilot. With all of the "old guys" retiring there's a huge gap in the industry. There will soon be more openings than pilots to fill them. So get your ratings as quickly as possible, because the invaluable skills you'll develop are greatly needed, and will be well sought after! <_<

 

Do I sense some sarcasm in this post? Yeah, the only guys touting the "industry shortage" right now are flight schools owners; and we all know how trustworthy they can be.

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Just keep in mind most everyone saying go for it are current pilots for whom the risk has paid off. Obviously they had to work very hard for it but none the less, many of the thousands of people that did not get hired out of flight school are not on this forum to tell their story.

 

I'm not saying don't go for it, but you should be prepared, mentally and financially if you don't get hired.

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Shaun is right.

 

Do yourself a favor and do the math on how many students your instructor has to teach in order to be employable anywhere else and then calculate how many people will be trying to get that one job. Pyramids are so pretty!

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There has NEVER been a pilot shortage and there NEVER will be. Likewise, there’s NEVER been a “better time” to enter into this business either.

 

Flight schools are responsible for providing flight training to gain certificates. The certificate qualifies a pilot to compete for a job and nothing more. Without a certificate, you can’t compete. It’s the particular individual’s responsibility to get the J-O-B!

 

Realize; being in helicopter pilot limbo generates doubt and resignation. I hate to say it, but the reality is, if your unemployed, its nobodies fault but your own.

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Fun-yes

costly- oh absolutely!

easy to get a job right now and for a couple more years probably- no

 

I am in big debt and still not in a flying job and I know about 7 others students from my school alone that are not flying since being done in 2008, so consider very carefully what you decide to do. I am not all down and out about it, but I'm paying a large monthly payment and not flying and struggling to keep reading all my training books so as to keep it fresh in my mind on the off chance one of the numerous unanswered sent resumes might get me a call back, but I'm not holding my breath since the RARE job I'm remotely qualified for wants more hours than typical flight training gets you when your done.

I've gone to the Robbie factory course twice, both times the pilots told me I was well above average in skill of people they typicaLLY fly with at the course, but it has still done me no good because it takes hours in the log book for a resume to even get you a phone call to interview, much less fly with someone to interview and at this point my skills have prolly perished to a degree somewhat to reduce me to average or possibly a spec or 2 below due to lack of flight, so again, TREAD carefully on the course to making a decision.

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I can honestly say that my helicopter flight training was one of the most challenging and fun things I have ever undertaken in my life. I've got a whopping 250 hours, and finding a job is incredibly tough. They're out there, and I'm of the mindset that after enough time, this blind hog WILL find his acorn. Right now my certificates qualify me for cleaning pools.

 

The good news is... my fixed-wing add ons will be incredibly cheap and relatively easy.

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Do I sense some sarcasm in this post? Yeah, the only guys touting the "industry shortage" right now are flight schools owners; and we all know how trustworthy they can be.

 

He said, "try not to be negative...", and I thought posting, almost four and a half years, and still no job, would be too negative? :huh:

 

If you really want an 'uplifting' response, read the second post on "where to go...", on the JustHelicopters forum. ;)

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if your unemployed, its nobodies fault but your own.

 

You can't get blood from a stone, in the 70's when the steel industry was collapsing, "work harder" would not have helped anyone.

 

OP I am not saying don't do it. If you have the money and the price for failure is low then go for it, helicopters are awesome.

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...I hate to say it, but the reality is, if your unemployed, its nobodies fault but your own.

 

 

So when 500 of us apply for a position, 1 gets the job, and 499 don't, its our fault?

 

Damn dude, that's cold!

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I knew I was going to get slammed for saying that but unfortunately it is what it is. This business has always been tough to break into. It’s always been tough to advance. Let’s face it; the helicopter business is a tough business altogether. People who aspire to be helicopter pilots should know this prior to starting flight school. However, for some reason there are plenty of folks out here who believe a certificate and resume should be sufficient to gain employment. It’s not.

 

As far as the Steel Industry goes, this is a poor comparison as the industry was basically outsourced to foreign competitors. As far as the 1 in 500 example, ask yourself why weren’t you the one?

 

My statement wasn’t meant to offend. It was meant to motivate. To further clarify, I’ll fully apologize to you if you:

 

1. Have a CFII

2. Are R22 SFAR qualified

3. Have S300 time

4. Are current day & night

5. Are IFR current

6. Have a job, any job

7. Didn’t assume a loan for training

8. Do at least 5 to 10 things everyday to further your helicopter career

9. Belong to HAI

10. Spent some time at an airport within the last week

 

If you’ve fall into this category, then I’m sorry………….

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Spike,

Don't worry about it mate, you're dead on. The fact is so many pilots and people in other careers seem to think that because you have a license/diploma the jobs should just show up at your door. I can't tell you how many flight school owners/managers complain that their CFIs don't do anything to bring in business. Few people understand that it takes work to get customers in the door. Most young CFIs have the I am just a pilot mentality and do little to generate success for the organization as a whole. One flight school owner here has mentioned to me that he is considering firing some of his CFIs as they are dead weight and just sit around the hanger all day and wait for people to walk in (With so many waiting in line for the job it won't be a problem finding replacements). He has repeatedly asked them go out and look for work. Things as simple as career day at a local school or to partner with a local collage to develop a flight program teaching ground school. The work isn't over once you find that first job you have to go out and help the management do more. That makes you more than the sum of your parts and that makes you valuable to the team.

 

Same thing applies to getting that first job. In this economy no one is going to hand you a job. You're competing with 500 other pilots for every job out there. You need to stand out. Make yourself known (Go volunteer, hang out at the airport, offer to clean aircraft, do something to keep your name in a hiring managers head). Do something to keep current (Join Civil Air Patrol, it's fixed wing but it's flying).

If you can't a job, make one for yourself.

 

When I couldn't find a flying job I started my own company. I worked a deal with one of the local flight schools to rent their aircraft for photo flights and rides. I got them to put me on their insurance and paid the difference in the policy. I wasn't an "employee" but I was generating business for them. It was a win/win solution. I did my own advertising and partnerships with local photographers. Then later I bought into a partnership on a airplane. I got myself cleared to fly in DC airspace and then the offers for photo flights started to pour in. Very few pilots are cleared for the DC airspace (the inner ring not the ADIZ) but it was extremely easy to get the pin number. Suddenly I stood out. Did a ton of flying that summer and when the local flight schools got a request for a photo flight or anything inside the restricted airspace they knew immediately to call, "ME". I got permission to take one of my flight schools helicopters to an air show and was an ambassador for the school. I paid for the aircraft out of my own pocket and handed out brochures for the school. Pretty soon the owner would let me take the aircraft to things like this all the time. Some of the shows were for nonprofits (like the Dulles Plane Pull or the Smithsonian be a pilot day) and the flight time was fully tax deductible. I got well known in the community and became the helicopter guy. People still remember me in my black flight suit in the Aug DC heat and humidity. But that's the point. Make yourself memorable and valuable.

 

To the original poster, this is a tough time to get into this field (or any field) but there are hard work and dedication stories for every success out there (there are just as many just go lucky stories) and for each and every one of those there is an equal (if not more) of people who didn't make it, or made it and never got a job. You won't know till you do it. You won't know if you can make it in this field until you have that job.

 

There is nothing that I know of that beats flying a helicopter. It may not be the best career but it's the finest thing you will ever do with your pants on. The question that only you can answer is how worth it to you is it. How much are you willing to sacrifice to do it. And is that sacrifice worth the end result. It could be the best job in the world and pay crap or it could be the worst job in the world and pay great. Only you can answer that. We can tell you what the financial risks are. We can give you the facts about the industry.

 

THE REST IS UP TO YOU.

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...(Go volunteer, hang out at the airport, offer to clean aircraft, do something to keep your name in a hiring managers head)...

 

I've heard this one many times, but exactly how is that conversation supposed to go?...Hello, my name is Butters. I'm a pilot. I know I don't have a fat enough logbook for you to hire me, but please, let me wash your helicopter, empty your garbage, and clean your toilet. For free, of course, I just want to be near your helicopter, in the hopes that one day you may deem me worthy of flying it? <_<

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I've heard this one many times, but exactly how is that conversation supposed to go?...Hello, my name is Butters. I'm a pilot. I know I don't have a fat enough logbook for you to hire me, but please, let me wash your helicopter, empty your garbage, and clean your toilet. For free, of course, I just want to be near your helicopter, in the hopes that one day you may deem me worthy of flying it? <_>

 

Butters,

Read my post again. You have to get creative. Do you still live near where you went to flight school? Go set up a meeting with the manager or owner. Explain your situation. They were probably in your shoes at one time and know exactly what you are going through. If not them then go to another school. Volunteer with CAP. You wouldn't believe the great contacts you'll get through CAP. Go down to the local airport and find operators and explain your situation. See if they need ground handlers. Offer to do so for free just to keep in the "biz".

 

When I was first trying to get into the Army WOC program I knew next to nothing about helicopters. I had just spent 3 years in collage ROTC trying to become an F16 driver. I went down and talked with a operator and explained my situation. I told him I was going to apply to the Army to fly helicopters and didn't know anything about them and asked if he could give me any council or direction. Phil Murphy of Horizon Aviation at Orlando Executive got me my first "job" and my first ride in a helicopter. He gave me a bunch of books, bought me a flight suit and threw me in the back of his Huey. I washed aircraft for him. I did errands for the company. Got my first start in the industry that way. That's how it works. It's worked for me twice now. Be creative. People remember creativity. And that's what you need to get a job. To be remembered. I wish you luck. I know it's got to be tough for you right now but people ARE getting hired. They've done something that makes them stand out in a crowd. You need to find your own way to stand out in the crowd.

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To the original poster.....

 

You couldn't have got a better response to your question. This thread should show you how difficult it can be for anyone trying to break into the industry. Is it impossible? No, people are getting hired. But for every position there are 500 resumes. ONE of those resumes will get hired. It's like playing the lottery. Someone has to win. It could be you or it could not. Only you can decide to take that first step. It's not going to be easy. It's going to cost you an arm and a leg and probably your first born. Flight schools are going to sell you on a rosy industry future. Their job is to get money out of you for training, NOT, I repeat, NOT to get you a job (And believe me they will tell you anything they think you want to hear to separate you from your money). Flight schools generally don't care what happens to you after you complete your training or run out of money ("most" not all, but I can count on one hand the number of flight schools I would trust to send my kids to).

 

Then once you get that all important job, you might make 30K a year. Most flight schools pay their CFIs between $15 and $25 an hour ($25 is pretty rare) and only when flying. Many schools expect you to work in the office for free or minimum wage. And even more schools will expect you to do something to bring in new students (and rarely will you see any bonus for it). You'll toil away at a flight school earning less than a pizza delivery guy for at least a year (Speaking of pizza you might have to deliver them on the side to put food on the table because what you make as a CFI sure ain't going to pay for your student loans).

 

Then one day the clouds will part, the winds will favor your runway and you will get a real job flying tours or the Gulf, or some other low time flying job. You'll make a bit better money 50K or more. You'll have to move at your own expense. You'll stay at that company for a few years. Gone for long periods (most shifts are 7 on 7 off or 14 on and 14 off, those are days not hours btw). But it still ain't a rosy picture. The company you fly for might have safety issues (Helicopters ain't safe no matter how you slice it, a lot of people go into the chain of events that lead to successful or unsuccessful missions. Anyone of them can screw up and guess who buys the farm). The company could have financial issues and you could get laid off (but that could happen anywhere). You could lose your medical due to any number of factors. Someone could complain that you flew to low in their opinion (people love to hate helicopters) and the FAA could pull your ticket for a long time. And the FAA ain't like your normal court system. Here you are guilty till you are proven innocent. Often you are found guilty with no proof to support it.

 

But if you survive all that and If you're smart, you will have lived frugally. And not in huge debt. By the end of your career you can be pulling in over 100K a year. But generally you'll have to stay with the same company and build seniority. Leave the company and you start back at the bottom of the pile. So choose wisely.....

 

BUT!!! You will be flying helicopters. It will be a long and difficult road. But for some people it is worth it. Only you can answer if it is....

 

So how many of us with over say 3000 hours can attest to it being worth it?

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