Helicopter Pilot
May 19, 2007 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Getting trained and working as a Helicopter Pilot-filter. - I'm getting out of the Navy after four years, with a worthless AA degree. Flying helicopters is something I’ve always wanted to do but not for the military. Any helicopter pilots out there that can tell me where to get started??? (I'd love to hear some personal experiences:)

Some people say I need a private pilot licenses first, although two schools have told me it isn't necessary.

To get even more specific, I would like to use the GI bill for this, or even better, are there companies willing to put someone through school if a contract is signed. ...? Thanks everyone.
posted by nintendo to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try speaking to the people at embry-riddle aeronautical university. According to their site, there is a shortage of helicopter pilots, so maybe you can find some company willing to put someone through school, though possibly not a company in this country.

About 7 years ago, I visited embry-riddle's daytona campus on business. The person I met with mentioned that a lot of their foreign students' degrees were paid for by overseas commercial and charter airlines (because their countries had a pilot shortage and limited pilot training). The students signed a contract with the company, the company paid for their education and expenses for 4 years while they got their degrees, and then they went back and were locked into insanely long contracts.

Anyway, try to contact Embry-Riddle, it is a world-class aeronautical university and I'm sure they'll be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by necessitas at 3:02 AM on May 19, 2007

Thanks, this looks like a great start.
posted by nintendo at 3:41 AM on May 19, 2007

Naval Aviator here... also highly recommend Embry-Riddle. I use the GI bill (former enlisted) to help pay for my Master's degree. Taking one class is now "full-time", so you can expect a little over a grand a month from your GI bill.
posted by matty at 4:32 AM on May 19, 2007

Third Embry-Riddle. If you didn't get what you want from the military, they're pretty-much the only other outfit in town.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:53 AM on May 19, 2007

I think people were telling you to get your private pilot in a fixed wing because the GI Bill won't pay for your private and it's considerably cheaper to get it in a fixed wing than in a rotary wing. (A C152 with an instructor will cost $100/hr. while an R22 with an instructor will cost $300/hr., and you'll need 40-60 hours.)

Any 141/VA approved school will work, but it will be tough to find one with helicopter instruction. I wouldn't bother trying to find a company willing to hire you with zero hours and train you. You're going to need 500 hours before anyone will hire you and no one's going to take that kind of a risk.

Oh, and before you start any of this, I'd get my second class medical. If it turns out you're not medically fit for any reason, it's better to know up front before you've invested the time and money.
posted by MarkAnd at 5:29 AM on May 19, 2007

I'm a helicopter CFII, I just finished my training not too long ago.
Aside from what has been said before (get your second class medical, etc) I have a few things for you to think about.
Helicopter training is much more expensive then fixed wing training
For all of my ratinings (private, instrument, commercial, CFI, CFII) I spent well over $100k dollars. Granted you will have the GI bill to help you out. When I was doing my training I knew a few people who were using their GI bill to help with the schooling costs. One was from the Army, and one was a retired Marine. For both people the GI bill did not cover the entire cost of the schooling. I don't know the actual amounts paid though as that was none of my business.
Also when training the most important thing to consider is the school you go to. The road to getting a 'real' helicopter pilots job is somewhat ironic. Here's a simple break down. Note that this is mostly all caused by the insurance costs to insure pilots of a given amount of hours relative to the cost of the helicopter they are flying.

Start and finish your training. -- Finish with somewhere between 200 and 300 hours.
Work as an instructor for the next 800 to 1500 hours -- Yes the most inexperienced people are the ones to teach other people to fly [the ironic part].
1000 hours seems to be the golden number right now. At that point you can go on to a 'real' job. Real job meaning flying a turbine helicopter. (as up to this point you'll have been [most likely] flying a R-22 and R-44). But you can't get just any jobs yet. At 1000 hours you can get Tour jobs (grand canyon, Las Vegas, etc) or flying for the oil industry. Granted there are other jobs to be had then these two, but most people with pick one and stick with it for the next 3000 to 5000 hours.
After your time doing tours or flying rigs, you can then move on to a job you really want. The field is pretty much as open as it will be. You could get on with a logging company and they would send you to long line school. Do firefighting, corporate flying, EMS anything really.

But back to my point, the school you go to is going to be the most important choice you make early on. Normally schools try to hire their own students as instructors (to get them to that needed 1000 hours). It's win win for everyone. The student gets a job and the school gets an instructor they know will give training the way they want. BUT if for some reason you can't get hired by your school (no opening, school turns out pilots too fast, etc) what school you go to becomes important when you are searching for a job. Trust me when I say that's it's worth it to move to a place where a good school is at. I made the sad choice of going to school that didn't have the best reputation in the world and around the time I finished became known as an meat market (just turning out so many pilots). Now granted this form of schooling is just like any other it's what you make of it. So you can go to a sub par school and get great training out of it. But why not just go to the one of the best schools out there and know you are getting the best training and will have no trouble finding a job.

That said I can recommend a school. They are one of if not the best school in the country perhaps even north America. Quantum Helicopters. I never went there, and I am not working there nor am I associated with them in anyway. My best friend went there and is now a CFII employed there. I know first hand the training they give is top level. Again trust me when I say it would be worth the move to Arizona to go there. I was stupid the school i went to was only about 40 miles from Quantum.

I know I probably rambled a lot. So I'll watch this topic and if you have any more questions I will be happy to answer them.

Just remember.
  • School is the most important choice you make
  • It's NOT going to be cheap
  • It's not going to be easy
Also quickly some website you might want to look at;
Vertical reference and Just Helicopters
posted by blackout at 12:18 PM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Blackout, All I can say is thank you, you have answered so many questions. I am now seriously considering going to Arizona!
posted by nintendo at 1:59 AM on May 20, 2007

Glad I could help. Like I said any other questions just ask and I'll try to answer them.
posted by blackout at 1:12 PM on May 20, 2007

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