Becoming a Commercial helicopter pilot.

Skyway

Well-Known Member
Hello all, can anyone please help me out? I should probably know this being a CFI and all but, does anyone know where to start out if your interested in flying helicopters. What about flying helicopters for say a corporation or a hospital? If someone has previous 121 time flying jets and all of their CFI certs, and a degree will any of that help out in getting hired. Or do you still need boat loads of rotary time. I guess what I am trying to ask is if youv'e got 1600 tt with 500 121 turbine SIC time and all your CFI certs, can that help with getting a commercial helicopter job with the minimum rotary ratings? Or will you still need to build time as a helicopter pilot like we all have as fixed wing pilots. In other words would someone have to start all over again? If so how do you build Rotary time? Thanks for any suggestions.
 
Skyway,

Since nobody has answered your question I'll take a stab at it based on my limited experience in the matter. Most of your helicopter pilots got their training in the military. It is wildly cost prohibitive to go entirely the civilian route and acquire the type and amount of time corporations or medevac look for in a successful applicant. Most want lots of turbine experience to satisfy insurance requirements and the pay is nothing compared to fixed wing corporate/airline jobs. It's also highly dangerous for any medevac pilots, hence, their poor safety record due to the environment they work in.

A number of years ago I was in a partnership in a C310. One of my partners owned a helicopter flying business (local news agency helicopters)and was an ex-Army/Vietnam Huey and Cobra pilot and still instructed in the Apache at Ft Knox. The guy was probably one of the highest time helicopter pilots around. I got a wild hair one day an decided I was going to get my helo rating and he was going to teach me in his Bell 47 (piston powered with big glass bubble cockpit-ala "MASH" show). Anywho, even though it was a blast to fly, the cost was so astronomically high even with the discount he was giving me, that I decided after a couple rides that it just wouldn't be worth it to pursue any of the helo ratings. I mean, I wouldn't even meet the insurance requirements to rent anything solo...so, what fun would that be?

I'd say that at least 98% of the helo pilots that I run into or work with came out of one of the branches of the military and that's where they got their training and time. BTW, helo time doesn't translate back to the fixed wing world very well if you ever decide to pursue a professional flying job in that capacity. The airlines tend to overlook it. I've never understood why since learning to fly a helicopter is tougher than a fixed wing. I guess it's just apples to oranges in their eyes. Some of the best pilots I've had the pleasure of flying with started out in helo's. They have a certain finesse that you can't teach.

Good luck!
 
Hello all, can anyone please help me out? I should probably know this being a CFI and all but, does anyone know where to start out if your interested in flying helicopters. What about flying helicopters for say a corporation or a hospital? If someone has previous 121 time flying jets and all of their CFI certs, and a degree will any of that help out in getting hired. Or do you still need boat loads of rotary time. I guess what I am trying to ask is if youv'e got 1600 tt with 500 121 turbine SIC time and all your CFI certs, can that help with getting a commercial helicopter job with the minimum rotary ratings? Or will you still need to build time as a helicopter pilot like we all have as fixed wing pilots. In other words would someone have to start all over again? If so how do you build Rotary time? Thanks for any suggestions.
A300 is pretty much dead on.

Generally, helicopter employers will not count your fixed-wing time at all. Generally, helicopter employers will require 1000+ of helo time - in fact, Scottyboy75 is one of JC's few civilian trained helo pilots and he reported people weren't hiring CFI-Hs unless they had 500 TT in helos. He also reported the hiring market for CFIs was very, very difficult. He actually moved to India to take a helo job where he could build time.
 
If you want to go from a private, inst, commercial in a helo at one pt61 place I looked at, total would be 66K, just for the min requirements. No CFI. It just doesn't make any sense to do it the civ way unless you know for sure that you want to make helo flying a career. 66K could get a you A LOT on the fixed wing side, not to mention better career opportunities. If you're really serious, I would join the Army or reserves.
 
Skyway,

Since nobody has answered your question I'll take a stab at it based on my limited experience in the matter. Most of your helicopter pilots got their training in the military. It is wildly cost prohibitive to go entirely the civilian route and acquire the type and amount of time corporations or medevac look for in a successful applicant. Most want lots of turbine experience to satisfy insurance requirements and the pay is nothing compared to fixed wing corporate/airline jobs. It's also highly dangerous for any medevac pilots, hence, their poor safety record due to the environment they work in.

A number of years ago I was in a partnership in a C310. One of my partners owned a helicopter flying business (local news agency helicopters)and was an ex-Army/Vietnam Huey and Cobra pilot and still instructed in the Apache at Ft Knox. The guy was probably one of the highest time helicopter pilots around. I got a wild hair one day an decided I was going to get my helo rating and he was going to teach me in his Bell 47 (piston powered with big glass bubble cockpit-ala "MASH" show). Anywho, even though it was a blast to fly, the cost was so astronomically high even with the discount he was giving me, that I decided after a couple rides that it just wouldn't be worth it to pursue any of the helo ratings. I mean, I wouldn't even meet the insurance requirements to rent anything solo...so, what fun would that be?

I'd say that at least 98% of the helo pilots that I run into or work with came out of one of the branches of the military and that's where they got their training and time. BTW, helo time doesn't translate back to the fixed wing world very well if you ever decide to pursue a professional flying job in that capacity. The airlines tend to overlook it. I've never understood why since learning to fly a helicopter is tougher than a fixed wing. I guess it's just apples to oranges in their eyes. Some of the best pilots I've had the pleasure of flying with started out in helo's. They have a certain finesse that you can't teach.

Good luck!

A300 is pretty much dead on.

Generally, helicopter employers will not count your fixed-wing time at all. Generally, helicopter employers will require 1000+ of helo time - in fact, Scottyboy75 is one of JC's few civilian trained helo pilots and he reported people weren't hiring CFI-Hs unless they had 500 TT in helos. He also reported the hiring market for CFIs was very, very difficult. He actually moved to India to take a helo job where he could build time.


Listen to the above words of wisdom. Going commercial rotorcraft from zero time is a very steep slope to transverse.

And as pointed out above, airlines DO NOT like rotor time. I'm not 100% sure why, in fact I'm not sure they are 100% sure why.

I can vividly recall back in 2006, Eagle came to our school looking for pilots during the low time rush. I had the requirements (TT wise) with my helo time, but not with fixed.

So I asked one of the recuriters...

Me - "Will you count my rotor time"
Recruiter - "Well......"
Second recruiter (Eagle Capt) - "What kind of rotor time? Military?"
Me - "Yes"
Second recruiter (Eagle Capt) - "Turbine?"
Me - (Thinking to myself "Turbine? Your kidding, right?) "Yes, single engine turbo-shaft"
Second recruiter (Eagle Capt) - "Well.....Generally no, sometime we can look at rotor time on a case to case basis, but only after the mins have been met"
Me - (Thinking to myself "Then what's the point?") - "OK, but I was just wondering, why is that?"
First Recruiter (Non pilot) - "Well you see it's a completely different kind of flying"

:mad:
No kidding?!?!? I knew there was something different, just couldn't put my finger on it prior to that comment, thanks for sorting it all out.

BTW - I kept the above comment to myself after her answer :D


As far as commercial rotor employment goes, as stated above it generally tops out lower the comparable fixed wing level positions (If you can really make a one for one comparison) and getting the helo time required for the really high paying positions, outside of the military, is tough and costly.

I know that I'm not really competitive for most of the off shore rig positions. I would maybe be lucky to land a traffic watch/new chopper positions, and that would be a stretch. Most commercial rotor pilots I know, and I know a few, got their time the hard way, and that would be many months, or years, of getting shot at. i.e. Nam pilots.

This is one reason that I chose to pursue fixed wing commercial rather the rotor wing once I decided to start flying again.



Good luck with which ever choice you make.
 
Hello all, can anyone please help me out? I should probably know this being a CFI and all but, does anyone know where to start out if your interested in flying helicopters. What about flying helicopters for say a corporation or a hospital? If someone has previous 121 time flying jets and all of their CFI certs, and a degree will any of that help out in getting hired. Or do you still need boat loads of rotary time. I guess what I am trying to ask is if youv'e got 1600 tt with 500 121 turbine SIC time and all your CFI certs, can that help with getting a commercial helicopter job with the minimum rotary ratings? Or will you still need to build time as a helicopter pilot like we all have as fixed wing pilots. In other words would someone have to start all over again? If so how do you build Rotary time? Thanks for any suggestions.

Hi Skyway,

Hurm...where do I start...

Well, let me preface this with my quals...dual rated ATP, CFI-A,MEI,RH,G,IA,IH. About 12k total, with about 1000 in heilos.

Anyway, I started flying heilos when I had about 500 TT and my CFI/II/MEI. I got interested enough to do a commerical rotorcraft add on. It wasn't prohibitively expensive, and your fixed wind time does count towards the TT requirements of the ratings, greatly reducing the expense.

There was an opportunity to get work as a CFI-IH, since no one else was doing it in the entire region, and the owner at the school I did my ratings at was pushing an IR program, and I was the only one around with a CFI-II. So I wound up getting my Instrument helicopter, CFI-H and CFII-H. All told, all of the additional helicopter ratings, start to finish, was about 8-10k or so, and this was in 1989.

Mind you, I already had reduced time because of my previous FW time, so I was heading into instructing in R-22s (all my time was in R-22s) with VERY little overall helicopter time. The only reason I could pull this off was a)all my time was in R-22s, b)I had done all of my training at the school I was working for and c) All I was doing was instrument training, NO primary instruction at all. There is no way on Gods green earth I would have been able to instruct otherwise.

Anyway, just at that time, a change in insurance policies made the instrument helicopter rating important, and we had a FLOOD of people come in, because we were basically the only plance doing it in the whole southeast (and I was the only CFI-IH...overtime ahoy!). We had a program where if you had a instrument airplane, it was a 5 hour transition (the FAR minimum) plus a checkride for the IH. If you were reasonably current on instruments, the transition course was a non-event. I did dozens and dozens of these courses over a summer, and banked up a lot of heilo time in a hurry. Cash, too, as my hourly was twice what FW CFI-IIs were making.

I finally got a fair amount of heilo TT, and wound up doing primary instruction (one of the other CFIs got deported...long story), and eventually moved on to another job where I did both FW and rotor instructing. The dual rated CFI got me a good CFI gig in a recession, but at that point I was after multi time, as rotor time is useless for an airline gig other than as a conversation point in the interview.

But I GOT LUCKY. I fell into a nitch job with unique quals and a healthy dose of right place/right time.

Here's what I know that is directly applicable to your question. The other posters are generally correct. You will get some FAR credit for your FW time for your RH ratings, BUT, these days, many schools have insurance minimums that will prevent any benefit. Further, if you are training in 300's, you will have a difficult time getting R-22/44 work because of the requirements of the SFAR (something I didn't have to deal with). If you do plan on instructing, make sure you get the SFAR minimums for R-22/44s!

Unless you've struck oil in your back yard, you will have to go through the whole CFI gig for helicopters to build time like you did for the airline job. Turbine time is the multi time in helio land, and to get that, you need about 1000TT in helicopters.

Once there, only your heilo quals will matter for heilo gigs. FORGET any dual rated corporate jobs until your heilo time exceeds your FW time. I have never seen a mainly FW guy with some rotor time ever get any dual rated job (unless he was a blood relative to the guy doing the hiring). They always go to guys with heavy rotor time and a sprinkle of FW time.

Pay tends to start higher than FW jobs, but then tends to flatten out lower.

Sorry for the long post, but I've had some experience with this. Let me know if you have any specific questions, although my info is somewhat dated.

Richman
 
Well thanks for the great info! All of this sounds like a long process but, it could be worth it who knows. I always thought it might be kind of cool to fly those fancy corporate helicpoters like you see flying high time clients all over New York city or something. Though my heart will always remain with fixed wing airplanes, I thought maybe to broaden my horizons alittle. Is there anyone on this board who might be able to give an example of an hourly rate for dual in a helicopter, plus instruction, I am just trying to play the numbers game right now.
 
Well thanks for the great info! All of this sounds like a long process but, it could be worth it who knows. I always thought it might be kind of cool to fly those fancy corporate helicpoters like you see flying high time clients all over New York city or something. Though my heart will always remain with fixed wing airplanes, I thought maybe to broaden my horizons alittle. Is there anyone on this board who might be able to give an example of an hourly rate for dual in a helicopter, plus instruction, I am just trying to play the numbers game right now.


http://www.maunaloahelicopters.com/helicopter-training-schools-pricing.html

http://www.helicopter-training.net/school-info.php?school=Tallahassee-Helicopters&school_id=546&location_id=1018&featured=yes&category_id=3
 
Well thanks for the great info! All of this sounds like a long process but, it could be worth it who knows. I always thought it might be kind of cool to fly those fancy corporate helicpoters like you see flying high time clients all over New York city or something. Though my heart will always remain with fixed wing airplanes, I thought maybe to broaden my horizons alittle. Is there anyone on this board who might be able to give an example of an hourly rate for dual in a helicopter, plus instruction, I am just trying to play the numbers game right now.

Thanks for the kind words, A300.

Back in the day, time in an R-22 tracked along the cost of an upscale twin rental, like a Seneca II. Without looking, my guess these days would be around $250/hr dual, or about $225 solo or so.

The R-22 carried some weight restrictions, so if you're heavier than about 240, the R-22 isn't an option. You'll have to do a 300, or a R-44. The 300 is probably about $30-40 more per hour than a tooty too, and a R-44 is probably half again as much...probably around $425 to $450 or so. Turbine ships are easily north of $700/hr.

If you have the quan buring a hole in your pocket, by all means go out and take one for a spin. It IS a lot of fun, but when I describe my time as a heilo instructor, it's usually along the lines of "yea, I survived it". The Grecian Formula got most of the grey out.

Richman
 
Back
Top