Few things are as exciting as hovering in a Plexiglas bubble above the earth.
Helicopters are complex machines that require pilots to be on their game the entire flight.
Helicopters are agile machines capable of going virtually anywhere.
Most people would be happier if they did jobs that they thought would be fun when they were 10 years old. No 10-year-old wants to be an accountant or a computer programmer. Can you earn a living doing a job that you love? Absolutely… as long as people drive SUVs to the 7-11. The strongest demand for helicopter services comes from the oil industry. Most of the oil that is easily tapped has been exploited. The world’s new oil fields are offshore and accessible only by helicopter. A typical entry-level job is working in the Gulf of Mexico, working one week on and one week off. During the off week, the company buys the pilot a plane ticket back to his or her home anywhere in the U.S. The international jobs, e.g., in Thailand or Africa, might have a three week on/three week off schedule, with the employer paying for a ticket anywhere in the world during the time off. Starting salaries for oil rig helicopter pilots are about $50,000 per year and rise as high as $150,000.
Another entry-level helicopter job is sightseeing, notably in Alaska. Pilots move up to Juneau in the spring and work through the summer season flying jet-powered helicopters over some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.
The pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey pay $130,000+/year for experienced pilots to fly their executives in magnificent Sikorsky S-76 helicopters. They lift from the front lawn of the suburban office building and travel up and down the East Coast for meetings.
Long-line operations are some of the most difficult and best-paid. Logging companies use helicopters to lift valuable trees out of forests rather than cut roads. Air conditioners are lifted onto the roofs of buildings that are too tall to make it practical to bring in a crane. These jobs can pay more than $200,000 per year.
Medevac or EMS is a good steady job for someone who has already built jet-powered helicopter time flying sightseeing tours in Alaska or flying to the oil rigs. The pay is reasonable, the mission is noble, the pilots are excellent, the helicopters are beautiful. Due to the fact that pilots are paid to be on call but may seldom fly, the industry joke is that EMS stands for “Earn Money Sleeping”.
You’re not going to get rich as a professional helicopter pilot, but you won’t be bored, you will earn a comfortable salary, and you will have a wide choice of jobs in a variety of locations.
How long does it take? You pay for your first 200-300 hours of flight time, during which you earn a Commercial license, instrument rating, and instructor ratings. You instruct until you have 500-1500 hours, getting paid minimal dollars, but logging time while the students pay for the helicopter. After that, you are employable in a traditional sightseeing or oil rig transport job. Budget for 1.5-2 years of training and starvation wages before you can get a $50,000/year job.
The view from your new office…