The Helicopter Job Market

It’s pretty shameful.

Knowing how to fly a helicopter isn’t exactly a common skill.

It takes at least 40 hours of flight time to get a private license, although most people need at least 60 to pass the check ride. At at least $200/hour, the cost alone is enough to scare most people away from learning.

Then, to get a commercial license so you can do it for hire, you need 100 hours of pilot in command time (at about $200/hour if you rent) and to pass yet another, more stringent check ride.

So then you can get a job, right? Not quite. No one is going to hire a 150-hour pilot to fly their helicopter with paying passengers aboard. In fact, you probably won’t be able to find a job flying for someone else until you have at least 1,000 hours of pilot in command time.

How do you build that time? Most people do it by becoming a flight instructor or CFI. That’s more training, more requirements, and another check ride. Then shamefully low pay rates — maybe $15 to $25/hour? That might sound good, but we’re not talking about a 40-hour work week. You get paid based on when you teach. That might be 10 or 20 hours a week. I don’t know too many people who can live on that.

(I did it the more expensive way. I bought a helicopter and flew the paint off it. Figuratively, of course.)

Captain MariaSo now you’ve got 1,000 hours of PIC time, accumulated over a period of about 2 to 3 years. You’re ready for a “real” job. Fly tours at the Grand Canyon (like I did). It’s great experience, but the pay is only slightly better than what a CFI gets. Fly in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing oil rig workers and VIPs to and from platforms on a featureless, watery landscape, miles from land, in good and bad weather. More good experience, slightly better pay. Pretty crappy living conditions, from what I hear. And I don’t think many women work out there. (Would love to hear from a woman who does; use the Comments link.)

Want a high paying job? One of those $80,000/year job you hear about on radio commercials and in seminars? You’ll need several thousand hours of turbine helicopter experience (which you usually can’t get as a CFI), long line experience, and a “OAS/USFS card.” You’ll have to work your way up through the ranks on other kinds of helicopters to get to this stage.

And, oh yes, you have to be willing to be away from home at least 14 days out of every month.

My friend, Rod, is among the handful of people who qualify for the good paying jobs. He does all kinds of long line work — logging, fire fighting — you name it. But the long hours, questionable living conditions, and time away from home burns him out so badly, he can only work half a year. He actually spent a winter delivering propane (from a truck) just to get away from flying.

Think I’m lying about job requirements? Check out these links for helicopter jobs:

Even police helicopter pilot jobs start at less than $50K. And they require police training, too.

And I think that’s amazing. Helicopter pilots have an incredible skill that few other people have. They have thousands of dollars and hours invested in their training and experience. They’ve worked their way up from the bottom, with low pay and unfavorable working conditions most of the way. And only a handful will ever achieve the high pay you’d think would come at the end of the dues-paying process.

I’m fortunate enough to have two jobs, so I never have to depend entirely on helicopter pilot pay to cover my living expenses. Still, that tour pilot job in Hawaii remains beyond my reach — until I get another 650 hours of turbine time…

206 thoughts on “The Helicopter Job Market

  1. Gabe! Show some initiative! Do your own research! The world will appreciate you more. Learn to spell or use spell check! DON”T SCREAM IN ALL CAPS! Ms.Langer might be more predisposed to acknowledge your comments favorably.

    Consider becoming an army warrant officer/pilot.

    Good Luck!

  2. I’m thinking of starting at a school called “Silver state helicopters” in ft. Lauderdale, FL. They tell me the demand for helicopter pilots is on the rise and that a helicopter pilot can make up to 100k a year in a few years. They are almost guaranteeing everyone who attends a job as a CFI when they graduate making 25 an hour within 6 months of graduation. Email me with any help. Also…..do you think the demand for pilots is as much as they are making it seem?

  3. Do I think a pilot can make up to $100k a year in a few years?

    No. Definitely not. I challenge you to find ANY helicopter pilot making anywhere NEAR $100K within “a few” (three? four?) years of beginning his/her training. Perhaps you should challenge THEM to find such a pilot. I know guys who have been flying for ten or more years — EMS, long line, utility, you name it — and NONE of them are making anything close to that.

    Up to $50K in a few years? Maybe.

    Up to $30K in a few years? Likely.

    The only reason demand for heli pilots is on the rise is because all the Vietnam era pilots are retiring now. But guess who’s coming to take their places? All the Iraq I and Iraq II war pilots. And if an employer has a choice between a vet and a recent Silver State graduate, who do you think he’s going to pick?

    As for that $25/hour as a CFI, is that 40 hours a week with benefits? Better ask. Because if ALL their grads are becoming CFIs, they’re likely to have more CFIs than they need to meet their needs. That means lots of folks are only working part time. Can you live on $25/hour if you’re only working 20 hours a week and have to pay for your own medical expenses?

    My advice: post your questions in a real helicopter pilot forum. There are lots of folks there who can give you feedback. Don’t rely on me. Sometime I’m too cynical for my own good.

    But sometimes — just sometimes — I know what I’m talking about.

  4. I’m at the 3800 Total helicopter time, mostly turbine, and 9900 total time (add in airplanes). I was militarily trained, so I entered this field without debt. I’ve been flying 24 years now.

    I can fly EMS and start at $55k benefitted (although some companies my give me locational increases due to higher costs of living — $67500)

    I can fly Gulf of Mexico and start at 65k benefitted, and get some bonuses, etc. here and there — have never worked the Gulf, so I have to enter at the entry level they say, but the above salary is a bit off the bottom of the scale.

    I can go corporate and get 85k benefitted, but have no fixed schedule and essentially belong to the corporate bosses without the ability to make longer term plans with family.

    I will never get wealthy doing this job. I live frugally, so it works out. I, like everyone I know in this industry, do it because even though it is a job, it tickles me to have this much fun and call it work.

    It is a great career, but not if your goal is financial gain. In terms of job security….yes, if the economy continues the way it does, the Gulf and EMS worlds will definately need lots more pilots. ENG seems to be growing too. It feels like the best time in my flying career to be starting out as a helicopter pilot. If it is what you want to do — do it!

  5. The best paying jobs in helicopter are logging on heavy aircraft or seismic operations. Like the previous post this can take a toll on your personell life. In the pacific northwest, Canada you will makew 120000 to 170000 Canadian. which right now is pretty much the same as U.S dollars. It,s not an easy job. I know I,ve been a helicopter pilot for 30 years.

  6. if no body hire pilot with 200h comercial licence, how I can star my career if no one give the 1 oportunity. the invertiment total arond 55.0000 or mor, .

    what I do if I do not want to be CFI to get 1000h?.

    same company have a programa entry level to hire co-pilot to get h/fly and expirience?

  7. I don’t think the Mesa police aviation unit gets much for 50k. They are a bunch of nuts. See the Fox news blog and if you only have a short time to read (there is a lot on the blog) just read the timeline. If you are a doubting Thomas you may need to do some investigation but believe me 50K is more than the current pilots flying for the Mesa aviation unit deserve.

    http://community.myfoxphoenix.com/blogs/myfreespeech34

  8. I’m currently employed as a professional driver. I have a service business of my own which I’m attempting to build also. I also have a blog board at http://www.mekbusiness.com (honest passion forum board).

    I’m looking into the helicopter pilot career field. I did a lot of flying in the military and I love to fly.

    I’m curious, has anyone ever heard of Silver State Helicopters? Are they reputable?

    Also, how is someone to payback an $80K loan at 19% on an entry level salary of 30K/year? That’s a freakin’ house payment each month without having a house! My “off-the-cuff” figuring say’s that equates to about $800 a month for 20-30 years!

    I’d like input of both successes and failures in this career, especially those who financed their own schooling.

    Thank you.

    Martin.

  9. 19%!!!

    I’m glad to see SOMEONE out there is doing the math. Unfortunately, your “off the cuff” calcs are pretty far off. Using Excel, I calculated $1271 per month over 30 years — if they give you that long to pay. That’s a total of $457K. Ouch!

    Yes, $80K is a lot of money and 19% is obscene. Beware of promises of $80-100K/year jobs — it really DOES take a lot of experience and the right attitude and training (beyond the flight school) to get a job like that.

    Are you sure about the 19%? I can’t believe ANYONE would be crazy enough to sign up for that.

    As for getting input from other helicopter pilots, I highly recommend helicopter pilot forums like the one on HelicoptersOnly.com.

    Good luck and don’t sign on the dotted line until you do all your homework.

  10. thanks so much for your honesty maria – i want to be a pilot too – it beats driving trucks as i do now – if you gotta work …

  11. and what does richard mean by logging on heavy aircraft and seismic work – what exactly is that and what companies do it – thanks

  12. “Logging” is using a helicopter to remove logs from a forest as part of a logging operation. It’s done with a long-line using large or “heavy” helicopters, like Bell 212s and larger. Seismic work usually requires towing equipment beneath a helicopter to get readings from the earth as you fly over it. But it could also involve working with geologists to land them in remote locations so they can do testing from the ground. Theseare the jobs you can make good money at, but you need specialized training and a lot of experience — thousands of hours sometimes. They’re difficult and usually dangerous jobs. There’s not much money at all in tour jobs and other entry-level jobs.

  13. I am interested in getting my pilot’s license and expect to start working, like you did, for a tour company in the Grand Canyon. What I want to know is, what should I expect as starting pay? How much will that pay increase in the first 2 to 4 years? What is the schedule like? Four days on, three days off? The problem is that the schools tell you you’ll make good money (45k/yr.) but they have alterior motives. The tour companies won’t even talk to me since I don’t yet have my license. I don’t know if I want to get my license and pay 70-80k at a school for a job that only pays 30k or less with little possibility of advancement (or very slow advancement). I haven’t been able to find specific info on salaries for tour companies in the Grand Canyon online. All tour company salaries are just lumped together and vary from website to website. You worked there so I thought you might know… Also, ultimately I’d like to work EMS. Where would I begin to get all the requirements fulfilled? I’m asking you these things because I really like your down-to-earth approach on this subject and you don’t have anything to gain by jading your answers. Thanks.

  14. When I worked at the Grand Canyon in 2004, the starting rate was about $95/day PLUS $15/hour flight time. So if you showed up as scheduled, you got $95. If you flew 4 hours, you got another $60. You could expect to fly an AVERAGE of 4 hours a day during the busiest part of the season. So that’s $155/day.

    We had a choice for a schedule: 7/7 or 4/3. I took 7/7 because I went home to another job on my 7 off.

    So let’s do the math. If you work a 7/7 schedule, you could make $1,085 per week. But you’re working every other week. So that averages to only half that: $542.50. In six months (the length of the season), that’s only about $14K. Even if you worked all year round and still managed to average 4 hours of flight time a day (not likely in the dead of winter), you’d still be making just $28K. Deduct taxes and the cost of housing up there and you’re not left with very much.

    Since then, of course, pilot pay has changed. I heard it went to a fixed daily rate no matter how much you fly. I don’t know what that rate is now, but can it be much more than it was?

    But people don’t work there to make money. They work there to build time and to get VERY valuable experience. High density altitude, high winds, low visibility — throughout a season, you’ll see it all. You really can’t get much better experience than that.

    If you flew as much as you could — taking flights from pilots who didn’t want to fly to bump your daily average up — you could build 500 hours of turbine time in a season. That’s enough to use as a stepping stone to go elsewhere and fly for better pay. That’s what most people had in mind. Flying someplace like the Grand Canyon is part of the dues paying process the flight schools don’t tell you about.

    As for EMS, other than turbine time, the big requirement is night flying. Get as much of that as you can. A job in Vegas might be helpful — they do strip tours every night. I heard the pay’s better, too, but they usually want some turbine time before they hire you. Not exactly entry level, but not far from it. EMS pays reasonably well, but it’s not for everyone. I think it was Rotor and Wing that had an excellent article written by an EMS pilot about the experience; it’s worth tracking down and reading if you’re considering an EMS position down the road.

    You’re not going to make $45K/year as a helicopter pilot within 3 to 5 years of getting your commercial. And if you’re not a good pilot who’s willing to take a lot of bull at those entry level positions, you’ll never get the experience you need to go beyond them.

    If you want to be a helicopter pilot because you want to make a lot of money, you’ll be very disappointed.

    Flying helicopters is cool but when you start flying passengers for hire, it’s also a huge responsibility. You have to follow the rules set forth by your employer and regulatory agencies. (Flying at the Grand Canyon, for example, involves flying only two very specific routes every day all season.) You and your company are responsible for the safety of your passengers. You’re responsible for operating the aircraft in a safe and POH-compliant manner. It’s a job like any other job, with a demanding employer and lots of other pilots out there wanting to do what you do.

    The purpose of my blog post was to point out that helicopter pilots have an uncommon skill that cost them a small fortune to get. I think they should be paid more.

    But the more pilots there are, the less each one is worth. If you’re not willing to work for $155/day, there’s always someone else who is. Anyone with a decent amount of time in the pilot seat can fly tours at the Grand Canyon. Everyone wants to because it’s a good way to build time. So pay is relatively low and the pilots just deal with it. They’re still paying their dues.

    Once you get a lot of good experience or training you move beyond all that, where you’re in demand because you can do something that few others really can. Long line? Logging? Fire suppression? North Sea? Heavy equipment? Now you’re talking. That’s where the money is.

    Read all the comments for this post. You’ll get more insight.

    Make the right decision for your future.

    • Did you fly at the Grand Canyon straight out of flight school? or after you bough the R22 and flew 1000hrs? I’m looking at each route and trying to weigh the pros and cons of getting a job with a tour company and briefing/loading passengers sweeping floors and all that, and maybe getting some flight time to build hours, or just buying an R22 and as you put it, flying the paint off it.

      Also, if you were to do it again, would you buy the R22 again, fresh out of your license?

      thx
      -Ron

    • When I finished flight school, I only had about 300 hours. Didn’t have a CFI. I built 700 more hours over the course of 3+ years in my R22.

      If I had to do it again, it depends on how much money I have. The R22 cost me $132K with 168 hours on it. My R44 cost $346K straight from the factory. If money were not a factor at all, I’d likely go with a turbine helicopter — and I don’t mean an R66.

      Good luck, whatever you decide.

  15. Great article and feedback. I too have been interested in becoming a helicopter pilot enticed by all the comercials. I’m not expecting to get rich, but I do want to make sure I can get a job someday if I go thru with all the training. I live in New Hampshire and am pretty dedicated to staying in this area (in New England anyway). Based on the research I have done so far, a large majority of the helicopter pilot jobs I’ve seen advertised are not in my area. Is this generally the case? I hear that the demand for pilots is on the rise, but what about in the northeast area?

    Any information you could give me on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Guys – I am a Police Officer for a VERY large city. I am thinking of trying out for the Air Unit, to the tune of about 45 grand out of pocket, and a pay cut (More OT in the Detective Division). My base, as a 15 year vet, is @ 75K. The money is for being a big city, vested cop first, and a pilot second (or is it the other way around? )

    Anyway – I was wondering if there are any other LEOS on here — how much turbine time do you think I will get flying for the department in the next 15 years ? Assuming a 6 day work week, 3 shifts per day – 24/7 ?

    Will I be marketable upon retirement ?

  17. I would love a career flying in a helicopter and not all that concerned about the pay, since $155 a day is still a lot better than even my best paid job at Media Monitors, where I sat at a computer terminal listening to radio station commercials, sometimes transcribing two AM radio stations simultaneously, as was the case in New York and Los Angeles. This is a tremendous skill that would get me hired as an airborne traffic reporter, since I would learn to pick up audio cues on when to speak for which radio station.

    I will look into flight schools not only in Arizona and Nevada but across the country, even in my own hometown of Indianapolis. I would love being airborne all day long, wearing only a t-shirt, jean shorts and my best pantyhose while eventually serving passengers on Grand Canyon and Vegas strip flights with enough turbine time. As Batwoman, flying a copter would give me more time to get to the scene of the crime than being stuck in traffic in the Batmobile, especially if I live in Los Angeles. (I intend to pursue a Master’s degree in criminal justice at IUPUI.) It is a thrill that surpasses any financial gain.

    I came across your blog site and have become very aware of the ripoff flight schools which guarantee $100k salary in just a few years. Unfortunately, the economy is in such sorry shape because too many Americans want something for nothing; and we are just now feeling the consequences with the housing market bottoming out as well as rising inflation, which experts believe will become full-blown hyperinflation when the Federal Government goes into default on its national debt, as happened recently in Brazil and Argentina. Americans refuse to listen to acerbic comments regarding the general state of their country’s plight from politicians; that’s why there are no Simon Cowells out there running for President.

    As a helicopter woman, it always helps to be informed. Bat-regards for a wonderful site! Mazel tov!

  18. It’s amazing to me how many people have commented on this post since I wrote it almost a year ago. Please remember that I am not an expert — I’m just a somewhat seasoned helicopter pilot commenting on what I’ve experienced and what I see. You want more feedback? Try the forums on sites like JustHelicopters.com. (Don’t waste your time at rotor.com or some of those “members only” sites.)

    Right now, I’m in the process of looking for a summer job, preferably in Alaska. What I’m finding is that there’s a huge glut of entry level pilots all looking for turbine jobs to jump start their careers. And there are only three entry level job markets of any size: Grand Canyon, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico.

    There are two problems with this:

    1) Because there are so many pilots who qualify for these entry-level positions, employers are offering low starting salaries. And guess what? People are taking the jobs anyway. These people are desperate to work.

    2) Because my experience level isn’t that far above entry level requirements — I have just under 2000 hours, including only 350 of turbine time — and I’m not as desperate as my competition, I may be unable to get a job that’s a good fit for me financially.

    Very depressing all around.

    Fortunately, I’m not desperate for work. But I feel bad for the guys who are — the guys who have been working at this for 2 or 3 years and are wondering where that $80K job is.

  19. I spoke with Silver State yesterday. The commercials got to me as well. As I researched I found .. there were plenty of jobs out there but they required at least 1500 hrs and some turbo time. In addtion, they preferred Bells and SK’s ( I guess they are bigger than the training R- 22 ‘s). Average person works a 40 hr week which equals 2,080 hours a year. With weather and scheduling .. it could take 3-7 years to get 3000 hrs of flight time.

    I know.. I am babbling. All of this is to say.. after 18 months I will not be make 100,000 a year.

    Reality really is a pain in the rear.. I like the commercials better.

  20. Jay, it isn’t THAT dismal. You’ll need 1,000 hours for an entry-level job — not 1,500. (At least not yet; I expect that number to go up as more pilots enter the workplace.) You can probably build that time within 2 years if you stay employed s a CFI.

    Some entry-level employers will take you without turbine time and you can get the turbine time there. 500 hours of that — which you can build in just one season at the Grand Canyon — will open other doors for you.

    But yes: after 18 months, you will definitely NOT be making $100K a year as a helicopter pilot. In fact, the chances of you making that within 5 or 6 years is very slim.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re thinking about becoming a helicopter pilot because you want to make a lot of money, think again. Flying because you like the work; not because you expect to cash in as a pilot.

    Good luck!

  21. I am fortunate enough to be both a police officer and a pilot and am now able to fly for my police department. It required a significant investment on my part to get my initial training but now I’m flying a police ‘car’ instead of driving one.

    Maria is absolutely right! Though promising, the market for helicopter pilot jobs is an elusive one. High time and other experience makes finding a job difficult and insurance requirements are only making it harder.

    Don’t take this as discouragement! If you want to fly, learn how! Fly airplanes for some of your experience (it’s cheaper than helicopters and some of the hours will count toward certain licensing requirements).

    As for Silver State Helicopters, as of this writing they’ve shut down operations nationwide and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This means that all their students are left high and dry (nice, huh?). I researched my flight school VERY carefully including contacting former students before I selected it. I wound up 1500 miles from home in Florida to take advantage of their weather and $$.

    Good luck and happy flying!

  22. To expand on Chris’s notes about Silver State, Monday Feb 4th 2008 Silver State filed Chapter 7 and is planning on filing Chapter 11 or so the Owner Jerry Airola is claiming. The fact of the matter is that Silver State, was never an acreddited school. I am a Graduate of Silver State, and I am having a very hard time finding work as a CFI due to the Industry Bias towards SIlver State, and it grads….. The facts are that I passed all of my FAA exams with a score of 94% or better, and passed all of my Check rides with flying colors. The schooling I received was poor at best. The Instructors at Silver State, were dilligent Instructors, and all will remian good friends of mine, but the management, was very poor, and basically left us ( the Students) to fend for ourselves. As of this writing I am off this evening to a meeting with about 150 fellow students who are starting a class action suit for breach of contract! I like many others quit my job of 17 years only to find out Monday that I had no job to go to. For the facts about Jerry Airola go to http://www.swiftchoppers.com, and let yourself be entertained by his manipulations, and lies!

    Good luck to those of you looking for jobs as about 600 CFI’s from Silver State are now Job shopping the Market. So there is obviously a glut of unemployed pilots out there now! That means the Pay scale will probably take a nose dive..Gee thanks Jerry not only has he ruined a few thousand peoples credit, but he has put an undue burden on the industry. Almost 3000 students went through at a cost of 65,000 to 70,000 each and about 60 % drop out of each class group, but that is what he wants to have happen. Jerry Charges full price even if you only take a few classes or flights!

    I wish all of you well, and I hope you find the Flight school that works for each of you, I will see you in the skies

    Good Luck

  23. I am getting ready to start my Rotary commercial pilots program in oregon. I’ve been battling with whether or not to just go through my pilots training, or, do it more slowly with an associates of aviation science. the down fall is that it takes about two years to achieve your Private license doing it with a degree.

    Does any one have information on the Viability of Degreed Vrs. Non-degreed pilots? Further more, any outside information on Hillsboro Aviation would be helpful too. so far i have not heard anything bad about them.

  24. Hi Maria,

    U have mentioned that u purchased a helicopter to built your flying time. Have u looked/compared it to renting a helicopter for the same purpose?

    ThanX, Yuki

  25. Yuki, Renting is a viable way to build time, but it is very difficult to find places that will rent Helicopters. An R22 will usually rent for anywhere from $200-$450 per hour. This is the reason that most everyone will become a CFI. That way after you have completed your 200 hours of training, then you can teach others, and actually get paid to fly, instead of paying to fly. To be qualified to teach in an R22, SFAR 73 of part 61 of the FAR’s states you must have 200 hours of flight time. You can however teach at 175 hours, in other types of Helicopters, once you have received your CFI or CFII. The reality is that most schools use the R22 because of operational cost’s. Keep in mind that a good used R22 or other airworthy helicopters will run $100,000 or more to purchase. Renting in the long run is much cheaper. Good Luck Yuki!

  26. ThanX Paul. Since, I am not going to be able to quite my full time job (can’t support the family as a CFI), I’ll most likely, go with the renting option. I probably work something out with my school.

    ThanX again, Yuval

  27. Hi! I’d like to know if any of you have heard about a School called “Helicopter Academy”. They have branches in several cities. They have a lot of merchandising, and that usually scares me a bit.

    I just want to know if they are reliable, well-accepted by employers. I anyone has a story, experience with them I’ll be glad to hear about.

    Thanks!

  28. I was reading over all these post and find it interesting to see. I have become interested in flying helicopters in the last 2 years and have logged a few hours,but lack the money to finish,but am still seeking ways to fly. I’m 39 years old and question some times if i’m too late to do this or should I do this?

    I agree with an above post mentioning the lazy people in this country and thinking 100k a year is the key to success. I will comment that I think I actually have a few advantages rather than disadvantages with my age. First being now I’m more mature and responsible than say a younger pilot and I have experienced life more and cherish and respect it more seeing I have a 8 year old daughter. Second I see the main concerns on here as money! I with no doubt feel that an alliance to some degree is in order for all pilots especially after we have spent a small gold mine trying to get certified. This is very similar as to truck driver pay. These trucking schools are usually a scam and they put near anyone behind the wheel and set them off across country for about 500 bucks a week. Then you have the proven 20 year truck drivers that are making 100k a year as does my brother in law,but he paid the price and it’s his desire to drive a truck. Third I owned a business once and figured out it’s not all about the money it’s about being who you are and what will make you the best person. Now back to the most common question on this thread is the money. I see also that college now alone is going to set you back 50k if I decided to finish my degree in what ever? So, really the training as for helicopter pilot isnt so out of the norm for a career and I would with out a doubt rather be a low paying entry level pilot than a low paying entry level Manager at Jiffy Buger any day! Also I live in a small town where the middle class went to local community college and the poor went to work in a factory and the rich went to a University or took over the family owned business! I know after reading 100’s of articles on this subject, that you can find a decent paying entry level job after 1,000 hours around 40/50 k per year and all honesty thats much more than any factory pays in my area and they work like slaves and treated even worse, or better yet they move the company at a minutes notice to Mexico and you find yourself in a mess quickly. Flying to me has many more advantages than just the money and I’m seeing more and more Good flight schools paying better for instruction than once before and the learning and flexibility of a Helicopter pilot and the ability to share what you do or have seen far out ways the money and certainly the inside of a factory wall putting a screw in the same hole for 30 years. Bottom line is a helicopter pilot that just keeps looking for the big bucks really shouldnt be a pilot at all as his mind isnt focused on the importance of what he does and the unique skills he has. The satifaction I get when I tell people I’m a helicopter pilot is way more satisfaction than the money and 50k a year is a good salary seeing most only work half the year.

  29. Hey there Access:

    I hear where you are coming from and you are completely right about many of your points, as far as the schooling costs, and the level of pay an so forth. Points to consider, I was in your boat, when I started flight school. First of all kiss your time with your family ie; Daughter … good bye! You should be flying at least 3-4 times each week at two hours per round, anything less is futile. Plus a longer flight on the weekend. Plus doing ground school at a real ground schoolwill take up 3-4 nights each week, not to mention study time! So now fit your work into that equation! Oh and then fit the family in too. As you see there is not much time left , if you chose to be a career pilot. Next realistcially the cost to get to CFI or CFII is between 56,000 and 1oo,ooo for the complete education, Tack on another 6-9thousand for the College degree from UVSC the cheap way to go! You get the Idea. Oh and when you are getting ready to take your CFI check ride, figure on 2-3 months of full time study and practice teaching in front of friends and enemies until they are either bored with learning about helicopters, or you have just plain pissed them off! The practice teaching is critical!

    Okay now it is time to find a job! well after Silverstate helicopters went out of business the market was hit with about 900 Full time CFI’s , and about 2700 Students soon to be CFI’s. Most of whom are job shopping the heli market. all of whom have more hours than you will when you pass your CFI Checkride. Are you getting the picture? I am a CFI in Southern California, and for a while I was volunteering my time with the local displaced SSH students, to log time, and get them through their checkrides. But times have been tough. Follow your passion, but beware the pitfalls, the fixed wing industry has a lot more openings right now, and that is not saying much with all of the airlines closing up shop! Good luck to you!

    Paul aka Jetcopterpilot!

  30. HEEE, I agree, but my daughter doesnt bother my situation for the time being, I’m divorced and beg to see her as it is… You know the Bad Dad thing!!

    As for ME and only me My life is at a time where it needs complete and total overhaul and living out my life is a Must! I’m ex Army and have the knowledge,experience and discipline I did not have years ago. I certainly understand your reply and in no means strike it as negative or bias to me or any other persons in my same situation.

    However, Me personally, I feel at what ever age or level of difficulty you should follow your desires.

    I too many years back was a victim of a ITT school and graduated with the best of the best, only to be left with an EXtremely over priced bill to pay and never came close to a career in electronics only a broken dream and thousands in debt. This is where I seperate the out come of all the money from that school, and now and most certainly Silver State…..Just another ITT as far as I see it. I have flown with some SS Pilots both CFI’S and once Students and ,most certainly they are SCREWED!….But the ones that havent LIED about hours are MOST certainly the ones that will be the next GEN of this industry…..As IN integrity,passion,murals and ethics. Anyone can learn to fly, but only qaulity can stay afloat…Shit sinks just like Silver State and any Bad Pilot that lies about hours….. Once again its about the Man and Machine not the Man…Truth willl always Win :)

  31. How true Access! The cream floats to the top! The reality of it all right now, and my point which you seem to be missing here simply put is, that there is such a glut of Quality pilots that did survive the Nightmare known as SSH trying to fight for positions. You as a FUTURE CFI will be competing with a very large contingent, of QUALIFED with real hours pilots, that have 500 -1500 hours as CFI’s. You as a newby with 150-200 hours will not get the job because the INSURANCE companies want pilots with 300 plus hours, or in most cases at least 1200-1500 hours. It most definitely is not a case of desire, I don’t debate your desrire, nor do I question it. I am a Qualified CFI with many hours. I have had Many DPE’s comment on how talented, and qualified I am as a Pilot, and I have had reference letters written by many of them, to testify to that fact. But the market is top heavy right now with pilots, and you have to take a hard look at the reality of that fact. Now with the FAA considering raising the minimum hours to teach in a Robinson up to 300 hours, well consider having to buy another 100 hours at say $250 per hour. I don’t know how old you are but think about this if you are an employer, are you going to hire a 200 hour CFI that is 25, or a 200 hour CFI that is 40, sure the older CFI will probably be more responsible, but who will be around longer as a pilot? It is in reality a very tough Industry, I see students come and go, but we all have to be realistic, there is a glut of pilots and not a glut of jobs, also thanks to SSH there is a glut of Robinson aircraft now up for auction which you can be sure is affecting Frank Robinson, and his wonderful people 1200 strong working at KTOA to build a fantastic product for us to fly. Keep also in mind that the Student Loan Industry has taken a hard hit due to the sub-prime lenders, and also the SSH debacle, which has made it very tough for anyone looking to get a student loan of any type right now to get into the Aviation Industry. My son also a Pilot, is a Student at Embry Riddle, and the enrollment there has fallen off, because so few are qualifying for the loans needed to pay the unreal amount that the tuition is currently. And those ERAU grads always snatch up the top jobs in the Industry due to the Prestige that their diploma carries. I admittedly don’t know your situation, but it seems to me youhave chased a dream before, and had your hopes dashed, just make sure that you are not repeating past history due to bad timing! Good luck in your endeavors, and many happy years of flying I wish upon you. But look at it realisticly, you seem like a good guy! Your daughter deserves, a dad that is a good example., and leads by example. Take care my friend!

  32. Access,

    I started flying in my late 30s and got my commercial ticket when I was 39. Unlike most other helicopter pilots, I didn’t build time as a CFI. I was fortunate enough to have enough money to buy an R22 and build time in that. I was 43 when I got my first pilot job (other than in my own commercial business). Although the flying was great and I learned a lot of new skills, as an older, mature person, I found it extremely difficult to “fit in” with the young men I worked with. You’d think my employer would be pleased to have more mature people on its staff, but it wasn’t. It wanted those young guys with few life experiences. They were desperate for the hours and could be pushed around a lot easier than the few older pilots on staff who knew better.

    As for people who lie about hours — you can’t lie about skills. Every job interview includes a check flight. While there are 500-hour pilots who fly like 1,500-hour pilots, there are also 1,500-hour pilots who fly like 500-hour pilots. Hour requirements are mostly to satisfy insurance requirements. But if you lack basic flying skills — due to poor training or sloppiness — you’re not going to be hired for any job.

    Paul is right: there are too many new pilots vying for too few pilot jobs. This is the legacy of Silver State, which was cranking out pilots into a saturated market. Silver State did the industry a disservice by luring in pilots with false promises. The $80K jobs are few and far between and it’s unlikely that a pilot will get one until he’s got 5,000 or more hours in a wide range of missions and equipment. And since there are so many pilots available for those entry level jobs, pay has actually decreased.

    Example: I turned down a job in Alaska this summer that paid only $2500/month for 6 10-hour days a week. That’s only about $10/hour! And that job was for a 2,000 hour pilot! If you think you can build 240 hours a month in a job like that, think again. Most of those duty hours will be spent sitting around, waiting for flights to come up — or waiting for weather to clear. You’ll be lucky to fly 10-20 hours a week. With more than half of that eaten up by living expenses, it would be a long, lean season.

    Right now, there are hundreds of low-time private, commercial, and even CFI pilots spit out by the SSH demise. The lucky ones have enough hours and skills to get CFI or entry level flying jobs. The others are struggling to finish their ratings and get work that’ll build time. Do you want to join them? I know I wouldn’t.

    My advice: if you really, really want to fly helicopters, learn in your spare time. Then either buy or go into a partnership with other pilots for an R22 or R44 (or something similar) and fly that for fun. Or rent, if you have to. It’s how I started and, in my case, it did lead to a career path.

    And for the record, although my flying business earns enough money to cover all of my flying costs, I still have another job. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I can simply fly for a living and maintain my current lifestyle, so I’ll always have two jobs.

  33. Hello,

    Do helicopter pilots experience any short term or long term hearing damage?? If you could only hear out of one ear would your ability to get a job be hindered?? Thanks for your time!

  34. Shane, good questions!

    Any pilots of small aircraft, including helicopters, will definitely experience some kind of hearing loss if they don’t wear good quality active noise cancellation (ANC) headsets. I wear Bose and they really help a lot. But even with those on, I notice that my hearing is temporarily impaired after a very long flight. If I depended on headsets without that protection, with 2,000+ hours of flight time, I’d probably be mostly deaf by now.

    As fas employment goes, I guess that depends on your ability to pass an FAA medical — which includes a hearing test. I think it’s important to be able to hear on the side of the aircraft’s door — in my case, the right side — when starting up. I normally leave that door open and that cup of my headset off as I start up and warm up so I can clearly hear any weirdness in the engine. It works, too! I recently did my warm-up on one mag and definitely noticed the difference in engine sound.

  35. Shane- as long as you can pass the FAA physical you can fly, and or work. I had a partner, and friend who was a fellow CFI, and now is doing charter flights, and part 135 commercial work, with almost complete hearing loss. He used a specially boosted Dave Clark ANR headset , with his hearing aides. We communicated quite well when we were working together, although on startup I quite often could hear myself coming through on his headset, like an echo.

    And yes Maria I always start up with my headset off to listen for missfires, or bearing squeals. Some pilots put on the little foam earplugs under their headsets, such as the Bose ANR Headset, and that helps with the exterior noise, but it means boosting the Bose up really loud which wreaks havoc on the speakers. Good luck and keep flying!

  36. Hello all, I’m going for my commercial in September and recently talked to my flight school about entry level jobs and I brought up becoming a CFI as a first job. They said i would most likely start on a ground crew then when the company adjusted to my work ethic they would start giving me flight hours also they said one of the first jobs would probably be co-pilot on a logging helicopter. Nothing at all was brought up about Becoming CFI, is this different because i live in Canada?

    The flight school I’m attending is Chinook helicopter school based out of Abbotsford B.C, if there any other Canadian pilots reading this or any that went to that particular school any info on entry level jobs would be greatly appreciated!

  37. Thanks everyone for the insightful comments and observations. I am about to enlist in the military (Army pilot -Australian Army-SSO Officer candidate) Good luck to all of you looking for work! Any comments on potential work for ex-World military turbine pilots will be appreciated..although that would not be until about 2016 or so for me-at least!…I just think putting my head down and bum up for a decade or so will put me in an employable position post military…all you vets-I would love to hear your thoughts on my planning! Semper Fide!!!! Paul.

  38. hey maria,

    you mentioned (over a year ago!) you wanted to hear from women working in the gulf. i just quit a job after almost two years flying there and am now starting to look for another job. i was making pretty good money, almost $70k last year but i flew my butt off (flight pay), stayed offshore (offshore pay), and a customer paid bonus made my base salary much more than most working in the gulf.

    if you’d like to dish, email me

    also, are you a WG?

  39. Wow – that’s so dis-heartening. I took a discovery flight over the weekend and loved it! But after reading everyone’s post’s here it’s looking very bleak for the heli pilot industry. I thought I could do better than what I’m currently making and do something that I’d really enjoy doing, but it seems as tho reality is a different story.

    Time to look at another profession. Thanks for the reality check.

  40. Hi everyone,

    I was wondering what is happening to all the SSH pilots that are out there? Are they having a hard time finding a job (because of SSH), or are they able to move on with their career?

    I was with them for almost 2 years, and graduated from them. I was on salary that seems now to be higher than most other teaching positions. I have since moved on and fly natural gas pipeline leak detection, but am still in Robinsons (though it is a 44 and I am the only one who flies it). I am trying to get into the “entry level” positions in the gulf, but am having a hard time getting anyone to contact me after submitting a resume. Any suggestions. I have about 1150 TT with just four hours in a 206.

    It was gret reading all the posts.

  41. hey hovercarl,

    have you contacted PHI? i know they are hiring with 1000 tt and they fly 206’s so the interview flight wouldn’t be as intimidating. Rotorcraft is also hiring but they don’t have the best reputation concerning mx. (this may have changed and you can always move to another company once you’ve got some offshore time) Era might hire you as an SIC but the pay is a lot less than what you’d make as VFR Captain elsewhere. check on Jsfirm for the details for PHI and Rotorcraft and don’t be afraid to call them and get the ball rolling. also, if you’re in the area, a drop-by isn’t always a bad idea. it’s harder to say no to someone when they’re right in front of you.

    good luck!

  42. I agree with Stacia. You apparently have to be “in their face” to get an interview at some of these companies. Call them to follow up; offer to refax your resume if they don’t have it in front of them. Stopping by is the best thing you can do. Good luck!

  43. i was once in the HR office at my last company and one of the assistants had a STACK of resumes, it was the ones she had deemed not worth calling. at the big companies, it’s not the chief pilot going through the resumes, its HR and sometimes they’re just not sure what they’re looking at, no offense meant, they just aren’t pilots. that’s why having your resume handed to the CP by a current employee that you may know will usually get you an interview. with every company nowadays, it seems, just getting the right person to look at your resume is the biggest challenge.

  44. From experience, I think you’re right. I sent two resumes to a tour company years ago and got nowhere. But when I friend of mine who used to work there called on my behalf, I got the interview and the job.

    Visiting is helpful, too. I was in Alaska for an interview with a tour company this March. On a whim, I called another tour company that I’d already sent resumes to. I told them that since I was “in the area” I wanted to stop by to check out their operation. What I got was an interview and an invitation for a second interview at their HR location. I didn’t follow up (for various reasons), but I’m pretty confident that I could have gotten the job if I had.

    That’s what I mean by being “in their face.”

  45. Maria,

    Great information! If I may ask where did you purchase your R22? Did you buy new or used? As I mentioned elsewhere, I have all my rating and now just need to build time but alas there are “limited” opportunities here.

    -Mark

  46. I bought it used. It had 168 hours on it and was in mint condition. (Want to hear something weird? As I was typing this, the guy who bought that helicopter from me in 2004 called. I haven’t heard from him in years!)

    If you already have your CFI, it’ll be a lot cheaper to build time by teaching. You can always rent a helicopter from the school to accelerate the process. Ownership isn’t for everyone. And most employers would prefer to see that you built time at a flight school rather than by tooling around in your own aircraft.

    If you need R44 time, I’ve been selling time on cross-country flights with me in my aircraft. Will be flying with another CFI (300 hours) from Seattle to Las Vegas in about two weeks. He needs 30 hours in R44s and he’ll wind up building 20 of it with me for a lot less than renting.

  47. Maria,

    Wow…that is weird….right out of the blue.

    I actually looked into starting my own school here in the valley…we used to have 3 schools and are now down to 1 :( Anyway, I’d love to fly with anyone more experienced than I…needless to say, I’m interested in the time building offer and how it would work…if you want you can contact me off line to discuss the particulars please feel free.

    -Mark

  48. All good information here!

    Yes, for those entering this helicopter world, it is very rewarding, but it’s a lot of hard work too.

    I’ve been teaching now for about 1.5 years, I have a total of about 820 hours and I am a CFI/CFII in Heli’s and a PVT in ASEL.

    Maria is correct, it’s low pay and the hours can be anywhere from 3 to 20 hours a week. Of course you only do get paid for those hours you fly. Right now I’m down to just a couple of students and that’s not many hours per week. But as of lately, I’ve been lucky and have gotten to do some corn field pollination. It’s helped this week! I really do think it who you know in this type of work. I like learning and wish there were more SIC positions out there for low time guys like me to pick up. But everyone seems to want more hours….So you just have to keep ‘pluggin’ along!

    I would eventually like to get into some seismic work or long line work…. in the MD500 . But I’m not sure how to progress in that direction…. So if anyone out there knows how to go that direction, I could sure use some info!

    It seems like making the magic hour mark is next to impossible some days :) I do have to say though, I enjoy teaching instruments the best. It’s exciting being able to see new students learn how to fly the heli by just referencing the instruments.

    – Ty

    Tys last blog post..A busier than normal week, Power Line Patrol and Corn Field Pollination

  49. I am very happy to have found this thread. For the past 14 years I have had this dream in the back of my mind .

    “learn to fly helicopters and then travel the world doing so” The money isn’t really that important

    I just wanted to have a marketable skill for anywhere in the world . From what I’ve read here getting a loan isn’t the best way to go because it will weigh me down and I would probably have to work in the U.S.-good to know. So does anyone here have any personal experience flying/working out of the country ? I’m wondering if it’s even doable . Thanks

  50. dave,

    if your dream is to travel the world flying helicopters, i say go for it but try to talk to pilots who have gone before you. initially this was my goal, i wanted a career that could get me hired anywhere in the world. here’s what i’ve learned: as you progress in hours, try to get into a big company that does offshore work because it seems that is where most of the international flying is. you won’t be able to fly in other countries with your FAA ticket unless the company is American. get into flying twin engine/two pilot as soon as you can, most of the out of country stuff seems to be in 76’s or 412’s or the like, sometimes single pilot, but mostly twin. be prepared to work 4-6 weeks on and the same off. this can be tough if you have small kids or a wife, but it means you can live anywhere in the world because most of those companies include a RT ticket to your base location as a perk. be aware it could take 4-5 years or more before you find an international position. training is really expensive and getting even more so with the price of fuel so look into the school you’re thinking of very closely. find an instructor that wants to get you through as quickly as possible, not one that will milk you for hours. and if you aren’t happy with your instructor, don’t be afraid to change to another one. check out websites of international companies like evergreen to see what their requirements are. if you are able, going to heli-expo in feb (this year it’ll be in anahiem i think) is a good way to get to talk to people whom would otherwise not even take your call.

    good luck!

  51. Hey, I am an A&P mechanic. Getting into my prime of 40 and have been a mechanic for 2 years now. I was wondering if there would be an interest in a crass trained pilot/mechanic out there?

  52. I had my discovery flight today, $500 for an r44! Seems a bit steep, right?

    I’m interested in going to a flight school like bristow academy. Does anyone have any suggestions for schools, or info about bristow?

  53. Mike, I really can’t say if the cost of your “discovery flight” was steep if I don’t know what it included. How many hours in the aircraft? How many hours on the ground? Did they show you any of the SFAR videos?

    And why did you take the flight in an R44 rather than the usual training ship, an R22 or Schweitzer? Both are a lot cheaper to fly and more likely to be what you learn in.

    My advice about flight schools is to avoid ANY school that requires you to join a program and pay the entire fee (or the entire fee in a few installments) up front. I’m sure a lot of former Silver State Helicopter students can tell you why. Pay for what you fly, not what they SAY you’ll get to fly.

  54. Hi Mike

    Blue Hill Helicopters in Norwood MA have all ex HAI (Bristow) graduates for instructors, they have a great reputation and more one on one that Bristow.

    Helen

  55. First off, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and all the great responses. It is hard to find good information among all the B.S. I recently graduated from the University of Arizona and was looking into becoming a career helicopter pilot. Does anyone know anything about Mazzei Flight School in Fresno, CA? I haven’t heard anything negative about it, so that makes me skeptical. I think I have it narrowed down to either that school or the Coast Guard if I can get into their pilot program.

    Thanks everyone,

    Mike

  56. Mike,

    While I can’t give you any advice on Mazzei Flight School…I will say this, if you can get someone else to foot the bill for flight training…by all means do so! Don’t discount the other branches…Air Force does quite a few S &R sorties and has the Pararescue branch. Army is probably your best chance, especially since you have your degree. Navy & Marines also fly rotorcraft. Keep your options open and best of luck.

  57. I know that North Andover Flight Academy outside Boston Massachusetts offers their R-44 for $340/hr with no gimmicks. $390 dual isnt much more expensive than the local Schweizer school – for much more helicopter than a Schweizer! Don’t know why a 44 intro was $500.

  58. Chris, $340/hour for an R44 rental is VERY CHEAP. I own one and I know my costs. I can tell you that at that rate, they’re not making much money. Are you sure they don’t charge extra for fuel? A lot of companies do, since the cost of fuel is so volatile.

    I can see an R44 intro being $500 if it included at least 45 minutes of flight time and 45 minutes of ground time.

  59. Hi Maria,

    The $340/hr is a wet rate. It’s a 2004 Raven I, so it’s not brand new, but it has a Garmin 430 and plenty of power! I agree, their profit margin is slim, and with the price at $340, it’s in the neighborhood of the local Schweizer school ($330/hr for a Schweizer is a rip-off). Who would have thought that renting a 4 seat R-44 which cruises at 110, is almost the same price as an old 65 knot Schweizer? At Lawrence Airport KLWM , where the school is based, there are several R-44 helicopters privately owned. I think you will see more people starting to do primary training in the R-44. At $340/hr it makes sense…thank you.

  60. Maria,

    Have you heard of Advanced Helicopter Concepts? Their school is in Frederick, MD. I live in Baltimore and I am seriously considering taking the training. Any pilots in my area willing to give me solid advice? All the statistics i pulled up showed salaries at a $35,000 minimum except for CFI (20-35 per year) is this accurate? can i go from 0 hours to 1000 hours in a year realistically?

  61. Yacov, I’m not familiar with that school. And I’m not quite sure what jobs have $35K minimum salaries. Most of the helicopter jobs I’ve seen start quite a bit lower — unless you have 2,000+ hours and a lot of it is turbine time.

    Have you checked the job listings?

  62. Yacov,

    Maria is right that a lot of low-time pilot jobs start at less than $35k but what worries me more is your time line. did the school you’re looking into tell you you’d have 1000 hrs in the first year? starting with zero in training, it’ll take you about a year just to get your tickets with CFII. some schools can get you through in maybe 9 months but that’s pushing it. and to teach in a robbie, most places will require 300 hrs so making up the difference between what you leave your school with (at most 250 hrs) and the requirement can be tough. once you get a position as a CFI, if you are at a busy school, you’ll fly 40-80 hrs a month. now some schools are very busy and you’ll get to fly more than that but i’m being realistic. and most schools don’t pay a salary so if the weather’s bad for a week, or the heli is down for mx, you’ll earn less, so your income will be unreliable. it’ll probably take you another year maybe two to get to that magic 1000 hrs. count on 2 years at a minimum, making no money the first year. i worked full time during training and it took me 2 years to finish up to CFI. it took longer than the average but i have no training debt. once you’ve got the 1000 hrs, if you go to the gulf you might get a job offer and the starting pay is decent, over $50k plus bonuses etc. if you know the right people you might get into a SIC program in the gulf with 700-800 hrs and that pays ok for low time, about $40k. you will build time very slowly going that route though. any jobs out of the gulf start much lower and there’s a reason for that.

    i am in no way trying to talk you out of training but you should be prepared for the down side. many silverstate students were quite surprised when they finished training with huge debt and that $80k job promised in the seminar was completely nonexistent. go look at the school, ask about maintenance, look at the aircraft. make sure you can pay-as-you-go. some places will require $2k blocks and that’s pretty reasonable, especially if it gets you a discount. after your first lesson, go get your medical/student lic. this is important because if you fail the medical all the money you’ve spent on training has been a waste. and unless you’re independently wealthy or married to someone with a good job, be prepared to be poor for a while. if you’re young and stick with it, you could be making $80k (corporate) by the time you’re 30 but if you want to have a life outside of work, you’ll earn less. this is not a career to get rich with.

    fly safe

  63. I am currently 18 years of age and still at school in South Africa. My dream is to become a helicopter pilot outside of South Africa, preferebly in the US. My parents will not be able to offer any financial support.

    Is my goal realistic at all?

  64. Hi Maria! Just a shout out to say I appreciate your blog. My husband is young in his career as a helicopter pilot (at the fabulously young age of 40!), and will just be reaching his first “hurdle” of 1,000 hours by the end of this month. Anywho, your blog has been helping me understand a little of what he’s been through to get where he is at, and what it might take to get where he wants to go. :0) It may not be easy, and at times has been dangerous (he recently lost a good friend who he trained with to a heli-crash two weeks ago), but its in his blood, so, what’s a girl to do? At least I know he is super careful so I take comfort in that.

    Anywho, thanks for your “insight.” I think its really awesome to know what you want to do, and go after it, despite the mountains you all have to “summit” to get there.

  65. Thanks, Jess. Sometimes I really do need some positive feedback to keep me motivated and writing.

    I got my private certificate at age 39 and my commercial at age 40. “Friends” of mine who had careers in fixed-wing aviation told me I was “too old” to make a living at it. I’m actively working on proving them wrong. If I had a pilot job (rather than my own helicopter charter company), I’d certainly be making a living. My way is a bit tougher, but also rewarding.

    My point is, 40 is not too old to get started in a career as a pilot. If your husband is a good, safe pilot and he proves himself to be a mature and responsible adult (which the 22-year-olds often can’t do), he’ll get ahead. Tell him to keep at it, take it one step at a time, and build the skills he wants to get his dream job. He’ll succeed.

    Best of luck to both of you!

  66. Stefan, it’s unbelievably expensive to learn to fly helicopters. Without financial support, learning on a part-time basis can take years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    You might consider the armed forces…perhaps they’ve got a helicopter pilot training program you can get into.

    Good luck.

  67. Jess, thanks for posting the question about age. I considered getting into flying helicopters when I was 45. Every school I talked to said I was to old to start and that I would never make my money back. I let them talk me out of doing it. I’m now 47 and recently talked to an instructor who said my age was not a problem.

    Maria, I’m not looking to get rich flying. I would like to try and at least make it pay for itself. What do you think…is 47 too old? How much does size play into finding work? I’m not a giant by any means but 6’1 240lbs. I was told I was too big to fly as getting a job as a CFI would be hard and hard to build hours. Your views are greatly appreciated.

  68. I’m sorry to confirm what others have told you, but you’re too big to get a job as a CFI. They normally won’t even consider guys who weigh more than 180. That’s because of the weigh limitations of small training helicopters like R22s. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will definitely be tough.

    Also, because of your size, you’ll need to train in a larger helicopter. That’ll cost you a lot more money — think $450/dual hour vs $250/dual hour.

    Any chance you can drop a bunch of that weight? Get down to 200 lbs or so? You’d stand a much better chance of moving ahead in a career.

    If you have lots of money, you can do what I did to build time — buy a helicopter and fly it all over the place. An R22 is perfect for this; maybe you can buy it with a partner to save some money. I never did get my CFI.

    In any case, I’d recommend getting all your ratings before you turn 50. That’s a kind of magic age; if you don’t have experience before then, you’re not likely to be able to get a job.

    Sorry for the bad news. Getting old sucks, doesn’t it? I’m also 47 now. And also very motivated to lose weight.

  69. I’m sure I can lose a few pounds…lol but I think getting down to 200 would be almost impossible without contracting some local disease here in Iraq. At 215 I look like a stick man. I’ve considered buying an R22 for building hours. It makes sense but how much at my age?? I’m sure I could get my ratings before I turn 50 or at least I could dream about getting them by then. I’ll be done here by mid summer 2009 and will figure it out by then. Thanks for the input.

  70. Whatever you decide, best of luck. Remember, you can always get your ratings and your own helicopter and try to start your own niche business. Mine’s doing okay — actually looking up a bit lately, but I’m not sure how long that will last with the economy in flux — and I’m fortunate enough to have other work to do to pick up the slack and earn some cash.

  71. steve,

    just a thought, if you have any small flight schools near you, you might be able to lease back an R22 to them and at least help defray the cost of your flying. there are good and bad things about it but one of my past students did that once he had his private lic. he bought a sc300cbi which has a seat limit of 300 lbs. he leased it back to the school i worked for and told me last feb he finally was breaking even and he was pleasure-flying for free. it took 10 months to break even but he’s in the throes of buying another one now. that might not work for you but it is always an option to explore.

  72. I actually did a leaseback with my R22 as I went through my commercial training. I didn’t get the best deal from the flight school, but it did help me keep my helicopter costs covered.

  73. Awesome site maria!

    I stumbled onto your place amongst the internet while searching for entry level helicopter jobs. I was considering attending a community college near my home for a two year aviation degree in which I would receive my pvt. License for flying helicopters too….but I realized quickly that there are FEW entry level jobs for newbies. Your blog post confirmed my suspicion. I am already a Military Police soldier in the U.S. Army reserves…..so I know about flying for the army…and the sacrifices that go along with it.

    After reading most of the comments on this post, I’m back to idea of re-enlisting in the army and going warrant officer to have the military pay for my training. Turbine training, night flying, and lot’s -0- hours flying while on deployment… and all the while getting paid for it. The only thing you have to sacrifice is…….your life and family. Great.

  74. I know this may seem like a dumb question after reading your blog but I have to ask anyway……Are there any jobs out there that you know of that hire you and train you as a pilot. I want to fly so bad that I attempted to re-enlist in the Army but found out Im told old to go to WOFS. So im up against a brick wall. I live less than a mile from Bell Helio School and for the small sum of 64K I can get my license. There is no way I can afford to pay that kind of money and still pay the bills. Any help would be great.

  75. Sorry, John, but I seriously doubt you’ll find someone to foot the bill for your training AND give you a job when there are so many of us out here who already have the training and experience to get the job done.

    As most of the people who have commented here can attest, they have at least $50,000 into their commercial helicopter ratings. (The exception would be military-trained pilots.)

    But if you do find an employer willing to train you from the ground up, do let us know. I’m sure you’re not the only one looking for a situation like that.

  76. i once had a potential student ask me if i thought it was a good idea to get his training paid for my the local police dept in return for 3 years of walking the beat as a cop. he was 24. i told him if he could find a job offer like that, jump on it. i think that’s really the only way an employer will pay for your initial training. i would be a little wary of any employer willing to invest $60K minimum in a pilot without any strings attached. there are a lot of rules and regulations that bottom-feeder operators out there try to bend and break but they get a slap and a fine, you as the pilot lose your ticket.

  77. I should mention here that I did meet a pilot who worked for a police force — Cleveland? Cincinnati? — which paid for his pilot training. He was already a cop, of course, and was trained straight up through CFI so he could train others on the local police force. So I guess there must be some opportunities out there.

    I know that to get my turbine transition training with a Grand Canyon tour operator, I had to sign a contract to agree to work the entire season at what I still think is a very low rate of pay. That was worthwhile to me. But they weren’t hiring any pilots with fewer than 1,000 hours of flight time. They wanted experienced pilots who would need very little training.

  78. Dear Maria

    So I have finally decided rather to attend a South African helicopter school instead of an American one. It makes much more sense financially. I am currently in the process of deciding which one to attend, so far POWERED FLIGHT seems like a good choice. They offer a training bond in which they pay for one’s CPL, instrument and instructor rating. After completion one works exclusively for them until the all the money has been paid off. Do you know whether this is as good an option as it seems? Do you know whether POWERED FLIGHT is a reputable flight school? Do you know any good schools in South Africa?

  79. Stefan, you’re kidding, right?

    Are you saying you’d put yourself in indentured servitude — because that IS what you’re describing — in another country halfway around the world for an unknown period of time to earn a pilot’s license that may or may not be valid in the U.S. when you return?

    And exactly how is that BETTER than paying for flight training with a REPUTABLE U.S. training organization that hires its good CFIs and pays them real money until they build enough time to move on?

    No, I’ve never heard of Powered Flight. But I hope you investigate them fully before you do something you might regret for the rest of your life.

  80. I need to modify that last comment.

    In scrolling back through the comments, I realized that Stefan already LIVES in South Africa. So going there isn’t an issue.

    The indentured servitude, however, still is. Is that common in South Africa?

  81. Ha-ha, sorry for the misunderstanding, should probably have mentioned that I live in South Africa.

    I didn’t realize it’s that serious. I am only bound to the company until I have paid of the amount (R350 000, +-$35k). I can choose how much I want to pay per month but must pay a minimum of R10 000 per month. I also do not have to pay any interest. It sounds fine to me. I will also thoroughly read the contract before signing.

    I hope that you simply misunderstood the training bond principal, or else I will have to find a different way of paying for my training.

  82. Stefan, it just seems pretty scary to me — signing on to work for an unknown period of time in unknown conditions.

    But if you’re comfortable with it, I guess that’s okay. Have you spoken to any pilots who have been through the program and moved on to other jobs? If so what do THEY say?

    Good luck, whatever you decide.

  83. That sounds like a good idea. I will definitely contact previous pilots who have made use of this program. Thanks for the advice.

    I doubt it’s as “scary” as you say, I am under the impression that Powered Flight is a reputable school (in South Africa at least). I am certain that our government would have put an end to a program which aims at exploiting people. Powered Flight claims that it’s possible to get out of the bond within 1.5-2 years.

    Nevertheless I will do my homework on the subject and make an informed decision.

  84. Maria,

    I’m really surprised by your “indentured servant” response. The Military, Police forces, Colleges, and training programs all across this country have programs exactly like that. They pay for your training and you work for them until its paid off, or you have put in enough time w/ them to compensate their investment or you pay it off early. Nothing unusual or scary about it.

  85. Yacov, don’t be surprised. I tend to speak my mind.

    An indentured servant is a someone who gets free training in return for a predetermined amount of work. It was a popular practice in the US and elsewhere in the days when people wanted to learn a trade. I don’t think it’s very common in the U.S. anymore.

    I really don’t see a correlation between indentured servants and the military or police forces. After all, don’t both of those pay the worker?

    Please understand that I’ve seen too many gimmicks used to lure people into contacts that they later regret. I’m sure you can find at least 100 Silver State students who say they were conned. I know of other organizations that offer “jobs” where the worker pays to fly in order to build time — not only does the “employer” get all flying expenses paid, but he has a free pilot. Given what I’ve seen and heard about the helicopter industry and the desperation of many people who want to be pilots, I don’t think my observation was so out of line.

    If Stefan does his homework and feels good about the agreement, it might be right for him.

    Personally, I’d rather pay for my training up front and have the freedom to go elsewhere if things turned sour. But then again, I’m not in the same situation as Stefan.

    I didn’t learn to fly at 18. I was in my late 30s and had the cash to pay for my training. I also missed out on 20 years of a career as a pilot.

  86. Is there anyone in the Vancouver B.C. area who has heard of Heli-college. It is based out of langley B.C. and was just wondering if anyone has ever heard of it. Also is there many opportunities in British Columbia to gain hours by working. I’ve been in contact with the school and am considering it but im hoping to be able to get a job:P Thanks alot any input is appreciated.

    Cole

  87. Stefan,

    The training bond requires a re-payment period of 60 months where you are not allowed to work for anyone else nor are you allowed to fly any other aircraft that does not belong to the school. You will need to pay for your PPL (+/- R160k) and then pass all comm Subjects and instructor subjects. Then you will need R200k to be deposited into an account. You will receive interest on it and the full amount once your debt is settled. The debt is closer to R400k. You do pay interest of 60% over the 60 months period and a 10% employment commission deducted from your pay every month. Remuneration is R350 per hour and you can expect 70-80 hours per month.

    In exchange you get a new CPL.

  88. Maria, thank you so much for starting a very valuable article and hence the very informative posts that followed. I really enjoyed going through all the responses since Apr 2007.

    I’m from South Africa as well (same as Stefan) and did my HPPL parttime between Nov 2001 and Jul 2004. Got my rating on both the R22 and R44 and have a total of 110hrs. I also started with the intention to be a fulltime helicopter pilot, but actually realised everything that everyone was actually mentioning, that it is a tough journey, even to just get commercial. Expensive and job opportunities, especially in Africa, is scarce (or at least they will only look at you with 1000hrs+, and the real challenge is getting to that point)

    I would say we (South Africans) are very fortunate in terms of training conditions, weather wise and financially. We have good weather, high altitude (5500ASL) and it cost about ZAR2800p/h (ar current exchange rate, that is about $280p/h) on the R22 and ZAR3600p/h ($360p/h) on the R44, and that includes everything, fuel, insurance, instructor fee, etc. To give you some perspective, I’m in IT and at the time I did my license, I was working full-time earning ZAR20000p/m after tax, with not alot of expenses, I could do about 3-4hrs per month training (also pushing the credit card debt a bit). This is probably not the way to go, but hey, I wanted to fly.

    Stefan, I trained at Alpine Aviation (Grand Central) and Henley Air (Rand Airport) and between those 2 schools, Henley Air is probably the best in Gauteng (apologies to our non-SA readers who these locations will not make much sense too). I see that Powered Flight is at Wonderboom (Pretoria), and I wish I could give you some reference about them, but I haven’t heard much, so as Maria (and numerous others) suggested, do your homework. As for the “indentured servitude”, just to maybe clear up some confusion. This “bond” Stefan is talking about, is like a study loan, but I would be very careful, because, it will come with high interest, and because you can sign your own contracts at the age of 18 in SA since last year, this is a dangerous game. Try to stay away from debt, and rather try to work and train part time. Good luck with your training!

  89. Thanks for the advice Willem. Do you know whether ATS is a good flight school? I went to them last week. They seem pretty good.

    All the flight schools I’ve been to so far are relatively young. Most of them are only about 3 or 4 years old. Should I be scared of this?

    Thanks for all the help.

  90. Stefan,

    I did my PPL through Powered Flight. I’m doing the training bond at a relatively high age of 31. If you are still living with your parents I would look at it. See it as an Apprenticeship. The school will have to give you work in order for you to pay the loan back. So you win all the way if you have a positive attitude! You will walk out with 3000 + hours where 1000 will be training. The flight school has contacts in the industry so a turbine job after 1000 hours is very likely. The best would be to speak to Martin (the owner). Go have a cup of tea with him at Wonderboom. Good luck.

  91. Maria,

    You described buying your own heli to get hours. I did this with good success with a multi-engine fixed wing and then went on to a 10 year commuter job. For various reasons I am no longer doing that but now have an urge to fly heli’s. If someone has the resources to buy an R-22, do you think it can produce an income? Thanks

  92. Jeff, if you weigh less than 160 lbs, I think you can make money in an R22. With a commercial ticket, you can do photo flights. With a CFI, you can teach people to fly. You might also be able to do hops at carnivals, etc, but it’s tough to make money doing one passenger at a time. Do I think you can make enough money to pay for the helicopter AND earn a decent living? No. Not with an R22. But you might be able to pay for the aircraft while you build time. Good luck.

  93. Maria, im 22 years of age, i am doing my private licence course in march/april 2009. Next year hopefully the commercial! Is this a good time for me to start in this business or am i just wasting my time and most of all my money? I am thinking by the time im 30 i will have alot of hours under my belt and a solid career but am i right? i mean there are thousands of pilots to compete with out there and will it be hard to find a job, even with 1000hours in years to come?

    Reply appreciated!

  94. Maria, I was reading over the blogs and it all seems the same to me. Is it really worth it to start at 40? I am due to retire from active duty soon and want to keep all of my options open. I have talked to a few schools in Texas and have found a school that will do the whole private, commercial, CFI, and instrument license for about $54K. Sound a bit much? I am not looking into buying a R22 but other than that, how can I build up my flying hrs? I guess I have always had this dream of flying some big corporate exec around; or the owner of a MLB, NFL, NHL team but it looks like there isn’t a big demand for that. Just trying to learn before I invest too much and get caught in a tail-spin.

    • 40 is a tough time to start. Not exactly TOO OLD, but certainly not young enough to be able to build time before you get too old. I started flying at 38; I made my flying career happen by investing in an aircraft and starting my own business. I don’t recommend that unless you have another source of income; it can easily wipe you out.

      The bigger problem these days is the military pilots coming into the job market. How can we compete against them?

      But I’ll never tell anyone not to follow their dream. That’s what life is for, isn’t it? We only have one shot; let’s make it count.

      Whatever you decide, good luck.

  95. Well, I just finsihed reading all these posts and got a lot of good information from them. I’ve got one very important (to me, anyway) question that I need to ask. Does anyone know of any low-hour job you can get, other than CFI, to build hours? Obviously they will be few and far between, but it will really help to know what jobs they may be so I can keep an eye out for them. I just… don’t really have the correct personality to be a teacher, so I’m hoping to avoid this when the time comes. I’m 19, and I’ve just recently started my training. I will be mentally preparing myself to be a CFI since I likely will have to, but again I would definitely like to avoid it.

    And thanks to Maria, all the other posters, and all future posters.

  96. Mako: The problem is that with so many pilots in the job market and so many of them willing to work for any amount of pay — and even others willing to pay their employers for flight time — an employer will hire the most qualified pilot out there. So why would he hire a 200-hour pilot when he can hire an 800-hour pilot for the same pay?

    You will have a hell of a time building time without being a CFI. Best of luck to you, though.

  97. @Chris

    Hello,

    I’ve been researching flight schools in Florida, they all say they are the best. Would you be able to name atleast three reputable schools and the one that you choose. Bristow Academy in Titusville seems to stand out.

  98. I am training in Hawaii at http://www.maunaloahelicopters.com I checked with helicopter academy which promised me a job after 300 hours, but training in hawaii just beat out. The school has housing that is farely affordable, and the climate you train in here is the most diverse in the world. From what I’ve witnessed the rotorcraft industry basically looks at 200 hour pilots like a STD no one wants one, if you don’t have 1000+ hours and preferably 500 turbine your of little value. Does anyone know of work in the middle east? Most job opportunities mentioned on this site are state side. Also, I am working on my Commercial rating right now but already hold a private rating rotorcraft, do you think it would be wise to work on my IFR rating while building PIC time for my commercial rating?

    Thanks David

    • I know this forum is old but I’m 23 and plan on attending Mauna Loa in a few months. How was your experience and what was the industry like on the island. Just email me if you don’t mind. Imagine18531890@gmail.com

      Thanks

      Justin

  99. Hello,

    I am 21 and am serious about starting helicopter training. I live in Arizona where there are quite a few schools to choose from. I am looking into Universal Helicopters in Prescott for the high altitude flight training as well as recording all flight hours as high altitude flight. The course is in the 85k – 90k range and is only supposed to take 6 months as a full time student (7am – 5pm with homework) but they hire in house CFIs after receiving your license. Is high altitude flight really worth it? I can always take flight training in the valley but I would loose the high altitude aspect of the training. Also what qualifies as high altitude training? I was getting a bit discouraged reading all of the comments but I really want to fly and if I start now I figure I can have a career as a helicopter pilot by 30. The biggest worry I have is after paying all this money when and how will I pay it all back while still keeping my head above water? I really enjoyed reading all of the comments and have a better understanding of what I am getting into now.

    Thank you,

    Andrew

    • Andrew: First of all, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you not sign up with any program that requires you to pay a large lump sum in advance. Silver State went belly up owing money to hundreds of its students — those people are now stuck paying back loans for training they never received. Do you want to be in that situation?

      Also, please don’t be conned by training organizations that claim to hire graduating students as CFIs. They cannot possibly hire every single student that goes through the program as a full-time employee. What if they don’t hire you? Or what if they hire you for just 5-10 hours a week?

      And how will you pay back a loan for $85-$90K if you don’t have a job or can’t build the time you need to get one?

      The helicopter job market SUCKS right now for entry level pilots. Silver State’s demise dumped hundreds of CFIs and low-time pilots on the already saturated market in January/February 2008. Entry level employers are cutting back because of the condition of the economy and the reduction in tourism. Pilots coming into the job market are competing against Iraq/Afghanistan vets trained by the military. Who do you think an employer will hire if given a choice?

      I don’t mean to discourage you, but I don’t want to see you or anyone else suckered in by a sales speech at any flight school. There are too many helicopter pilot training factories out there. I believe student pilots deserve better for their money.

      As for high density altitude training — it will DEFINITELY make you a better pilot. Will it help you get a job? I think that once you have the 1,000 hours everyone is looking for, you’re just as likely to get a job without the special training as with it. You might consider getting your private down in the valley and going for your commercial rating in Prescott. I consider 5,000 feet DA high density altitude. Mountain flying is a good skill, too, but you can get a bit of that down in Phoenix if you ask for it.

      Good luck — and think things through before signing on any dotted lines.

  100. Hi I have recently started getting back into flying. The flight school I got all my training at folded and the owner skipped town with his stripper girlfriend. I have a wife and want to start a family but the allure of the helicopter is too much. My question is this. After I complete my CFI where would be a good place to look for CFI positions. Thanks

  101. I am looking for a helicopter training program around ne texas to get some remedial training, for lack of a better word. I am an Army trained pilot in UH-1H and OH-58A/A720 with 650+ hours and am looking to start flying again, but haven’t found a program within 100 miles. Got any search recommendations?

    Thanks.

  102. I have a duel rating in helicopters and single engine airplanes (private pilot) and I will hopefully be done with my commercial rating in a couple of weeks. But there are no opportunities, as this thread had mentioned, for low time pilots. More and more I realize that the best opportunity to be a pilot in any kind of aircraft, is going through the millitary. It’s something that I have avoided with a passion but that always comes out as the answer. Something to consider for those who are still at the beginning and want to fly.

  103. Wow, heck-uv-alot of information here. Good stuff. pros and cons alike. If I’m going to start now, say in 3-4 years, when I’m theoretically done with my professional flight program (and building 1000 hours as a CFI) here in the Portland, Or area, where do you think the helicopter market will be? Just curious….

  104. unless you are training very part-time, it shouldn’t take you more than 2 years to get through all of your ratings and be teaching. then maybe another two years to get enough hours to move on to other things. this is what’s currently happening in the industry (IMO)- all of the vietnam era pilots that everyone was proclaiming ready for retirement? well, their 401ks took a big hit in the last two years and they aren’t retiring until they lose their medicals or plain old croak. i worked with a bunch that lamented about NOT being able to retire. this means less openings for the younger pilots who’ve been building time teaching and in the gulf/tour industry. the other thing you have is employers tightening belts. this industry seems to always have openings as pilots move on to the next, better thing. but not so much right now. people are staying put for fear of not being able to find another job as stable or not being able to sell their house. in a year or two, all of the military trained pilots will be finishing their 4 year stint and will be entering the job market too. some are predicting a flood of 1000 hr military pilots. i personally don’t think it’ll be that bad, because we’re already seeing an increase in availability of lower time pilots. as the market saturates with low timers, employers will drop pay and benefits, which they’re already doing due to the “recession”. the point is this: the industry is always bleak if you’re the one looking for decent employment but if you’re talking to a flight school, they’ll tell you things are rosy. when i started my training 7 years ago, i was sold the same old song and dance they’re still using. at that time it was partly true and i was able to get a job in the gulf with 1004 hours. you’ll be hard pressed to find post CFI employment without 1200+ hours now.

    if you are committed to staying in the portland area (or any area) just realize that you will have a harder time getting that first non-instructing job. you may have to teach longer until an opportunity arises. most pilots consider themselves nomads, following the next, better paying, more challenging job, wherever it may be.

    one last thing, and i think it bears repeating for all of those people thinking about changing careers. you will never make huge money without basically working huge overtime (and giving up friends and family). hope for $50k after a few years, stick around at a job and eventually you might make $70-80k. there’s always that legendary job, the $80k right out of training. i made $70k the second year out of training but was miserable and it was unsafe (the pay bump was to turn a blind eye) so i quit. my life is worth more than that. a lot of the other pilots stayed for the money, knowing they wouldn’t make anywhere near that with the hours they had. i personally don’t like to be owned.

    what’s the outlook? i think it’ll get better as the economy recovers, just be prepared for a few years of ramen noodles and roommates.

  105. Wow I have read your blog and you scare me to death. I have always wasnted to be a helicopter pilot and was thinking at my age of 48 would be a fun full time endever. What I was wanting to do is start a flight school as a part time business as I have another part time business that I earn my living from and I work at home. Do you think this is possiable?

    Looks like I’m to old to ever work in the industry and make a living but part time I thought I could fly and break even.

    • Marc: Didn’t mean to scare you…just wanted to insert a dose of reality. There was (and still is) far too much overly optimistic information floating around, originated by flight schools. The entry level helicopter pilot job market is highly competitive and it’s hard (or expensive) to build time without a job. The good jobs require a lot of experience. Starting your own helicopter business requires a lot of money.

      Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

  106. This whole weak job market thing is unlucky to whatever country you guys come from. Here in Africa the game capture market is good. Its a dangerous job as you push your helicopter to the limits but you get payed R4000 an hour($571) and after a year or so of doing it most of it becomes pure profit(because you have to cover a bit of insurance and fuel in the beginning). So spend about 6 years in the game capture buisness and your good to go. I’m 15 and plan to do the same when i’m older. One of my friends uncle does this and I know a few other guys who do aswell. Its good pay

  107. I think I would like to get about 20 pilots from SE Wisconsin together and start a helicopter Service. All of SE WI is wide open and could do a 5 state area heli service. Anybody in?

  108. Been searching the web for a week or two now and I see alot of EMS Pilot positions. Yes you need 2000+ hours but the jobs are there. If you go to collage for 4 years you come out with a debt get a entry level job and start working your way. Not so different in being a pilot.

  109. Hey Marc you are right on the respect that it is much like going to college,and there are a lot of EMS jobs but where your judgement is in error, is that there are no entry level jobs. As we all know, you can’t have the high end high hour Pilot job unless you have done your time as a CFI or better. The other aspect is that a College degree applies to most types of jobs where a Commercial Aviation License, or CFI or ATP is only applicable for aviation jobs and will carry little weight in other fields. Your best bet is to attend an aviation based University, where you can cross train in other aspects of aviation which will open up other avenues for you to pursue, good luck in your venture into aviation keep flying

  110. Hey you never told us how you are doing with your helicopter. Are you making any money with it? Are you able to make the payments and Insurance? What kind of work do you do with it? etc.

    • Marc: You haven’t poked around this site enough yet. I write about my flying business all the time. I’m sure you’ll find answers to your questions here somewhere.

  111. Hi Maria

    I was on this site a while back asking about helicopter training.

    Now I’m close to finishing my HPPL, and will start building hours for my Commercial early next year.

    I’ve done all my training in South Africa and the general message I’ve been getting is that there are not too many jobs available for pilots with low hours. It seems likely that I’ll have difficulty finding a job in South Africa once my training is complete.

    What are the Job opportunities for low hour pilots like in the States? I can’t imagine that they could be any better than in South Africa, but there’s no harm in asking…

    Even if jobs are not available to pilots with low hours, is it even realistic for me to hope to get a job in the US some day, or would it be too difficult to get a work visa?

    Regards

    Stefan

    • Stefan: I think the job market is pretty tight here in the US — especially for low-time pilots. I’m getting at least one call or e-mail per week from folks with as little as 200 hours. I don’t know ANY company that would hire a pilot to fly for them with that little time as PIC. The company I worked for, which was an entry level job, required 1,000 hours PIC. The market here is flooded with low-time pilots. Sorry I can’t share any better news, but lots of guys were sold a dream that simply can’t come true for everyone who bought into it.

  112. Thank you so much Maria for your post. I agree, lots of good insights here. I’m 34, single, thinking of training to be a helicopter pilot in the Los Angeles area. It sounds like the industry needs some serious organization that puts pilots’ interests ahead of the insurance companies. I’m not in favor unions, but it sure sounds like it’s needed for such a special skill.

    I’m being told that helicopter pilots are in more demand than fix wing pilots; is this true or false? My school is promising me that I can obtain a commercial license in 6-8 months as a full time student, is this realistic? How do you see the industry in the near future for helicopter pilots now that it’s 2010?

    My plan is to get licensed, and build up my experience by teaching to get a job as a EMS pilot. How does one get 500 Turbine time?

    I appreciate your response.

    • John: I’m not sure where you got the insurance company interests from. Is it because 1,000 hours of flight time are required by many employers? While this is often an insurance requirement, I think it’s a good requirement for a tour or charter operator to have in place. I’ve flown with low-time pilots — guys with 300 to 500 hours of flight time — and I can attest to the fact that they’re not experienced enough to take on the responsibility of carrying multiple passengers in complex flying conditions. Because most of them build time as CFIs — teaching other people how to hover, do flight patterns, and autorotate to a hover — they lack what I call “real world” experience. That’s the experience a pilot needs to make decisions on the fly as needed. Decisions that can’t be learned in a text book or through repetitive flights at the same five local airports. I don’t know about you, but when I’m a passenger on any aircraft, I want my pilot to have been exposed to as many experiences as possible so he’s better able to handle what comes up. A trip through the NTSB reports can confirm that low-time pilots are more likely to get in trouble than high-time pilots. If you don’t regularly review accidents/incidents on the NTSB Web site, I recommend it. It can be enlightening.

      That said, I don’t think the introduction of unions would help low-time helicopter pilots at all. Companies utilizing entry-level pilots will simply not employ union pilots. And if you ever want to prevent yourself from getting ahead in a job once you have it, try to unionize your shop. You’ll go nowhere fast. Employers want good, skilled, reliable pilots. They don’t want troublemakers. And no business is going to prefer a pilot with union strings attached than one without them.

      I don’t know if helicopter pilots are in more demand than fixed wing pilots. Who told you this? A helicopter flight training organization? Consider the source of the information before taking it as gospel. Flight schools paint rosy pictures of the industry to hook student pilots. You’d be better off asking a bunch of recent graduates how they’re doing than asking me. I’m not looking for a job.

      With the economy the way it is right now, I really don’t see an expansion in the need for helicopter pilots. Tourism — the traditional entry-level job — is down. Money is tight. Employers are paying as little as possible and hiring fewer pilots. But as the economy recovers, all job segments should improve, including pilot jobs. So I think the picture should be rosier soon.

      Yes, 6-8 months is reasonable as a full-time student to get a commercial license. I’m not sure if you can get a CFI in the same time, but you might if you really applied yourself. Be aware that if you plan to build time as a CFI, you need a job as a CFI. All flight schools claim they hire their students as CFI, but could they possibly hire all of their students as CFIs? The more students you’re working with, the quicker you’ll build that time. If, for example, you only fly with students 10 hours a week, it’ll take you 80 weeks — that’s a year and a half — to build the 800 hours you need (on top of your 200 or so of PIC time from training) to get that entry level job. So don’t get fooled into thinking that you can train for 8 months and be qualified for a pilot job.

      How does one get 500 hours of turbine time? In an entry level job flying turbine helicopters. That means flying at the Grand Canyon, Alaska, or possibly the Gulf of Mexico. One season at any of these places should get you 500 hours.

      Good luck.

  113. Hey Maria,

    It doesn’t look like the Helo Pilot industry has taken an upswing from your initial blog in 2007! I just started flight school in Denton, TX. and am really enjoying it. I do work for a major corporation full time and train either after work or on the weekends, the G.I. bill is covering 60% of my costs (incrued after my private pilots rating), what do you foresee the industry doing by 2012ish? You seem very experienced and to have a feel for the pulse of the industry. I’m just curious as I should be getting close to 1000 or so hrs by then.

    • Zach: Agreed. I think things have gotten considerably worse. Quite a few local helicopter operators have gone out of business. It would be good for survivors like my business if the customers were out there, but they’re not. I did a total of THREE revenue flights in January. Not nearly enough to cover my basic costs.

      The GI bill is a GREAT thing. Just met another pilot who starts training this month under the GI bill. You guys deserve a break after serving our country — thank you!

      I think that as the economy recovers, the industry will recover. I sure hope everything is back to normal (or better) by 2012. I don’t think I can support my business that long without more customers and work.

      Best of luck to you!

  114. Maria,

    Thank you for your prompt reply, I will just continue to do the best I can at my training and pray that the industry will be on the upswing as I get closer to being employable. Take care and keep up the good work!

  115. I’ve been a pilot for just over 7yrs now, and I’ve only managed to buy about 600hrs. I, of course, haven’t been able to find a job as a pilot, its probably because I’ve been having trouble becoming a teacher(no one ever said if you can’t teach, you can’t get paid to fly). I’ve thought of giving it another try, but why bother, there aren’t any CFi jobs anymore?

    I definitly agree with one of the other posts, in that being a CFi does not give you “real” experience, how could it, your getting PIC time without even touching the controls! Unfortunatly with the HUGE SURPLUS OF PILOTS in the industry, operators don’t have to care about us “low-timers”.

    I don’t know why anyone would try to get into this industry. There are no “real” entry-level jobs, and so many unemployed CFis, that begs the question, why bother even becoming one?

    Flying tours would be nice, and I don’t care about the pay, but 1500hrs, that’s a pipe dream! Or a nightmare?

  116. Stefan- did you attend powered flight in south africa or another school? Are you going to work off your schooling?

    Donkey- where you happy with the powered flight school? Did you walk out with 3000+ hours by the time you paid back your training bond? What did you do for that time (cfi,or??).

    Thanks Mike

  117. Mike

    Yeah, I did go to Powered Flight for my training. Great school, friendly competent people, nice vibe, good location… I would definitely recommend it. I completed my PPL in November last year and will be doing my CPL through them this year.

    Where are you from Mike?

  118. Lots of great comments, questions, and answers here. This fall I am going to start my training at ERAU. I am 34 and in a second career, fortunately I was a HS Teacher before, so being a CFI should be enjoyable… I love to teach. Anyway, a post above about a someone who is larger (6’1″, 240) got me to thinking. Is being a smaller person (I am 5’7″ 160) more desirable to companies??

    Also, besides pay, why do people want to leave CFI, or Tour Company jobs. These seem like jobs I would love (I love to teach, and interact with people… flying being the icing on the cake) Is there something I am missing about these professions?
    Thanks
    Jeremy

    • Jeremy: If you want to be a career flight instructor, that’s great! We really need MORE good, experienced flight instructors out there. But the reality is that flight instructor pay is generally very poor and the work isn’t very interesting over time. Tour operations are entry level jobs that can be tedious and usually don’t pay well either. That’s why most folks are anxious to move on.

      Best of luck to you.

  119. I am 56. A displaced worker. I have been living the practical rather than what I love thing. I have the money. Is it too late for me? When are commercial pilots forced into retirement? Do I have to have 20/20 vision?

  120. @Jeff Lovejoy
    Hey, Jeff. I’m right behind you at 49. I got into this 10 years ago and have seen some instances of age discrimination. Why would they hire older, wiser folks when the young guys will do ANYTHING they tell them to do and take next to nothing in pay? So the short answer is: yes, it might be too late — if you want to make it a big money career.

    But if you want to learn to fly and maybe make some money down the road, I think you have a shot at it. And doing what you love really does make a difference in your life.

    As for eyesight, it does not have to be 20/20 but it needs to be correctable (with glasses or contacts) to (I think) 20/40 or better. Check first. You’ll also need to pass a 2nd class physical to get a commercial ticket, so if you have health issues, you definitely want to look into requirements first.

    I don’t know when commercial helicopter pilots are forced into retirement. It probably varies from one employer to the next. A buddy of mine ran his own utility helicopter service company with a Sikorksy S55T until he was 75 and his insurance company refused to cover him. Broke his heart when he had to stop flying.

    Best of luck, whatever you decide.

  121. @Maria Langer
    Maria:

    Thank you for your nice message.

    Please excuse any offense but, you’re 49! Incredible. Nice genes.

    Regarding pay, I think that we are all going to be seeing a real pull back on salaries everywhere in the next ten years. Especially, when the average income for a family of four in the United States is $43,000.00; and the same is $13,000.00 in China. I feel that America is really in for a rude awakening.

    I feel badly for the pros, like the Sully Sullenbergers, they are getting eaten alive.

    I am looking at doing something that I can do right up until the end. I would have loved retiring at 65, but the way the economy and the country is going, forget that.

    A very dear friend of the family, a retired engineer for Kodak, flies. His retirement consists of towing gliders up to launch altitude. He loves it. The pay is lousy, but he loves it. He has had one heart attack, which was fixed with a stint. The docs let him hang onto his ticket. He’s 78-years-old. I fly with him. Last time was in a piper cub that belonged to a flying club he’s member of. The membership allows him to stay current in several types of fixed wing. The Piper Cub is a real old job, where the fuel gauge is a metal rod stuck through a cork that serves as a float sticking out just in front of the cockpit. He’s a widower. A real lady’s man. Mile high club and all that nonsense. Shoot, you might even like him.

    My first helicopter ride was in a Brantley B-2. I was sold then. However, my family were loaded with practical people, who would only pay to educate either another doctor, a lawyer, or a business executive. They meant well, but later on in life you begin to really begin to feel cheated if you haven’t followed your dreams.

    Years ago, I was sent back to Syracuse University by my employer to take advanced French for a joint venture with Aerospeciale. I was going to campus and back to the lab so GE told me to wear my badge on campus. The students would go nuts around me; asking me how to get into GE. I told them the truth, that hardly anybody plans for that sort of thing, and that they were better off following their heart (advice I could have listened myself. LOL.)

    A friend in high school did follow his dreams. He and I both stood for the draft. I got lucky when my number was high; he got drafted and then got to go to flight school in helicopters. He got shot down five times. The stories I got to hear. All he came away with were some back problems. The last time we talked he was still flying jet rangers for a consortium with offices in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Hated wearing an executive airperson’s uniform and the tie. He’d have some bank if it weren’t for those three divorces. Funny thing was that I never knew of his love for flying. I have been flying as a rank amatuer since I was eight years old, and I have absolutely no memories of him going up once before he went into the Army. Isn’t that wild. He just shrugged his shoulders when I brought it up. So, that’s two more things I don’t understand about him.

    I met an English major who had survived and had become a pilot in Seattle. He got his commerical license, and flew tubroprop Beavers in and out of Lake Washington. He likes it (except that the look on his face betrayed him. He loved it). Long hours. Marriage problems. A lot of time up and back to Alaska. Those Beavers just leap out of the water. Exxon was up to inspect their spill response depots in Puget Sound. Exxon was a client of mine at the time.That’s how I met this guy. It was truly breath-taking the places that he dropped that Beaver into. You would have almost thought you were in a helicopter. Full flaps, full power, and you were in the air. Do you fly fixed wing at all?

    You’re a good writer. If no one has told you so, they should. I think that’s why your site has seen such a huge response.

    I see my opthomologist in August. She’s from Alaska. A real killer. A marvelous girl. Crazy as a bed bug (with all due respect to her wonderful, tall, dark, handsome and accomplished husband and two beautiful little girls), but its true. Are there no unattactive women from Alaska? Oh, well . . . . Youth is wasted on the wrong people.

    Best regards. Maybe we’ll run into each other someday.

    Jeff Lovejoy
    Bellingham, WA

  122. @Jeff Lovejoy
    Thanks. I think.

    Seems to me, you need to start a blog. You have a lot of stories to tell.

    About the Piper Cub — I have only 0.9 hours in fixed wing aircraft, and they’re all in a Piper Cub with no electrical system and a fuel gauge just as you described.

    As for being a good writer — I should be. My second career — following my dream — is (I still do it) as a writer. I’ve authored over 70 books since 1991. Am working on one now about my first 10 years as a helicopter pilot. Thanks, though.

    Again, best of luck to you!

  123. @Maria Langer
    . . . and your technical writing paid for the helicopter, flight training, and the Flying M? Is your second job writing technical books, the Flying M, or Canyon Tours? Or is there another arrangement of realities going on here?

    Wow, would I like to ask you some questions.

  124. @Maria Langer
    I found a nice bio on you. My question is: having made the choice to pursue a career in flying helicopters, has your accounting degree helped you remain somewhere within the bounds of business practices and a business philosophy that seems to require surviving in a working world where pilots are either “a dime a dozen,” or “you ought to be paying us (the employer), to do this?” Seriously.

    Are you funding your dream or are they, meaning of course your employers and customers?

    Do you think that you would be competing in the real world any better if you had gone to one of the hardcore business schools (and please don’t say, “. . . and Hoftra’s not . . . . A school like Wharton, where you would have received a hardnosed education in business. Wharton does have the reputation of producing the biggest business sobs.

    After reading this, you probably wished that I had stopped talking after message #143. And please don’t get me wrong; it’s just that I bet they don’t teach you how to operate a business in flight school. Also, I’m looking at the same realities you possibly were when you changed careers. For me, one of those options being going back to school to learn all I can about the enemy of dreams: not being sharp enough.

    So, you are relocating to my state. Good luck. If I had my choice, between exploring aircraft burial grounds, the museum and restoration facility in Pima, AZ and the high desert growing regions of Washington, I don’t know. They play hardcore hardball business out here, more than I’ve ever seen growing up back east. Hardcore being the life style of the organic farmer, where being dirt poor seem to go hand in hand. The worst of it being the requirement seems to be that you have to be proud of being poor, where the stakes of just hanging on have been moved up another two or three notches.

  125. @Richard
    Can you be kind enough to send me the contact information of the Company that hires helicopter pilots with that kind of pay.
    i think that is a very good pay and the highest i’ve seen.
    Thanks,
    Mismar

  126. So here’s the deal.. Im currently Just 30 and just got a Sallie Mae loan to go to a local helicopter flight school. Ive been chasing this dream for a long time. I currently hold a private pilots license (fixed wing)and want to add to it all the way to CFII.

    However, here is my delema… I really want to fly for a living and love to fly. I currently have a good job at a local fire department. I work a 24/48 schedule. My training will be with in my opinion a good school Silverhawk Aviation out of Caldwell Idaho. But Firefighting is not my cup of tea. Ive worked in aviation sine I was 14. I know you have to take you knocks to make it up the ladder and hard work and dedication to you field is key to success. But I am very disheartened to hear the doom and gloom of the helicopter job field. I’ve been around long enough that nobody is going to hand you a 100k job right out of school. I currently have a great family and great support for what I want to do. Yet, this whole thread/blog/posting has really made me think twice if I want to do this. I mean fall into 65,000 debt and then never be able to dig out. I havent started my training yet and consider just dropping the whole thing.

    However I know I will never be happy if I dont fly… But I have a family to consider. I guess my question is now that the silver state troubles are couple years old and the economy is in a recovery (ever so slight). Is it possible to make a living flying? I would like to make in the range of 50K in a few years. Ill never make that in the fire department. So is this a bad idea.. It’s taken me 10yrs to get to the point I can do this I’ve worked hard at everything I do. I dont want to do this if (I hate to say it) the pay really sucks.. I know it’s shallow but flying is awesome but if it dont pay the bills Im not putting my family through the heart ache.

  127. @SBurgess

    I’ve been around long enough that nobody is going to hand you a 100k job right out of school.

    The reality is that nobody is going to hand you ANY job right out of school. You have to compete with hundreds of other candidates for every single position until you get your first 2,000+ hours. I know a CFII who has been waiting for 9 months to get a job as a CFI. Until gets his foot in that door, he’ll never build the time he needs to get an entry level job. There are too few jobs and too many low-time pilots.

    Is it possible to make a living flying? I would like to make in the range of 50K in a few years.

    A living? Maybe. $50K in a few years? No.

    I really want to know where people are getting the idea that they can make a lot of money as helicopter pilots. While it’s true that some very experienced (think 10,000+ hours) and very specialized (think long line, logging, firefighting) pilots can indeed make a good living, the vast majority don’t and can’t.

    Sorry to be a realist, but I see what’s going on in the job market. It breaks my heart to see guys going into deep debt to chase a dream that they don’t fully understand.

    Why not take flying lessons on the side to see if you LIKE flying before you get yourself into debt? Then find yourself some REAL pilots — not the wannabes and head cases on the forums — and talk to them about what they went through to get where they are. Check the job listings and see how much experience is required. Then think about how you might get that experience — how long it will take, how many guys are competing for the same jobs, climbing up the ladder with you. Do your homework thoroughly before taking the dive.

  128. I do appreciate the information.

    However, I do realize the amount of time it takes to get a job. And I do already have my pilots license. And yes I do know that I like to fly… Fixed wing or rotor. I have been kicking this like a dead horse for a long time and nothing has changed. I have spent a lot of time talking to helicopter pilots from around my little area. And they have been very informative as well. They do say like everybody else its getting the first job that is the hardest. after that its much easier to get a job in the market. And as for pay it’s not too bad either, most if not all the pilots I talked to are making around what I was expecting 50-70k so that’s not too bad. They were either flying for EMS, Fire, or charter. I know you will doubt my figures and my info but that is what I found. Like I said in my previous posting it wont be easy and I don’t expect to be given an awesome job right out of the gate. But, In time I do imagine that I can and will make it to the place were I look back and say that it was all worth it. My other question to you is why all the negativity? I have been around Aviation for most of my life and found it to be a very close nit community. Everybody in it.. is in it because of there passion of flight. I rarely if ever come across anybody that dislikes there passion or takes up arms against it. In this case this forum is very informative but it begs the question why?? Why so negative? Why does it bother you that someone else wants to do this line of work? Why is flying helicopters such a unsatisfying thing to you… If so Why continue to do it?.. It all for me comes back to a passion. A friend of my once said ” Once flying gets into you blood its next to impossible to get out” and I do have to agree with him. A person has to follow his/her dreams if not to satisfy a thirst that cannot be satisfied anywhere else in life. So be it if this line of work sucks. Maybe in time the people that don’t fit into this line of work will find there true passion and move on and the ones who stick this one out go on to make it better. I guess all I’m getting at is Please consider the dreams of others. They may be small and they may be flawed but they are important to their owners.

  129. @SBurgess
    You asked questions. I answered them. HONESTLY. I’m not going to lie to you.

    I can’t help it if the answers aren’t as positive as what you want. Yes, they’re your dreams. But you asked if you could make $50K in a few years. You probably can’t. Should I lie and say you can? Should I feed you the same fairy tale the flight school likely did? The same story Silver State fed hundreds of people, many of whom remain unemployed to this day?

    Flying helicopters does NOT suck. I never said it did. I enjoy it immensely and am glad I do it. I’m sure most (but not all) helicopter pilots feel the same way.

    But it won’t make you rich and, with the job market the way it is, it might not even support you and you family. That’s the TRUTH.

    If you don’t want the truth, don’t ask for it.

    If you feel so strongly about your dream, then why does salary matter to you? Follow your dream NOW. Stop wasting time. Make it happen. I did. Others have. You’re not getting any younger.

    And stop asking questions on forums if you don’t really want the answers.

  130. @SBurgess

    I also went to Silverhawk. Yes, when you talk to a pilot or watch a school’s video testimonials, you’re looking at a very small number of former students. Those are the ones who made it, and are generally happy.

    “Making a living” is really the least of your concerns. What no school will tell you is that they train at least 5 times as many CFIs as they need. If every school does this, what happens to the rest? Almost nobody getting in this field realizes the odds they’re facing. Of the 2 CFIs that I keep in touch with from Silverhawk, one spent the life savings he earned driving trucks to get his ratings. Now he’s back driving trucks to support his family. The other has >$80,000 in Sallie Mae loans. She’s back working at the job she wanted to escape from, sleeping on a friend’s couch, because she can’t afford her own place and keep up with her loan payments. They’ve been out of school for almost 2 full years now, and it’s doubtful either of them will every fly for a living. I’m also working the job I had 3 years ago when I started training. In 2009, I logged less than 10 hrs and was about to hang it up. This year, I’ll log maybe 70 hrs. I’m a long, long way from 1000 hrs, and yeah, I get the pitiful “told-you-so” looks from the pilots I talked to before getting in.

    For the most part, I don’t think anybody is against you going after your dream. A lot of us bought the “retiring Viet Nam vets” or “pilot shortage in India” or “R44 time makes you marketable” stories, or just thought that we were so determined that we couldn’t fail. But if you talk to somebody in the industry and they come off negative, it’s because they’ve seen so many others just like you dive in and end up broke and disheartened at the end of it all. So what you’re hearing as negativity is really just honesty.

  131. A fanatastic blog to read. I am starting my comercial lisence and am very much looking forward to it. Like you say the monies there but it will take alot of work getting to it. However for me its about going to work with a smile on my face. I am fortunate that I have a qualificaions that allows me to earm a little bit on the side (you know for the basics like food!). Thanks for all the honesty, a real eye opener.

  132. Wow. I’m glad I found this page tonight. It took me awhile, but I read the whole thing, and I am very dissapionted in my future as a helicopter pilot. Its to bad that Mr. ariola as I call him, messed things up so bad. I live in vegas, and actualy work right next to where silver state helicopters was located. All day long I watched his helicopters take off and land wishing I could be the guy doing that. Now I am glad I didn’t sign my life away and end up with a whole lot of debt with nothing to show show for it.
    However, I still want to fly real bad. I have a good job making about 80k a year, but absolutely hate it. It might take me a long time, but My goal is to get paid while I do something I love. My question to you is how hard would it be to find a job as an instructor on the weekends only, and if I did how long whould it take to get enough hours to fly full time?

    • @Codee: You know, you don’t have to make a career out of flying helicopters. You can learn to do it as a hobby. I know that sounds crazy, but it isn’t. That’s how I started. I had some extra money and time and learned. It took me 1-1/2 years to get my private pilot certificate (I took about 8 months off in the middle). Then I rented for a short time. Then I bought a little R22. Things snowballed after that and I got hooked on it, but until recently, it was my “day job” that covered most of the expenses of flying.

      Yes, it IS terribly expensive to go through “a program” and get on a career path that’s likely to be difficult in today’s job market. But for under $10K you can be a private helicopter pilot. You’ll then be in a good position to move forward if the job market changes or other circumstances let you start a small business of your own.

      I guess my point is that you don’t need to be career pilot to fly helicopters. I know quite a few private helicopter pilots who just do it for fun.

      As for your question…not many flight schools will hire a weekend-only flight instructor. If you did manage to get a position working only Saturdays and Sundays, it would take years to build your first 1,000 hours — that’s the minimum for most entry level jobs.

  133. Hey everyone!
    Ive always wanted to become a helicopter pilot and now that ive done 8 years in the army, i have the chance to get my school done for free. So I am choosing Embry Riddle in Prescott AZ, ive allready been accepted and I was just wondering if anyone here knew if it will give you any type of advantage over others to have a 4 year degree along with all the licenses. Alot of people that I have talked to talk bad about Embry Riddle, but ive been to the school and Prescott AZ is amazing. So im pretty set on going there since it wont cost me any money out of pocket. Has anyone here known or gone to riddle for helicopter flight? It seems like it will be a pretty fun four years and then I will be close to the grand canyon and hopefully i can get one of my first jobs doing tours there or in las vegas.

    • @Stephen: I think a four-year-degree is a great idea and if you can get one from Embry Riddle for free, GO FOR IT! The benefit is this: when you have an aviation degree, you set yourself apart from the others and prepare for possible management positions. Prescott is a good location for training because the weather is usually good so you can get lots of flying in and the high elevation of the airport (5000 feet) will help prepare you for a gig like the Grand Canyon (6300 feet). Your military background may also help you stand apart from the others when it’s time to get your first jobs. It’s really competitive out there and I think a lot of organizations are giving preferential treatment to vets. Best of luck to you!

  134. @David
    Its hard to find reviews of different helicopter schools. I am also thinking of training at Mauna Loa but know much apart from the attractive videos they’ve made to coax me to train with them… it’s working btw lol.
    Any info about Mauna Loa in Hawaii would be great.

    thanks

  135. @Chris
    When I see a school with a really slick web site, I ask “hmmm, wonder who paid for it?” (Hint: a fool and his money are soon parted.) I was just a career development meeting with Randy Rowles where he summed it up for new pilots: Having a dream is not a plan.

  136. I too have been looking at different schools. Mauna Loa was one; the cost of living would be high to train as that school.
    I’m still looking and willing to travel to go to a good school.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks

  137. @Pete
    Hey Pete

    I thought Mauna Loa was ok as they offered in house accommodation. All I really needed was to cover my expenses. I also considered Universal Helicopters in AZ or Monarch Sky in Vegas. These are the few that I have narrowed it down to.

    I was reading around and came across something which swayed me toward training at Universal. I read that alot of these schools also do other work, ie tours, charter, etc to keep their business going from other sources of income. In saying that, they said the quality of training might not be as great. Going to a school which offers only training is the way to go as they make their business offering good training. Can anyone shed some light on this viewpoint??

    Chris… Thanks for your insight. I guess I also chose Hawaii just to start off and get my PPL, just to see how the school is and on a personal note, I’d rather the climate and lush green mountains to fly amongst. I guess it couldn’t hurt just to go for my PPL then decide who will get my money for my CPL. ANy feedback would be great.

    I am focused on starting my PPL in March and getting my PPL over the month. Any suggestions would be much appreciated especially those who have done it before.

    thanks!!

    • Chris: I don’t agree that a school that only does training offers better training. What it means is that as a CFI (which you probably want to be when the training is done), you won’t get an opportunity to do ANY other kind of flying except flight training. No real world experience until you get your first 1,000 hours and get a job in the industry. If anything, the fact that a school ONLY does training might be a mark against it.

      Maybe other folks here might think otherwise and explain why.

      The one thing I really want to warn EVERYONE against is paying a bunch of money up front (or getting a big fat loan) for a “program.” Paying as you go is a much better approach.

  138. Maria Langer :

    If anything, the fact that a school ONLY does training might be a mark against it.
    Maybe other folks here might think otherwise and explain why.

    @Maria Langer

    Agreed, and briefly why: at a school that only does training, you will be surrounded by a bunch of guys who don’t know anything about flying. If you’re lucky, there will be a 1000-hr CFI or a CP (who you may or may not get to fly with or talk to), but for the most part you won’t have access to anybody who’s flown in the real world. Schools that only do flight training also have to be training continuously (ie, fly the helicopters) to stay profitable; sometimes going out to fly or flying off the end of your block is not the most efficient way to spend your training dollars. There is always pressure to fly though.

    Also, about your plan to dip your toe in at Mauna Loa and then try someplace else…there are things you only learn from experience, and one of those things is how flight schools hire CFIs. I’m not going to hijack Maria’s blog, or try and poach traffic, but I have a blog of my own that deals specifically with what I did and didn’t learn during flight school, including how schools hire. It’s that one milestone that is more important than financing, where you train, what helicopter you train in, or what your goals are. In short, schools mostly hire from within. Transfer students and outside candidates are not at the top of the list when it comes to the rare reward of a CFI job.

    And definitely pay as you go…loan repayments outlast many would-be pilot’s careers.

    • Chris: poach away! Not ever having been a CFI, my knowledge of the CFI job market is mostly hearsay. What I hear is that it’s VERY DIFFICULT to get a CFI job somewhere other than where you trained.

      I feel another blog post about this coming on…

  139. Thanks Maria…in another comment on this thread, I mentioned the 5:1 ratio of training CFIs to hiring CFIs, one practical aspect no flight school will tell you about. On my blog, I’ve also added a few posts about things students should be thinking about when getting started. For most, the excitement of flying and not knowing what to expect leads to a bad start that takes a long time to correct.

    • Chris: I think the main problem is that so many flight schools “promise” jobs to their students and student get the idea that they have some sort of guarantee of employment. That’s simply not the way it works. It isn’t until they’ve made a huge investment in time and money that they realize that they’re lucky if they can get a CFI job that gives them 10 hours or more of flight time a week. Less than 10 hours isn’t a job: it’s a paid hobby.

  140. First and foremost I would sincerely like to thank you, Ms. Langer, and all the experienced bloggers for some cold hard truth on this subject. That being said, I have only one word to describe this blog…disheartening. I feel as though someone just ran over my cat whilst simultaneously hitting me in the stomach with a wrecking ball. I’m beginning to wonder if my dream of flying is really anything more than just a dream. Sad.

    • Zach: If this is your dream and you’re under the age of 40 (give or take), go for it. But you MUST, from the start, go into training with the right attitude. Also helpful is a brain able to comprehend the massive amounts of information you need to know as a pilot, the ability to communicate that information to students, and a body weight under 160 pounds.

      But if you think you can take flying lessons and, two years later, get a job as a helicopter pilot earning $80K/year — as Silver State was implying back in the day — that just ain’t gonna happen. Do it for the love of flying, not for the money.

  141. Hi all,

    Thanks for all the info on your site and in this thread alone.
    I live in the UK and was wondering if the same problem of over saturated low flight time pilots is happening on these shores?(guessing it is).

    Just had my house valued to release some equity from it to fund me up to CPL(H) I budgeted at about £58k, but after reading this thread and some brutal honest points of view am seriously thinking better of it. am currently on a very average 22k per year salary, so I would be happy to fly for the same amount, but from the sounds of it I would be lucky to get a job at all. If you could point me to any local info I would very grateful thanks

    • John: Unfortunately, I don’t have any data for the job market in the UK — and I’m not even sure how accurate this info is for the US anymore. I know there are a lot of low-time pilots out there, but I don’t think the job market is as bad as it was when I wrote the post three years ago. Then again, I don’t know.

      Hopefully, someone else reading this can respond and bring us all up to date.

  142. I gave up a $85.0000… job not counting overtime and recently retired. At that income i couldn’t aford the time or the money to become a helicopter pilot. I guess i’ll never become one even though i’ve amazed my hanglider teacher with my abilities and have been commented on several times as a excellant driver ( autos ) and drove overhead cranes with both center controls and joysticks with tripple trolleys and 250 tonne capacity’s. I know i’m gifted and wouldv’e made a damn good pilot and at only 51 i find my horizon’s bleak and life to b unfare.

  143. if the pay is so bad than why don’t you all get together and go on strike.I believe you are worth so much more than 30,000 to 50,000.It coast so much to get your license.

    • Carl B: Because there’s always someone out there willing to take your job for less. THAT’S part of why the pay on entry level jobs is so low. Hell, there are guys PAYING employers to fly. Figure that one out. I’m still trying to see the logic there.

  144. One unfailing truth to life is that if you want something badly that many others want badly, you must posses at least one of the following: 1)money, 2) experience/training, 3) luck &/or persistence. Many times it comes down to who can take more “pain”. I am a CFII, rotorcraft/SEL with over 2000 hours, all turbine time. It has cost a grand total of $450 (that was only for the CFII). In fact I make about $72K/ year and have some nice tax benefits. How is all this possible? I too had to “pay my dues” in the Navy. I came in in 1995, have been flying for almost 8 years now, have most of my hours and all instructor time in a jet ranger B206, 750 in H-60. For many, this sounds like it is all up side and no down side. Don’t get me wrong I mostly love it, but any job performed routinely enough can become mundane. What is the cost of all these benefits, free training, and pay? I had to pay my dues in my own way. My first tour of 3.5 years, if you count my deployed time on the ship, working 14-16 hour days (yes, most of your military are working days like this 6 days a week when not deployed), my wife’s work schedule, etc I had a grand total of 7 months at home in those 3.5 years…and those 7 months averaged out to be 11.25 work days (yes, I did keep track).

    SO…do you want to get free training in highly maintained turbine helicopters, fly to and from great/hard places, get paid $50k a year to start (plus free benefits), AND give something back to this great country? Try the military…training is nice, you will give a lot more than you get(and you get a WHOLE LOT).

    This is not a recruiting scam, just noting that there is another way. We have a lot of guys that leave and get even BIGGER jobs. My neighbor (resume just like mine) fly’s for Evergreen helicopters, 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off for about $23k each time…$80K a year, with half the year off…why so “great” a payday? He gets shot at, more than the military some days, has to stay in a compound/ on a base when not flying due to terrorism…BUT he gets half the year off.

    There are others, you CAN make $225K a year flying helos…yes you can. I have another friend who does it. Spends one whole year at a a time in Iraq or Afghanistan, shot at daily, bullet in one leg, etc.

    Like I said at the beginning, if you are considering this as a career, heed what many of us have said, do it for the love of it, not for money. Or, make money somewhere else, and do this for fun!

  145. I do agree that we are underpaid for our skills/cost of training. It is unfortunately like this for many “fringe professionals”. Doctors and lawyers might make a lot, but even as mainstream as a vet the payoff isn’t there. Close vet friend of mine who has been out of vet school for 10 years still owes $80K in student loans, made $27K last year! Many vets come out of school owing as much as a human doctor, yet start out making $65-75K a year…sounds great until you take into account the $2500/month student loans!!! There is very little upward mobility for them.

    I have determined that I will never be rich, and probably never will be wealthy…but I would die a dead broke, happy pilot any day rather than a rich man stuck on the ground but for the skills of a few brave souls who beat the air into submission.

    Keep the whirly side up and the dirty side down!

  146. I do agree that we are underpaid for our skills/cost of training. It is unfortunately like this for many “fringe professionals”. Doctors and lawyers might make a lot, but even as mainstream as a vet the payoff isn’t there. Close vet friend of mine who has been out of vet school for 10 years still owes $80K in student loans, made $27K last year! Many vets come out of school owing as much as a human doctor, yet start out making $65-75K a year…sounds great until you take into account the $2500/month student loans!!! There is very little upward mobility for them.

    I have determined that I will never be rich, and probably never will be wealthy…but I would die a dead broke, happy pilot any day rather than a rich man stuck on the ground but for the skills of a few brave souls who beat the air into submission.

    Keep the whirly side up and the dirty side down!

    @Billy d

  147. Wow!!! I really don’t know where to begin. I just spent my entire evening reading the entire five part series titled “So You Want to be a Helicopter Pilot”, as well “The Helicopter Job Market”,as well as all o f the comments that went along with both blogs. I was especially amazed with “The Helicopter Job Market” simply because what had started as a simple blog back on March 23rd, 2007, continued to grow with so many of the reader’s insight’s and opinions’ , with the last comment posted as recently as last month of this year.

    I guess I should start out by thanking everyone on here who took the time to share their experiences and insights in hopes that others will not make the same mistakes. I especially wanted to thank you Maria. You come across as, not only very knowledgeable and experienced, but also very friendly and down to earth. Not everyone out there who possesses the amount of knowledge and experience you have are so willing to share or help others like you do. I really do appreciate your efforts so thanks again for your contributions.

    Reading these blogs has been an eye opening, interesting, and disheartening experience all at the same time. I too was under the false assumption that a helicopter pilot could start out making close to $85K – $100K in a few years after obtaining a license. For me, it’s not just about the money though. For me, it’s also about the thrill and the excitement of being able to pilot your own aircraft and the adventure that goes along with it is what is drawing me to the field. The seeds were first planted last year when I did a helicopter tour in Maui, HI and it just lingered in the back of my mind since then.

    So why am I barley looking into the industry now when I’m about to turn 34 years old? Well, like a lot of other people out there, I’m looking to make a career change. Is it because my job sucks? No. Is it because the pay sucks? No, I actually make close to $80k as a software engineer working at Intel. I think I’ve just been doing what I do for too long (I started when I was 21 yrs old) and I’m just not happy anymore. A simple job change or working for a another company is not going to cut it for me.

    Sorry for babbling on but I just kind of wanted to share where I was coming from and where I was hoping to get to. Like I said before, reading this blog along with all of the comments has been eye opening and dis-heartening. It’s made me feel like my dream is just that much more out of reach. It just seems like there’s so much stack against you in this field; So many entry level pilots vying for the same limited amount of entry level jobs; Less than stellar income; Potential to rack up a hug loan debt; etc., etc. Looks like the best way to get in this field is either through the military and have all your training paid for while getting tons of flight time (for free) or paying for your training with as much out of pocket money as possible to avoid getting into huge debt. Is it impossible to obtain? Probably not but it’s definitely not going to be without great sacrifice. The dream is not dead for me but reading all of this information has caused me to re-think how and if I going to make to this happen.

    Thanks Again,
    A.Lagos

    • A.Lagos: I don’t think the dream is out of reach. I just think it’s not as easy to reach as it might have been 10 or so years ago. And age is a definite factor. You’re not too old to get started now, but I wouldn’t wait long if I were you.

      Like I tell other folks who want to learn to fly helicopter and currently have a good living — do what I did: make time for training after work and on weekends and get your ratings on a pay-as-you-go basis. Yes, it’ll take longer, but no, you won’t have to go into debt. If you seem to have a good aptitude for the flying, you might be able to ease out of one career and into the other. Or, do what I do: have two careers. I’m still a freelance writer and currently make about 1/2 my annual income doing that. (I’m working on a book right now and will be recording a video course next week.) With your current skill set, you might be able to get some consulting work to make ends meet while you move forward as a pilot.

      These are just suggestions. If you’re driven by the desire to fly — and keep that desire while you get your private pilot rating — you will MAKE the career happen. I know. I did.

      Oh, and two more things:
      – Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      – That series on becoming a helicopter pilot has four more parts to go. I just need to sit down and write them.

  148. @Maria:
    First, I would like to thank much for creating this blog that provides us all with an honest prospective of the rotary wing aviation field. Also, sharing your life experiences as a pilot and giving seemingly sound advice to people interested in a career as a helicopter pilot, im sure, has enlightened many of us reading.
    I, like most of the people who have commented, am interested in beginning a career as a helicopter pilot. Now, being 23 years old (after a 4 year enlistment in the Marine Corps), I am considering becoming a helicopter pilot. After completing 1 year at the local community college, i have been looking into attending Quantum Helicopters in my home town in Arizona.
    I had a meeting with the head flight instructor to inquire about the field a few months ago. While i was not promised a 100K job after a couple of years, but they made it sound a little easier than stated above. They explained that they do hire most of their graduates as CFIs, and that i would be a CFI for between 18 and 30 months in order to accumulate enough hours (about 1500) to work for a tour industry, oil rig, ext. (making about 45). After reading this, and the about 75% of the comments that are attached, I am skeptical about my hopeful career choice.
    Quantum Helicopters is in the process of orchestrating an “agreement” with Chandler-Gilbert Community College to offer a helicopter program through the college (CGCC already offers a fixed wing program, which i assume it will be almost an identical copy of, but for rotary wing). I have been told the agreement has been signed by both schools and is now pending approval from the VA. Since this will be in conjunction with CGCC and accompanies an Associates degree in Applied Science, I will be able to use my Post 9-11 GI Bill to pay for most of the training. With that being said, I am guesstimating that my out of pocket cost for to complete the 2.5 year program, which will include private, commercial, instrument, CFI, ect., ect. will be approximately 15 thousand. On top of that, I will receive 1300 monthly from the VA to cover my housing. So, juggling a job flight training and a social life will not be too much of an issue.
    I would not mind making 30k as a CFI right here in my home town, but this thread has made me reluctant to commit to my desire of flying for a career.
    My plan is to complete the program, an get a job as stated, but my contingency plan if I cannot get a pilot job is to go back into the military (but this time as a pilot since i will have all my ratings and licenses). Reading this blog and the comments has made me heavily reconsider my career choice.
    What is your brutally honest advice for someone in my position who has high hopes of perusing a career as a helicopter pilot? Does it sound realistic to begin a career in this manor, or will I invariably end up a pilot with a slim chance at attaining a decent paying job?

    -David

    • David: Your success in any career is entirely up to you. While Missy may have told you that they hire most of their students as CFIs, they can’t hire all of them. It’s your level of skill, ability to communicate and teach, attitude, and even weight that will determine whether you’re one of the ones they hire. This is true in all flight schools. Throughout training, if you prove that you’re serious. skillful, safe, and a team player, you’re far more likely to get that all-important CFI job. From that point, it’s a matter of paying dues — with the same positive attitude — and getting that first 1,000 – 1,500 hours of flight time. Then an entry level job for more time — likely turbine time — to qualify for a job you like and want.

      Throughout this process, it’s you that makes the main difference. Attitude is so vitally important — almost as important as skill and the ability to understand the underlying concepts you need to know to fly safely. I wrote about this quite a bit in Part 5 of my “So You Want to Be a Helicopter Pilot” series here. Your detailed, well thought out, and literate comment here tells me that you might just have the right stuff to succeed. If this is what you want to do and you’re willing to put everything you’ve got into it, go for it. I think you can succeed.

      Sadly, however, my opinion of an Associate’s Degree is that it’s window dressing. While you may be able to build upon it to get a Bachelor’s Degree in the future, no one is going to make a hire/don’t hire decision based on an AS or AAS degree. Similarly, I don’t think you should make a flight school decision based on whether or not it offers an Associate’s Degree. Choose based on what the school offers in terms of training quality and opportunities.

      One final word: As I mentioned earlier, your success in any career is entirely up to you. I mean this quite literally. If you’re driven enough and are willing to work hard to achieve your goals, you can make it happen. I did.

    • Remember the Corps requires a 4 year degree, ocs or plc, tbs, then aviation training. I would recommend using your gi bill to get your ratings (flying is fun!) While getting college coursework done, finishing a degree, and don’t use the military as a backup plan, use your gi bill to get what you can. ANY 4 year degree will make you an officer, basket weaving included, so get your ratings, fly part time, continue to finish a 4 year degree in something that will get you a real job as a backup plan, then you have 3 options, job, Corps, or helo….. that’s what imdoing, and I’m even adding dual ratings to it. The changes to the gi bill and the predatory nature of colleges in regard to gi bill recipients made me hop around a bit, and left me with 20 grand debt, and little in the way of job options because schools like to hire their own graduates. I am now without a job to apply my cfi ticket to, and am working on my fixed wing ratings now. I am also in Arixona going to ASU now. Use your resources. At a minimum consider the gi bill and school your job until you exhaust it, or you find something better. Why not get paid by the gi bill to go fly, even if you don’t end up with a flight career? Good luck and Semper Fi.t

  149. p.s. – Another thing i would like to add after reading a little bit more. Although the offered training is a “program” it is not paid upfront: it is pay as you go. By “program” i simply mean that it will be offered in conjunction with the community college and will be accompanied with an Associates in Applied Science.

  150. Dear Langer
    I am a LTC. pilot in the Royal Jordanian Air Force, i have about 2200 hours, mostly helicopter hours (900 hours on EC-135, 22 hours on MD-902 VVIP configuration, 1156 hours on the UH-1H and 120 hours on the MD-500D), i am a Flight Commander, an MTP and a Safety Officer for my wing, looking forward to flying for 2 years in a good paying job.
    What do you advice? and where meaning which state?
    Thank you for your concern and help in advance

    Mismar

  151. If i go into the air force to be a helicopter pilot and stayed in that for however long they make you stay what options would i have if i left the air force. Would that be good experience or not enough? And what could i expect to make?
    Thanks

  152. I just finished reading your blog and comments. Excellent information on the reality of the situation.

    I am in my late 20s and am about to finish my bachelors degree debt free because I paid as I went, took me 11 years vs 4 but it allowed me to work and buy a home.

    I originally wanted to fly for the military, but at the time they were not really hiring pilots (2000, peace time and they were trying to downsize) who didn’t have perfect vision. I need corrective lenses to see 20/20 and they wanted people who did not need glasses.

    So I went to school part time instead and am about to get a degree I can find work just about any where.

    What I have notice is a lot of people responding to this blog also have a dream to fly and are heartbroken when they see that its a very tough road to make a living at.

    So my suggestion to them is why not do what I am going to do, go for a private helicopter license instead, its cheaper (roughly the price of new lower end car), and since its not a JOB you really can’t get tired of it.

    It just seems every one ignores the fact that private license can be just enjoyable.

    • I think going for a private pilot license is a great way to get started. It’s enough to give you the ability to fly and, if you want to make a career of it, you can always go the next step. This is exactly how I got started — I never expected to make a career out of flying.

  153. Hello all,
    As a student pilot, (just finished private two weeks ago, in commercial now), if your interested in becoming a pilot, and your young, join the military. You don’t have to fly in the military, but the VA is a valuable resource. Right now they are paying 60% of my way, and most of my buddies in my flight classes that are VA are getting 100% paid for. The reason I am getting sixty vs. 100 is the time period that I served. Alot of you out there might be thinking that joining the military wouat ld be an awful route, but I will say, that I had a great experience and I wont be in debt 80,000$ when its all said and done either. And for all you would be pilots out there- It is an absolutely awesome experience. If you want to fly for a living, don’t let anything hold you back.

    • I think this is EXCELLENT advice. I think a military background can really help a young guy/gal make the transition to adulthood with a solid foundation that can only help them in the future. And those GI benefits can help you move forward when your military time is done.

      Thanks for sharing this.

  154. Hi My name is Devendra and I am an Indian. and I did my Flying from USA California, I have been working and collecting money to do my CHPL and now I dont have enough Money to do My CFI or CFII but i have a working experience or 6 years and ready to work any were and for any given salary, can any one help me to get a Job…or guide me so i can get the right Job….. thanks

  155. I was very glad to find your website as I’ve been lloking for answers about the helicopter job market. I’ve been trying to talk my best friend out of going into massive debt to become a helicopter pilot. She has a few children and some minor health problems. I’m hoping that seeing your website will be a wake-up for her. I work for a majot airline in customer service and most pilots i meet make the prospects for new inexperienced pilots look bleak

    • The health problems alone are enough to scare me off. I don’t know the nature of these problems, but if she can’t pass an FAA physical every year, she can’t fly commercially. Theoretically, she could dump $60K to $80K to get her ratings, fail a physical, and not be able to use her training to make money. What an incredible nightmare that would be!

      While I know this post has job market info, keep in mind that it’s a bit dated at this point. A better reality check for her might be the series I wrote about becoming a helicopter pilot. You can find the first part here: https://www.aneclecticmind.com/2011/01/17/so-you-want-to-be-a-helicopter-pilot-part-1-read-this-first/ I recommend that she read the entire series, which includes health and age related information, as well as costs and job information.

      The way the job market is right now, the thought of going into deep debt for any specific job — and there isn’t too much more specific than “helicopter pilot” — is terrifying to me.

  156. Hello Maria,
    I just came across this add and a few years of comment. I was just wondering if you knew of any job opertunities for a 500hr pilot with 300hr on turbine. Endorsed on BH47, BH06, RH44, EC30. I live and am licensed in canada but would go anywhere, just looking for a break.
    Thanks, Mark.

  157. I would like to get some information and opinions of mainly people that have experience flying in Hawaii and if anyone has attended Mauna Loa helicopters. I’m 23 and plan on attending the school in a few months with the help of a government loan. I’ve always herd great things about the school but I would like to hear from some pilots who have been working in the field in Hawaii for a few years. Any and all info would help.

    Thanks

    Justin

    • Justin,

      Hi. I graduated from Mauna Loa in December. You picked a great school. I did most of my training on Kauai and some on the Big Island. (note there is no more Kauai campus). They are a professional school and a lot of fun. They also care about their students which is evident.

      I am not an expert on the market in Hawaii nor have I been working “in the field in Hawaii for a few years” but I know a little. You will surely meet people who who have once you get there. For now I will let you know what I know.

      First, enjoy school, it is a blast. Learn lots and have fun. When you first graduate, the only job in Hawaii you will likely be eligible for is a CFI at Mauna Loa. As for the market at the school, they try to hire as many of their graduates as possible (and they do hire many of them) but no school can hire all graduates. If you do get a job with them, great. If not, get a job elsewhere and then come back to Hawaii later. When I graduated they were not hiring. I looked around for other jobs and received an offer to work as a CFI at a University in Korea; which I prefer actually. In the long run I want to stay in Hawaii but for now I want to travel more. Mauna Loa did eventually hire a chunk of the people I graduated with.

      If you work as a CFI at Mauna Loa, after a while (not sure how many hours) you are able to apply fly their tours on Kauai in an R44. You could also try to work towards being an assistant chief if there is an opening.

      Once you hit 1000 hours there are some other tour companies that you can apply to work for in the state (Paradise Helicopters is on the Big Island if you are looking to stay there). There are several tour companies in the state if you want to try out any of the other islands. I think Sunshine also has hired Mauna Loa CFIs on Maui.

      There are also some pretty cool utility jobs and fire fighting in the state (requires much more experience).

      Have fun at Mauna Loa.

      -Margot

    • I’m glad to hear the positive feedback and that your enjoying your time traveling. I’ve always thought it would be fun to travel around or just stay in hawaii. Either one Ill be happy with.

      I’m curious if you would know what some of the CFI’s make at Mauna Loa? I wanted to get an idea of what my financial situation will be once I graduate.

      Since you work in Korea do you speak Korean?

      Did Mauna Loa help you find your employment in Korea?

      Again thanks so much for all the info.

    • Justin,

      Hi there. Sorry about the delay.

      I do not know what the CFIs make at Mauna Loa. Most schools pay hourly for flight and ground. How much you end up making largely depends on if you are a good CFI or not. If you are good, students will book you and you will make more. If you are not so good you will have less students and make less. They do seem to have a constant flow of students which is something some schools do not have.

      Financially, it will be likely be hard no matter where you go. (Unless you have a pile of money saved up to live off of).

      I do not speak Korean but I am learning it. :-) I do not need to for the job, but I want to learn it so I am. I just know very basic stuff right now.

      Mauna Loa kept me informed of some job opportunities but I found this job on helijobs.net

      Sorry again about the delayed response. If you have other questions feel free to ask.

      Good luck,
      Margot

    • Thanks for all the feedback and sharing your experience with me. It’s good to hear people can still succeed at what they want to do. I’ll be attending in October so if I do have any more questions I’ll be hitting you up.

      Thanks again.

      Justin

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