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High Turnover in EMS? Why?


Rotortramp
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I've flown HEMS for 9 years now.....same company and same base with the same other three pilots. I wouldn't say I love every aspect of it, but it's a great schedule and money for the little amount of work that I do.

 

We work a 7/7 split schedule. I work 3 days, then 4 nights, and off for 7. I cannot stand working working more than 3-4 day shifts in a row, but would work a month of nights in a heartbeat so I can have those daytimes off. My base is only 30 minutes from home, and I have 5 more within 1.5 hrs.

 

Workovers are plentiful locally and I haven't made less than $95K on the last 7 of the 9 W2s. I will not drive more than about 1.5 hrs one-way to a workover, and I don't stay overnight or during the day when off duty--I always come home. Often I have business or something planned before or after shift in that direction.

 

On my off week I'll pick up at least two nights somewhere. I used to fly ENG part time on my off week, but when that slowed down, I got my real estate license and became a REALTOR. I did the training while on duty, and do most of the research, paperwork, and recurrent education on duty. I set up the showings, closings, etc on my off week or during the days when I work nights. I have two other small businesses I run while on duty as well. That gives me the max amount of free time when at home to play with the wife & kids.

 

I cannot understand why people complain about the boredom. GO TO SLEEP. I average 3-4 hrs on a day shift and 7-9 hrs on a night shift. When I'm awake, I'm working my other jobs, paying bills, etc. Again, maximizes free time when OFF duty.

 

And if the phone rings, go jump in the helicopter......back in bed 2 hrs later. Even for working 2-3 extra days a pay period and I still only average 120 hrs a year.

 

When talking to new guys, I always recommend that they learn how to sleep during the day, and stay our of other people's lives. Don't worry what the med crew is doing, just do your job and be a nice guy. Never let them get to a point where they call 51%....make decisions together, eat together, watch some TV together, etc. But get some sleep and a hobby because the boredom will put people at each other's throats on slow days/seasons. Never bring personal problems into the base and have as much fun as you can get away with.

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I don't know about 100 grand with overtime. Has he been doing it for awhile? I think realistically for someone new, possibly 70-75 grand. Overtime is abundant though. If you want it, it's easily doable on your week off and if you like to travel they'll fly you clear across the country just to fill in for 3 or 4 days. Even without workovers you might be able to do some part-time flying during your week off. I do farely well only because I'm single getting military retirement on top of it. I don't do workovers and I get about 150 hrs a year at what I would consider a slow base. My friend works at a busier base up the road and he gets about 200 hrs per year. From what I've read that seems to be slightly above the national average.

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Wow, so much conflicting information!

 

The undesirable cities and stressful flights are something I can't really comment on, but may be very major drawbacks to a long time career. I would think that transfering wouldn't be too hard after one has built up EMS experience and made connections, but this may be overly hopeful.

...Which goes to answering your question about why there's so much turnover in EMS. Even you, before even getting into a job are looking for an exit strategy. "Hey, I can always change jobs!" Yup. Just remember, every job-hop, even within the same company is considered "turnover." A pilot leaves and has to be replaced. If nobody else in the company wants that job, someone has to be hired. (And of course someone probably left that made the opening that you've jumped to.)

 

...I cannot understand why people complain about the boredom....(SNIP)

 

...But get some sleep and a hobby because the boredom will put people at each other's throats on slow days/seasons.

Okay...so it's *not* boring but it *is* boring. Hmm. You EMS guys can talk about your whittling hobbies and how you're all learning new languages, but face facts: EMS is the most boring-ass FLYING job there is. You can't even leave the premises to go to Hardy's for lunch, like just about every other pilot in every other job.

 

I know a lot of pilots talk about how they like working "only half the year." In the same breath, they'll talk about how much they made doing workover.

...On my off week I'll pick up at least two nights somewhere...

(SNIP)

... That gives me the max amount of free time when at home to play with the wife & kids.

That's kind of contradictory. Just how much time is spent at home when a pilot is working two extra nights on your break? If he is 7 & 7, doesn't that make it really a 9 & 5? Not only is that a lot of time away from home, that's not "half the year" for those who like to make that claim.

 

Oh, and finally...

...I still only average 120 hrs a year.

Okay, over 26 hitches that's only 4.6 hours per week. Is that over a seven-day week or a nine-day week? Because 4.6 hours over nine days ain't much flying (4.6 over seven days ain't much either). How much less would you fly if you *weren't* doing those extra two days...100 hours per year?

 

In just about every flying job you can do all of the things that EMS pilots *say* they do during their hitch. Most pilots don't. Nobody is going to be out working on their car, grease up to their elbows when the call comes to go flying.

 

Rotortramp, it sounds like you've sold yourself on an EMS job. You've listed all of the positives and downplayed the negatives. Which is fine. Perhaps you'll love EMS. There were always guys who came down to the GOM thinking that they'd like it...then they found out they hated it. I got to the point where I could pretty much tell which "newby" was going to stick around and which would be gone soon. Same-same with EMS.

 

Just remember one thing: Pilots in a given field are always going to tell you the good things about their job. They're going to sugar-coat and polish it up so that it looks appealing. Would you expect to them to do otherwise? If a pilot said to you, "My job sucks. It's terrible," you would look at them and legitimately ask, "Then why do you stay in it?" You'd have to be crazy to stay in a job you don't like.

 

...Which is why I don't do EMS. I wouldn't last a year.

 

The fact is that there is a high pilot turnover in the EMS industry. Why is that, you asked? There certainly are plenty of good reasons! But don't ask a current EMS pilot; you won't get an honest answer. Better to ask an ex-EMS pilot.

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I've flown in two different wars and flown all over the world. I don't require a "fast paced" job. One flight doing EMS is as exciting as 3 flights in most other jobs. As I said, the challenges of EMS flying, are similar to what I experienced in combat. Only now no one is shooting.

 

I've been to a few and have flown all over the world too, and I've worked for several different EMS companies. I've never once thought that civil EMS flying was anything like any of the flying I did downrange, nor did I ever think of EMS as exciting or adventurous. In fact, if it's starting to seem that way, something is wrong. Flying EMS is nothing at all like flying in combat.

 

It's good that we all have different tastes and affinities. EMS is as honorable and rewarding a job as any; you can certainly go to bed at the end of a shift with some satisfaction in the premise of your job.

 

I averaged about 300-400 hours a year doing EMS work. It wasn't enough flying, but it was enjoyable. I turned down an EMS job this winter in favor of staying home more, mostly turning wrenches. Definitely not for everyone, but again, it's not a bad thing that we're not all the same, is it?

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Rotortramp, it sounds like you've sold yourself on an EMS job. You've listed all of the positives and downplayed the negatives. Which is fine. Perhaps you'll love EMS. There were always guys who came down to the GOM thinking that they'd like it...then they found out they hated it. I got to the point where I could pretty much tell which "newby" was going to stick around and which would be gone soon. Same-same with EMS.

 

 

I won't deny that I've been glorifying EMS, but I see it as my end goal and for me at least, the positives outweigh the negatives by quite a bit. I guess my intention with the post was to extract any negatives that I haven't already considered; some "elephants in the room" as mentioned before. It seems, as shown by this thread, people either really dig it, or despise it, all with their own opinions to the job characteristics.

 

It's all about the realities of whats going on in the industry. Heck I'm sure a lot of the general public are still unaware about what is going on in the regionals. 20k a year, little time off, commuting across the country, crash pads, flying drunks day in and day out, same routes. That same regional pilot I'm sure is saying, who would want to work in a cubicle? Same 3 walls for the rest of your life, same co-workers badgering you about your TPS reports, office politics day in and day out, 2 weeks vacation with work piling up when you get back. Each industry has its pros and cons and just a matter of how you look at it, and the personality you have. Having worked the office life, I don't know how people do it, I really don't, but hey they aren't me and I appreciate them wanting to. I doubt most of them are happy the least bit, but I suppose the pros slightly outweigh the cons in terms of their job satisfaction.

 

I'm not sure who it was, but someone said they really liked the GOM. I actually think I'd like that a lot too, but could see how their would be some major negatives to consider. Open water, same platforms, bored back at base or the rig, odd passengers. Even if its a crap job, like most jobs are haha, you get to look to a nice 7 or 14 day vacation once your time is up! It starts to hit on that "live to work, work to live" saying. I am definitely part of the work to live category, and if I can do a job that is satisfying and "fun", then it's a win-win.

 

Anyway, I'm not trying to trump your perspective nearly retired, I really like to hear what others who have been through it have to say. You're right, replacing my transmission may not be feasible, but changing my oil might!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rotortramp you got some pretty good info here from people who actually fly EMS. I'm not going to get into a pissing contest with others to see who has done the most radical, coolest thing in the world. I'm sure that NR just lives life on the razor's edge and the flying he does is absolutely thrilling. I'm sure the former oil guys we have, got tired with the thrill of flying out to oil platforms and that's why they chose to do "the most dangerous job in America." I guess in order for our job to be challenging we would have to be flying through a hurricane to pick up a patient in a forest fire at night, while being shot at by local hillbillies. I don't know??

 

We have problems on the job like anything else and I think we listed those here. None of us are recruiting for EMS so we'd have no reason to lie to you. All of us listed something that we didn't care for on the job. It's up to you to decide. I work with people who have been doing EMS for years and flying since Nam. Don't you think if they didn't enjoy it they'd seek employment elsewhere? With my experience and connections I could fine a job in almost any segment. I chose this for the reasons I already listed. I also said I might very well do something else in the future.

 

As I said everyone wants to say what they do it so awesome and the helo they fly is the best. We all have our FB friends that post pics of what they're doing now and their new "ride." I don't look at rotorwing aviation as some hierarcy. I look at some CFI flying an R-22 the same way as my friends flying S-92s. It's a job that pays to fly, nothing more. My job just happens to meet my current goals. None of us are trying to say we're better than anyone else. Unless you fly Blue Thunder or Air Wolf, you're just another helo pilot.

 

avbug, what offensive operations were you part of in theater? What helicopter was it? I made the comparison because the flying is similar, not the same. I get a phone call and launch with little planning like (QRF) downrange. I could be landing in a tight LZ in the middle of nowhere at night under goggles (not pad to pad). We are communicating with people on the ground setting up an LZ for us. I'm picking up someone injured who needs medical attention. This could all happen with marginal weather...minus the dust storm. I'm sorry if you can't see any similarity there. I'm not talking about sitting on an LZ and rounds are kicking up around us or rockets hitting just outside the LZ. This job sometimes gives you a rewarding feeling simliar to that I experience in the military. Not many civilian helicopter fields can do that.

 

Listen Rotortramp if you need detailed info about my company just PM me. I'm not going to get into "who's the best pilot" contest with others who believe they've done everything in aviation. If I don't hear from ya good luck in your decision.

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Okay...so it's *not* boring but it *is* boring. Hmm. You EMS guys can talk about your whittling hobbies and how you're all learning new languages, but face facts: EMS is the most boring-ass FLYING job there is. You can't even leave the premises to go to Hardy's for lunch, like just about every other pilot in every other job.

 

That's kind of contradictory. Just how much time is spent at home when a pilot is working two extra nights on your break? If he is 7 & 7, doesn't that make it really a 9 & 5? Not only is that a lot of time away from home, that's not "half the year" for those who like to make that claim.

 

Okay, over 26 hitches that's only 4.6 hours per week. Is that over a seven-day week or a nine-day week? Because 4.6 hours over nine days ain't much flying (4.6 over seven days ain't much either). How much less would you fly if you *weren't* doing those extra two days...100 hours per year?

 

 

What I was saying was that crewmembers that allow themselves to get bored will be at each others' throats. My point is, don't let yourself get bored!! If you don't bring you hobbies to work, you're not going to last. EMS = Earn Money Sleeping. Sleep on shift as much as you can. Work out, play video games, watch movies, watch porn, whatever! This isn't prison, you can do whatever you want (except drink), as long as you can still get in uniform and off the ground in 5 minutes. A few of our bases have stocked lakes where everyone fishes (and quite a few duck hunt in the mornings.)

 

When I first started, I used to cook a lot. Then I brought my golf clubs and hit golf balls down the runway. Then I would ride my bike to the other end and hit them back the other way. I got hooked on Call of Duty and GTA for a winter season, and movies were always there. But then I learned to sleep during the day--that was the best move ever. Then I realized I could be making money on duty by opening an eBay store and producing, packaging, shipping, etc while on duty. Then I got my real estate license and run most of that business while on duty.

 

Our base is only a few minutes from a restaurant, gas station, fast food, and a grocery store. Our dispatch radios and cellphones work at all of these places, so we can leave the base as long as we can get back and in the air quick.

 

Yes, I work 2-3 extra nights on my off week--because I want to and like the cash. What's the big deal if I sleep at home or sleep at the base at night? My kids are little and go to sleep early. I can eat dinner with them, drive to work, and be home the next morning right after they wake up. Then I'm home all day with them. If I had to fly the night before then I'll take a nap while they're napping in the afternoon.

 

Who cares if I only fly 4.6 hrs (or less) a hitch?? Again, EARN MONEY SLEEPING. It's not that I'm lazy, I just don't need to measure myself against other pilots by my hours. I stopped keeping a log book when I hit about 2500 hrs. Our flights are short (.7-1.0), so that's still 100-125 patients a year when you factor out the PR & MX flights. I once worked 30 shifts in a month (two of which were 48-hr HEMES shifts)--I flew 6 hrs that entire month and made about $12K.

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I'm fairly new to EMS < a year in. I'm a younger guy (in my 30's) with 3000 hours. Came from the Gulf and I was worried that I'd get bored flying EMS . So far I love it. My base is pretty busy about 30 flights a month. Crews are great. I work in a rural location so average flight time is 2.0 round trip. I'd like to fly more but the part I like most about EMS is being back home. I moved all over the country to get where I'm at and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come back home. I enjoyed flying GOM but it is sure nice not to be living in the swamp for half my life. Out of service for no nurse? Sweet I'm going mountain biking. My base has lots of restaurants & shops close and I can roam around as long as I can get to the bird in 5 mins.

 

I can’t see myself quitting as I am much happier then I was flying GOM. Just got to find out what works for you. Not flying much is a small tradeoff for me.

 

Only down side I can think of is what progression do I have working this job? Its VFR single engine. But for now I'm happy building EMS, NVG and turbine time (slowly...)

Edited by ChprPlt
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ChprPlt, you took the words right out of my mouth. At least the words that I hope to be saying one day. I am almost through with my commercial rating, so it will be a bit before I achieve my goal of working EMS. The way I figure it, by the time I get through working as a CFI, then the gulf, Alaska, wherever I go until I meet EMS qualifications, I will be in my early 40's, or right at 40 years old. At that point in my life, I will be more than happy to take the job and be home every night (I know, I am assuming I get assigned to a base near my home). If I don't get a base near my home right away, I will take a job in hopes of transferring to my choice of base later. My point is, at that time, it won't be about flying as much as possible. I will be making a decent wage, and home every night. Perfect combo.

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I had a great time with the crews, but the siting around was terrible! The FAA has HEMS operators under a microscope and because of that every piece of paperwork must be perfect! I got in to flying to do fire fighting and that is what I do mainly. It also has its positives and negatives, I believe that you have to find what suits you personally.

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My point is, at that time, it won't be about flying as much as possible. I will be making a decent wage, and home every night. Perfect combo.

 

We are about the same age. Funny, when you were young, you would go to the ends of the earth for the chance to log a .2 in anything! You get older, married, have kids, have friends who arent pilots, things start to change.

 

Do I enjoy flying? Heck yeah, but Im done scrapping for every .4 that I can get into the log book. Giving up days off with the family to go fly as a safety pilot just to get another hour? Nope. Its a liberating feeling to not need to build time anymore. I still fly at work 5-6hrs per day and every other chance I get, but its not a race against the time building clock anymore. When I fly, I want to be doing something, not just flying from airport to airport just to be in the air. I think for a persons own sanity, you need to get to the point where you need to determine when you are done "building time." It can end up like a race where they keep moving the finish line. There are things out there that I would like to do in aviation, but I may not be qualified yet. But I had to be done looking at my log book every week. I discovered that I HAD to just go to work and enjoy what I was doing. Next thing I knew, I was rapidly approaching the goal I was so worried about. And guess what else.... I really enjoy what I am doing!

 

I look at EMS that way. If you are to the point where you can get into an EMS job, you are probably pretty set for the most part with the exception of maybe NVG time, or a specialized skill set like that. If you are sitting at an EMS base looking out the window at your B407, B3 or your EC135, and looking down at your name patch with your wings, your name and there is the word "PILOT" under it, I think its safe to say "You have arrived." That doesnt mean get lazy, but you are probably safe to enjoy the sunset with a cup of coffee once in a while.

I love flying LOVE IT and Ill be the first person in line at work for a flight, have no issues hot fueling and flying back to back tanks of gas but I also can be just as content pulling all of the aircraft out and spending all day washing and waxing the aircraft and buffing the hangar floors. If I am within arms reach of the aircraft or anything associated with them.... Im in heaven.

I had a nice talk with a Super Hornet pilot who went up with me a while back. He had about 400hrs total time. Didnt really fly all that much (based on my idea of flying a lot). His comment was, "It has nothing to do with how much you fly the aircraft, its about mastering the aircraft as a weapons system" That didnt mean he didnt enjoy flying, but flying in itself was not the overall goal. Mastering the tool was the goal. To bad civilian flying cant be that way. I know 1000hr pilots who have mastered the tool light years ahead a 2000hr pilot that is still learning beyond straight and level, airport to airport flying.

 

Now, once our Huey is up and running Im sure we will be back to the mindset of "building time" and kicking each other in the knees as we race to "GET TO THE CHOPPA!" :D

Edited by Flying Pig
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A little off topic, but related to leaving EMS for another job...

 

If you were able to leave HEMS to fly fixed wing for the airlines, and you were able to make around the same as you make today, would you? Why/why not? I understand this wouldn't happen, but humor me.

 

Interested in this as well. I'd like to see how the QOLs compare.

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A little off topic, but related to leaving EMS for another job...

 

If you were able to leave HEMS to fly fixed wing for the airlines, and you were able to make around the same as you make today, would you? Why/why not? I understand this wouldn't happen, but humor me.

 

Nope. I wouldn't leave to go airlines and they make a heck of a lot more that I do.

 

1. You're flying an aircraft that doesn't require an honest to god pilot. You're a systems operator typing in a flight plan in the FMS and the aircraft executes it on its own. You take off, autopilot on, shoot the approach, autopilot off and land. Now that's a bit of an exaggeration but I need to have some sort of feeling of accomplishment in knowing it takes both hands and feet to do what I do. When it gets to the point of where a computer is doing most of that, well that's when I retire.

 

2. Time away from home. Unless you have seniority you're going to be on a hectic schedule with layovers. I go home at night, every night.

 

3. Area selection. Unless you get incredibly lucky you won't be based somewhere in your choosing in the airlines. In EMS we have openings everywhere. Just find somewhere you want to live and apply.

 

4. Dual pilot flying boring routes. Call me crazy but I enjoy the challenge of single pilot and the freedom of my route selection. I'm not flying from a 10,000 ft runway from A to B. I'm going from a road intersection to the top of a building. Much more fun.

 

5. Mission. I'd much rather fly someone that needs life saving treatment than a bunch of yahoos going on vacation. It's a personal one on one thing. I've flown two infants in a row last week and it's neat to look over at the little dudes and realize you alone are bringing them in safely. Much more rewarding. Also I enjoy the interaction that I have with the med crew in the back.

 

I fly fixed wing myself and I'm getting my multi engine soon but it's not the preferred choice in flying for me. I enjoy the speed and effiency of travel that an airplane brings but I just don't think it brings the same level of fun or job satisfaction of helos. I might switch over years from now but it would have to be the right job (corporate) in the right area, at the right price. Probably not going to happen.

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Thanks for the reply Velocity. To play devil's advocate (based on research and not actual experience)...

 

1. This could really be a bonus. You don't want to hand fly the airplane? Then don't. They have he option to hand fly their takeoff's and approaches, so it would seem they have the best of both worlds. Hand flying an almost quarter million pound airplane sounds like fun to me. I like the gadgetry too so managing a complicated cockpit is fun - to each their own.

 

2. I have nothing to say here. Being home every night is one of the big reasons I'm considering making a go at a HEMS career.

 

3. Granted your quality of life would take a hit, but if you work for an airline you can really live anywhere and commute into work. With HEMS it seems that while you get to be home every night you may be living in a rural area an hour or two away from more populated areas - this again may be a benefit to some. I have no idea if HEMS operators have commuting agreements with airlines.

 

4. Flying for the regionals in the Midwest would likely get boring, although I live in the Midwest and have flown (fixed wing) all over it, and I still enjoy it - even if the scenery is flat and boring. Flying for a major carrier or changing up your routes at any airline is certainly an option once you acquire some seniority. I know a guy that flys into St. Martin (youtube St. Martin airport) - that looks like a blast, and the layovers would be great.

 

Another bonus is you have the flexibility of making your own schedule, and as you build your seniority you may actually get the days you bid for. 7 and 7 sounds like a great schedule, especially considering you may have the option for workovers on your off days to make some more money, but from what I understand it's set (correct me if I'm wrong). If you could tough out the junior seniority years at your airline (each time your upgrade or change airlines), it seems like you could have a pretty decent quality of life.

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No I wouldnt switch to an airline if I could. I dated an reginal airline pilot. She was very jealous of my job in the Gulf (where I was working at the time). Some of the benefits of my job over airlines were I stay in the same place every night. I can cook buy grocerys and they will be there when I get "home". My helicopter is always there when I show up for work. I have my car and the ability to go places if I want, etc

 

Reginal airline life style: Low pay to start, 5-6 legs a day, lots of aircraft swaps, early mornings. Get done flying all day and have to wait for the hotel van. Hope the hotel resturant is open or there is something close. Lug everything with you everywhere you go. Bidding your schedule every month. Never can plan cause you dont know what your schedule will be in advance.

 

No thanks I'll keep my EMS job. That reminds me I'm at work and need to get back to my game I'm watching. :)

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