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FlyawayNate

Thinking about starting a new career as a pilot - Advice?

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Hello everybody! 

You've all probably heard this exact story a thousand times, but here goes. I've reached a point in my life where I've decided a career switch is in order. I've always had a love for aviation, both fixed wing and rotary wing. My dreams have always been to fly, but after high school I ended up going the cheap/easy route and got a degree in an IT field because the pay was too good to pass up. 10 years later I have a $75k+ job, house, wife, two kids, etc.. I never meant for the IT thing to be a lifelong career, just a quick way to make money until I figured out what I REALLY wanted to do with my life. I woke up one day and realized if I was going to make a change, it would need to be sooner rather than later. Hence why I am here today! 

I decided that rotary wing was the way to go. Sure, it's probably cheaper to go fixed wing, and the jobs opportunities and pay are likely better as well - but if there's one thing I've learned over the past decade, it's that money isn't everything. I'd rather have my pay cut in half while doing something I love than getting paid well at a soul crushing job. I've read up on flight schools, countless forum posts, articles, etc.. here's what I gathered so far:

Flight school:
Costs anywhere between $30k-90k depending on location ( I plan on getting the whole package, 200 hour CFII/commercial) 
Paying for it isn't a HUGE concern, I have over 100k equity in my house which I plan on selling to help finance this career switch. (wife is on board with it, first box I checked) 
I live in the PNW, so shopping around for flight schools. Suggestions?

Job opportunities: 
I understand that this is where a lot of people struggle. I'm fine with moving to where the jobs are, and likely the only job I'll be able to get out of flight school is an instructor position to build hours. Flight school is purely meant to be trading money for knowledge, so I don't expect a guaranteed job right away. How difficult is it to obtain a low-hour job? Are there options other than instructing? I don't want to end up in a position where I drop several tens of thousands of dollars only to go crawling back to an IT job because nobody will hire a fresh low-hour pilot. I'm willing to put in the time and earn my way up, but I've read so many horror stories from new pilots saying it's not worth it because the job market is terrible and little or no opportunities for pilots in the 200-1000 hour range. Very discouraging. 

I'm just trying to have realistic expectations of what to expect and what I need to do to overcome the hardest parts of starting out. Any advice you have to give would be greatly appreciated. A life change of this magnitude isn't something I want to dive in without looking first. 

Thanks! 
Nate


 

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I haven't worked the civilian sector but from my understanding it is mostly low paying instructing or tour jobs to build hours and experience to move up. With an established IT career you might be in a good place to accept one of those jobs and work from home part time in your current field to help make ends meet. 

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You have 2 kiddos and a stable family situation w/house.   This kind of new career with moving around country to find work is going to tough on the kids.  Is that fair? In this Covid situation where so many people are out of work and companies are very likely to make big changes to staffing, I would suggest you back burner this idea and continue to work.   Or at least, keep job and do flight school locally.

Check out Military and airlines in your search.

 

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12 minutes ago, Hobie said:

You have 2 kiddos and a stable family situation w/house.   This kind of new career with moving around country to find work is going to tough on the kids.  Is that fair? In this Covid situation where so many people are out of work and companies are very likely to make big changes to staffing, I would suggest you back burner this idea and continue to work.   Or at least, keep job and do flight school locally.

Check out Military and airlines in your search.

 

Kids are 1 and 4, so moving wouldn't be a huge deal to them. 

I'm looking a year or more out, not something I plan on doing next week so the Covid thing shouldn't be a huge concern. In fact, it may work to my benefit because as rotary jobs are shrinking, a lot of pilots are transitioning to fixed wing commercial to stay employed, which will leave a void down the line that I hope to fill. I appreciate the input though! Moving around the country is something my wife and I are willing to accept. 

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5 hours ago, FlyawayNate said:

Hello everybody! 
.....................................

 

 

You say your wife is on board. Is she on board with living in poverty while you chase your dream? A low-time pilot wage may be way less than half of what you’re making. In my opinion, selling the house to finance your flight training is a foolish mistake. That is, unless you have other disposable income or savings or, your wife works and makes enough to support your family. And sure, you may have enough for the training but did you consider the cost after training? The peripheral costs with getting a job can be substantial.  If you’ve researched this like you say you have; then you know about the chronic pilot problem of AIDS i.e. -Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome.  This happens because it can take years to make a livable wage. And, that’s if you find work. The reality is; there are a large number of people who attempt to do what you’re suggesting and never find work…. Ever….

Have your wife read the above paragraph and if she’s still on board continue reading…..

My suggestion…. Stay at the IT job and train on the side. Pay as you go. Try not to use your house as a method for payment because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. I normally wouldn’t suggest getting a loan but in your case, it may be an avenue to consider. I’d rather have a debt hanging over my head and a house to live in rather than having a bunch of certificates in my pocket living in a tent.

Is there a flight school near you? How far is the closest busy flight school? Have you talked with them? Is there a commercial helicopter operator near you? If so, have you talked to them? You’ll need to talk to people face to face to get gist of the sacrifices that lay ahead….

Does your IT job work schedule have flexible schedules? How many days a week can you devote to flight training?

Have you considered the Military? In the past, I never suggested the Military but nowadays it’s not a bad career choice… Do 20 years, retire, then enter the civilian sector. Civilian jobs normally aren’t high paying but with the Military retirement check subsidizing your income; it can make it pretty appealing….

Otherwise, you asked….

How difficult is it to obtain a low-hour job? It ranges somewhere between impossible to easy. It all depends how you take your first steps. Like now, asking questions...

Are there options other than instructing? No. Apparently you haven’t researched like you say you have otherwise you’d know, flight instruction is the easiest way to break into this business. Learn to love it and be good at it…

I don't want to end up in a position where I drop several tens of thousands of dollars only to go crawling back to an IT job because nobody will hire a fresh low-hour pilot. This is a very strong possibility. It happened to me and lots of others. However, helicopter companies need IT people so use it to your advantage...

I'm willing to put in the time and earn my way up, but I've read so many horror stories from new pilots saying it's not worth it because the job market is terrible and little or no opportunities for pilots in the 200-1000 hour range. Very discouraging.  You better learn the business of helicopters before you dump one dime into it. Disappointment, fear, bewilderment, confusion, hate, exhaustion are just a few emotions you’ll experience......

In the end, continue to reseach and when you think you're done, do it again......

Spike

 

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9 hours ago, Spike said:

 

You say your wife is on board. Is she on board with living in poverty while you chase your dream? A low-time pilot wage may be way less than half of what you’re making. In my opinion, selling the house to finance your flight training is a foolish mistake. That is, unless you have other disposable income or savings or, your wife works and makes enough to support your family. And sure, you may have enough for the training but did you consider the cost after training? The peripheral costs with getting a job can be substantial.  If you’ve researched this like you say you have; then you know about the chronic pilot problem of AIDS i.e. -Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome.  This happens because it can take years to make a livable wage. And, that’s if you find work. The reality is; there are a large number of people who attempt to do what you’re suggesting and never find work…. Ever….

Have your wife read the above paragraph and if she’s still on board continue reading…..

My suggestion…. Stay at the IT job and train on the side. Pay as you go. Try not to use your house as a method for payment because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. I normally wouldn’t suggest getting a loan but in your case, it may be an avenue to consider. I’d rather have a debt hanging over my head and a house to live in rather than having a bunch of certificates in my pocket living in a tent.

Is there a flight school near you? How far is the closest busy flight school? Have you talked with them? Is there a commercial helicopter operator near you? If so, have you talked to them? You’ll need to talk to people face to face to get gist of the sacrifices that lay ahead….

Does your IT job work schedule have flexible schedules? How many days a week can you devote to flight training?

Have you considered the Military? In the past, I never suggested the Military but nowadays it’s not a bad career choice… Do 20 years, retire, then enter the civilian sector. Civilian jobs normally aren’t high paying but with the Military retirement check subsidizing your income; it can make it pretty appealing….

Otherwise, you asked….

How difficult is it to obtain a low-hour job? It ranges somewhere between impossible to easy. It all depends how you take your first steps. Like now, asking questions...

Are there options other than instructing? No. Apparently you haven’t researched like you say you have otherwise you’d know, flight instruction is the easiest way to break into this business. Learn to love it and be good at it…

I don't want to end up in a position where I drop several tens of thousands of dollars only to go crawling back to an IT job because nobody will hire a fresh low-hour pilot. This is a very strong possibility. It happened to me and lots of others. However, helicopter companies need IT people so use it to your advantage...

I'm willing to put in the time and earn my way up, but I've read so many horror stories from new pilots saying it's not worth it because the job market is terrible and little or no opportunities for pilots in the 200-1000 hour range. Very discouraging.  You better learn the business of helicopters before you dump one dime into it. Disappointment, fear, bewilderment, confusion, hate, exhaustion are just a few emotions you’ll experience......

In the end, continue to reseach and when you think you're done, do it again......

Spike

 

Living in poverty was one of the things I brought up with her, quoting another forum post of a pilot claiming to barely make $100-200 per week from instructing. She knows and understands. We have enough savings to live off of for a few years until I build flight time up, and worst case scenario - I pick up side jobs in IT if flight hours are scarce. 

As for selling the home, we are going to have to move anyway - the nearest flight school is 3 hours away, and in order to stay flexible enough to find steady work or pick up hours, we'd likely have to move out of state afterward. So selling the home was always in the works anyway, the fact that we have $120k+ equity built up just means flight school can be paid off immediately. The schools around here are quoting me between $30k-$40k for a 200-hour CFI course, so that leaves plenty to survive off of if we are smart with finances. I also have about $25k in other savings to fall back on as well, so money isn't the biggest concern at the moment. I can stretch out training while continuing to work my current job by burning vacation/time off for training, so that will likely be the case to help save on money as well. 

My biggest concern is investing that much into a career change only to find out it's impossible to fill the 200-1000 hour gap. 

Military is regularly suggested, but not something I want to pursue. Civilian I'm guaranteed to fly as long as I pay for the schooling, Military will only give me the chance to apply, and if they aren't looking for pilots, tough sh*t - grab a broom for the next 4 years. 

Current plan is: Sell house, downsize to apartment while continuing to work current job. Use equity from house sale to finance training - continue to build up the savings while working. Once training is complete, continue working current job until I can secure an instructor position anywhere in the US. Once an instructor job is secured, quit current job, move near instructor job, live frugally for the next few years until I meet the hour limits and move on to a more skilled/higher pay piloting job. If at any point in between we start struggling financially, I still have my IT background to fall back on. Plenty of remote/part time positions available that would still allow me to fly. 

My wife is on board and surprisingly supportive despite the drawbacks we've both read about. She doesn't see it as "giving up her life so I can follow my dreams", she understands it will be hard for several years starting out, but if I stick to it, gain hours, and be willing to move to where the work is, within the next 10 years who knows, we could end up better off than we are now. I like to be optimistic, but who knows - it could suck the whole time. That's why I'm trying to learn more about it now to make a more informed decision. 

I only asked about jobs other than instructing because I've seen people go straight into tour guides or photography. Was wondering what options there were. I'm fine with instructing, but the more options there are - the better. 

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1 hour ago, FlyawayNate said:


Military is regularly suggested, but not something I want to pursue. Civilian I'm guaranteed to fly as long as I pay for the schooling, Military will only give me the chance to apply, and if they aren't looking for pilots, tough sh*t - grab a broom for the next 4 years. 

 

 

This is not correct. It is entirely possible for you to apply to be an Army warrant officer with no prior military experience at all. You are guaranteed to be a pilot as long as you don't screw it up. It's obviously not for everyone and a more difficult path than simply paying for flight school but it doesn't work like you think it does.

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Before you sell the house please get some tax advice.   Appreciation in real estate is called capital gains and subject to 15-20% tax.  You can save this tax if you buy another piece of property.  If you want to use it for flight school, living expenses, etc ., you pay the tax.  And it is very easy for the IRS to track, btw. 

Heed the words of Spike.  He is very experienced and knows this industry inside and out.  Seriously.

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4 hours ago, Hobie said:

Before you sell the house please get some tax advice.   Appreciation in real estate is called capital gains and subject to 15-20% tax.  You can save this tax if you buy another piece of property.  If you want to use it for flight school, living expenses, etc ., you pay the tax.  And it is very easy for the IRS to track, btw. 

Heed the words of Spike.  He is very experienced and knows this industry inside and out.  Seriously.

Already looked into this, and capital gains taxes don't apply since it's my principal residence, have lived here more than 2 of the last 5 years, and profit is less than $500,000 for married filing jointly. 

Also, I value all input - especially the amount of thought and care Spike put into his post. It is much appreciated. I can grasp and work with details of my personal life to suit how the situation changes, the biggest unknown is the helicopter industry itself. That is where I need expertise and guidance. I'm willing to spend the time, spend the money, relocate, and my family is willing to dedicate all of that as well in order to achieve this goal. I just need to know where/how to start to avoid the pitfalls that I'm seeing in dozens of other forum posts. A lot of them seem like people didn't consider X or aren't willing to do Y. I want to make sure I have all the information. 

There WILL be a need for another generation of pilots, I'm only 31 right now and I feel like I'm in a better position than many to start this as a career. Right now I'm just in the information gathering stage. If everyone comes to me and says it's not worth it, don't even try - I want to know why beyond "it will negatively affect your personal life". For me that's not an excuse to give up. 

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Just remember: this WILL turn into a job at some point. I am a SPIFR EMS pilot working for a pretty good company. I make pretty decent money and have an okay schedule. I was the same age as you when I started flying. I can't complain BUT...my base pay is considerably less than a brand new legacy airline first officer. At some point, the airline business will get back to normal. The pay difference over a life time versus the two careers is huge. Go the airline route and play with helicopters in your spare time. I would not even consider helicopters right now if I wanted a career in aviation. The pay, schedule, safety, retirement and quality of life issues favor airplanes by a huge margin.

The reason I mention safety is because this sh*t IS dangerous. I lost two friends in an accident before I even had my commercial. There have been quite a few more since then. 

You will regret going the helicopter route over airplanes at some point. I can almost guarantee it. 

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1 hour ago, helonorth said:

Just remember: this WILL turn into a job at some point. I am a SPIFR EMS pilot working for a pretty good company. I make pretty decent money and have an okay schedule. I was the same age as you when I started flying. I can't complain BUT...my base pay is considerably less than a brand new legacy airline first officer. At some point, the airline business will get back to normal. The pay difference over a life time versus the two careers is huge. Go the airline route and play with helicopters in your spare time. I would not even consider helicopters right now if I wanted a career in aviation. The pay, schedule, safety, retirement and quality of life issues favor airplanes by a huge margin.

The reason I mention safety is because this sh*t IS dangerous. I lost two friends in an accident before I even had my commercial. There have been quite a few more since then. 

You will regret going the helicopter route over airplanes at some point. I can almost guarantee it. 

Pay is the lesser of my concerns. I'm already scraping the 6-figure mark with overtime in an IT field. More money doesn't bring me more happiness. I could just stay in IT and make the big bucks until I retire, but then I'll be 65 looking back on my life regretting not pulling the trigger on something I really wanted to do. 

I'll definitely look into fixed wing though. I am just starting out so I'll check out all avenues. Still kind of have my heart set on rotary though, even if it means 5 years of slogging through low-pay instructor work to build hours before the 'real' job starts. 

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Nate, you've been given some pretty good advice so far.  I can only add that you really have to love flying helicopters to start from scratch and make this a career.  And while *you* may love flying helicopters, your wife might not like it as you get down the road.  You say she's okay with "several" years of hardship - I'm not sure people understand the meaning of "several."  Or "hardship."  Could be longer and harder than she thinks.  (That's what she said!)

You've obviously given this an enormous amount of deliberation and some research.  I say go for it!  What have you got to lose?  Marriage, kids, credit rating, sanity...your life?  Well, you wouldn't be the first helicopter pilot to lose those things.  If you love it enough, those tradeoffs will be worth it.  And we're not being flippant here - you could stand to lose all of those things and more in pursuit of your dream of becoming a pilot.  But that's on you - only you can make that decision. 

But recognize something: The helicopter industry really, really sucks.  Like others here, I've been in it a looooong time, and I still hear scare-stories from young pilots about getting screwed (not getting paid) by operators.   Or having to fly deficient, borderline-unsafe equipment.  The stories make me sick.  We like to think that all operators are on the up-and-up, honest, with integrity and only provide the best-maintained aircraft imaginable...but that's not always the case.  And you, Mr. Low-On-The-Totem-Pole...*you* will get to fly some of them, perhaps for some shady operator who'll throw you under the bus after the inevitable crash.  Think I'm kidding?  Call me.  I'll tell you about the friend of mine who lifted off to a hover and had piston blow clean off his engine.  He put it back down on the ground and discovered that it was on fire.  Jumped out and watched it burn to ashes - only the tail rotor pylon survived.  If the jug blown off a minute later when he was up at 500 feet, he'd probably be dead.  "Lucky" guy!

Oh, and remember that Astar that went down in the East River of NYC a while back...the shoe-selfie flight?  We know that one of the float bags did not inflate, which caused it to tip over in the water, which caused the passengers to drown because they couldn't release their lanyards.  Well, what did *not* get publicized (but was known within the industry) was that the company had a problem with the floats on THAT SHIP in the days prior to the fatal flight.  They probably forgot to mention that to the FAA.  Shhhhh!  Very hush-hush.  Aside from that, line pilots at that company were not real happy with that lanyard arrangement but went along with it and...well...we saw what happened.

Hey, forewarned is forearmed.  We humans generally tend to look at the positives...the good aspects of things like aviation.  "Oh, what fun I'll have!"  Yeah, maybe you will.  Probably you will!  I'm not trying to talk you out of this cockamamie scheme, but do not fool yourself that this is a great industry.  It ain't.  Know what you're getting yourself into.  Weigh the risks versus the rewards.  And then if you still want to do it - hey, it's your life - you only get one shot at it.

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42 minutes ago, Nearly Retired said:

Nate, you've been given some pretty good advice so far.  I can only add that you really have to love flying helicopters to start from scratch and make this a career.  And while *you* may love flying helicopters, your wife might not like it as you get down the road.  You say she's okay with "several" years of hardship - I'm not sure people understand the meaning of "several."  Or "hardship."  Could be longer and harder than she thinks.  (That's what she said!)

You've obviously given this an enormous amount of deliberation and some research.  I say go for it!  What have you got to lose?  Marriage, kids, credit rating, sanity...your life?  Well, you wouldn't be the first helicopter pilot to lose those things.  If you love it enough, those tradeoffs will be worth it.  And we're not being flippant here - you could stand to lose all of those things and more in pursuit of your dream of becoming a pilot.  But that's on you - only you can make that decision. 

But recognize something: The helicopter industry really, really sucks.  Like others here, I've been in it a looooong time, and I still hear scare-stories from young pilots about getting screwed (not getting paid) by operators.   Or having to fly deficient, borderline-unsafe equipment.  The stories make me sick.  We like to think that all operators are on the up-and-up, honest, with integrity and only provide the best-maintained aircraft imaginable...but that's not always the case.  And you, Mr. Low-On-The-Totem-Pole...*you* will get to fly some of them, perhaps for some shady operator who'll throw you under the bus after the inevitable crash.  Think I'm kidding?  Call me.  I'll tell you about the friend of mine who lifted off to a hover and had piston blow clean off his engine.  He put it back down on the ground and discovered that it was on fire.  Jumped out and watched it burn to ashes - only the tail rotor pylon survived.  If the jug blown off a minute later when he was up at 500 feet, he'd probably be dead.  "Lucky" guy!

Oh, and remember that Astar that went down in the East River of NYC a while back...the shoe-selfie flight?  We know that one of the float bags did not inflate, which caused it to tip over in the water, which caused the passengers to drown because they couldn't release their lanyards.  Well, what did *not* get publicized (but was known within the industry) was that the company had a problem with the floats on THAT SHIP in the days prior to the fatal flight.  They probably forgot to mention that to the FAA.  Shhhhh!  Very hush-hush.  Aside from that, line pilots at that company were not real happy with that lanyard arrangement but went along with it and...well...we saw what happened.

Hey, forewarned is forearmed.  We humans generally tend to look at the positives...the good aspects of things like aviation.  "Oh, what fun I'll have!"  Yeah, maybe you will.  Probably you will!  I'm not trying to talk you out of this cockamamie scheme, but do not fool yourself that this is a great industry.  It ain't.  Know what you're getting yourself into.  Weigh the risks versus the rewards.  And then if you still want to do it - hey, it's your life - you only get one shot at it.

Great feedback, thank you. I appreciate it. I'm still not 100% dead set on it yet, but talking to "real" people is giving me a better idea of how things can/might/should turn out vs. flight schools who will tell me anything to drop $40-60k and toss me back out while shouting "good luck" and laughing as they close the door behind me. 

So far I'm only hearing pretty negative stuff and getting the general idea that it's not worth it. Maybe I just hit a part of the internet full of salty pilots, or maybe the industry really is this bad. Pretty incredible that a company would spend so much on equipment, insurance, and maintenance only to screw over the person responsible for keeping it in one piece. I (like so many others) believed helicopter pilots were seen as more valuable than that. I even read a story about a company looking for a pilot to go pick up a repo chopper for them - and CHARGING the pilot for the "privilege" of building hours rather than paying THEM for their service. Pretty ass backwards if you ask me. 

I don't know guys, I've been wanting to do this for 20 years, and now that I'm finally in a financial position to accomplish it, I'm hearing that it's not worth pursuing. I have a few more flight schools that I'll be visiting and talking to more people in person as well. I'm not going to hinge my decision based entirely on what I've read here or the half-dozen other forums from people who feel like they've been beaten down or cheated out of a career in flying because of how toxic the industry is. It is rather discouraging though. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Thedude said:

Have you considered sticking with your current career and just flying for fun on your off time? 

No, that would essentially just be flushing money down the toilet. If I'm going to drop a significant amount of money for flight time and certifications, I want it to have a purpose beyond just doing it for 'funsies'. 

I want to fly as a career. If I wanted it for excitement, relaxation, or entertainment - I could find MANY other ways of blowing $40,000 and get much better results. 

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15 hours ago, FlyawayNate said:

No, that would essentially just be flushing money down the toilet. If I'm going to drop a significant amount of money for flight time and certifications, I want it to have a purpose beyond just doing it for 'funsies'. 

I want to fly as a career. If I wanted it for excitement, relaxation, or entertainment - I could find MANY other ways of blowing $40,000 and get much better results. 

I wouldn't consider learning to fly as wasting money. If you think learning to fly for fun is flushing money down the toilet, I wonder how much this has to do with an actual interest in aviation. Thousands of people get a private rating for fun. You can get a airplane rating for less than ten grand.

Now if you were 20 and single, I would probably tell you to go for it. Since you are not, if you must do this, I will again tell you to go the airplane route as a career. It's a no brainer. It will be a much better return on your investment in many more ways than money. Having a family and selling your house to become a helicopter pilot is not just a bad idea: it's terrible idea. It's selfish and irresponsible, really. Don't think flying helicopters is going to be a job you are going to love and find fulfilling and rewarding. For 99% of the helicopter pilots I know, it's not. It turns into a job pretty fast. Don't get me wrong, I like it well enough but I was single and training was pretty cheap at the time. 

I have been involved in ag, utility, offshore, a little ENG and EMS. None pay well but ag (there are plenty of reasons for this), they all get monotonous and most involve lots of travel. If you want to make decent money in this business, pack your bags and expect to be on the road A LOT. Much more than an airline pilot and for a lot less money. You will change your tune about the money thing at some point. That day will come precisely at the moment helicopter flying becomes a J-O-B.

You don't understand that a career in helicopters will most likely NOT be worth it. If you must, my advice will be to take some helicopter and airplane flying lessons and reevaluate. And get a first class medical before you spend a dime on anything. 

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17 hours ago, FlyawayNate said:



So far I'm only hearing pretty negative stuff and getting the general idea that it's not worth it. Maybe I just hit a part of the internet full of salty pilots, or maybe the industry really is this bad. Pretty incredible that a company would spend so much on equipment, insurance, and maintenance only to screw over the person responsible for keeping it in one piece. I (like so many others) believed helicopter pilots were seen as more valuable than that.

 

BWAAAAHAHAHAHAH!  Oh man, Nate, yer killing me!  Listen man, helicopter pilots have ALWAYS been viewed as a dime-a-dozen.  Even during times of pilot "shortages," there are always enough drivers to fill the seats.  And if not?  The operators really don't seem to care.  They'll offer extra days (we call it "workover") to their existing pilots, who eat it up because they're always hungry for money.  If push comes to shove, they'll up the workover rate a little.

It's an eye-opening experience when a pilot first realizes that employers regard him with such disdain.  "All I do for this chicken outfit and they treat me like this?!"  Yep...yep they do.  And they get away with it, too.

See, what the operators bank on is the integrity of a pilot.  They know that we would never...*could never* mistreat an aircraft no matter how badly *we* are treated.  It doesn't work that way.  I've never met a helicopter pilot that didn't have a deep, emotional bond with his aircraft.  They're like dogs to us.  (I would say wives, but wives come and go.)  My point is that operators know they can get treat us as badly as they want.  All we can do is quit.  And when we do, they'll replace us.  It's funny...just sitting here writing these words, I can come up with numerous examples right off the top of my head of pilots...friends of mine or people I know personally...who've gotten screwed recently by employers.

However, the fact that it's an indisputably crappy industry doesn't take away the pleasure we get from flying helicopters.  To me (11,000+ hours), it became a J-O-B a loooooong time ago.  But that doesn't mean I don't still love flying.  I had a couple of job offers for this coming season, but I've turned them down.  It's not that I don't want to fly anymore (I do), but I don't need to fly anymore (financially or emotionally).  So I can stand down this year and spend the summer doing non-aviation things with my non-aviator friends for a change.  

There will always be pilots who tell you, "I've been doing this for fifteen years and it's not a job for me yet!"  Yeah, I think I said that too, twenty-three years ago when I was just fifteen years in.  But if pilots are being honest with you, they'll give you the good *and* the bad.  I believe that's what you're getting in this thread.  I've read some really good posts from guys who are actually in the industry and doing it.  For instance, Helonorth suggests going fixed-wing.  And I generally concur, if money and stability are important to you.  But I also know what it is to catch the "helicopter bug." There is something about flying these wacky machines that is just irresistible.  And for some people nothing else will do.  You may be one of them.  If that's the case, you're in good company here.

Over the years, I've learned to not be a dream-stealer.  And if your dream is to be a career helicopter pilot, then go for it!  Just recognize that it *will* be a long, hard, expensive road.  (More expensive than the flight schools are quoting you.)  And, well, it might not happen.  Not everybody who wants to be a professional pilot is successful at it - for a number of reasons.  But for those of us who wanted to do this for as long as they can remember (me, for instance), we didn't take "no" for an answer.  We just f*ckin' did it.  Would I do it again?  Ehhhh, not so sure about that, but you cannot change the past.  So party on, Garth.

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Sell your house...move close to a flight school...get a part/full time IT gig to have some income. Then get your private fixed wing and add on a private helicopter. Now rent for a while, fly your family around, get up at 3am and fly at night dodging wires, sleep in the helicopter, etc and see if you actually LIKE flying or just the THOUGHT of flying! 

If you enjoy it, then continue flight school and get your commercial/multi engine/IFR fixed wing rating and then add on a commercial/IFR/CFI helicopter rating. Now that you're dual rated you can start looking for jobs.

But, even going fixed wing isn't "big money" at first...my UPS driver was a commercial pilot for a regional operator and he quit to work UPS because it had better pay/benefits and schedule. 

Everyone says they don't care about making a lot of money...until the collections guys start calling or your kids need food and clothes or you need to pay your divorce lawyer. 

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If you make it as far as the regionals and quit to drive a UPS truck because of pay and schedule, it had nothing to do pay and schedule.

Edited by helonorth

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On 5/31/2020 at 12:47 AM, FlyawayNate said:

No, that would essentially just be flushing money down the toilet. If I'm going to drop a significant amount of money for flight time and certifications, I want it to have a purpose beyond just doing it for 'funsies'. 

I want to fly as a career. If I wanted it for excitement, relaxation, or entertainment - I could find MANY other ways of blowing $40,000 and get much better results. 

I must question your life priorities.  You note that flying for fun/leisure is “flushing money down a toilet”; yet you seem quite cavalier about putting your family into poverty/hardship because you have a dream of being a pilot.

I could not proffer life/career advice to someone whose priorities are so messed up.  A PPL(H) will cost you about 15k – 20k.  Would you recoil as vehemently at the suggestion of buying a boat with the same amount of money?  

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3 hours ago, RisePilot said:

 

 

I could not proffer life/career advice to someone whose priorities are so messed up.   

 

You also do not and have not ever done this for a living, so there's that. 

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18 hours ago, helonorth said:

If you make it as far as the regionals and quit to drive a UPS truck because of pay and schedule, it had nothing to do pay and schedule.

 

Ya know, it may not have been to regionals yet now that I think about it. It may have been just a 135/cargo operator. It's been a while since I talked to him about it. 

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1 hour ago, helonorth said:

You also do not and have not ever done this for a living, so there's that. 

Do you add dumbass comments on all threads on this forum?

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7 hours ago, RisePilot said:

I must question your life priorities.  You note that flying for fun/leisure is “flushing money down a toilet”; yet you seem quite cavalier about putting your family into poverty/hardship because you have a dream of being a pilot.

 

I could not proffer life/career advice to someone whose priorities are so messed up.  A PPL(H) will cost you about 15k – 20k.  Would you recoil as vehemently at the suggestion of buying a boat with the same amount of money?  

 

I wouldn't say my priorities are messed up. Before even starting this process I'd have well over $120k set aside to obtain the necessary certifications, and even IF I cannot make money flying, I have a degree and 10 years of experience to fall back on. Plus with my wife working full time to augment that income, we'll be fine. Trust me, my family will never starve. 

I am interested in this as a career. I mentioned "blowing money" because for every dollar you spend there's a return on that investment. If you do it for recreation, the return on your investment is in the form of enjoyment rather than employment. I realize there's little money in it starting out, or until you reach the multi-thousand hour level. I understand that and am prepared for it. 

I came here looking for career advice on how to start, where to go, what should I learn, what should I focus on, who should I talk to. Instead I'm getting a lot of advice about how it will affect my personal life and how I'm pretty much guaranteed to live in poverty if I go this route. Not to dog on anyone here, but I don't need a life coach - I need specific advice about a specific career path. Seems that a LOT of people jumped into this type of work without all the information, or made some questionable financial/career choices themselves and come to these forums with their frustrations. 

Bottom line: I will not need to take on any debt to get my commercial/CFII certifications. I can pay all that up front and still have plenty left over to live on until a stable job is secured. I can move anywhere in the country for an instructor position to bridge the 200-1000 gap until I qualify for other openings. 

Who I want to hear from:
Current students, CFIs or those who have started this career path within the last 5 years.
Was it worth it? 
How difficult was it to find employment after graduation? After 1000 hours? 2000? 
Is the pay really as bad as it seems? What do you even consider "bad" pay? 
Veteran pilots: How has the career field changed in the last 5, 10, 20+ years? 

Who I don't want to hear from:
People who don't do this for a living (or never have)
Recreational/VR/Simulator pilots
Forum warriors who "coulda, woulda, shoulda" but never did. 

And not that I don't appreciate the tips on how it will ruin my personal life, but that's not the advice I'm looking for. I could pick literally ANY career path and hear all about how it will ruin my marriage/personal life. 

 

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Go back a few years here and read the stories of r22Butters.

He was a wannabe like you, paid all the money to get the ticket, though he didn't go to instructing. He tried REALLY hard to get work, picked up a few offers but realised he was just being used and spat out. 

He kept sort-of current by renting privately, but after many years of head-butting, gave it away, doesn't even post here any more.

This is a serious leap of faith you are contemplating. Great if you reckon you have plenty to live off, the young kids must be in day-care if your wife is working (hope you factored that in too) and you will sure need to be dedicated to follow this long, twisting, pot-holed and often grass-covered path to a proper job. I was from the military path, and still caught the AIDS bug from all the time spent on the job instead of on the family. On the civil side, you work your guts for the boss, and he still treats you like something he stepped in.

There was a post on another forum about a NZ R22 which crashed. It was time-expired, the engine was due an overhaul, the blades were timex, and no wonder it went down. The only good bit was that the owner was flying it at the time, but 5 minutes later he was to have a passenger on board. The margins are so thin in this industry that owners will look to cut costs anywhere. Anywhere.

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