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Fixed-wing CFI, absolute helicopter fanatic. Too old to pursue a rotor-wing career?

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Current fixed-wing CFI, have about 3,100 hours of flight time, 2,500 hours of dual-given time, which I know means nothing in the rotor-wing side. Currently 28 years old, and have absolutely been addicted to helicopters ever since my first flight in a 206B3 when i was 15(ish). Have worked ground comms. for Aircrane Inc., THE helicopter utility company serving the Southeast US, and absolutely love the S-58 airframe. Still a newbie to the helicopter side of aviation, and want to pursue my dreams of being a utility and aerial fire suppression pilot in helicopters!

So now, after that long winded intro, here,s the million dollar question- at 28 years of age, am I too old to pursue my helicopter career? I know the long path I have to get to any of the commercial jobs, instructing and building time and the likes, and with the minimum time requirement for almost every utility job being about 1,500 hours, that's a considerable amount of time building to do. I am more than 100% willing to put in all the work and effort it takes to get there. My next question- If I'm close to 35-40 years old by the time I hit 1,500 to 2,000 hours, are most utility employers going to shun me away because of my age?




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 It won't take nearly that long to build 1,500 helicopter hours. It could be done in three years or less if you land an instructing job at a reasonably busy flight school and then fly some tours for a while. Your ratings will take much less time, too, as they will be add-ons. Helicopter training is EXPENSIVE, though. Expect to pay $400 an hour. Your airplane time will count for something in the job market. How much, I don't know. The one thing I'm dying to ask is why would you ever get involved with helicopters with all the airplane time you have and the current state of the airline job market? Are you nuts? Seriously, I would stick with the airplanes and get a helicopter rating for fun. In 10 years, I can guarantee you that flying helicopters will turn into a job. A job that you will be LUCKY to make half what you would at an airline. The schedule, pay and benefits are insanely better at an airline. Even the box flyers make huge money. Corporate does well, too. I know, it's your dream to fly helicopters, etc. but 10 years from now when you're a million miles from home on some fire contract or working some boring and dangerous power line job, you will say "I wish I would have listened to that guy on the internet..." Switching to helicopters right now would be a huge mistake, IMO. 

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@choppaguy84I was definitely pretty worried about getting up there with my age! I didn't know if 30 was well in the upper limits to enter the swing wing side. Especially having to self-fund my training, which puts a fair bit of drag on the whole process. 

Hope your instructors doing well and still wiggling sticks on the daily!


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@helonorth- Oh yeah, the cost is definitely a wallet burner for sure, and being self-paid I'm sure that will bring a tear to my eye pretty often 🤣 I've been asked that question more times than I can count- Why do you want to switch sides when you've got all these hours on the stuck-wing side? To be very honest, on the whole, I just absolutely love flying. It could be anything, and as long as I get to get in the air, I'm a happy camper! But, I got my first taste of flying in the helicopter side, and absolutely fell in love with it. Longed to get into helicopter training, but the cost was way out of reach for me and my family, so I jumped into the fixed wing side of things. Absolutely drooled over helicopters all the while though, and having had a chance to be close to the 58T and the utility work that Aircrane Inc. does, I absolutely fell head over heels for it, and just made up my mind to give it my all and take the leap and follow my dreams to shake sticks on the swing-wing side. As far as employment goes, me not being a US citizen, I probably have a 0 to negative chance of ever getting employed in the US, especially for jobs that I hope to fly someday. So looking at the aviation and aviation job market outside of the US, unless I want to follow a career in the airlines only, being a fixed-wing pilot only, doesn't look very promising for any of the utility jobs. Being dual rated is definitely looking like a head-turner from what I've spoken to the few utility guys around the world. Also, this is probably just me being hard-headed, nut just seeing everyone flow into the airlines, especially when it comes to being a pilot outside of the US, I've always wanted to step out of the the comfort zone and do what I absolutely love- being in some kind of utility and civil-service field, be it construction, fire-fighting, logging etc. I've definitely given the pay and pros and cons a lot of thought but at the end of the day I guess I want to get the experience that the utility guys get, and be the guy who can say "Been there, done that and got a t-shirt with an oil slick from that too!" 


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On 4/12/2022 at 11:42 AM, Sidd622 said:

Also, this is probably just me being hard-headed, nut just seeing everyone flow into the airlines, especially when it comes to being a pilot outside of the US, I've always wanted to step out of the the comfort zone and do what I absolutely love- being in some kind of utility and civil-service field, be it construction, fire-fighting, logging etc.


This business isn’t for everyone. However, some of us can’t see ourselves doing anything other than flying helicopters for a living. It’s a curse and blessing at the same time……..

Live your life with no regrets. Sure, money is important but it’s not what you make that counts. It’s what you do with what you make that does count…..

Aviation as a whole is cyclical. You know that. The helicopter business isn’t really all that cyclical as it’s always been a difficult road, no matter where you are in your career. If you play your cards right, it can be rewarding just as you envision.

There are no civil-service (meaning government work) construction or logging. That’s all private commercial operations. There is civil-service firefighting…. This would be a good goal to attain. Specifically, commercial utility work to get qualified for civil-service firefighting…..

Your age is no biggie. I started at 30 and been able to make a decent living doing more than I ever imagined for 31 years.

Good luck.

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