By Kyle Garrett
But there’s a catch to achieving this ultimate goal that most people don’t understand. There’s a black hole between when students finish their helicopter school training and when they have the required 1000 hours of pilot in command time necessary to apply for the bigger, better paying helicopter pilot jobs.
A lot of aspiring helicopter pilots assume that they will be hired by the school at which they completed their training. While this does happen for some pilots, there are no guarantees you will get hired by your school. You just can’t count on it. So how do you get to the all-important 1000 hour mark?
Some students opt for purchasing time building or hour building courses. This option usually starts with the purchase of block times in small helicopters. Basically you fly off the number of hours that you purchased and log those hours in your logbook. This option of course, costs the most money.
Another option is to secure a lower paying job in exchange for building hours. One program that offers this type of solution is available through Helicopter Academy a helicopter pilot training school with locations all over the USA.
I spoke with Thomas McDermott, manager of Helicopter Academy, at length about this problem in the industry. Here’s what he had to say:
“Many schools train just to the minimum number of hours and this doesn’t launch a pilot into a career job. To carry people in that big helicopter the pilot must have at least 1000 hours of rotorcraft time to meet insurance requirements. You get those hours by doing flight instruction or photo missions in a smaller helicopter while building up hours to meet the higher hour requirement thresholds. Those helicopter pilots with lots of hours are in demand and well paid but the entry level pilot might not be able to find a job if he works for free. He might have to pay for helicopter time building as the industry is saying he needs more time. We offer a path for those helicopter flight instructors that don’t have a job yet. Our insurance requires only 300 hours rotorcraft and 100 hours performing our photo mission which a student will pay for as flight instruction. After 50 tanks of fuel, 50 landings and 100 hours on the contract we will offer a guaranteed job. If a pilot has a commercial helicopter rating we can also teach the flight instructor rating along with this time building, too.”
The bottom line is that if you’re considering becoming a professional helicopter pilot, you need to plan your path all the way to 1000 hours pilot in command time. That most likely means you’ll need to be ready to fill the black hole between 300 and 1000 hours.
What’s your plan?