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Helo career info

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#61
This is a thread I started to gain a more sound and structured idea of being a Helo pilot in the military. While I will say I have been relentlessly searching the forum for answers to these questions, I have found very few clear and relevant answers due mostly to the date that the threads were posted. With that being said, my questions are fairly simple. I am currently in a pickle about going Marines or going Navy. If I go Marines, I can start applying now given the chance to attend PLC. If I go Navy I need to wait almost another year to begin the actual application process. To kind of aid in my decision, I have a couple questions that I could some fairly current info on. Yes, these are questions that probably need to be on the back-burner until I get selected, but they are questions in my mind, that I need an answer for before I decide what branch.

1. Given both respective branches for helicopter pilots, I know the respective roles are pretty different, but what is a general timeline for each side in terms of getting flight time and reaching the end of the commitment. If this isn't clear, basically, how many hours in Marines Helo vs Navy helo when the commitment is up. My reason for this question, which definitely shows I am thinking way ahead, is that if I decided to get out after my original commitment, do I or will I have a solid chance at a private sector flying job(not airlines).

2. Given each branch, what are the opportunities like to stay in the cockpit after the initial time commitment? Do you still have a high chance of flying or do they send to a more paper-pushing role?

Thank you for any answers that are provided. These questions are very important in my decision making process, so any help would be much appreciated.
A lot of these questions are discussed throughout this forum. The search function works well. Part of the process is reading and searching and reading - there are lots of opinions and factual content on all the answers you seek.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#62
A lot of these questions are discussed throughout this forum. The search function works well. Part of the process is reading and searching and reading - there are lots of opinions and factual content on all the answers you seek.
I can assure you that I have done endless amounts of searching and reading before I decided to ask these questions. I have been on the forum enough to know that is what should be done first, only I could not find current answers. I know a lot changes in 10 years. So if anyone is aware of a thread that has answered my questions with current or more recent info, please point me in that direction so I can keep things from being redundantly answered.
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
#63
Basically, be it USN or USMC, your fleet flight time is based off of readiness. Something I've noticed over the years is that, for a given timeframe, each community (VP, Helo, VQ, etc) tend to have the same number of hours/pilot after finishing a sea tour (or more accurately, a specific window of time, since USMC tours are a little longer). There are caveats, like Hornets, but let's ignore that for now, since your question is specific to helos.

Yes, there will be some that have more hours than others, for various reasons, but generally people come out about the same. Big-wing guys may have a little more nowadays, but they're still tied to readiness.

The Marines here can fill in what they're getting nowadays, but for the Navy side, expect around 800-900 TT and ~700 in model. If you go to the FRS, expect another 500-700 hours in model, depending on what's going on and how forward leaning you are. If you go to the HTs, and the birds aren't broken, 1K is attainable, but it will depend on how healthy the airframes stay.

These numbers are swags, based on what I'm seeing now. When I was a JO, the numbers were higher, but we live in a different environment now. Given where you are in your "career," these should be close enough, at least on the Navy side.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#64
Basically, be it USN or USMC, your fleet flight time is based off of readiness. Something I've noticed over the years is that, for a given timeframe, each community (VP, Helo, VQ, etc) tend to have the same number of hours/pilot after finishing a sea tour (or more accurately, a specific window of time, since USMC tours are a little longer). There are caveats, like Hornets, but let's ignore that for now, since your question is specific to helos.

Yes, there will be some that have more hours than others, for various reasons, but generally people come out about the same. Big-wing guys may have a little more nowadays, but they're still tied to readiness.

The Marines here can fill in what they're getting nowadays, but for the Navy side, expect around 800-900 TT and ~700 in model. If you go to the FRS, expect another 500-700 hours in model, depending on what's going on and how forward leaning you are. If you go to the HTs, and the birds aren't broken, 1K is attainable, but it will depend on how healthy the airframes stay.

These numbers are swags, based on what I'm seeing now. When I was a JO, the numbers were higher, but we live in a different environment now. Given where you are in your "career," these should be close enough, at least on the Navy side.
Thank you for the comment, that gives some good insight. To be clear, those hours are a ballpark estimate of what one could expect by the time their 8 years is up? If so, how does this translate to getting a job in the civilian sector if you can't stay on active duty?
 

RUFiO181

Making Recruiting Great Again
#65
Thank you for the comment, that gives some good insight. To be clear, those hours are a ballpark estimate of what one could expect by the time their 8 years is up? If so, how does this translate to getting a job in the civilian sector if you can't stay on active duty?
Your second question has been beaten to death on here. Start with searching "Airlines" and I believe you'll find a post/video by @ChuckMK23 about rotary aviation to the airlines. It's about 1-2 months old so very fresh information.
 

Jim123

DD-214 in hand and I'm gonna party like it's 1998
pilot
#66
How your military flight experience translates into getting a job depends on what the economy is doing 10+ years from now. Not to sound flippant, but commercial aviation has had its ups and downs through the hundred years it's been around. The economy had the housing bubble/bust about ten years ago, the dot-com bubble ten years before that, the recession following Black Monday (1987), the petro crisis in the 1970s... Helo bubba jobs follow a boom-bust cycle of their own too.
 

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#67
Commercial Helicopter jobs are all niche careers. Oil and Gas support, EMS, firefighting, logging, aerial crane services, etc. And as @Jim123 alluded to, all cyclical depending on the various sectors of the economy and government spending. There are a lot of low to medium time Commercial rated helicopter pilots out there - in part due to the VA's generous funding of helicopter flight training GWOT era GI Bill. As a former EMS pilot myself, the flying is fun and rewarding, but making a living and enjoying a lifestyle are hard to come by. A few have done it - so its possible.

The pilot demand - as articulated by so many others - is in scheduled air carrier operations globally. Its one of the few professions that has established professional standards and collective bargaining at scale resulting in rewarding careers for those who can jump through the hoops.

Air travel is growing - my employer has a $15BN USD backlog for commercial engines alone. 737's and A320's are being produced at the rates of 50+ (each) per month.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#68
Commercial Helicopter jobs are all niche careers. Oil and Gas support, EMS, firefighting, logging, aerial crane services, etc. And as @Jim123 alluded to, all cyclical depending on the various sectors of the economy and government spending. There are a lot of low to medium time Commercial rated helicopter pilots out there - in part due to the VA's generous funding of helicopter flight training GWOT era GI Bill. As a former EMS pilot myself, the flying is fun and rewarding, but making a living and enjoying a lifestyle are hard to come by. A few have done it - so its possible.

The pilot demand - as articulated by so many others - is in scheduled air carrier operations globally. Its one of the few professions that has established professional standards and collective bargaining at scale resulting in rewarding careers for those who can jump through the hoops.

Air travel is growing - my employer has a $15BN USD backlog for commercial engines alone. 737's and A320's are being produced at the rates of 50+ (each) per month.
Thank you for the responses! These are very helpful answers. At this current stage in my life, I can't truly say whether I would like to pursue an airline gig or other helo gig post military, but I at least wanted to know what is really out there. I wasn't entirely sure on the quality of life(financial comfort, living, family, etc. ) that is offered in the respective areas once you get out of the military. I may even just end up going reserves if I don't stay in and end up using my Computer Science and Math degree for a job somewhere in that area. Ultimately these are choices I want to be conscious of and know my potential options as this is my future, but put on the back-burner until it comes time to make a decision.
 
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Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
#69
While this is pulled from an Air Ambulance job listing (and these numbers are actually mandated now for the industry), it gives you a rough idea of what's required for a "decent" paying job in rotary on the outside:

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
• Current FAA commercial certificate with rotorcraft
• Helicopter instrument rating
• Current FAA Class II medical certificate
• 2000 total helicopter flight hours
• 1000 PIC in helicopters
• 1000 turbine flight hours
• 200 helicopter night-flight hours (can be combined unaided and aided)
• 50 hours IFR (simulated in aircraft and/or actual in aircraft)

I know a couple of guys who went to the FRS and managed to make these mins once they got out, but you'll have to hustle, fly every weekend that's available, and drive the train to get there. Getting 2K of helo hours for USN guys in two tours is the long pole in the tent. It should be a little easier at the TRACOM.

Of note, PIC hours are a combo of Part 1 and Part 61 definitions, so don't think of it as purely "1000 Aircraft Commander Hours in helicopters."
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
Contributor
#70
This is a thread I started to gain a more sound and structured idea of being a Helo pilot in the military. While I will say I have been relentlessly searching the forum for answers to these questions, I have found very few clear and relevant answers due mostly to the date that the threads were posted. With that being said, my questions are fairly simple. I am currently in a pickle about going Marines or going Navy. If I go Marines, I can start applying now given the chance to attend PLC. If I go Navy I need to wait almost another year to begin the actual application process. To kind of aid in my decision, I have a couple questions that I could some fairly current info on. Yes, these are questions that probably need to be on the back-burner until I get selected, but they are questions in my mind, that I need an answer for before I decide what branch.

1. Given both respective branches for helicopter pilots, I know the respective roles are pretty different, but what is a general timeline for each side in terms of getting flight time and reaching the end of the commitment. If this isn't clear, basically, how many hours in Marines Helo vs Navy helo when the commitment is up. My reason for this question, which definitely shows I am thinking way ahead, is that if I decided to get out after my original commitment, do I or will I have a solid chance at a private sector flying job(not airlines).

2. Given each branch, what are the opportunities like to stay in the cockpit after the initial time commitment? Do you still have a high chance of flying or do they send to a more paper-pushing role?

Thank you for any answers that are provided. These questions are very important in my decision making process, so any help would be much appreciated.
Apply to the Marine Corps now... Navy when able and take the first offer.

Currently, you’ll have a better opportunity to stay in the cockpit before your commitment is up in the Marine Corps. Navy likes to send you non flying for your final tour before your MSR is up and flying shore tours are still though to come by while the Marine Corps tends to send you to a 12-15 month B billet and then back to the squadron before PCSing your to another squadron or you hitting your EAS and they’re more hard up to keep pilots in flying tours (obviously the down side to that is there are reasons that they’re hard up for pilots).

Hours wise, due to the state of each Helo fleet, you’ll get more hours in one Navy tour than one Marine Corps tour of the same length, however Marine Corps tours tend to be longer in length by several years which makes it relatively even. You’ll have greater opportunity to branch out into fixed wing Flying in the Marine Corps as well as you advance in rank and station pilot opportunities open up, which will also help you on the outside.

Honestly if you’re looking for military helicopter flying, look at the Army WOFT Program. More flying, less paperwork and some interesting unconventional organizations to go fly. Some of those unconventional opportunities are open to a small # of Marines as well.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#71
Apply to the Marine Corps now... Navy when able and take the first offer.

Currently, you’ll have a better opportunity to stay in the cockpit before your commitment is up in the Marine Corps. Navy likes to send you non flying for your final tour before your MSR is up and flying shore tours are still though to come by while the Marine Corps tends to send you to a 12-15 month B billet and then back to the squadron before PCSing your to another squadron or you hitting your EAS and they’re more hard up to keep pilots in flying tours (obviously the down side to that is there are reasons that they’re hard up for pilots).

Hours wise, due to the state of each Helo fleet, you’ll get more hours in one Navy tour than one Marine Corps tour of the same length, however Marine Corps tours tend to be longer in length by several years which makes it relatively even. You’ll have greater opportunity to branch out into fixed wing Flying in the Marine Corps as well as you advance in rank and station pilot opportunities open up, which will also help you on the outside.

Honestly if you’re looking for military helicopter flying, look at the Army WOFT Program. More flying, less paperwork and some interesting unconventional organizations to go fly. Some of those unconventional opportunities are open to a small # of Marines as well.
I have considered the Army very slightly. I know a few guys that are in it and have had great success through it. I just don’t know much about the Army and their process. Also, since I was going to college for athletics regardless, I figured I might as well use my degree and try to be an officer. But I will most definitely look into the Army WOFT side of things a little more.
 
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RedFive

Well-Known Member
pilot
Contributor
#72
Air Ambulance job listing...

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
• Current FAA commercial certificate with rotorcraft
• Helicopter instrument rating
• Current FAA Class II medical certificate
• 2000 total helicopter flight hours
• 1000 PIC in helicopters
• 1000 turbine flight hours
• 200 helicopter night-flight hours (can be combined unaided and aided)
• 50 hours IFR (simulated in aircraft and/or actual in aircraft)
Maybe I missed it somewhere, but how much does a job like this pay, roughly?

Apply to the Marine Corps now... Navy when able and take the first offer.
This. Wings are the same color, shape, size, and the boats are all gray.

Honestly if you’re looking for military helicopter flying, look at the Army WOFT Program. More flying, less paperwork and some interesting unconventional organizations to go fly. Some of those unconventional opportunities are open to a small # of Marines as well.
There are some caveats to the Army suggestion. First, if you ever intend to rush a USAF Reserve/Guard unit on the back end of your AD commitment, you're going to have an uphill battle. Currently their instruction states that they don't recognize Army wings, thus, to get picked up by a unit you they're going to have to *really* like you and want to send you through all of flight training from scratch. It's doable, I know a Kiowa guy getting picked up by pointy nose unit right now, but.....keep it in mind. The unconventional opportunities are available on the Navy side, too.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#73
The unconventional opportunities are available on the Navy side, too.
Thanks, could you guys potentially elaborate on the meaning or things included in these "unconventional opportunities". I am aware of some that you might possibly be talking about, but honestly, I may be way off as well in my thoughts.

Side note, I am planning on visiting a Marine Officer Recruiter on Wednesday since there is an office just 20 minutes away. The Navy office is 3 1/2 hours away, so my chances of driving up there soon are very good, but I will most likely call very soon.
 
#74
Maybe I missed it somewhere, but how much does a job like this pay, roughly?
For my company around 70K/year plus cost of living adjustment depending on where the base is located. A pilot at a rural base will get the 70k, whereas a pilot at the metro base will get the 70k plus X%. 12 hour shifts. 7 days on. 7 days off. There are lots of overtime opportunities if you are willing to travel. Pilots are union, and they are currently negotiating the new contract.
 
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