These are some common questions we are asked about learning to fly helicopters and becoming a helicopter pilot. If you have additional questions, please don‘t hesitate to contact us.
The job market for helicopters right now is great! Not only is the industry growing at a rate that flight schools can't keep up with, Vietnam era pilots have rotated out of the industry, bringing the demand even higher. This is a good time to become a helicopter pilot.
There are all kinds of jobs out there for helicopter pilots right now that are located in all parts of the country, and even the world. For example, corporate transportation, search and rescue, EMS, police, fire fighting, ENG (Electric News Gathering)... the list goes on and on. The important thing to remember is that you can move around the industry as you seek new challenges. For more available jobs, refer to our commercial helicopter pilot page.
When choosing to fly helicopters for your career you can expect to start off as an instructor. Instructing usually lasts for about a year with an income of $15,000 to $25,000. Once you move on to the next job the pay can double. Ultimately, depending on the field you want to get into, a salary of $80,000 up to and over $150,000 is obtainable.
No, a college degree is not necessary. While flight training, you focus all of your educational time on how to fly and on course material that is 100% relevant to the flying environment. However, having a college degree is not a detriment to obtaining a flying job either, a few flight departments consider it a benefit. Corporate flight department will almost always require college degrees.
On average, it will take a full time student 1 ½ to 2 years from start to finish. If training full time you can plan on 4 to 5 days per week, about 4 hours per day.
The required hours for employment are based on what you are interested in doing. For most Tour/Sightseeing jobs or Off Shore Oil Transportation the minimum will fluctuate between 800 and 1500 hours. This will take about one year from the point you finish your training. From there 2000 to 3000 hours can get you into EMS, ENG or Corporate Transportation. The next career move you can expect to be anything you want. Due to the increased demand for helicopter pilots, these numbers are constantly decreasing.
The truth about turbine transition
I know we all aspire to fly turbine helicopters. There is nothing like the whine of a turbine helicopter starting up. However, the reality is you don‘t need to spend the money to get a turbine transition.
At Northeast Helicopters we have graduates leave here every year and move on to turbine jobs in tourism, off shore, EMS, Etc. The companies that hire you will provide the turbine transition in their aircraft so that you learn their procedures particular to their aircraft make and model operations.
While having both ratings on your resume may help you obtain a job with certain companies, there is by no means a requirement to be airplane rated to advance as a helicopter pilot. There are a limited number of jobs that actually require both.
A common misconception is that you need 20/20 vision. As long as you can correct your vision to 20/20 or near 20/20 with glasses or contact lenses, you can obtain a medical. Some examples of what will stand in the way are a history of diabetes that requires insulin, coronary heart disease, or certain mental conditions. For more information, contact your local aviation physician.
Generally no, the costs will even out most of the time because you are forced to learn new maneuvers and procedures that are different than flying an airplane. Re-training yourself to respond instinctively with the proper reactions for helicopters typically takes as much time as you may have saved by doing an airplane rating first. It is also easier to transition to an airplane from a helicopter than the other way around. Having said that though, we have many graduates of our program that did have their airplane rating first, and we always welcome add-on rating students.
This is a very common misconception. In the unlikely event of an engine failure, the pilot performs an autorotation. This is a condition of flight where the rotor system is powered by the upward flow of air and not the engine. An autorotation in a helicopter enables a pilot to land in a very confined area, without the need for a long stretch of ground like other aircraft. The maneuverability of a helicopter during autorotation is one of it‘s strongest assets.
Generally, the more frequently you train, the smoother the training goes and the less it will cost. We recommend 4 to 5 days a week, 4 hours a day. Occasionally we are asked why a full-time training schedule is not greater than 4 hours a day or 5 days a week. In addition to actually flying and receiving ground training, self study and reading compliment your training, and time to absorb your experiences between lessons is an essential part of the learning process. In our experience, this combination works best.
As you continue to consider this career path, make certain you do careful and thorough research to help find a great Part 141 FAA approved school. While you are researching, our flight school interview guide can help ensure you're asking all the right questions.