Let’s be honest, If you really want to know how to become a helicopter pilot, there’s plenty of information online. Plenty of flight schools and students do step by step guides on what to do and where to go, starting with visas if you’re an international student, to how to pick a flight school to even the best time of year to start training and it’s all very valuable information, something that I’ll touch on later.
One thing they all have in common, however, is that most of their information is for people who have already made up their mind, they’ve already decided to make the leap and join the ranks of helicopter pilots across the world, all they need now is the details of “Where do I go?“, and “When should I arrive?“
Well, that’s the easy part folks and I think if you’re reading this you probably agree with me. The question you have to answer first is “Why?“
Why you should, or should not, become a helicopter pilot is the most important question that will determine whether you waste thousands of dollars and countless hours and still end up without a job. I can’t tell you how many students fell by the wayside while I was in flight school and how many professional pilots still leave the industry even after investing so many years in the pursuit of flight hours and experience. Some fail, of course, flight training isn’t easy after all but more often than that they give up.
It’s a difficult industry to get into and can be equally as difficult an industry to stay in. Sure, there’s always a reason for it, there’s the global recession, the oil price decline, the low pay, the high stress, the limited amount of jobs, I could go on but the truth is you need to consider all of these before you get started on the questions of flight schools and the like. You need to know “Why” you want to do this before you try to figure out “How” you’re going to do it, or “Where” you’re going to do it.
This isn’t like becoming a plumber where you can finish your education and then apply to the nearest reputable company near your Mom’s house. Nope, you’re probably gonna travel a few hundred or a few thousand miles to a flight school and spend 6 to 12 months in the “emotional minefield” that is, flight training.
When I went through this process I had “tunnel vision” on becoming a helicopter pilot, as far as I was concerned, there was no other way. I couldn’t imagine not finishing flight training, I also couldn’t imagine not getting a job and right now, I can’t see how I could do anything else. Yes, this is probably painful for the people around me at times, but it’s not without its benefits. It’s what got me started and kept me going. I have literally traveled the world because of my profession.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like my experience either. I know plenty of pilots that now live in their hometown flying their dream medevac or firefighting job but they had their own hurdles to jump through to get there too. Most operators will want you to have a specific type of experience, Medevac, Night Vision Goggle, High altitude, etc, or time in a specific aircraft. All that takes time and effort and you’ll have to find your own path to get the experience you need but it’s all worth it when you get where you’re going.
As you think about your reasons, consider this. Life is short but it doesn’t have to be boring. There are jobs with a lot more stability, growth and money and those jobs are filled with people that would give it all up if they could go back in time and follow their dream. Obviously, there are millions of people that are happy doing what they are doing, presumably, they’re all following their dream but they’re not reading this, you are, and you my friend, are different. You see the helicopter on the highway picking up an accident victim to fly to a rooftop helipad Trauma Center and you think wow, why not me?
I have to admit that I love when people do a double take when they ask me what I do, I love that my kids teachers want me to be there on career day, I love knowing that I’m not waiting to get my life started because I’m already doing what I want to do and I love that I’m a constant example to my children that they can and should follow their dreams.
My advice is simply this, In your pursuit of “Why?” reach out to as many helicopter professionals as you can. You’d be surprised how much you would learn if you go about your research with a phone call rather than posting a question online and waiting for the internet “experts” to tell you what to do. Join LinkedIn and connect with pilots. Listen as much, to the bad experiences as to the good and if you decide that it’s still for you then I can assure you you’ll never look back. This is probably one of the most rewarding careers on the planet. The possibilities are endless.
The pay isn’t that high and the opportunities can be hard to come by, especially at first but remember, there doesn’t have to be plenty of jobs available in your chosen field, there only needs to be one and if you want it, you need to make sure that you’re the one who gets it!
If being a helicopter pilot is truly what you want to do, you’ll find a way, if it’s not you’ll find an excuse and that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, be honest with yourself, it’ll save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
An Aerial Saw pilot is a year-round position in that there is no busy or slow season. The 500D models we fly are like migratory birds chasing fine weather up and down the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways.