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Life as a GOM Pilot ('Gulf of Mexico', or any off-shore operations)


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If you have worked, or are now working, in the GOM as a commercial pilot or support team, please let us know about your experiences. We have listed some basic ground rules and questions, but you can certainly add as much information as you would like.

 

Ground rules:

 

We want to know about YOUR actual experience, not hearsay.

 

Do not slam operators, we want to know the good and the bad, but please keep it professional.

 

If you have support folks that are not on the forum, you can ask them to type up a paragraph and add it to your post, it would be great to get their input as well.

 

Suggestion:

 

You might reply in a 'quote' so you can type inbetween the questions like this:

 

"What was best about the job?"

 

your answer here

 

or, cut and paste the questions and then answer..

 

Questions:

 

What were your qualifications (hours, certificates, and prior experience) when you got this job?

What was your pay and other considerations (vacation, insurance, 401k matching, etc).

How long did you work in this area? How many hours per year did you log?

What were your primary job responsibilities?

What was best about the job?

What was worst about the job?

Where did you go afterward, and how did this job help you get into your next one?

Was this your dream job or a rung in the ladder? Was it what you expected it to be?

If it's in the past, would you go back? if you did return, what would you do differently now?

 

What advice would you impart on folks wanting to follow this career path?

 

Thanks in advance for your help and input, this information could help many thru-out their careers.

 

aloha,

 

dp

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I have been working as an offshore pilot in the GoM for about 3 1/2 years. I started out with an operator that I was able to get my foot in the door with, and now work for a very good company.

 

I had a little over 1000 hours when I started and about 150 of that was airplane. I was a flight instructor prior to working in the GoM. You will need at least 1500 now. Although it is tough, they are still hiring pilots with no turbine time. You have to know someone, though. I now have about 3500 hours, most in the 407, which is a wonderful aircraft.

 

Pay starts in the lower 50's but with some workover, your per diem and some offshore bonus pay, 60 is not hard to reach your first year.

 

My day is pretty busy for a GoM pilot. I am assigned to a contract that flies a lot (80-100 hours per "hitch". I work a 14 on 14 off schedule). Per 135 rules, I am restricted to a 14 hour duty day, 8 of which I can fly. Flight time is collective up to collective down. Most days are "pick up 3 here, drop one there, pick up parts here, go to the "beach" (shore), repeat... Crew change day is a little different. A good part of the day is just back and forth to the beach with a lot of folks. I stay offshore overnight 5-10 days a hitch. They have a cook and I have my own room with a TV and share a bathroom with an adjoining room. It's pretty comfortable.

 

The best things about the job are the time off, flying meticulously maintained and well equipped aircraft and working with some really good people. The not so good things are being gone for two weeks and the location of most bases. While not exactly remote, many are deep in the swamps of Louisiana. You'll want to get your groceries before you get to the base.

 

I would go this route again and have no plans to do anything different. I have seen the dark side of aviation and working for a solid, well established company that pays well, has a lot of different opportunities and has excellent equipment and management is not easy to find.

 

My advice to someone that's interested in doing this is pretty simple. Get to know someone so you can get a recommendation. It's about the only way to get on down here.

Don't bother with turbine time unless it's free. They don't care about it unless you went to the factory or have a few hundred hours. No special training required to work down here. You won't be doing anything different than what you learned on your private.

I am skeptical of scenario based training's worth. I'm all about the fundamentals. That's what will keep you alive down here. Do everything like they teach you in training every time, and you will have few problems. I know two people personally that decided the rules weren't for them. Both crashed in short order and one didn't survive to tell the tale. Good luck.

 

Some more advice: don't be the only one flying and don't be the only one not flying.

Edited by helonorth
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What were your qualifications (hours, certificates, and prior experience) when you got this job?

 

I had around 1100 total time when I came to the GoM. Commercial, Instrument, CFI. Prior experience was as a CFI.

 

What was your pay and other considerations (vacation, insurance, 401k matching, etc).

 

Pay was fairly even when I came to the Gulf. 401K matching was also and is still fairly even across the big 135 operators. Pay has gone up some since I started down here, more at some operators than others. The operators that pay more have the luxury of taking experienced pilots from the other operators.

 

How long did you work in this area? How many hours per year did you log?

 

I worked for a 135 operator for just over a year. I logged around 800 hours in the 206, 407, and 76.

 

What were your primary job responsibilities? 

 

Move personnel and equipment to and from platforms. There are a few different types of jobs down here, but the basic idea is the same. You have field jobs that service a group of platforms in a small area. Loop jobs service several platforms scattered around an area, sometimes long distances. Shuttle jobs generally make runs between the beach and platforms that are already serviced by a field ship. Once you work your way up into the bigger aircraft, it's all about crew changes.

 

What was best about the job? 

 

The people you work with. The brotherhood amongst pilots at the operator I worked for was wonderful.

 

What was worst about the job? 

 

It can become monotonous if you let it. You're flying over water all day long landing on platforms. The offshore workers most likely have more time in a helicopter than you do so they don't put up with a lot of bull. If the weather is questionable, some of the oil companies want to go look at it repeatedly.

 

Where did you go afterward, and how did this job help you get into your next one? 

 

I left for a job at a 91/135 operator remaining in the Gulf. Previous GoM experience was a requirement to get into my current job.

 

Was this your dream job or a rung in the ladder?

 

When I first came down here I expected it to be a rung in the ladder, but I enjoy it and will most likely stay down here for the remainder of my career. The money is good, the schedule is good, and if I get a bug in my butt to see Alaska or Vegas flying, I can do that when I retire from down here and don't have to worry about the wages.

 

Was it what you expected it to be?

 

It was what I expected. It can also be absolutely not what you expect. Some people come down here with the rung in the ladder attitude a little too much and they are generally miserable. Louisiana is not where people dream to live someday and that is where you will spend a lot of your time regardless of where you decide to live. A pilot with a bad attitude about flying down here also generally has a hard time getting along with the oil workers. They're just out there trying to make a living, the same as us. Treat them with respect for the job they do. They may not be rocket scientists for the most part, but they're good people just trying to do their best for their families.

 

If it's in the past, would you go back? if you did return, what would you do differently now?

 

If things for some reason changed at my current employer, I would have no hesitation about going back to my former employer.

 

What advice would you impart on folks wanting to follow this career path?

 

If you don't have the support of your significant other, it's not going to be any fun at all for you. Keep an open mind when you first come down and if you make the decision to move on, do so with a positive attitude and try and enjoy your time while you're here. Take up fishing. Absorb knowledge from the older guys who have been here for twenty plus years. They are a wealth of knowledge when listened to, especially when it comes to the weather patterns in the GoM. Don't come down here thinking you're hot stuff as there is almost always someone with more experience sitting just across the room. Don't earn the nickname "Chief One Cloud". It's one thing not to fly when the weather is horrible, but if the minimums are there and everyone else is out flying, your customer is going to get rid of you if you're not flying. Don't try and be a hero either. When you're new to the GoM and the weather is questionable, let the older and more experienced guys go first. They will let you know the status and whether or not you should be out there.

 

There are some great career type opportunities in the GoM with most of the operators. Those opportunities can be even better career wise when you take into account the part 91 operators that exist down here, but you must get the GoM experience first. It's not for everyone, but no one helicopter job really is and that is what is great about the wide variety of jobs available to us.

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I have been wondering about location. Do you have to live near your base? I know that a lot of the workers on the rigs travel from all over the place, can pilots do the same? Do the helicopter companies pay any sort of travel expense if you do?

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I have been wondering about location. Do you have to live near your base? I know that a lot of the workers on the rigs travel from all over the place, can pilots do the same? Do the helicopter companies pay any sort of travel expense if you do?

 

You do not have to live anywhere near the base. I live 4 hours from my base, and other pilots commute from all over the country to the base that they are assigned. Most company's dont pay you to get to work, but will pay mileage if they send you to a base other than your assigned.

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