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"Best" second job to eventually get to fire


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I'm currently a CFI...doing research on which company to work for next.   My goal is to fly mediums on fires... I'd like to make my next move in the best way to support that goal.  

I'm open to pretty much anything but obviously the most likely candidates are flying Vegas, South Rim, or Alaska.   I'm wondering which company/location would be best to attempt to break into the utility world.    Obviously nothing is perfect and when it comes down to it i'll take what I can get, but i'd like to make as educated of a decision as possible.   

So far I've heard Papillon on the South Rim is a good way to break into utility.   Also some operators in Alaska will give you some long line training.


Does anyone have any general advice?

How much do you fly a year doing south rim tours?  Is it year round?  if not can you go to Vegas in the winter?  

Am I best off trying for someone in Alaska and flying less?  

Would it be better to try to fly SIC in a heavy somewhere after I get my 1000?   I feel like it's best to save that for after I get my turbine hours...



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TEMSCO in SE Alaska will have you flying tours for your first season. You’ll fly about 300 hours. Depending on your performance and amount of returnees, you may be offered a sling spot to haul crap down from the dog camp. For your third season, depending on performance and returnees, you can continue to progress. This will all be in an AS350 and later 500.

Regardless of where in fact you do end up as you progress from CFI, it all comes down to networking. You could be in the “wrong company” for what you eventually want to do but because you’re a nice person and a solid worker you make some contacts that lead you to your dream job. Of course vice-versa is also possible!

I flew west rim for a year but that was just tours so no insight on the south rim possibilities.

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Both Temsco and Papillion are good options for getting into utility and with the current job market it might not be a difficult route. But often in this industry the path from where you are to where you want to be can be circuitous. So here are some other ideas...

Powerline patrol jobs will often hire low timers and it's a foot in the door into the utility world although you'll have to move on from it to get long line experience. In my case though it was helpful to have on my resume. Some caution though, there are some pretty bad bottom feeders out there with horrible maintenance. Flight time isn't worth your life. Also it's a hazardous enviroment to begin with so although the flying is relatively simple you have to be careful.

The gulf of mexico is also a decent place to cut your teeth. There's not a lot of work there that directly correlates to utility but I've found most utility companies respect the time if your looking at an entry level position. It also doesn't hurt that the money and schedule are pretty good considering the hiring requirements.

Since you said you want to fly mediums think about doing a season of cherry drying. There are two operators flying old Sikorsky in Washington and that flight time in a larger helicopter absolutely helped me get my first Huey job. I enjoyed working for golden wings but i don't know much about the other guys. NearlyRetired is a user on here who is a great  resource for cherry stuff. In either case though those are old machines so watch your maintenance.

Florida Forest Service is a place to look for your first Huey job. They treat their pilots quite badly, underpay them(though that improved a little), and you have to go through both the structure and wildland fire academy. But because of those downsides they have a hard time finding pilots and will hire inexperienced pilots. They are a state agency though and do not card you, but its a good way to get 50 hours in type. The 100 hours in weight class for mediums requirement for carding has also been dropped so when you leave you only need the 50 in type to get carded. It can be hard to get the 100 hours total flight time a year working there that you need to get carded though.

I wouldn't really recommend doing SIC in a heavy until you reasonably qualified to be the PIC. Meaning several seasons of fire in mediums. It does help you learn the fire environment and how things work but you'll never get promoted to captain. Sure you can show me some one in a million example but there are two types of heavy SIC's. meat in the seat who have no chance of upgrading and are basically told to sit on there hands, and people who have enough experience fighting fire to justify putting the investment into them to get them the 100 hours of heavy time needed to card them. If you want to fly type ones show up with everything you need to do it except type one time.

How to get in the Huey without flying for Florida? Find a utility operator that has lights and mediums, get a job with them flying their lights, work your ass off to show them your a valuable employee and are good with a line, and then ask for every opportunity available  to ferry the Huey. Especially if its on a day people don't want to fly. Holidays, weekends, etc. They're investing in you, make sure they know they will get a return on investment.

A word of warning on building a Huey career. I'm not convinced it going to happen but I'm hearing talk from Forest service and BLM people that they  want to get away from using Hueys. They don't like how old they are and the Astar B3e is pretty competitive with it if you look at gallons of water delivered per dollar. I have no idea if that will come to pass but it's something to keep an eye on.


What not to do. Don't go fly EMS. Everyone I know who has gone to EMS has gotten stuck there. Between good pay and schedule they have a hard time taking a pay cut to get that entry level utility experience. I have quite a few friends who started fly ems as an intermediate job wanting to get into utility and only one has been able to make the jump and that was a "who you know" situation.


Edited by Fred0311
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  • 2 months later...

Talk to pollux in wasilla, ak. They do 44 work remotely all over ak. Will hire with no longline experience, and train you to longline. 3 year contract, good pay, at the end of which you will be ready to apply with other utility guys, or do a season of tours to boost turbine time.

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