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Life as an ENG (Electronic News Gathering) Commercial Pilot


RkyMtnHI
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This is going really well folks, please keep posting with your input..

 

 

If you have worked, or are now working, in a position as a ENG 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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  • 2 weeks later...

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

I worked several local news contracts while also working as a CFI/I. It was not part of my job description when I hired on, and my company did not assign me to begin flying those contracts until I'd reached 700 hours, 50hrs R44. The contracts were breaking news only and were fulfilled using R44s.

 

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

I was paid 20/hr while on standby for breaking news M-F. Vacation was allowed only if there were still pilots to cover the shifts, but it was generally discouraged. My employer had a SIMPLE IRA program.

 

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

I worked in news gathering roughly one year and logged 380 hours doing that job part-time, something like 20-30hr/week on shift.

 

What were your primary job responsibilities?

For this part of my job, my primary responsibilities were first to the aircraft (make sure it gets proper maintenance, keep it clean, keep it ready to go), and then to the mission (5 minutes from phone call to lift-off). The duty of finding the scene lay with me with secondary responsibility on the photographer in back...I memorized the highway system and general location of most of the outlying towns and major roads, and the photog would look up specifics in the MAPSCO once I got us pointed in the right direction. I also had a touchscreen roadmap GPS to aid in scene location. Once there, I was responsible for positioning the shot. Of course, collision avoidance (with the other news guys, transients, whoever), ATC coordination, and safety of flight were also on my shoulders, but I think those go without saying.

 

What was best about the job?

I've never had to multi-task like I did for that job. I had 2 aviation and at least 2 news station radios (sometimes 3) active at all times plus the guy in the back and sometimes all talking concurrently. The job also forced me to learn my way around on the ground; consequently, I rarely get lost anymore.

 

What was worst about the job?

The worst part for me was the difficulty of balancing news responsibilities with my responsibility to my students. The boredom of waiting for breaking news that sometimes never came or waiting for a release after the breaking news was over was not terribly exciting either.

 

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

I am now working in a different flight school. My ENG experience has not helped me get ahead in my own career, but it has given me a broader perspective from which to instruct. I'm glad I've been in a place where I was daily confronted with the tests of "real world" flying and immediately after faced with the questions of untried pilots. It forced me to translate my experience into something that could be taught.

 

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

I wanted to be an instructor when I finished my CFI training. I did not care much for ENG, not either before I was allowed to fly it nor once I was expected to fly it daily. It was exactly what I expected it to be, though it did become a little more enjoyable once I got used to the tedium of circling a static scene for 2+ hours.

 

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

It is in the past. I would say ENG is probably not for me...there were bright spots, but I just don't really like that kind of flying. For those thinking of doing it, I think it depends a lot on how well you get on with your photographer. You spend a LOT of time with that person, and if he gets on your nerves, well, you'll probably have no one to gripe to about it but him (I liked mine, by the way). But the only way I personally would go back to an ENG position is if it were the only job I had to do. The hard split between the impossibility of letting down The Station and the deeply disturbing unprofessional-ism of shafting a student actually drove me into depression for a while; I would not go back to that.

 

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

Like all helicopter jobs, it is NOT all fame and glory. You mostly sit (memorize the road maps while you're sitting). At my company you also did manual labor, but I'm told most places don't do that. When you're sitting, you're sitting with just you and your photog. There are hours of boredom on the ground...followed by 30 minutes of panic and overload as you and 5 other helicopters all try to follow a police chase in progress across the approach end of a Bravo runway and the one helicopter over there isn't talking on 123.02 because his station is taking him live, but you've still got seven other voices frantically screaming in your ear (one of which is the Bravo controller), and you're just trying not to hit anything, but you've lost the chase behind some buildings, and the station demands to know what street he's on now, and the GPS quirkily decided Now's the time to zoom way, way out and freeze...if this sounds appealing, good. But also bear in mind, this was 30 minutes. And the last job you went on was a 2-alarm garbage fire over which you circled until you reached minimum fuel before they reluctantly released you to return to base.

 

This is a job. It's got some attractive things about it, but it's still a job. It'll keep you mostly in one place (beware, though, you might end up on the road with little warning when some huge catastrophe calls for the helicopter to head to Kansas or wherever). You'll have lots of free time, too; like EMS, it might be a good place to continue your education, get Masters work done, etc...but that depends on the system they've got in place and whether you have other duties. You also watch a lot of TV.

 

For my 2 cents, though, interview the photog they're putting you with before you take the job. Your day-to-day happiness depends a lot on him. Also, if the system there places navigation responsibility on the photog, learn the area anyway. It can only help.

 

Gee, this has been long. Hope it has at least been interesting!

Best to all,

romanweel

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  • 8 months later...

Romanweel, Awesome post. Very insightful. Thank you. Anyone else care to share?

 

Edit: yes I realize this post is old. No sense in making a new thread, when I can just bump this one. ;)

 

I've been so busy and I will try again to set some time aside to come up with something, I have had the privilege to fly ENG for Metro Networks (R44) Helicopters Inc. (B206) US Helicopters (AS350) and have been employed by a TV station owning their aircraft (AS350B2). I'm trying to come up with something that will loop it all together. Feel free to PM me with any question in the mean time! :)

Edited by B-Hill
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  • 10 months later...

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