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Are helicopter's right for me?


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First time poster here. I'm trying to decide between FW or RW piloting career and would love some insight.

 

Background on myself: Getting out of the Navy in a year with my post 9/11 GI Bill and already holding a private ASEL certificate with about 60 hours TT.

 

The reason I became interested in helicopters was primarily the variety in type of work (long line, fire fighting, EMS, GoM, instruction, tours, even banner towing, ect) followed by the added complexity and challenge compared to fixed wing (or what I've been told). I thought about a career as a airline pilot and corporate pilot, being that these positions are often what people use as benchmarks for their own personal success and have no real desire to ferry people or cargo from point A to B on routine routes in densely populated areas.

 

When I saw the Skycrane in action, that set in motion the dream and goal to fly helos. Last week was my first introduction flying in the R22 and I can say I was pretty blown away but also became nervous flying it as everything felt out of control (or just me out of control, haha)

 

The challenge seems more daunting then I originally though and just about everything I knew from fixed wing was out the door, so here are some questions.

 

 

 

1.Does it take more time for a prior fixed wing guy to learn the ropes of manipulating the controls and getting the feel down based on your own personal experience?

 

2. What are some things you wish you knew prior to getting your certificates that you know now?

 

3. What are some common mistakes fixed wing pilots make transitioning and how can I avoid them?

 

4. What are some things you love about the industry and some things you do like so much?

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from all of you soon. Take care and fly safe!!

 

Jess

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1. I don't have a lot of fixed wing time, but I'd say after you learn how to hover, most everything else should be quicker (things like straight and level, pattern work, etc.) since you've done them before.

 

2. Just how scarce entry-level jobs are.

 

3. You may have difficulty convincing yourself that you can fly really slow and still be airborn (i.e. flying the approaches too fast). Most importantly (especially in the R22) DON'T DIVE THE NOSE DOWN!

 

4. Helicopters are more fun to fly, but there's a "supply and demand" problem, and sometimes I wish I had chosen fixed wing, because I think they may have more entry-level options than we do?

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There are a lot of pros and cons to weigh. Cost of training vs employment opportunities upon completion usually being the kicker for most people.

 

What you really need to ask yourself is this: Why helicopters? Is the fun, the challenge, really worth the cost and possible heartache later on? How much do you enjoy it? I can always tell when an intro flight will turn into a full time student. There is just a certain look in the eyes of people who got the bug. To those people, there is no other option. They will find a way to pay for the training, they will tough it out through the less than optimal job market. They will create a niche for themselves somewhere.

 

To me, 10 years and $50,000 after I started, I am still at the bottom looking up, but I have no regrets. I LOVE what I do. I wish I would have done a few things differently, but those were personal choices that wound up getting in the way of my career.

 

In short, you can't really ask us if it's for you. We all need to decide those things for ourselves. You might have great success as a helicopter pilot. You might spend a lot of money and go nowhere. A lot of that is up to you, but I certainly don't want to tell anyone there are rainbows and pots of gold and beautiful women at the end of your training. This is a job that requires a lot of professionalism, hard work, attention to detail and sacrifice with not very many rewards other than maintaining a seat in the cockpit. If you are the kind of person that thrives in that kind of environment, then this job is right up your alley. If you expect to be paid good, treated well and have everything laid out for you prior to you getting in the seat, I'd stay with fixed wing. I really don't know if the market is better for FW or not. There are more jobs, but also a larger pool of pilots.

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The first few times you come in to do a run on landing you will want to flare. Trust me.

 

Other than that, I experienced ZERO negative crossover from 12 years of fixed wing flying, and if anything it helped me.

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IMHO

 

I don't want to be a buzz kill, but a lot of rotary is ferrying people or cargo from point A to B on routine routes. That's pretty much the definition of O&G and Tours (which are the first most available jobs)

 

I know that there are exceptions, but on the other hand there are exceptions on the fixed wing side. I just don't want you to have the illusion of jumping into an adventurous Skycrane or utility job in the early stages of your flying career. It can happen, and will. It just takes time.

 

1. Manipulation of controls and feeling? Perhaps a little, but not a super huge amount. Where you will have an advantage is airspace, radios, and ground.

 

2. Not a whole lot, I did tons of research before I started. Maybe, buy a good headset out of the gates, don't bother with a "starter" one, planning on getting a nicer one later.

 

3. Lots of the common mistakes are for high time guys. For your situation, I would think that your biggest problem would be to use anti torque in turns, ordering sissy drinks in a bar, and not knowing how to drink in general. These mistakes can be avoided by being situationally aware.

(there are safety notices for robinsons, it's good to read them all. You can google and find them. SN-11, and 29 especially)

 

4. The people.

 

Good luck.

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The first few times you come in to do a run on landing you will want to flare. Trust me.

 

Other than that, I experienced ZERO negative crossover from 12 years of fixed wing flying, and if anything it helped me.

 

One negative muscle memory crossover that haunted me was the collective. In the helo if you want more power your left arm does a curl. In a joystick equipped fixed wing the increase power muscle movement of the left arm is a press. I found myself subconsciously mixing them up, and had to consciously concentrate sometimes to get the desired result.

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1.Does it take more time for a prior fixed wing guy to learn the ropes of manipulating the controls and getting the feel down based on your own personal experience?

 

Short answer, no. However, your initial 60 hours fixed wing is not much experience to increase the likelihood of negative transfer. Simply put, at 60 hours you’re still crawling so learning to run shouldn't be an issue…..

 

2. What are some things you wish you knew prior to getting your certificates that you know now?

 

I wish I better understood the total cost of training. Whatever you’re being told, it’s a lot more……

 

3. What are some common mistakes fixed wing pilots make transitioning and how can I avoid them?

 

Refer to answer #1…..

 

4. What are some things you love about the industry and some things you do like so much?

 

First thing is; there are more things that suck about this industry then what I love about it. However, I understand your interest in the positive side. With that, few people get into this business to make money. If they did, they’re in for a big disappointment. Therefore, the people in this business are generally cut from the same mold. That is, people who will give up on the lifelong pursuit of wealth and simply following their hearts…. Because of this, the people in this business are a pretty awesome group of people. Like no other, I might add... After that, it’s all about the machine. The jobs, careers, businesses, products, t-shits, hats, magazines, websites, forums, pictures, and industry, all revolve around the helicopter. No helicopter, no jobs, careers, businesses, products, t-shits, hats, magazines, websites, forums, pictures, or industry….. In addition to that, imagine this, my 3 million dollar office soars through the air and I control where it goes…. And, most of the time, my boss is miles away…….

Edited by Spike
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Well said Spike. I have to agree. I'd say for the most part, people become helicopter pilots for a love of helicopters and the helicopter industry, and are following dreams, not money. While airplane pilot will pay more once you get the experience, IMHO it doesn't have the personal rewards for me, and just couldn't see myself doing it.

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One thing I'd like to add as a relatively new guy out working his first job... I guess some would say I got lucky and got a job within two months of getting my CFI. I'm working in South Texas for a small company, and we do pretty much everything you can do with an R-44 and still be within the limits of Part 91.

 

Being a working helicopter pilot is damn hard. I've driven 1900 miles in two days to relocate a helicopter on a trailer to a job site, and I'll be in the ship or on 15-minute standby for the next 45-50 days. I got lucky and have a boss that appreciates my hard work, but I'd say the physical effort that goes into utility work can be almost as much as working construction or any other manual labor.

 

Sorry for the disjointed post, I just got to the hotel and I'm worn out.

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Thank you all for the feedback. Now that I've got that information, I have further questions!

 

1. By the looks of it, entry level job market seems to be one of the first hurdles pilots encounter. I don't expect to just be handed a job, but if I'm willing to move literally anywhere, how long might it take me to find, say, a CFIi job? I'm a single guy with no kids so that should make it easier.

 

2. I see a lot of schools offering "turbine transition" courses. While I'm sure the instruction is great and very useful, when the time comes to apply for such a job, will employers care if you have 5-10 hours of turbine? I feel they will want to train you their way and find the prior time dissmissable on their own accounts.

 

3. I have my GI Bill so costs are not an issue and think I can slug it out for a few years making little money. How long though does it take to be marketable where things start to open up? I've seen jobs say 2000 total, 500 Turbine, 50 hours type and a ATP all over the place, which feels like a "benchmark". Correct me if I'm wrong.

 

4. Lastly, I'd love to hear everyone opinions about what they think makes a great pilot and what it takes to really succeed in this industry. I've heard a lot of doom and gloom stories ever since I began this journey last year. What are some success stories out there? How did they get there?

 

 

 

As far as the CFII goes, I really want to instruct. I'm not in the mind set of just building hours and using students for my own personal gain. I do have my own goals, such as line work or GoM, but I really wan't to be the best instructor I can and expect do to it through out my life, even if only part time later on.

 

Again, thank you all for your time and insight. It is GREATLY appreciated. Take care and looking forward to reading your posts again soon.

 

Jess

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Thank you all for the feedback. Now that I've got that information, I have further questions!

 

1. By the looks of it, entry level job market seems to be one of the first hurdles pilots encounter. I don't expect to just be handed a job, but if I'm willing to move literally anywhere, how long might it take me to find, say, a CFIi job? I'm a single guy with no kids so that should make it easier.

 

2. I see a lot of schools offering "turbine transition" courses. While I'm sure the instruction is great and very useful, when the time comes to apply for such a job, will employers care if you have 5-10 hours of turbine? I feel they will want to train you their way and find the prior time dissmissable on their own accounts.

 

3. I have my GI Bill so costs are not an issue and think I can slug it out for a few years making little money. How long though does it take to be marketable where things start to open up? I've seen jobs say 2000 total, 500 Turbine, 50 hours type and a ATP all over the place, which feels like a "benchmark". Correct me if I'm wrong.

 

4. Lastly, I'd love to hear everyone opinions about what they think makes a great pilot and what it takes to really succeed in this industry. I've heard a lot of doom and gloom stories ever since I began this journey last year. What are some success stories out there? How did they get there?

 

 

 

As far as the CFII goes, I really want to instruct. I'm not in the mind set of just building hours and using students for my own personal gain. I do have my own goals, such as line work or GoM, but I really wan't to be the best instructor I can and expect do to it through out my life, even if only part time later on.

 

Again, thank you all for your time and insight. It is GREATLY appreciated. Take care and looking forward to reading your posts again soon.

 

Jess

 

Jess, just my .02 cents worth, but a tough gap to overcome is somewhere around 150 hours (when you finish your CFI training) to 300 hours where you can start instructing or maybe flying some R44 tours. At that point you can fly and get up to 1000 and then you can get a turbine job, probably flying Vegas.Dont bother paying for a turbine transition, but if you find turbine opportunities take them! I know a lot of pilots that have stalled after 150 hours or so, you just have to grab every opportunity and scrape by to get to 300.

 

Everyone will have a different story, but overall I think the helo business is much smaller and its important that you network to find the next opportunity.

 

Good luck,

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Thank you all for the feedback. Now that I've got that information, I have further questions!

 

1. By the looks of it, entry level job market seems to be one of the first hurdles pilots encounter. I don't expect to just be handed a job, but if I'm willing to move literally anywhere, how long might it take me to find, say, a CFIi job? I'm a single guy with no kids so that should make it easier.

 

2. I see a lot of schools offering "turbine transition" courses. While I'm sure the instruction is great and very useful, when the time comes to apply for such a job, will employers care if you have 5-10 hours of turbine? I feel they will want to train you their way and find the prior time dissmissable on their own accounts.

 

3. I have my GI Bill so costs are not an issue and think I can slug it out for a few years making little money. How long though does it take to be marketable where things start to open up? I've seen jobs say 2000 total, 500 Turbine, 50 hours type and a ATP all over the place, which feels like a "benchmark". Correct me if I'm wrong.

 

4. Lastly, I'd love to hear everyone opinions about what they think makes a great pilot and what it takes to really succeed in this industry. I've heard a lot of doom and gloom stories ever since I began this journey last year. What are some success stories out there? How did they get there?

 

Jess, as Goldy said, everyone's story is different. My answers to your questions...

 

#1. it took me exactly 63 days from my CFI check ride to my first revenue flight. That being said, I know guys who have been looking for five years. How long it takes you to get that first job (if ever) depends on how well you network. You can never have enough friends in this industry. That's actually the only reason I got the job I have.

 

#2. Save your money. There's another discussion about this going on, but I'm of the opinion that the few grand you'd spend on a transition could be better used to get an SFAR sign-off or some full-down autorotation practice or something else cool.

 

#3. From what I've heard that's pretty much right. The GOM companies, and most others now, seem to want you to be ATP ready... 1500 hours rotor, 100 night, whatever else.

 

#4. What makes a successful pilot? Well, of the few I know personally, every single one of them continues to learn every single day. Whether it's pursuing the details of the FAR's, aerodynamics or the finer points of actually operating an aircraft, they're learning. They're also can-do guys who try their best to maintain a good attitude. Those are the high points that I can think of off the top of my head.

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#1 There's no set time line for aviation careers. Some get that first job right away, build 1000hrs in 2yrs, then get hired right away flying a turbine in the ditch. Some get hired as a CFII after several months, teach for a while, then are forced to look for another job because they run out of students, or the school closes,...and of course some CFIIs never find a job,...ever!

 

#2 A turbine transition is a COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY! When it comes time to move up, the company who hires you will train you, for free!

 

#3 It seems like once you have around 3000hrs the job market really opens up. How long it takes to get there?,...see #1.

 

#4 Its anyone's guess?

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What does a "turbine transition" consist of other than "don't hot start an engine worth more than your house?"

I don't think it consists of much else. At least it's not anything much different that what you've been doing in the recip. I bet a lot of these places don't even let you start it, especially if it's a modulated start. Too risky. What would you get out of it, anyway? You would now sorta know how to start something you don't even fly. I agree, the "turbine transition" is the single greatest waste of money in helicopter flight training.

Edited by helonorth
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What does a "turbine transition" consist of other than "don't hot start an engine worth more than your house?"

Don't pull excessive torque getting the rotor up to speed, constantly monitor torque, temp, and speed during all power increases, letting the turbine cool down for 2 minutes before shutdown. It's a little bit more than don't hot start it.

Edited by aeroscout
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2 minute cool down before touchdown? That's one looooooooooooong autorotation.

Haha...

 

Probably meant shutdown. Is the 2 min rule typically a standard for all turbines? The snake is the same for both engines but I didn't know if it's just a coencidence or not.

 

 

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1. By the looks of it, entry level job market seems to be one of the first hurdles pilots encounter. I don't expect to just be handed a job, but if I'm willing to move literally anywhere, how long might it take me to find, say, a CFIi job? I'm a single guy with no kids so that should make it easier.

 

Best case scenario is you’re hired at the school you trained on the day you earn your CFI certificate. Since training full time allows you gain CFI certification somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 to 12 months, you can plan on that timeline. That is, for best case scenario…. Second best case is; soon after graduation you’re hired at another school and have to move. Worst case is you’re never hired at all……. This is why (nowadays) the school you choose to train at becomes critical….

 

2. I see a lot of schools offering "turbine transition" courses. While I'm sure the instruction is great and very useful, when the time comes to apply for such a job, will employers care if you have 5-10 hours of turbine? I feel they will want to train you their way and find the prior time dissmissable on their own accounts.

 

No, entry level employers won’t care about turbine time…… Anyone, especially a flight school with a turbine, who tells you differently, is full of bologna……

 

3. I have my GI Bill so costs are not an issue and think I can slug it out for a few years making little money. How long though does it take to be marketable where things start to open up? I've seen jobs say 2000 total, 500 Turbine, 50 hours type and a ATP all over the place, which feels like a "benchmark". Correct me if I'm wrong.

 

In today’s market, 1500 to 2000 hours of total helicopter time, you are ripe to move up. Turbine time is not required to move up. How long it takes to build to this total time level depends on how much time you’re building weekly, monthly and annually…. Again, pick the right flight school which gives you the best chance for the “best case scenario”, you’d be looking at a 3 to 5 year game plan….

 

4. Lastly, I'd love to hear everyone opinions about what they think makes a great pilot and what it takes to really succeed in this industry. I've heard a lot of doom and gloom stories ever since I began this journey last year. What are some success stories out there? How did they get there?

 

In reference to your “great pilots” question please see the link. http://helicopterfor...udent-tipshelp/

 

In this business, success is defined by the individual. It can range from the type of machine you fly to the type of operation or, the amount of money you make, to where you live… Even so, most helicopter pilots can hit all of these targets and still not be satisfied… It’s just the way most of us are… Perpetually trying to advance….. In short, only you can answer this question…..

 

As for the “doom and gloom”, sure there is enough to go around. However, understand you’ll rarely hear from those who are satisfied or successful. Why? They simply have nothing to complain about and, maybe what makes them satisfied and/or successful…… At this moment I consider myself successful. Then again, way-back-when as a R22 CFI with 300 hours, I felt the same way….

Edited by Spike
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Haha...

 

Probably meant shutdown. Is the 2 min rule typically a standard for all turbines? The snake is the same for both engines but I didn't know if it's just a coencidence or not.

 

No. Most Pratts are no cool down and turbomecas are 30 sec. Really there isn't much more than don't hot start it. The same with the old twin engine mythology. Companies are learning (finally) that it doesn't take x numbers to fly these but rather just a good candidate. Paying for turbine transitions is a waste of money and a joke.

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I think he means shutdown. The power turbine temps have to drop a certain about before shutting down.

Yes, I did. Sorry for the confusion. I edited my post to reflect my original intent. Every single turbine I have flown (10), required a 2 minute cooldown at idle before shutdown.

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