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Life as a Tour Pilot


RkyMtnHI
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If you have worked, or are now working, in a position flying tours, 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'll see if I can get one of my old CFI's to chime in.

 

I'm not a tour pilot but I did fly a tour the other night. Kinda cool when there is a marriage proposal involved, beautiful night over downtown LA, landed in winds 18G25K..

 

Great fun.

 

Seriously I know a couple guys that do it mostly part time, they love the tips. I think there's only a handful of areas that can support truly full time tour pilots. Vegas being one of those areas.

 

I'll get one of my Vegas buddettes to post something.

Edited by Goldy
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I have been flying tours along with my primary job of instructing in the Boston area for the last 2 years. Theres a lot to like about flying tours.

The guests are always excited. Some have told me afterwards the flight was one of the greatest things they have ever experienced. You interact with some terrific people and they are usually very grateful for and enamored with the work you do. Its great to help people achieve a dream and check something off the bucket list. I have also done numerous engagement flights(all succesful thank goodness)inluding one where a city firefighter had his coworkers spell out the engagement request down on the ground.

 

Anywhere you are flying tours is obviously a desirable place. Boston is certainly a city that offers modern and historic charm and some beautiful natural scenery along the coast and elsewhere nearby. Its hard not to enjoy flying happy enthusiastic people over beautiful and interesting scenery and its a nice change of pace from flight instruction. Its great to do a different mission, and all the flying.

 

I fly well maintained R44s. The R44 is a nice aircraft in my opinion. Especially in the summertime, but anytime with a full load you have to manage your load and fly cautiously, otherwise it works well for the mission and probably provides a more intimate experience than other platforms, (not that I would mind flying a larger aircraft).

 

Some recommendations would be get to know the area and any interesting trivia where you are flying. Guests really appreciate when you can describe the area you are flying over as if youve lived there your entire life. I am not from the east coast so it was challenging at first. I had to be a tourist myself and look up stuff on Wikipedia.

Pay attention to TFRs. Certainly in Boston and Im sure in other places they can inhibit your ability to fly the tour you want and obviously you dont want to bust any TFRs. Take advantage of JDs post on TFRs. That is exactly the right advice on how to handle them.

 

Be mindful the comfort level of your passengers is going to be quite different from your own. A professional introduction is important to make them feel good about the idea of taking a flight with you. A good preflight briefing is a chance to put them at ease as well as discuss important safety info. It's important to fly very smoothly and keep in mind they will be much more sensitive to things like gusting winds and turbulent conditions.

 

Nothing like some air sickness to turn someone off on what is normally such an awesome experience. On days when the winds are moderate or stronger I try to get a sense of my passengers fortitude, children especially and if they have any experience in small aircraft.

This and keeping an eye on how they are doing during the flight has worked very well and probably allowed me to prevent some potential problems. Make sure they are aware to keep their attention outside of the helicopter for the most part. It never hurts to have airsick bags available either way. I did once have a smaller kid lose it in the back suddenly not long after we left the airport with no bag available and needless to say I dont want that to happen ever again.

 

This was one of my first flying jobs and at the time I certainly considered it a dream job. In some ways I still do. I can see myself enjoying flying tours as long as I fly. That said I dont know if doing it exclusively and more full time would cause it to become any less enjoyable and more routine.

 

Best part about this job is the fact that I get to do a variety of flying and interact with happy people. Worst thing is the entry level pay which is tough to get by on during the times when the flying is sporadic. Hope this helps. If anyone has more specific questions feel free to PM me.

Edited by blave!
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Worked for Maverick Helicopters in Las Vegas NV

 

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

I was at around 1300 hours TT, CPL/CFI, had done tours in AK and San Diego, photo flights, and charter.

 

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

Pay was good, vacation time was a week/yr worked (2nd year gives you 2 weeks off), insurance was paid for by company (additional for dependents).

 

How long did you work in this area?

Worked in LV for about 2 years.

 

How many hours per year did you log?

About 1500 hours in 2 years.

 

What were your primary job responsibilities?

Primary responsibilities were to do proper preflight.

Make sure to have everything needed at the Canyon

Assure proper fuel on board

Seat passengers according to weight and balance (dispatch will give you a manifest with W&B information printed on it and each pax weight)

FLY SAFE (#1)

Narrate a good and informative tour

Treat your passengers well

Unload and take care of passengers at the canyon (serve champagne, snacks, take pictures, give information, be personable)

Stop for fuel on the way back to KLAS at our company fuel farm and refuel

Continue to KLAS for landing

Clean aircraft interior (adjust belts, PFD's, disinfect headsets, clean windows)

Restock aircraft with snacks/drinks, fuel

Do it again.

 

What was best about the job?

The friends you make at the job. The pilots you work with everyday. That is what I miss about Maverick the most. I have made lifelong friends that I would have never met if I hadn't worked at Maverick, the camaraderie is awesome.

 

What was worst about the job?

The monotony. Sometimes pax would get on your nerves but it's tolerable the few times that that happens. I just couldn't deal with the same thing everyday anymore. To each his own though. There are guys there that have done everything else and tours are what they like to do most. I did enjoy the job a lot overall and the good easily outweighs the bad, I just had to do something else. Maverick does do whet they can to break it up a little for you and there are different things to do once in a while (charters, NASCAR, etc)

 

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

I went to EMS afterward. The tour job helped in just getting really comfortable with flying, building hours and experience, real world weather patterns, people skills building, multi tasking (dealing with 3 different radios at once).

 

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

It was a rung on the ladder but one I have no regrets about.

 

Was it what you expected it to be?

It was everything I expected and more. I didn't realize the relationships I would build before I worked there.

 

If it's in the past, would you go back?

I would go back if I needed to of course, it is a good job. I would work harder to help expand into different things if I were to go back such as some possible utility work or something more that we could do as well as tours during the slower season.

 

If you did return, what would you do differently now?

I don't think I would do anything differently now. I felt that I did everything I could to do a good job, do things right and I had a good experience. Like I said, no regrets :).

 

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

Make sure you come with a good attitude, be patient (pax can test it), be smooth, and do everything SLOW! These guys do not want to see how fast you can maneuver the aircraft around, they'd rather see how slowly you can do it. Safety is number one no matter what. Make sure they know that it is your priority as well. Work hard and appreciate the good. I was flying in one of the 7 wonders of the world and heard a few times a week, every week, "you have the best job in the world." It is what you make it, appreciate what you have. Show management that if they need you they can count on you, it will make a difference.

Do things in your time off and make sure you take some time off. Vegas is a fun place to live and there is a lot to do. Go hiking, go to the lake, go snowboarding, do everything. HAVE FUN.

 

I may have missed some things but this is the basics. If anyone has any questions, feel free to fire away.

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

 

1200hrs TT, Gold seal CFI/CFII, worked as a CFI before

 

 

 

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

 

With extra days and tips I'm looking at $60k total per year (1st year). Standard paid vacation, company pays for some insurance, 401k matches some (variable)

 

 

 

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

 

Still working here, 5 months in and I'm at ~400 hours. Looks like with some effort and plenty of extra days I'll hit 800-1000 a day.

 

 

 

What were your primary job responsibilities?

 

Preflight, get pax and give basic safety briefing, ensure fuel load/meals/champagne is on board, fly the tour route while giving an informative tour of the surrounding area, land and serve meal/drinks, entertain pax for 25 mins, take pics, load them up and fly home. Clean the helicopter (straighten seat belts, wipe down headsets, do basic post flight check) and repeat.

 

 

 

What was best about the job?

 

As was stated above, working with the great group of pilots I do. The nice thing is that most pilots come from a different background, different ships, different operations, so there is a lot to learn just from the other people around you. Also great references as the people you work with move on to other things.

 

 

 

What was worst about the job?

 

Gets monotonous eventually. Not terribly technical flying, but thats nice some days.

 

 

 

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

 

Still here in the ditch doing the job.

 

 

 

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

 

It was my dream job when I was still instructing in a 22. Now it's somewhat a rung on the ladder but I'm having fun doing it. It's pretty much exactly what I expected.

 

 

 

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

 

Have a positive attitude, people tend to tip happy pilots a lot more =)

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Can I add a question in here?

 

How long did it take you from when you started PPL until you landed this job?

 

I know there is alot of variables as to why or when you got the job, but maybe if enough post us newbies can get a good idea of the average.

 

THANKS: Mike

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By far one of the greatest things I have ever read! You have no idea what this means to a perspective student. This puts the career into retrospect. I've been sitting on my ass contemplating the risk of 70k to jump into this and what better info than the actual job description/life of the pilot. I'm truly amazed.....and obviously hard work and a little luck pays off. Congratsto all who have made it. In their dream careers.

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