Where: Destin Executive Airport - Destin, Florida; of a typical sightseeing flight
Why with us: High-time instructors with years of experience teaching helicopter students; late model 2018 Robinson R44 helicopters, ($600/hour); superb no-expenses-spared maintenance
How: 30-40 hours of flying, 2-3 two-hour lessons per week for three months
How Much: $599 for an intro lesson; about $25,000 for your license based on min flight hours FAA (less than a new car; pay as you go
When: Call 850-774-0991 to schedule your introductory lesson.
Why Fly Helicopters?Piloting a helicopter is one of the most satisfying experiences available to a human being. You have the challenge of controlling the machine, the task of ensuring safety by thinking about potential hazards, and the interesting scenery rushing through the Plexiglas bubble. You won’t be thinking about office politics, calling the plumber, or the errand that someone asked you to run. When you put the machine back in the hangar, you feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction.
What about a job as a helicopter pilot? It beats flying a desk, that’s for sure!
Can you earn a living doing a job that you love? Absolutely… as long as people drive SUVs to the 7-11. The bulk of demand for helicopter services comes from the oil industry. Most of the oil that is easily tapped has been exploited. The world’s new oil fields are offshore and getting farther offshore. The only way for a person or a drill bit to get on or off an offshore oil rig is by helicopter.
You can live anywhere in the U.S. and fly to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. You work one week on/one week off or two weeks on/two weeks off. When you’re off, the company gets you a ticket back to wherever you happen to live . Starting salary is around $50,000 per year, rising to close to $100,000 per year, which can go pretty far because you can choose to live in a part of the U.S. with a low cost of living.
Another entry-level helicopter job is sightseeing, notably in Alaska. Pilots move up to Juneau in the spring and work through the summer season flying jet-powered over some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.
If you are adventurous, you can work off the west coast of Africa and earn over $100,000 per year, working two months on/one month off, with a plane ticket anywhere in the world for your vacation time. These jobs almost all go to Americans, Australians, English, and Europeans; the Nigerians know how to have fun, but there are very few Nigerians that an oil or insurance company will trust as the pilot in command of a $10 million helicopter.
The pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey pay $130,000+/year for experienced pilots to fly their executives in magnificent Sikorsky S-76 helicopters. They lift from the front lawn of the suburban office building and travel up and down the East Coast for meetings.
Long-line operations are some of the most difficult and best-paid. Logging companies use helicopters to lift valuable trees out of forests rather than cut roads. Air conditioners are lifted onto the roofs of buildings that are too tall to make it practical to bring in a crane. These jobs can pay more than $200,000 per year.
Medevac is a good steady job for someone who has already built jet-powered helicopter time flying sightseeing tours in Alaska or flying to the oil rigs. The pay is reasonable, the mission is noble, the pilots are excellent, the helicopters are beautiful. It would not be my first choice of job because of the large amount of waiting-around time.
You’re not going to get rich as a professional helicopter pilot, but you won’t be bored, you will earn a comfortable salary, and you will have a wide choice of jobs in a variety of locations.
How long does it take? You pay for your first 200-300 hours of flight time, during which you earn a Commercial license, instrument rating, and instructor ratings. You instruct until you have 500-1000 hours, getting paid minimal dollars, but logging time while the students pay for the helicopter. After that, you are employable in a traditional sightseeing or oil rig transport job. An alternative career path is to learn in the Robinson R44 and, at 200+ hours, take a job flying sightseeing tours at one of the growing number of R44 operators nationwide. Budget for 1.5-2 years of training and starvation wages before you can get a $50,000/year job.