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New Guy


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hey everyone, new to the forum and helicopter flight, been looking around the forums and search engines trying to find some information. I turn 20 in a couple weeks and still have no college experience, I havnt found anything I'm interested in doing until now. A friend took me up in his R44 and I loved it so I contacted Heliventures in Concord, NC and scheduled an introductory flight this tuesday. I really feel like a career in rotorwing aviation would be great for me, I feel that it fits my personality and my interest.


So to my questions. I have heard that most people in the civilian aviation sector go to flight school, then typically instruct to build a 1,000 hours or so then move on, often times to offshore operations and then beyond.


Well, I'm not too terribly interested in the military route, nothing against the military, I had a back injury and intense physical labor kills me so bootcamp doesnt appeal to me.


What are other options out there? I have been watching a few websites and it seems like most of the jobs out there are EMS and require thousands of hours of PIC time and night flight. I know some say sightseeing is a good place to start but I havnt been able to find any classifieds or help wanted.


If anyone wants to chime in I would greatly appreciate it. I have a big decision to make thats going to hurt the wallet and change my life. I suppose I'm looking for some guidance from experienced pilots.

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Go the military route.


Or drop 60,000 and pray. pray, that youll get a job that can pay the bills.


If i could go military I would. You can get waivers for your injury if its not severe. And write down every bad thing you dont like about the military and see if flying helicopters for the rest of your life isnt worth it.


im 20, and am fearful about starting my flight training. Im worried, even though aviation is my passion, that the lifestyle id be in, poverty, stressful job hunting and what-not will make me miserable.


Good luck man, Im in the same boat as you right now.



Oh, but with no college you dont have a chance in hell to get hired. Go to school!

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Hi New Guy,


Welcome to Vertical Reference, and the helicopter industry as a whole. You are off to a good start by doing independent research and asking tough questions outside of the flight school doors.


My first recommendation is to familiarize yourself with the search function of this website located on the upper right hand corner of this screen. Believe it or not a new post is made probably once a week asking the same questions as yours. Lot's of good info there.


Second I would recommend going to an Aviation Medical Examiner AME and getting your flight physical to obtain a Second Class Medical and Student Pilot Certificate. You want to make sure you are medically qualified before you spend another dollar on flying. Note if you have any medical conditions that you think could pose a problem I would strongly recommend joining the AOPA and using their medical advisory service prior to going to the AME.


Third you need to get your finances in order. This endeavor can cost upwards of $70,000 dollars. That money goes very quickly plan on spending it all in one year if you are training full time 5 days per week. Many people have to quit 1/2 way through because they run out of funds. Note Do Not pay for your training in one lump sum. Pay as you go period. Research Silver State Helicopters if you want more info as to why this is a bad idea.


Fourth you should be aware that right now is a challenging time to be starting out as a new civilian helicopter pilot. The career track is to complete your training as a commercial pilot/flight instructor(make sure to get your Instrument Rating too), and obtain employment as an entry level CFI. This is currently the biggest hurdle after financing. The competition is fierce right now, and there are many newly minted unemployed helicopter pilots/instructors looking for work. Plan on spending 1 & 1/2 to 2 years instructing and doing part 91 operations. Be the best instructor you can be and treat your students right. This is where you really start learning. While you are instructing try and gain as much night experience as possible preferably 200 hrs to expand your options down the road. When you get there remember even if you are the best most senior instructor at your flight school that there is a big world outside of instructing that you know little about yet. Stay humble and treat everyone with respect. You still have much to learn.


Next with 1500hrs helicopter time it is off to your first turbine job. Vegas and Alaska for tours or the Gulf of Mexico flying oil support. Plan to spend another two years there increasing your experience, and value to potential employers. Many pilots choose to spend their entire carers in these positions. If however you decide you want to move on after you have built up 2500 helicopter flight hrs, 1000 turbine helicopter hours, 150 Night hrs you qualify for many helicopter EMS positions if that is your goal. If you want to get into utility or firefighting work it is at this point that you may want to talk with your employer about your goals and negotiate a move (or at least a plan of action) to that side of the operations if they have them in house. If not then you could take an external load course like that offered by LA Helicopters to make you qualified for a entry level utility position. From there it goes on but this will get you through the next five years or so.


If after all your research you still decide to pursue a career in aviation then I would visit as many flight schools as possible. You can ask your local FAA representative called a FSDO for a recommendation of flight schools with good reputations.


Finally remember this is a very small industry. Your reputation is important. Always be professional whoever you are dealing with starting from your first forum post & demo flight throughout the rest of your career.

Fly safe,


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Here are a few suggestions:


1) Scounge up about 70K, become a flight instructor, get in your car, and drive around the country looking for work(door to door).


2) Start your own company, build up 1500hrs, sell the company, and get a job flying Tours(Alaska/Grand Canyon).


3) Go to college, get a degree in a good paying field, buy 1500hrs slowely over several years, then retire into flying at around 40.


4) Marry a rich chick, buy a helicopter, fly it to 1500hrs, sell it, then get a job flying Tours.


If you want to see what employers are looking for, try JustHelicopters, this site, and JSfirm.


The hardest part(after finding enough funding), is figuring out how to get from 200hrs(flight school) to 1500hrs(employable)?


Good luck! :)

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Oh, but with no college you dont have a chance in hell to get hired. Go to school!


Not true at all, I don't have a degree and been working as a pilot for nearly 3 years. You don't NEED college to be a pilot.

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Don't get me wrong, I know I need a college degree as a safety and just for employment but I can't afford both. I can either pay for flight school with very little to no financing or do flight school and college and be $20k+ in debt. I really don't want to go into debt.


I may try to get my private and commercial and then see where could that places me in the military. Warrant Officer position possibly?


Most of the reqruiters I've talked to, and this was years ago, have told me that they are much more interested in taking NCO's and turning them into Warrant Officers then taking in civilians but maybe having helicopter flight experience would change that?


Anyone with experience in this?


I just havnt found much that interest me other then helicopter flying. I've tried fixed wing, didn't enjoy it. I've been a mechanic for a couple years building custom Jeep's and I've done well but it's nothing I want to do for a career. I even invested thousands in a race car and sadly failed at that even though I loved it and gave up alot of my teenage life.. A desk job just doesnt appeal to me whatsoever so helicopter flying seems like a good venue for me.



Oh and the search button works great but I feel that sometimes people don't ask the proper questions. I've looked and talked to CFI's at multiple schools on the eastcoast and I have literelly interogated them and let me tell you, what some of them have told me worried me. As far as good prospects, Ernesto at Rotor and Wing in Raleigh, NC and Buddy at Heliventures in Concord, NC seem to really know what they are talking about. I'm travelling this tuesday to check out both schools and see the facility and they both offer a full time curriculum that goes from PPL, CPL, IFR, CFI, and CFII if you choose.

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Hey, in regard to your back pain, I don't know what the extent of your injury and pain is, but be advised that this is a bad industry to get into with chronic back pain. Not only are most medications off limits when you become a pilot, but the environment is very conducive to aggravating existing back problems.


I had a back injury and my neurosurgeon told me my X-rays and MRI look similar to a long distance truck driver, who he sees a lot. I guess the constant vibrations and cramped seating really affect your spine and the discs. As a pilot in most jobs, you will need to be able to sit for up to 3 hours at a time without moving. There are jobs out there where you sit for longer and some that you sit for less, but 3 could be considered the longest you'll sit in one spot. If you have problems sitting in a chair for that long, this job might not be the right choice. Anyway, best of luck....

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I also started flying when I was 19 and to be entirely honest with you if I was faced with the decision to start all over right now today, I wouldn't do it knowing what I know now. Back in 2007 it was a cakewalk to make it all the way through training, land a CFI job and get your turbine transition. Now a days it seems like there are just too many unemployed CFI's, those who are going through training and obtain their flight instructor certs have no students to train once they are finished.


Granted, this is just one opinion from someone who was lucky enough to make it all the way through the hurdles while seeing plenty of people drop $70-100k in training just to return to the job they held previously. It was heartbreaking seeing these great students become great flight instructors only to see them not be able to get a job not because of any flaw in the person themselves, but simply because there were no students left in the school to train. If you can possibly imagine yourself doing ANYTHING else besides flying a helicopter commercially then I would advise you to pursue that. If there is literally nothing else you can possibly see yourself doing then start praying now, put in lots of hard work, and hope that you are also one of the lucky ones who makes it all the way through.


Either way, good luck.


Also, I can tell you that a lot of pilots I know suffer from back pain that stems from the job and the cockpit. If you're already starting out with a busted back I'd be even more hesitant to start.

Edited by Azhigher
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Welcome to the forum. Here is the real deal with no sugar coating.


For me, I can say without a doubt, flying helicopters for a living is truly a wonderful (read bitchen) career. However, it’s not easy. Not easy in any sense of the word. It’s extremely expensive and takes an inordinate amount of patience, determination and sacrifice to succeed. And, the success I’m talking about has nothing to do with financial gain.


1. You’re young, very young. Take lots of time and research this endeavor before jumping in…. Like maybe a year or two….


2. Take everything you read on the internet about this industry with a huge grain of salt. Believe nothing until you talk face to face with numerous industry professionals who’ve worked in every sector.


3. Understand, when you join the military, you do so to become a soldier not a pilot. The military can provide you with an opportunity to become a pilot, but that opportunity comes with some strings attached. Understand that….


4. For a small cost, any community collage can provide you with an AA degree. I suggest you start there…


5. This is mandatory! Attend HeliExpo in Orlando FL in March. While there, go to the HeliSuccess Job Fair and befriend some of the folks sitting in the audience. They will be thrilled to tell someone like you about their own experiences. When they talk, listen carefully…


This business is not for everyone. You can have all the certificates and ratings to fill the Wall of China, and still never succeed. When it comes to being hired, hours in your logbook is only one factor of many, and certainly, not the most important. The helicopter industry is a very small industry. Your reputation is everything and your attitude, from your first flight lesson, will define your reputation….. NEVER forget that..


This isn’t meant to discourage you. It’s meant to educate you.


Since your new here, please hit the green “+” at the lower right. If I get four more, I get a bag of cookies….

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From what I have heard a private rating will doubtfully help with a WOFT packet. School however may help put you a rung higher than the competition. With a degree you could also aply for a commisioned position.


If you didn't like flying fixed wing, you may get bored with rotors quick too. Although I would have to say rotors seem alot more fun, I have a passion for all aviation.


You could join the military (Enlisted) serve your term while using TA for free school and get the GI Bill. By the way military training counts for college credit also. As you are doing this you can work towards getting your WOFT packet together. Try to come out with a degree, and then even if you don't get into WOFT, you will be able to use the GI Bill to pay for some if not all of your training... Just another option, I'm not a recruiter, just adding some options.


Bottom line, it is smart to get the degree. No it is not required for a pilot job, but what if that doesn't work out?

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I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their gracious efforts by allowing me to honorably receive a bag of cookies. I am truly proud of this monumental achievement. Mind you, it’s not the cookies that are important but rather the effort WE as a team put together to bring forth this award. I share it with you all. I’d especially like to thank those who took the time to press the green “+” as I know how difficult it can be…


Again, thank you all…


Now everyone can resume hitting the red “-“ at the lower right…



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