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Are Helicopter Pilots a Dying Breed?

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First let me just start out by saying I'm not yet a helicopter pilot, but that is my goal to start training in 6m to a year. However, I have some serious concerns about the future of the industry.


With all the talk about autonomous self-driving cars and trucks (Tesla will being rolling out self-driving taxis within the next year and trucks are next, it's only a matter of time), is spending $90,000 becoming a helicopter pilot still a wise option? Commercial airlines can pretty much fly themselves, and the military has had remotely piloted and autonomous drones for years, what about the helicopter industry? How long till those tiny quad-copters are scaled up and replace the man in the cockpit as the "safer more economical alternative"?


You guys are the boots on the ground, the people with first hand knowledge, what do you think? Will helicopter pilots be all but extinct in 5-10 years, or am I completely wrong and there's nothing to worry about? Are any of you veteran pilots already considering other options?

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I've been involved in the heli business since 1986 and there always is an ebb and flow to every business sector. If you think about the real estate market, the stock market, the price of oil and the price of gold these asset classes have highs and lows and along the way these prices affect these industries and employment.


Helicopter pilot jobs are significantly impacted by the price of oil as when the demand for oil rises against the supply the prices go up. Petroleum companies start spending on exploration that generally requires transporting workers and supplies to remote areas. When the price of oil is high the petroleum companies throw money at the helicopter operators and that is not right now.


In the aviation world you are thinking of helicopters and airplanes as opposites but they are both powered aircraft to the FAA If you have 5000 hours in one or the other you can get all six ratings in the other easily in 200 hours of flight and then fly the other to the ATP standard. Many heli pilots have thus recently gotten airplane ratings to find that in this decade those pilots are in more demand right now.


Drones are helicopter like with the operator on the ground but the operator is not a pilot. The FAA and the Heli trade organizations are trying to figure out exactly what role they will play and moving cautiously. I trained some engineers about 15 years ago in Maryland to fly R22’s and they made 4 unmaned R22 drones on a military project you can find on wiki. The instructor that worked for me at that time and trained those engineers called me the other day and we didn't event talk about that project He has 2000 hours twin turbine AW139 time and most recently was flying a well known billionaire.


Two years ago a student that flew in one of my R22's came to us to get signed off for solo and he worked for a company that showed a flying prototype drone that carried 4 people. I went at his invitation to the HUGE Consumer Electronics show in Vegas and the local Boulder City airfield to watch it get light on the skids but still arrested by chains on the ground. The FAA required the 4 passenger drone to be chained down to the ground as they didn't have the evidence that they were 'safer' as they don't even know where to fit in the airpace. And I’m sure they don’t want someone to die in this new flying machine if something goes haywire.


The world is always changing but one thing I can tell you is that i have many locations where I need helicopter instructors that meet our simple insurance requirements of 300 hours rotor and Instructors rating. The FAA which is interested in safety will also require 50 hours in our type of helicopter which is the R22 because of SFAR73. I know many pilots that are now shocked at how much they make and getting paid to do something they love. You are not going to find them on this forum complaining because they stopped coming to these forums to complain when they reached the number of hours where their pilot services became in demand.


I come to this forum as I have a nationwide photo company that takes pictures of boats. We have a nationwide fleet of helicopters and we can train you to 300 hours and a job with us for $82,000 which makes us the cheapest in the world per helicopter hour. We have a 32 year history of employing pilots and not just training them and saying good luck. For many years if a school trained you to 200 hours and said good luck to you and you couldn't find a job my company was the safety valve that saved many a career. I was the safety valve for the guy flying the billionaire as he went to a nearby school and got 200 hours and a CFII but not a job 15 years ago. I’m still a safety valve for low time heli pilots and if you are one without a job reach out to me.


As it pertains to drones and Tesla let's look at this. A drone crashed into a 63’ speedboat I was on as we were idling in Miami and we folded it up and it sits on my desk. If a Tesla fatally crashes it has human life onboard and news outlets are going report this around the world instantly as everyone is interested in this. The news outlets rarely report drone crashes and rarely airplane or helicopter crashes unless people die. Those kids that died in a Tesla near my beach in Ft Lauderdale that was going too fast had exceeded the limits of tire adhesion and took the tangent line into a wall just like you 'll see at the Indy 500 this weekend. I bike that same route the Tesla was taking and was 3000 miles away but heard about it within hours on multiple news sources. Tesla worked right away on rewriting software to help prevent this occurrence in the future.


Tesla is the lightning rod for media both in financial news and motorists dying. If Bubba goes too fast in his pickup truck and hits a wall and dies it doesn't make worldwide news. If Bubba flies his helicopter into the ground it doesn’t make worldwide news. If a drone carrying humans crashes in airspace controlled by the FAA is that going to make worldwide news?


Go where your passion is. If you want to train to fly a heli and have the money call your nearest school. Or call me as I can send a heli to you for training although I might not be able to find an instructor that has 300 hours rotor and meets SFAR73.

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Or call me as I can send a heli to you for training although I might not be able to find an instructor that has 300 hours rotor and meets SFAR73.

Hmm, are you saying that 300 hour Robby CFI's are a "dying breed"? :o

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