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LIFE DECISION: Helicopter Pilot


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Okay guys I have been hanging around this forum for some time now and am about to embark on a huge life decision. I am going to give up my 60+K a year job with full benefits, two months vacation, and that has me home every night in order to become a helicopter pilot. My dream is to get every rating possible so I can fly for some type of fire service. What do you think? Am I crazy? Or should I just shoot for the sky and get in that R-22 all the way up to a Firehawk!!!!!!!!!!

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Let's say I am entering my forties armed with a wife and a kid.

Here's a way to look at it. Remember when you got your drivers license and were excited about running to the store just for a reason to drive? Think of how you feel about driving now. Flying a helicopter will feel about the same. The novelty will wear off. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's worth considering before diving into flying for a career. That being said, I made a similar move at 51 years old with two small children and I'm glad I did!

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Keep your current job (unless it makes you miserable) and start flying helicopters tomorrow. Ask yourself "do I really need to be a fire pilot to be happy?" The minus column is huge for an early-40s father/husband with responsibilities just starting out in this field.

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Okay guys I have been hanging around this forum for some time now and am about to embark on a huge life decision. I am going to give up my 60+K a year job with full benefits, two months vacation, and that has me home every night in order to become a helicopter pilot. My dream is to get every rating possible so I can fly for some type of fire service. What do you think? Am I crazy? Or should I just shoot for the sky and get in that R-22 all the way up to a Firehawk!!!!!!!!!!

 

Have you ever flown anything, much less a helicopter?

 

First thing you should do is determine, as best an outsider can, what being a professional helicopter pilot is. Take a discovery flight and if that doesn't turn you off, start the process of flight training- but don't make any irreversible decisions. I would suggest an initial goal of soloing a helicopter. At that point, you'll have some idea of what the job is. It seems that I spent at least an hour of aviation related work for every hour I flew. As a student, you'll spend more time than that for every flight hour. Even if you become a happy working professional, it is always work. You fly where, when and what you're told to.

 

That said, I flew the better part of 50 years and I loved it to the end, I'm retired now. Not counting the additional duties every job seems to involve...

Edited by Wally
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I am in my 40’s. Wife, two teenaged boys, left a great job that I hated...as it maybe...great is in the eye of the beholder. If your not satisfied with what you do, chase your dreams.

 

Dreams are difficult challenges that your heart wants to conquer.

 

Make sure your wife wants you to chase your dreams. If she hesitates...ask yourself why....then gingerly ask her why she hesitates. If she is focused on money as her rock....then your dreams are not in her world. If she is focused on you and her in a wholesome team minded perspective....then she will help you chase your dreams.

 

My wife pushed me to go when I was holding back trying to support her in a job I hated. She knew that life is about satisfying your heart, chasing dreams, and ultimately living a passion that then provides in all sorts of ways.

 

Aviation, especially helicopters has a general washout rate of about 75%. People either want it easy, or their heart is in money not in flight.

 

Those remaining understand the pursuit of a dream. 10% of those have what it takes to be optimistic and diligent to succeed against the odds.

 

I took six years, left a money job, left a town I loved, friends behind, and went to school. Found part time work, my wife worked full time, ended up on food stamps and stuggled to pay bills every month. School took me 2 years to complete...I wanted to do it in one. I then worked as an instructor, 6 days a week, making ok money but not enough...building skill and experience that was needed. I took my first job as a contract pilot for the FAA, they didnt have their sh*t together and closed the contract on 9 pilots that had moved themselves and their families to be a part of something big. I moved again, a new place, a new job, new experiences and skills...low pay. I built amazing skills and met awesome people. My kids had been in three schools in one year.

 

My wife knew we were chasing the dream.... I worked two years at the new job, then...the door opened...or I opened it...its hard to tell.

 

I landed my first top teir job.

 

My income trippled. I have benefits. No need for welfare, although we stopped using it after school and forced things to work...we had it barely covered until now.

 

This month we close on a house....guess where.....back in the town I left 6 years ago...my friend is my neighbor again.

 

I do have to leave on hitch for 14 days at a time now, but I enjoy 14 days off..all on salary. 12 vacations a year is how I see it...living where we want to, where we vacation, with friends.

 

In the end, the pursuit was a team effort. My wife beside me, my teammate, my support. A dream I had had become hers. All the efforts have come full circle....and now its my time to be there for her...as she is being challenged with cancer now. As a team we beat all the odds to see a dream live..we now as a team get to work through it all over again..like seasoned pros in the game of life.

 

Your married with kids. Dream huge my friend. Pull your teammate close, and work together to grow into a successful adventure in life....

 

Life needs to be an adventure.

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Okay guys I have been hanging around this forum for some time now and am about to embark on a huge life decision. I am going to give up my 60+K a year job with full benefits, two months vacation, and that has me home every night in order to become a helicopter pilot. My dream is to get every rating possible so I can fly for some type of fire service. What do you think? Am I crazy? Or should I just shoot for the sky and get in that R-22 all the way up to a Firehawk!!!!!!!!!!

Keep your day job.

 

If you really want to fly a Firehawk, come back with at least 3 to 5,000 hrs (turbine) and multiple quals.... and know somebody in the biz.

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Not too many years ago I would've jumped on the, "Don't do it...not worth it...yer too old" bandwagon. But you know what? We only go around once. If flying helicopters is something you really, really, really gotta do...then go for it. You might make it, might not. But you'll never know unless you try.

 

But remember! You have a wife and kid to support. This ain't all about *you* and what your selfish needs are. It's a little too late for that. You have certain responsibilities to your family. Think about this decision VERY carefully, and think of how badly you'd feel if you end up broke, on food stamps, car repo'd, etc. Won't they just love you!

 

Nothing is guaranteed in life. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. So go learn to fly. But bubba, you better commit to it with all of your heart and soul...especially your soul...because that's part of the price you're going to have to pay.

 

Good luck!

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Dont let all the negative nancies let you down. I did exactly what you want to do. It wasnt easy, however, and it has put my marriage to the test a few times.

 

That said, you cant live your life for someone else. I just would be really careful that you research what this industry is really like before you dive head first into it. This industry is nuts, full of nuts people, scam artists, shady characters, and incompetence. There are also some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. But you will be shocked at what you will see sometimes. And its dangerous. Dont let anyone tell you its not. Every year the list of dead friends gets longer. And if you think you are ever gonna make 6 figures, well, Im 15 years and 3000 hours in (I took a 7 year break) and working for an EMS company and I havent seen it yet, nor do I know anyone personally who makes 6 figures.

 

Fire fighting? My dream job. Still havent found a way in that wouldnt leave me single and broke. Had a few really good conversations with some fire pilots about that over the years. This industry is really bad about making you pay your dues every time you make a step up. Turbines? Gotta pay your dues again and slave for peanuts. Utility/longline? Gotta pay your dues again. It just sucks that the only way to get those boxes checked is to work for free, and the fact that so many pilots are willing to perpetuates that, and it also fills the industry with people who *sometimes* probably shouldnt be in that seat.

 

Ive been successful as a helicopter pilot after a decade of hard work and dedication and a good attitude. And Im still happily married. It can be done! But beware, this industry is not what you think it is.

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Get your PPL (H) and fly for fun; if you're still keen on the professional route, you can progress later to a CPL. Either way you're flying helicopters.

 

I understand this forum has the word "Professional" in it, but question what many would put up with just to fly as a career. Poor pay, poor conditions and often mind-numbingly dull tasks (example: hovering for 8-10hrs/day to dry some cherries - that's not the "joy of flight", that's more an odd type of punishment). I've also never understood the concept of seniority, WTF does it have to do with anything. If the new guy is better than you; he progresses and passes you. Merely working X number or years in a given field warrants no merit in my view - it's what you do and accomplish.

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This video is perfect for everyone thinking about quitting good stable jobs to pursue flying helicopters for a living. I think it's easy to get caught up in the "fun" part of the job and forget all the rest of the responsibilities that come along with the job.

 

Personally I wished I had pursued it more as a hobby, the only problem is it took me going through all my certificates to understand how much I am playing with fire. It's very easy to get careless or simply overconfident about something you know nothing about as a pilot and get yourself or others killed.

 

Also agree with RisePilot, everyone's experience may differ. You may pay dues for a year or two, it might take you 4-5 years depending on how well you can move around and network.

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Well, I would tell you no on your life to go anywhere near helicopters or airplanes, I fly both. At least that was an opinion I had, well it's a hard business but it's doable. I can't tell yeah go and do or no don't. I am not you. I think right now and going forward, fixed wing and going to the Regionals would be a better option, both in terms of costs to get certified, time building jobs out of school. The regionals are really starting to pay decent money to start and even more money down the road a little. Most of the rotor work is seasonal, and yeah there are some really choice jobs in helicopters, and damn little movement too. I have been at this stuff for 43 years now, these days, my last job was flying for a family, under part 91, they when for a fractional arrangement. That is another thing you have to contend with, Jobs do end with some regularity, aviation is like that, if the economy is good, things can be going like gangbusters, when it's not well then it can become quite lean. You should do ok!

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So... how old are you? Where are you? 60K... is that good or bad for your lifestyle? Is money your objective? Flying helicopters is a blast. It can be hard, gritty, and downright scary at times, but I would not trade it for anything. The money comes, but it takes a while.

 

Sacrifice? Yes. Every member of the community here has to, in some way or another. I went the military route for 20 years. I liked/hated it. I very much enjoy my job now, and consider myself blessed to have landed it right after the military.

 

Whatever route you choose, make sure it makes you happy. Me (and my wife) knows I would not be happy if I did not get to fly...even just a little bit.

 

My 1 cent...

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So... how old are you? Where are you? 60K... is that good or bad for your lifestyle? Is money your objective? Flying helicopters is a blast. It can be hard, gritty, and downright scary at times, but I would not trade it for anything. The money comes, but it takes a while.

 

Sacrifice? Yes. Every member of the community here has to, in some way or another. I went the military route for 20 years. I liked/hated it. I very much enjoy my job now, and consider myself blessed to have landed it right after the military.

 

Whatever route you choose, make sure it makes you happy. Me (and my wife) knows I would not be happy if I did not get to fly...even just a little bit.

 

My 1 cent...

Amen, my brother from another mother! Blessed is exactly the word, "I" didn't get anywhere, "We" did. A lot of much better people/pilots shared every step except the next one...

 

My fundamental philosophy is you take your happiness with you- you are as happy/unhappy as you make yourself. Never, ever quit.

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