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Complete Newbie Seeking Advice

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Hello all,


This is my first post here, and I'd like to first start off by thanking you all for all the info I've picked up through lurking. It is my experience that internet forums can be some of the most valuable assets to someone looking for information on a specifc topic.


A little bit about myself: I'm an engineering grad who has recently realized that sitting in a cube for the next 30 years is not exactly how I want to spend the rest of my life. After a short stint of thinking about going to law school or getting an MBA, I realized that maybe money isn't exactly what I'm looking for. I've tried to be honest with myself and I think I've found what I want to do with my life, and since I'm here, you can probably guess what that is.


Training: Are there any quality flight schools in Houston? I've found a lot of places for fixed wing, but not helicopters. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place.


Career Prospects: Some websites say finding a job is very hard. Others say there is shortage of pilots due to Vietnam Vets retiring. What is the truth?


Salary: I don't need to be rich, but I do need to pay the bills. After researching I've found salary figures ranging from 20k to 110k for experienced pilots. What are some real world salary figures? Salary.com lists the average helicopter pilot salary around 80k. That seems high, but I don't really know.


Any other advice is definitely appreciated.

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I cant answer your question about helo schools in Houston, but I will try on the others. As far as career prospects go, there is quite a few job openings for helo CFI's in the US on an ongoing basis. Because the CFI position is a "stepping stone" position to a career, there is a fairly high turnover rate at most flight schools. This is good news for a new CFI. The bad news is that many of the CFI jobs require 300 hours minimum to start working, mainly due to their insurance companies. So you may have to obtain an extra 100 flight hours beyond what most schools offer to be employable. Be careful about the "shortage of pilots due to Vietnam pilots retiring" speach, its a little misleading. There are lots of openings for pilots, but a shortage may be pushing it. Still your chances are good that you will land a job as a helo pilot if you apply yourself.

Expect to be on the low side of the pay scale as a CFI. Anywhere from 20k-40k is likely per year. Its more about building hours than pay at that point. The average pay for a commercial helo pilot seems to be 45-60k per year. Some of the high pay scales come from Gulf of Mexico captains wages, corporate pilots, etc, they make the higher end salaries. This job is about satisfying a passion, but you still have to pay the bills. A balance is good.


Good Luck.

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There is a flight school in Danbury, TX . They have been there for quite some time. They Fly Enstroms the last I heard. I am down in Port O'Connor flying offshore. There are jobs around, but like all things it takes effort to find one. Working as an Engineer will keep you in money for Flight training and while you build time, you would need at least 1000 hours to be considered with most of the Gulf Operators. Also you really don't want to take on a whole lot of debt, since the first few pilot jobs don't pay much. Gain experience in engineering, and use that income to learn to fly, so that if you should ever bust a medical you have engineering to fall back on and some work experince in that field to bank on.

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I'd stay away from the A&P if you looking for something to pay the bills. Out of the 8 of us who went to A&P school a few years ago, only 2 have been able to get jobs. The class after us had 13, 3 of which got jobs (the top of the class still works at Jiffy Lube). And we were at one of the top schools in the country for aviation training & engineering, Parks College of Saint Louis University.


Unless you have training on specific aircraft, it's tough to get a job with your A&P and nothing else. The guys that get their A&P via the 30-month apprentice method, are better off since they can show 2.5 years in a big maintenance operation or FAA repair station working on a certian type of aircraft.


I used to get $30/hr for contract work on a Challenger 601 (big corp jet) when it was due for 300 & 600 hr inspections. But that was only a few times a year. Not to mention, I only got paid that much because I took the lead mechanic's kids for helicopter rides on their birthdays.


BUT, the A&P was money well spent in my eyes. I really like having that and my IA, even though I haven't signed anything off in a long time. Actually, it's not the certificate like having, it's the knowledge--which is why I did it at a part 147 A&P school (2000hrs of classroom/lab time), versus doing the "learn on the job" way (30 months under the supervision of an A&P).


And in regards to an MBA, I have one and a B.S. in Aviation Management....but here again, I like having the knowledge, not the paper its printed on. Neither degrees, nor my A&P helped me get my job as an EMS pilot, so take that into consideration. And if I work the same amount of days a year as a businessman would (about 260), I would make about the same amount of money as a businessman (but I'm only scheduled for 168 days a year and I don't take any work home with me.)


BTW, there's a school in Houston called "Helicopter Services". A pilot with our company used to work there. I really don't know anything about it, just have heard it mentioned.

Edited by delorean
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