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Fixed Wing to Helo Transition


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Hey All,

I've got a number of years (18) working fixed wing aircraft and would like to use that experience in the Helo world. My intention is to gain employment as an A&P on Helo's while building flight time hopefully with my employer. Anyone take this path? Is it realistic? I appreciate the wealth of knowledge available here so I'm hoping someone can put me on track. Thanks! :)

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To be frank... I would not advise this route. To your employer you are only valuable as the thing that makes them money.... ie.. A&P. Unless you already have considerable flight time and are looking to do a short transition into the pilot seat I seriously doubt anybody will give you the shot you're looking for.

 

Companys want you for what you can do for them... yes there is a shortage of good A&P's but why would that company hire you if your long term goal is to fly? They will lose you as the mechanic.

Also, there is a bit of a division in company structure between the mechanics and the pilots.... It is a very good thing to be a pilot who has his A&P, and it is good to be an A&P who flies.... but there are very few companies that want you to do both....

 

Also, you won't be able to fly beans with that company if you are just starting.... the company will need you to have hundreds of flight hours before they'll unleash you in the pilot seat. I'm sure someone has done it as you are proposing (with their rich uncle's 500 or something) but it just doesn't go like that. You will end up not getting what you want out of it...ie flying.

 

If it's flying you want and not mechanic.... Go start flying. You will be more valuable when you are ready to fly and have you're current experience.... until then you'll get stepped on.

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I've got a number of years (18) working fixed wing aircraft and would like to use that experience in the Helo world.

 

Just to clarify, do you mean that you are a rated pilot in fixed-wing or you worked on them for 18 years?

 

I did all my fixed-wing pilot/instructor ratings first, all the way through CFI, CFII, and MEI and had 1000 hours before I ever touched a helicopter. Speaking from my own experience, no matter how much you know about airplanes, it doesn't mean anything when you get in the helicopter... It's a whooole different ball game. Very humbling. :blink:

 

From the A&P standpoint. I have a 1 1/2 years towards an A&P apprenticeship and I've noticed that airplane mechanics and helicopter mechanics do things a little differently (maybe it's just because I am the paying customer looking over the helicopter mechanic's shoulder). IMO Helicopter mechanics take a more organized approach, they use the maintenance manual religiously, instead of fixing things by trial and error. I think that the major flaw in your mentioned plan is that you don't already have any helicopter maintenance experience, so you aren't going to get paid much to work on them initially which will just delay your whole plan to fly them. If I were you I'd look for an operator that has both helicopter and airplane (most likely a flight school) so you can get paid a fair dollar for your expertise on fixed wing, while getting some exposure to maintaining/flying the helicopter at the same time. If you expect to get your private helicopter rating for free by using ferry flights and mtx test flights, I'll put it bluntly..... forget it. Those flights are sometimes the only chance for eager new CFI's to get any stick time. A discount from the flight school is possible, but I wouldn't count on a big one.

 

Look at it another way. If your future employer for a helicopter pilot position asks "where did you get your training?" Do you think they'd rather hear that you were enrolled in a structured course, that optimized your training experience, or that you got all your ratings here and there on odd-ball maintenance and ferry flights? Don't get me wrong, you can do some great time-building on those flights, just don't expect to do alot of worth-while training that way.

 

If you are in fact already rated in fixed wing, I would highly recommend that you find a dual-rated instructor to do your training. They will compare and contrast the rotorcraft/fixed-wing differences better than a rotor-only instructor. And, for the instrument rating course, instructors that hold an instrument-airplane rating are likely to have more real world experience than the typical helicopter instrument instructor, since none of the training helicopters are approved to fly in instrument meteorlogical conditions.

 

My intentions are not to discourage you. I hope you the best, and I know what you're going through. Leaving stable job in the rearview mirror to go fly helicopters is a really hard decision to make. I'll let you know when I find out if it's worth it.... Netjets is very tempting right now.

 

What part of the country do you live in now? Have you taken a few lessons in a helicopter to make sure you like it?

 

My last bit of advice... If you choose to fly the Robinson R22 or R44, schedule your robinson helicopter pilot safety course ASAP... Come to think of it, you may as well schedule your maintenance course ASAP too. They both have very long lead times.

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Hey All,

I've got a number of years (18) working fixed wing aircraft and would like to use that experience in the Helo world. My intention is to gain employment as an A&P on Helo's while building flight time hopefully with my employer. Anyone take this path? Is it realistic? I appreciate the wealth of knowledge available here so I'm hoping someone can put me on track. Thanks! :)

NOETIME,

First of all, do you already have an A/P? Do you have a helicopter PPL? Do you have a fixed wing PPL? Having an A/P license will get you a job. Be prepared to do more wrench turning than flying. I think that your approach to a helicopter license will work if you get the job with someone that also does helicopter flight training. Having an A/P that is also a pilot is a big plus for a company. That's why we allow all our employees to train for just the cost of fuel. This allows us to train someone with additional skills that benefit both the company and the individual. These guys that are giving you the responses to your question are not looking from the companies point of view. I hire A/P's and let them train as pilots when the maintenance is caught up, and pay them for their time. Yes, we do have a turn over. Yes, most want to fly, but if both parties know going in what to expect, there are no surprises. The A/P comes in as a mechanic. While he is here he is expected to do his work and train as a pilot when the work is caught up. Finding a company that is willing to let you train will not be hard, finding the company that has the ability to train you while you work will be the difficult part. The pilot with an A/P is very useful when taking the blades off a machine and putting it on a trailer to take to a fair or festival. He can put it back together on both ends. When you get ready to make a move, come see us. Be glad to have you.

bossman

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NOETIME,

 

I think you'll find that all your airplane experience won't count for much in the helicopter world. I'm not sure why. After 19 years of flying airplanes, I started helicopter training, and the helicopter-only pilots that trained me were convinced (before I even started) that I would have a hard time flying. I mean, simple things like weather, navigation, etc. I think maybe it bruised their egos knowing that I already had a heads-up in aviation. Another example is Air Logistics. They have an employment ad on justhelicopters.com, and the successful applicant must meet FAR 135 VFR PIC minimums to be considered. I meet FAR 135 IFR PIC minimums, but they won't consider me because they want all the flight time to meet those minimums to be in a helicopter (which their ad does not specify). Don't get me wrong; they seem like a good company to work for, and I plan on re-applying when I get the time.

 

Your best bet would be to get all your instructor ratings in helicopters and teach to build the time. If you can get extra flights like ferrying, etc... another plus. Good luck!

 

Jeff

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NOETIME,

 

I think you'll find that all your airplane experience won't count for much in the helicopter world. I'm not sure why. After 19 years of flying airplanes, I started helicopter training, and the helicopter-only pilots that trained me were convinced (before I even started) that I would have a hard time flying. I mean, simple things like weather, navigation, etc. I think maybe it bruised their egos knowing that I already had a heads-up in aviation. Another example is Air Logistics. They have an employment ad on justhelicopters.com, and the successful applicant must meet FAR 135 VFR PIC minimums to be considered. I meet FAR 135 IFR PIC minimums, but they won't consider me because they want all the flight time to meet those minimums to be in a helicopter (which their ad does not specify). Don't get me wrong; they seem like a good company to work for, and I plan on re-applying when I get the time.

 

Your best bet would be to get all your instructor ratings in helicopters and teach to build the time. If you can get extra flights like ferrying, etc... another plus. Good luck!

 

Jeff

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Thanks everyone for all the advice. Sorry I was'nt a bit clearer with my info but I don't have any of the licenses. I've got all the approvals to test, but I'm overseas and will have to get to it when I'm home. Right now I'm just exploring avenues and this was one that came to me. Considering working full/parttime to maintain some cashflow and flying at least 3-4 days a week seemed like a viable option. It's not clear just yet when I will be home to start all this, but when I do, I'm sure the doors that are meant for me to walk through will be open. Thanks again yall, it's nice to know people actually care! ;) Peace.

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