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Helo career info

SynixMan

Professional CCX Wrangler
pilot
Contributor
#76
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.
This was the biggest downside to me when researching Helo jobs. That's a pretty brutal schedule for not amazing pay. Second year pay at a major is effectively double, plus 16% DC to your 401k.
 

phrogdriver

More humble than you would understand
pilot
Super Moderator
#77
The helo/airline pay difference was less dramatic not that long ago. Now that pay raises and upgrades are happening way faster on the airline side, if money and quality of life are priorities, go fixed wing.

On the other hand, if you want to fly cool missions, helo flying has that in spades, from EMS to police to fire to overseas contingency operation contract work. However, living that life can get hard, believe me. It's damn cool to chase dirt bikes with a helicopter. It's not so much flying on Christmas Eve, and reflecting on your meager paycheck while doing it.
 

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#78
The helo/airline pay difference was less dramatic not that long ago. Now that pay raises and upgrades are happening way faster on the airline side, if money and quality of life are priorities, go fixed wing.

On the other hand, if you want to fly cool missions, helo flying has that in spades, from EMS to police to fire to overseas contingency operation contract work. However, living that life can get hard, believe me. It's damn cool to chase dirt bikes with a helicopter. It's not so much flying on Christmas Eve, and reflecting on your meager paycheck while doing it.
Word.
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
#80
This was the biggest downside to me when researching Helo jobs. That's a pretty brutal schedule for not amazing pay. Second year pay at a major is effectively double, plus 16% DC to your 401k.
I can't argue with the airline comment, as phrogdriver is pointing out, salaries are obviously climbing. But something to keep in mind is you're also only working 6 months out of the year. For some, that quality of life can be worth the pay (just like it can be for airline guys).

For me, mission is more important than money. The question I'm struggling with is: whatever that helo job might be, how long will the mission be interesting?
 

SynixMan

Professional CCX Wrangler
pilot
Contributor
#81
I can't argue with the airline comment, as phrogdriver is pointing out, salaries are obviously climbing. But something to keep in mind is you're also only working 6 months out of the year. For some, that quality of life can be worth the pay (just like it can be for airline guys).

For me, mission is more important than money. The question I'm struggling with is: whatever that helo job might be, how long will the mission be interesting?
Do you mean half the year in the sense of 7 on/7 off schedule? My understanding is a lot of EMS types commute to base because their job because the locales are usually astuere at best. That would negate that unless you’re very flexible on where you live.

I don’t want to turn this into a helo vs FW post Navy thing. Everyone’s gotta find their their happy balance, glad there are bubbas who enjoy the work. I miss flying helos almost daily, but I didn’t think it was viable for me.
 

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#82
Flying EMS was ridiculously rewarding. Flying single piloted (and many times solo on admin/ferry/repositioning/maintetance flights) in a challenging mission is great - All your skills get pushed - everyday. And, no day is like the next. All of the current crop of EMS aircraft are a joy to fly - from Bell 407's to EC145's to things bigger.

There is little in the way of what 121 guys know as "dispatch" - so weight and balance, performance calcs, weather planning are all on you to wring out the max from your knowledge and skill. Healthcare providers as "crew" are of minimal value - busy with patient care.

But to be clear, the flying and the job itself is a blast. I was the only one in our 6 pilot, 2 aircraft base not active Guardsman or Reservist. We had one other Navy guy who drilled with HCS-84 and drove the 500 miles each way 10-12 times per month - it sucked for him. The other guys all drilled locally with Army NG flying 'Hawks.

There is zero career progeression. The path to more pay was to fly overtime which I did as the senior mid west ferry guy. That was a blast in itself. Other than that your options are to move to another base.

My best year was $45K flying a ton of overtime in addition to 14 duty days at my home base. So considering how much you are flying, not much in pay. Programs that operate under Part 91 pay the best to this day. 135 operations pay substantially less.

I'm skeptical about current reports of pilots making $70K per year. remember that your peers are mostly those without a 4 year college degree, and ceratinly not from any sort of prestigious university. It's more of a slightly blue collar culture. Some awesome pilots though. You just won't be discussing whats in today's WSJ or NYT with your base buddies.
 

xcinman

Hopeful Future OCS Applicant
#83
Granted I am not even in the Navy or Marine Corps helo(or aviation in general) community yet, but what about pilots for ICE or DEA and agencies in that spectrum? From what I am getting out these posts, while they are very rewarding and fun, post military helo careers are pretty low income for the amount of work and experience you actually have and your best chances of a real solid income is to find some area within the fixed wing world once you get out. Unless you value the mission or the service role more than the money anyhow, am I gauging this correctly?
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
#84
Do you mean half the year in the sense of 7 on/7 off schedule? My understanding is a lot of EMS types commute to base because their job because the locales are usually astuere at best. That would negate that unless you’re very flexible on where you live.
That's what i meant, plus vacation time. I'm by no means an expert on Air Ambulance, and learning as I go, but I've been doing a ton of research and networking, as well as talking with some buds that do it now. For locations I'm looking at with the company I'm looking at, commuting can be a thing, but seems to be something people do "short-term" until something opens up closer. Obviously it's a big market and I've only talked to a small percentage of guys.

I'm actually looking at doing that, but I'm looking at a base that also provides quarters/per diem and the commute home at the end of 7 days is only ~3 hours, so not a huge pain compared to what some have done.

I'm with you, everyone has to find their niche. I just wish I could find mine while flying LSF in T-34 for a few years as a contractor. That would be pretty epic.

I'm skeptical about current reports of pilots making $70K per year. remember that your peers are mostly those without a 4 year college degree, and ceratinly not from any sort of prestigious university. It's more of a slightly blue collar culture. Some awesome pilots though. You just won't be discussing whats in today's WSJ or NYT with your base buddies.
I was quoted $65K starting by one of the line pilots that works for the company I've been looking at. That was SPIFR, although apparently you don't actually execute SPIFR privileges until you're off 6-12 months of probation, which I thought was interesting.

I think it's a different market than what you experienced, Chuck. In large part due to the insurance minimums that have been put in place and an increase in safety awareness. I've been pleasantly surprised in my research at how proficiency is something that's understood and needs to be maintained, and an extra .3 at the end of a flight is okay to shoot an approach.
 

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#85
I think it's a different market than what you experienced, Chuck. In large part due to the insurance minimums that have been put in place and an increase in safety awareness.
Peace there - agree. My experience was all pre-NVD as well. We wore airline pilot style uniforms and DC headsets. My program was all VFR down to 500 and 1 Day. The BK-117B2 I flew was well equipped for IFR but we were prohibited from IFR operations. A “Night Sun” searchlight was our primary night vision tool. We did have GPS with fully updatable database.

I was taught by our LCA to pull the Hobbes CB in order to grab a quick ILS approach to maintain proficiency on runs to KLUK to refuel.
 
#86
My understanding is a lot of EMS types commute to base because their job because the locales are usually astuere at best. That would negate that unless you’re very flexible on where you live.
Very true. Most bases are in rural areas and the pilots live in metro areas. Rural bases have off duty housing, at the very least for the pilot. ADAMSairmed is a good site to see where EMS aircraft are located and what companies/gov agencies they are from.
There is zero career progeression. The path to more pay was to fly overtime which I did as the senior mid west ferry guy. That was a blast in itself. Other than that your options are to move to another base.
Spot on about zero career progression. If one chooses to promote up the ladder, there is less job security. With company reorganizations, positions have often been eliminated.
I'm actually looking at doing that, but I'm looking at a base that also provides quarters/per diem and the commute home at the end of 7 days is only ~3 hours, so not a huge pain compared to what some have done.

I've been pleasantly surprised in my research at how proficiency is something that's understood and needs to be maintained, and an extra .3 at the end of a flight is okay to shoot an approach.
If you are looking at the West Coast, you can shoot me a PM and I can maybe help you with more info.

Extending a flight for proficiency is totally ok to do and often performed. If your primary aircraft is down for maintenance and you're in the spare(different model aircraft), you can take the spare up flying for proficiency as well. I have also seen proficiency flights done prior to check rides. If your base supports a military contract, you do more training flights than actual 911 calls.
Peace there - agree. My experience was all pre-NVD as well. We wore airline pilot style uniforms and DC headsets. My program was all VFR down to 500 and 1 Day. The BK-117B2 I flew was well equipped for IFR but we were prohibited from IFR operations. A “Night Sun” searchlight was our primary night vision tool.
All of our bases have NVGs. Very few bases are IFR.
 

ChuckMK23

Former H-46 Driver
pilot
#88
I wonder how much longer this bullshit will last (from Air Methods job posting). Seems unreasonable and at worst illegal.

  • Pilots must have flown in category for a commercial operator or in the military within the previous 24 months
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
#89
24 months seems incredibly generous compared to other job listings where currency is defined. That said, I've seen lots of other AA job listings from not Air Methods that doesn't specify that.

So how is a company setting a currency definition illegal?
 
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