Only the best helicopter pilots earn the coveted “Tier 3” helicopter jobs, and there are plenty of them. To borrow a line from Will Smith from the movie Men In Black, you have to be “the best of the best of the best” to become a Tier 3 helicopter pilot. Flying for corporate clients such as Chevron, Hess, Merck, Donald Trump, or Bell Helicopters are a few examples of the Tier 3 helicopter jobs. As a Tier 3 pilot, you are defining your legacy. Tier 3 pilots personify the term “professionalism” while defining the interpretation of “safety” and “skill”. In other words, you have to be good.
Obviously, it takes much more than experience, skill, and personality to land Tier 3 helicopter jobs. You must be known in the industry as “the cream of the crop”, having forged the perfect career path – making the right moves at the right time, knowing the right people. Tier 3 pilots go through the same process of applying for jobs as anyone else; submitting resumes and conducting face-to-face interviews. However, to be considered for a top helicopter pilot job you are among an elite group of pilots.
What are the differences between Tier 3 helicopter jobs and all other piloting opportunities? What experience does one need in order to be considered for Tier 3 pilot job? How much do Tier 3 pilots earn? You need to know the answers to these questions before you start the journey of becoming a helicopter pilot. Tier 3 pilots recommend you start your career with the “end in mind”. Meaning, you need a career plan. A successful career starts with the helicopter flight school where you get your training. They suggest you choose a flight school that will help you to fulfill your plan. Be patient, do everything the right way, and do not burn any bridges. Every step along the way matters.
Some high school baseball players dream about being “in the show”, playing for a professional baseball team some day. Those that make it paid the price, successfully advancing through each stage of the process; rookie league, Single A, Double A, Triple A, etc. Hopefully, with hard work and a little good fortune they will play in the major leagues because they did everything right. Pilots will find a similar pathway through the aviation industry. It all starts with attending the right flight school, and there are no shortcuts to “the show”.
“To be a Tier 3 Pilot you must be the ultimate ambassador for the employer, having an attitude that best serves the employer’s vision and values – the ultimate professional.”
Experience matters when competing for the best Tier 3 positions. However, professionalism, attitude, integrity, and propriety mixed with experience is the recipe for success. Your personal brand must match your employer’s mission. At the top levels of the aviation industry, the pilot is an ambassador, personifying the mission of the corporation. Everything is “mission” oriented. Your professional and personal attributes must stand out more than anyone else when competing for the job. Your communication skills must be extraordinary.
Choosing the right flight school is critical. The question is, “will your helicopter flight school provide you with a foundation to effectively advance your career? Will they go the extra mile and help you to develop communication and leadership skills? If they don’t, then pick another school!”
Starting out as a CFI and CFII you get your first job with a top flight school. From there you can start flying tours and charters in Las Vegas, Florida, or Hawaii. Next, stepping up to an EMS job flying for a well-known hospital in a large city, followed by a job flying VIP’s in luxury helicopters in Los Angeles or New York. In the next stage of your career, you might become a “test pilot” for Sikorsky or Bell. Next, you might take a job as a corporate pilot for a major corporation.
Your career could have included wildland firefighting, logging, utility, offshore gas and oil support, or even search and rescue. It could have included oil exploration, fighting fires for the US Forestry Service, mountain flying, animal capture/herding, crop spraying, bucket flying, or long line construction. Along the way, you should have graduated from college (perhaps even a Masters degree), earned dual ratings (fixed wing and rotorcraft), earned an ATP rating, and become certified through a top rank safety course.
Other examples of a pathway to the top could include Military Pilot, Director of Training for a corporate aviation company, Senior Flight Instructor Specialists, Chief Flight Instructor, Chief Pilot, Check Airman, Designated FAA Pilot Examiner, Fire Rescue Pilot, and much more.
No matter what experience you gained throughout your career, the bottom line is that the top paid pilots in the world have something special – something extra. They have a knack of networking and know what it takes for authentic career advancement. Where ever they may go, they always give more than they received, leaving a lasting positive impact, having helped their employer achieve their goals – mission-minded.
Tier 3 Pilots are at the top of the aviation food chain. Typical positions for a third Tier pilot are: Director of Operations or Chief Pilots and they are in charge of a Heli-Base and over see 4-200 pilots.