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This is my first post to the forum and I am just wondering if there are any professional helicopter pilots out there with families. I am currently in the military right now and I am married with one child and planning on having another one. I've done 8 years but I feel like I have had enough and in 3 years when my contract is up I want to leave the "safe security blanket" of the military and pursue my dream of becoming a helicopter pilot out there in the civilian world. I know it is really expensive and it's a long hard road. I've read alot of the posts and stories on here and I strongly believe that it is something I can do as long as I remain motivated and persistant with it. I was able to at least find a school that will allow my VA benefits to pay for it 100% but my only concern is the road after I receive all my ratings, trying to get a job as a flight instructor and the many jobs that would follow once I pay my dues as an instructor. From what I understand it's hard enough to get a job as an instructor and the pay would barely be enough to support my family. Is there any one that has taken this journey with a family behind them? Any advice? Would having a family ever fit into the lifestyle of a helo pilot? Do you spend alot of time away from family? Any comments, advice, or words of encouragement I would greatly appreciate!

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This is my first post to the forum and I am just wondering if there are any professional helicopter pilots out there with families. I am currently in the military right now and I am married with one child and planning on having another one. I've done 8 years but I feel like I have had enough and in 3 years when my contract is up I want to leave the "safe security blanket" of the military and pursue my dream of becoming a helicopter pilot out there in the civilian world. I know it is really expensive and it's a long hard road. I've read alot of the posts and stories on here and I strongly believe that it is something I can do as long as I remain motivated and persistant with it. I was able to at least find a school that will allow my VA benefits to pay for it 100% but my only concern is the road after I receive all my ratings, trying to get a job as a flight instructor and the many jobs that would follow once I pay my dues as an instructor. From what I understand it's hard enough to get a job as an instructor and the pay would barely be enough to support my family. Is there any one that has taken this journey with a family behind them? Any advice? Would having a family ever fit into the lifestyle of a helo pilot? Do you spend alot of time away from family? Any comments, advice, or words of encouragement I would greatly appreciate!

 

I did the civilian CFI bit 30 years ago with a young family, 2 in diapers and one just starting school. The operator was very supportive and family friendly, in fact treated us as family members, even if poor relations. The owner had his money made and ran the school side of his business as a hobby. It was a good time, other than being broke, probably the best period with my first wife. That relationship went downhill when I went to the Gulf and started living out of a bag again. Too much separation for her, but I know pilots who've kept families and marriages intact through the the process. Unfortunately, this career doesn't improve the statistics. It takes very strong and resourceful partner to make the single parent job work, as you probably know from time in the service. If you have that, you have a shot at keeping the family together while you make or break as a student/starting helo pilot, but the challege continues as you follow the jobs and/or work duty assignments.

Edited by Wally
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Welcome to the forum Marine! Here is my $0.02 on this. I am starting my training in the fall. I have been deployed twice while in the Army. If, after my training, I must take a job for a while that takes me out of state, I will treat it as I would treat a deployment. I think if your family could handle it while in the service, they can handle it out as well. At least with this scenario, you can come home as often as you are able to. It wouldn't be ideal for me to leave my family, but I will do it if that's what it takes. We have 4 kids, and my wife is a real trooper. She can handle anything I throw at her, and believe me, I have tested her over the years! Now I don't know if your specifics match up to mine, but we are very fortunate to be able to maintain our lifestyle even with the low starting pay that I am expecting to receive. My wife has a great job in IT, plus my retirement, so the money is not the main influence for me getting into this field.

 

I hope this all works out for you, and I hope my angle may help you sort this out for sou and your family. Good luck brother!

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Is there any one that has taken this journey with a family behind them? Any advice?

 

Yes, I am starting my 4th year as a commercial helicopter pilot. I instructed for a year before I landed my commercial job. In the past 4 years my wife and I have had our first child who is now 16 months old. My personal situation puts me in Alaska for most of the summer, then I return to Oregon in the winter to be with my family, basicly a 6 months on/ 6 months off schedule. Being gone for 5-6 months at a time is hard on the family. The best we can hope for is 1 or 2 chances to see each other in that time. Of course we could make the move to Alaska and I would see my family more.

 

Of course, that is just my journey, if you have done any reasearch then you know most of the "entry level jobs" would land you in the Gulf or Las Vegas / Grand Canyon for a couple years. Depending on where you live, the most prevelent "family friendly" job is usually EMS, but you would have to build a fair amount of experiance to land one of those jobs.

 

I know several pilots who are working with families right now. So yes it can be done, you just have to decide what will work for your family. I would say you should expect a year or two in school depending on the program, then another year or more as a flight instructor (if you find a job) making very little before you are "qualified" for your first commercial job.

 

Good Luck :D

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From what I understand it's hard enough to get a job as an instructor and the pay would barely be enough to support my family. Is there any one that has taken this journey with a family behind them? Any advice? Would having a family ever fit into the lifestyle of a helo pilot? Do you spend alot of time away from family? Any comments, advice, or words of encouragement I would greatly appreciate!

 

I left the security of a corporate job to do this 4 years ago, and just started working as a flight instructor a few months ago.

 

Can my pay support a family? No. I work 5 hours from home, so I have a modest apartment here and drive back and forth 1x a week. My pay to date might cover gas to and from home.

Comments about spending time away from family? The first week here, away from my daughter, was awful, but was able to change my schedule to 4 on 4 off (our CP has been very willing to accommodate my schedule). I was lucky to be able to choose this job over a much better job that would have put an all-day plane trip between me and home. I know several colleagues who haven't had that luxury.

 

Seeing my family carry on their lives without me while I'm gone is brutal. Two things keep me going:

  • Believe it or not, I got into this for the lifestyle. 2 weeks is a long time to be away from home, but you can do so much during those 2 weeks at home, much more than you can do when work follows you home every night and over the weekend. There's a difference between being at home every night and being home. I'm jealous of my instructor, who got there in just over 2 years; my timing sucked, but I'm still trying to make a go of it.
  • For now, I'm making the best of it. My daughter gets me all day Thursday. I still work at my old job to support myself, but not Thursday. Sometimes that means I stay up all night working, but she gets that time. We have a blast, and it's better than trying to fit her in around my old "8 to 5/5 and 2" work routine.

Other advice? Your wife has to buy into this 100%. You don't want to be fighting that battle on your days at home.

 

@RunKodoz

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Thank you for all your responses gentlemen. They brought out some really good points and perspectives that I never thought of. It's a little more comforting now to know that there are many others out there that are walking proof that it is possible and that it can be done. I guess I could kinda treat it like a deployment lol. The way I explained it to my wife is that either way if I stay in the Corps, for sure there will be more deployments and time apart along with moving all over the country/overseas. If I get out and do this it's a possibility only I would have more freedom to come home if I choose to. The one point I liked the best was the one about how there is a difference in being at home every night and being home.

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I'll keep it short.

 

Before you go to get that job(one where you'll be away from home for a week) talk to the wife first and see how she feels about you being gone for a week or what ever the schedule is.

 

I have seen many pilots get divorced because of the schedule, so think long and hard and talk to the wife.

 

Right now I am gone for a week and go home for a week. It is very hard on my wife and I. One we have a 10month old at home of which I can't help my wife take care of when I am at work. Two, I want to see my family every night. So it's hard.

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This has been an interesting discussion. Although I'm not a pilot yet and probably won't seek out a career in flying, I'll add this perspective. There are lots of jobs out there that require travel and time away from family, some in longer durations than others; truck driving, fishing, sailing, working in the oil industry, construction, concert and live entertainment touring, rail road, the airlines, the list goes on.

 

My father in law has been a truck driver since he got back from Desert Storm (drives for three weeks, home for three or four days). Has his family suffered, probably, but they managed to keep paying the bills. A few years ago I had to take a six month long out of state job in order to further my career. Yeah it sucks. But you suck it up, it's what you do. You count yourself as lucky if you get to do something that you enjoy AND it pays enough to keep your family fed, clothed and with a roof over their heads.

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