Category: Helicopter Studies

Helicopter Pilot Salary: How Much Can You Make?

John Peltier

If you’re considering a career as a helicopter pilot, one of the many aspects you’re undoubtedly wondering about is a helicopter pilot’s salary. I wish there was an easy answer for this, but the truth is that with all of the helicopter pilot jobs available, the helicopter pilot salary range is very wide. But that’s one of the things that make helicopters so cool – the wide variety of missions that you can fly!

On the low end, a commercial helicopter pilot may only earn $25,000 per year while on the high end a salary may be as much as $150,000. The website Payscale.com has surveyed helicopter pilots and found that the average helicopter pilot salary is roughly $73,000.

The Starting Helicopter Pilot Salary

If you’re a new commercial helicopter pilot, chances are you’ll have to pay your dues as a flight instructor. Some tour companies will let new pilots fly piston helicopters on tours if the flight hours for insurance minimums are met.

Flight instructors are for the most part not on “salary”; they get paid by the hour. And this varies between flight hours, ground instructor hours, simulator hours, etc. Different schools also have big swings in pay scales depending on instructor experience and operating costs of the school. If you have a lot of students at a big school chances are you’ll be doing well. At a small school with only a couple of students, you may need to take on a second job until you can build more hours. An average, full-time flight instructor can anticipate making $30,000 during the first year. It may not sound like a lot of money but is necessary for building helicopter flight time for pilot jobs with a higher salary.

The Mid-Range Helicopter Pilot Salary

Helicopter pilot flying a helicopter over a forested area - Helicopter Pilot Salary

Once you get somewhere over 1,000 hours you’ll be able to secure better helicopter pilot jobs, and most definitely one with a better salary than what you have been earning. Flying as a tour pilot in a turbine helicopter is usually the next progression. An entry-level turbine tour pilot usually makes somewhere around $40,000-$50,000. But again, much of this depends on location, company size, experience level, etc.

Pilots in emergency services generally make more money. A helicopter pilot salary for EMS can range from $50,000-$90,000 per year. Firefighting helicopter pilots typically only work those jobs during the fire season, somewhere around six months, and earn on average $75,000 in the six-month period.

The High-End Helicopter Pilot Salary

The high end of helicopter pilot salaries include jobs flying the offshore oilrigs, and for business executives and other VIPs. These helicopter pilots can expect to earn over $100,000 per year.

Payscale.com has also found that some of the higher-paying helicopter pilot jobs are in Jacksonville, Florida, where an average helicopter pilot salary of $108,000 was reported. Similar salaries were reported in San Diego and New York City. Some of this is compensation for living expenses in those areas. You may be earning more, but you’ll also be forced to spend more.

Bonuses may be available for jobs that require moving around (a relocation allowance) and/or for time in remote areas like the Arctic.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is, don’t expect to earn a lot of money your first few years as a helicopter pilot. This is true in any pilot job. Many people hear “pilot” and immediately see dollar signs in their head. Just like any job you’ll have to pay your dues first and it will challenge you. But it pays off, not only with a better salary later on down the road, but also with the opportunities to do things with a helicopter that fixed-wing pilots only dream of.

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Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe VFR Airport Operations in Class G

Wilson Gilliam, Jr.

A small, white helicopter floats across the sky, practicing different types of approaches to the Class G airport in Virginia. The student pilot pulls the red trigger switch on the cyclic, still timid with inexperience.

November 2045 Romeo turning right base, 28, Hampton Roads Airport.

The pilot of an incoming twin engine airplane, hearing the first radio call and unfamiliar with the area, maneuvers into a right-hand traffic pattern for the same runway a few moments later. The pilot is late to a meeting and still has to grab a rental car.

November 8077 Papa entering a right downwind, Runway 28, Hampton Roads.

UNICOM quickly pipes up over the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency).

November 8077 Papa, this is Hampton Roads UNICOM. We have a right-hand traffic pattern for helicopters only. Fixed-wing aircraft are to use a standard traffic pattern.

These types of radio exchanges are sometimes followed by a few choice words that are broadcast to the public thanks to tense hands and inadvertently open mics. Airplanes and helicopters are both ingenious marvels of the modern world, but inherently possess different flying characteristics. These variations must be planned for, especially at airports without an operating control tower, in order to maximize safety and efficiency.

A small single engine airplane by a hangar - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

I have flown both airplanes and helicopters commercially for twenty-five years. I’ve seen my fair share of helicopter versus airplane arguments, near collisions and foot races across the ramp to prove the point in person (you should plan on being out of the aircraft by the time the other pilot gets there). Can’t we all just get along? Yes, we can.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided pilots with general rules pertaining to operations within Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. The FAA has a strong commitment to safety and is a regulatory agency. So, let’s use their position on the matter as a starting point for this discussion about airplanes and helicopters sharing the skies at uncontrolled airports.

The FAA’s 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 91 (General Operating and Flight Rules) states:

  • 91.126 Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace.
    • (a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class G airspace area must comply with the requirements of this section.
    • (b) Direction of turns. When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace—
  • (1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right; and
  • (2) Each pilot of a helicopter or a powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft.

Note that 14 CFR 91.126 (2) does not specifically indicate “how” the helicopter should avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic. This provides helicopter pilots with some flexibility while remaining compliant.

Tips for Airplanes and Helicopters Sharing the Skies

Here are a few tips for helicopter pilots at Class G airports, with 91.126(2) in mind. Remember that communication and avoidance are key elements in successful coexistence with fixed-wing aircraft.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Airport Facility Directory (AFD) prior to making your trip.

Note any instructions regarding helicopter operations, non-standard fixed-wing traffic instructions, taxiway diagrams, FBO location(s) and any nearby obstacles.

  • Listen to AWOS, ASOS or other advisory service.

Note the wind direction and any special instructions regarding landing information for helicopters. If the wind is different than forecast, don’t be afraid to change FBOs (or other landing areas) if the decision safely creates less interference with other airport users.

  • Request an airport advisory approximately ten miles away.

Hampton Roads traffic, November 2045 Romeo, small white helicopter, 700’ 10 miles north, airport advisory, please.

Adjust altitude to preclude interference with airplane traffic pattern altitudes. Note any possible traffic conflicts and turn your landing light on. Be sure to use the terms “copter” or “helicopter” during all radio transmissions to avoid confusion over aircraft type. If you have questions about acceptable landing areas, ask UNICOM (if available).

  • Your approach path must avoid landing airplanes.

Hampton Roads traffic, copter 45 Romeo, one mile north, will make approach to taxiway Charlie, remaining north of runway 28.

A helicopter in flight - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

The slower approach speeds of helicopters make them especially vulnerable to being overrun. Utilize an approach path well clear of airplane traffic and plan on landing in an area that minimizes rotor wash to parked or taxiing fixed-wing. Be very specific during traffic updates regarding your approach path relative to the active runway. Acknowledge nearby traffic to help alleviate collision concerns. Don’t forget to look out for other helicopters, too.

I have found it usually best to plan the helicopter approach directly to my final destination at the airport. This permits efficiency for paying customers, while minimizing the impact of my operations across the airfield.

Remember that helicopter pilots are taxpayers, too. As long as helicopters are not impeding the flow of airplane traffic established in the pattern for the “purposes of landing,” helicopters have a right to use the normally smooth, wide runway surface. Sometimes, this is preferred when practicing run on landings or full touchdown autorotations from altitude. Fixed-wing airplanes waiting on the taxiway for take-off do not have the right of way over a helicopter on final approach or on the runway. FAR 91.113(g) clearly indicates that:

  • g) Landing. Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface…

Airplane pilots waiting for departure should comply with 91.113(g) and not incorrectly invoke 91.126(2) to try and force helicopters off of the active runway. Helicopter pilots should clear the active runway as soon as safely possible.

  • If it’s necessary to cross a runway after completing the approach, utilize sound runway incursion avoidance techniques.

Remain clear of any hold short lines for the runway while making a radio call prior to crossing. Avoid radio transmissions while crossing since this does not allow for possible warnings via radio prior to runway encroachment. Position your helicopter so that rotor wash does not create turbulence on the runway (note wind and traffic conditions). If there is a passenger or second pilot, confirm tail rotor clearance during pedal turns and that the runway is clear prior to crossing.

  • Use care during hover taxiing.

Hovering helicopters can make ground bound airplanes dance in the wind, pelting them with loose debris. Believe me; this does not foster warm and fuzzy feelings between swing-wing and fixed-wing.

Be careful not to taxi behind large airplanes performing engine run ups (or any condition requiring thrust). These situations can create possible loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE) or hitting cyclic control stops.

  • Use caution if operating near self-serve fuel pumps.

Helicopters landing and taking off near fuel facilities have substantial potential for creating conflict. Be aware of your rotor wash. If in doubt, land nearby, throttle down and wait for a safe opportunity to use that credit card. Pilots of smaller helicopters may be able to land a short distance away and push the aircraft to the pump with ground handling wheels. That’s a better option than making airplane drivers so upset that you can’t even sit at the restaurant lunch table. If it does happen by accident, buy your fellow pilot lunch. A nice lunch. Steak if they have it. Remember, as in life – your reputation follows you around.

  • If operating at the airport on a routine basis, sit down with the facility manager and develop a plan.

Helicopter on a runway, with an airplane - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

Meeting with the airport manager about routine helicopter operations is some of the best advice I can offer. Creating well-developed helicopter operating procedures for the airport will enhance overall safety and enjoyment. Discuss traffic patterns, reasonable landing sites based on wind and traffic conditions and recommend that other helicopter operators abide by the same guidelines. Encourage airport management to distribute helicopter recommendations via updates to the AWOS/ASOS recording, AFD commentary and written dissemination among airport based rotorcraft operators. Helicopter flight schools should consider including the resulting operational plan as part of their standard operating procedures (SOPs) provided to employees, students and renters.

Remember, it’s a big sky with room for both airplanes and helicopters, but a small airport. Safety and communication are the keys to the facilities.

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Sources:

14 CFR FAR Part 91

The Differences Between Helicopter Flying and Airplane Flying

Margie O’Connor

When asked how helicopter flying is different from flying an airplane, my response has always been the same: it’s much more difficult to eat a sandwich while flying a helicopter, whereas, in a well-trimmed airplane, light finger pressure on the yoke is enough to hold the aircraft straight and level while eating a sandwich with the other.

Why is this? Well, helicopter flying, although an adrenalin mounting endeavor (and the one I prefer), requires the use of both hands simultaneously on the controls. Does this mandate a white-knuckle grip, through all phases of flight, to keep the helicopter flying? Quite the contrary. Helicopter pilots are typically taught to place their hands and feet on the controls and then simply “think” about flying the helicopter or applying very small, smooth movements via the flight controls. But both hands are still occupied.

Aerodynamic Forces

Helicopter and fixed-wing flying use the same aerodynamic principles – just applied in slightly different ways. Lift, weight, thrust and drag play a role in the movement of both aircraft.

Thrust must be greater than drag to cause forward movement in an airplane in flight. In helicopter flying, these same forces act as vectors to accommodate the condition of flight (i.e., left, right, up, down, etc.). For example, in forward helicopter flight, lift acts as the vertical component of the Total Aerodynamic Force (TAF) and drag takes up the position opposite and perpendicular to the TAF. Or using a different visual, lift makes up the vertical component of the total lift vector with thrust acting perpendicular and opposite to lift in the same vector – thrust either acting forward (in forward flight) or left, right or to the rear (in the corresponding direction).

In steady state, un-accelerated flight in an airplane, lift equals weight and thrust equals drag. In a hover (in a no wind condition) lift and thrust combine into one force and are equal to and act opposite the sum of weight and drag.

Airflow

While these same forces come into play in both helicopter and airplane flying, the airflow is slightly different. In an airplane, the air flow over the wing speeds up as the aircraft’s speed increases. Helicopter flying incorporates both the helicopter’s speed and the speed at which the rotor blades move through the air.

How do we manipulate all these forces? Well, in an airplane, the pilot uses the control yoke or column and rudder pedals. In helicopter flying, the collective, cyclic and antitorque pedals control the forces in flight.

Controlling the Forces

In helicopter flying, the pilot’s left hand controls the collective and sometimes a throttle, depending on the aircraft. The collective is a bar or stick, if you will, parallel to the floor of the helicopter, when in the down position. As the pilot lifts the collective, the corresponding change in the rotor blade’s pitch angle increases lift and thus helps “lift” the helicopter up. The collective controls the up and down of the entire helicopter.

The pilot’s right hand controls the cyclic, positioned between the pilot’s legs. The cyclic runs somewhat perpendicular to the floor of the helicopter and provides pitch and roll about the lateral and longitudinal axes, respectively. The cyclic essentially works by changing the tip path plane of the rotor allowing you to maneuver in directions impossible for the fixed-wing pilot. So, yes, you can actually fly backward (without help from an excessively strong headwind) or hover over a fixed location!

While collective and cyclic keep your hands busy, the antitorque pedals demand your feet participate, as well. In a single rotor system, like those found on many trainer helicopters, pushing on the right pedal, turns the helicopter to the right while pressure on the left pedal, rotates the aircraft left. But that’s not the primary function of these two pedals on the floor. Their main purpose in life is not to add yet another required movement to flying a helicopter but rather to counteract torque.

Torque is the force that causes rotation and is countering the main rotation of the rotor blades. In aircraft flown in the United States, rotor blades rotate counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the rotors. Based on Newton’s third law of motion, torque imparts the tendency for the nose of the helicopter to move right. Antitorque pedals exist then, to counter torque.

So there you have it. Flying helicopters differs from flying airplanes mainly in the controls you will use… and that it may be slightly more difficult to eat a sandwich. But I’m still partial to helicopter flying: there’s nothing quite as awesome as hovering.

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References:

Center, U. S. (1996, July). Theory of Rotary Wing Flight. Fort Rucker, Alabama, United States of America.

Dole, C. E. (1994). Flight Theory for Pilots. Redlands: Jeppesen Sanderson.

Harp, P. (1996). Pilot’s Desk Reference for the UH-60 Helicopter. In P. Harp, Aerodynamics (pp. 6-18, 6-21, 6-32). Enterprise: Presentation’s Plus.

Michael J. Kroes, J. R. (1993). Aircraft Basic Science. Westerville: Glencoe Division of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.

Why You Should Earn Your Helicopter Instrument Rating

John Peltier

If you know any airplane pilots, there’s a good chance a number of them have their instrument rating and actually use it in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The same can’t be said for helicopter pilots though – many do have their instrument rating but have never, and will never use it.

Instrument flying is a completely different beast in helicopters, and most of this disparity is based on the basic design of the helicopter. Helicopters are inherently unstable. Because of this, the FAA requires complex stabilization systems for helicopters certified to fly in IMC – it’s not just something you can “add on” to a basic piston helicopter like you can an airplane.

Many helicopters – even the Robinson R22 – are certified for instrument training, but they’re not certified for flight in actual instrument conditions.

There also isn’t frequent need for helicopters to fly in IMC unless they’re in emergency services. Helicopters like to fly low – you won’t see them cruising through a thick cloud layer at 10,000 feet like you would an airplane. So why should you get an instrument rating for helicopters?

4 Great Reasons for Getting a Helicopter Instrument Rating

You’ll Be a Better Pilot: There’s that old saying that an instrument rating makes you a better VFR pilot. This is true! It teaches you a disciplined instrument scan and more precise flying. You’ll have better heading, altitude, and airspeed control.

More Employment Opportunities: And that’s a great segue into what employers are looking for. Some companies, even though they have no IMC-certified helicopters, require their pilots to have an instrument rating. This is for the same reasons just mentioned – instrument-rated pilots are usually more precise. Even if they don’t require an instrument rating, your experience from your instrument training will help you stand out from the others.

Earn More as an Instructor: At some point in your helicopter career you’ll most likely be an instructor. This is one of the few ways that low-time pilots can build hours for their helicopter careers. If you have your helicopter instrument rating and go on to get your CFI-I, you’ll have a larger pool of students to teach, and that means more instructor experience, pay, and flight time!

Increased Safety: And finally, there is always the safety factor. As much as you may say, “it’ll never happen to me!” inadvertent flight into IMC does happen. And if it does happen to you, won’t you want a solid skill set to save both you and your passengers?

Helicopter Instrument Rating Requirements

Alright, so how do you get it? And what are the helicopter instrument rating requirements? The requirements are laid out in Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61, Subpart B, 61.65. Put simply, you will need:

  • At least a private pilot certificate in helicopters, or are currently in the process of getting it.
  • Take a written test (knowledge test) and an oral & flight test with an examiner in either a helicopter or FAA-approved simulator (practical test). You’ll need endorsements from an instructor stating that you’re ready for both of these.
  • The flight experience you’ll need for the helicopter instrument rating is:
    • Forty hours of simulated or actual instrument flying, 15 of which must be with an authorized helicopter instrument instructor.
    • Fifty hours of cross-country flight as pilot-in-command. Ten of these hours must be in helicopters (you can credit airplane time if you have it).
    • A 100-mile cross-country flight in a helicopter, with an instructor, flown under instrument flight rules. You must complete at least three different kinds of instrument approaches and fly an instrument approach at each airport along your routing.
    • Three hours of flight training in a helicopter within 2 calendar months from the date of your practical test.
  • If you’re getting your helicopter instrument rating concurrently with your helicopter private pilot license, you’ll be far from getting 50 hours of cross-country flight time acting as pilot-in-command. That’s okay because the FAA now allows you to credit up to 47 hours of you performing the duties of pilot-in-command (as you do when you’re a student pilot).
  • If you’re using a simulator to log some of your instrument time, you cannot credit more than 20 hours in the simulator towards your flight experience requirements – the other 20 will have to be in an actual aircraft. If you’re getting your simulator time in a structured Part 142 school, you can credit up to 30 hours.

What to Expect During Your Helicopter Instrument Training

Ground Training: Getting your helicopter instrument rating starts with ground school, just like any other training. Think you knew a lot about the pitot-static system in your private pilot training? You’ll learn even more as part of your instrument rating. You’ll learn about various navigation systems and how to use them. You’ll learn even more about the Federal Aviation Regulations and how Air Traffic Control operates. You’ll become an expert at obtaining weather forecasts and interpreting them. And you’ll be able to complete a flight plan in your sleep. Most of this is in preparation for your knowledge test, which is a multiple-choice computer-based test taken at any of the FAA testing centers around the country.

Simulator Training: The good thing about technology is that the use of flight simulators can drastically cut the cost of getting your helicopter instrument rating. Simulators are finicky though – don’t expect them to handle just like the helicopter. They’re mostly used as procedural trainers. You’ll learn how to do preflight instrument checks, fly timed turns, holding, and a never-ending amount of instrument approaches! Mix in a few emergency procedures and you’ll be almost ready for your practical test.

Flight training: Your instrument training flights won’t be quite as scenic as your private pilot training flights. You’ll be wearing a view-limiting device for all of it but takeoff and landing. This headgear, like big glasses, limits what you can see to the instrument stack of the helicopter. It may make you nervous at first, and you’ll definitely have some pilot-induced oscillations all over the place, but once you get used to flying by the instruments you’ll be holding heading and altitude like a champ.

The Practical Test: The big day! You and your instructor will scrub your logbook until the pages fall out, ensuring that all of your requirements are met. The examiner will have you plan a cross-country flight with a few instrument approaches at different airports. Before the test, the examiner will also take a good look at your logbook. You can expect an oral exam (length varies) on a mix of the topics you covered in your ground training – everything from flight planning to emergencies. After passing your oral exam it’s time for the flight! You’ll wear the “foggles” for everything but takeoff and landing and start your cross-country flight under instrument flight rules, following routing as directed by ATC. During the flight you’ll do a few instrument approaches, have a simulated emergency or two, and then return home, and now you have your helicopter instrument rating! That’s it!

Costs of Getting a Helicopter Instrument Rating

It’s no secret that helicopters are expensive. But there are ways to cut the costs of getting your helicopter instrument rating, especially if you plan ahead. Unless you’re extremely wealthy and just wish to fly helicopters as a hobby or for your own personal business trips, you’ll most likely also be getting your commercial license and flight instructor certificate at the same time and you can use this to your advantage.

If you don’t even have your private pilot license yet, remember earlier how we mentioned that you could credit some of your flight time from your private pilot training towards your instrument rating. You can only do this if you’re doing both at the same time – and this will be difficult and more expensive up-front.

If you already have your private pilot license and are getting your commercial pilot license, combine your commercial cross-country flights with your instrument training. Grab an instructor and fly to another airport wearing the “foggles”. You’ll be able to log cross-country time as pilot-in-command for both your commercial license and instrument rating, and also log instrument flight time.

If you can, choose a school with an FAA-approved instrument simulator and/or an R22 certified for instrument training. This will be a much cheaper alternative to the more common R44 instrument trainers, though more difficult to fly.

Once it’s all said and done, you can expect to spend between $12,000-$20,000 depending on multiple factors, such as your prior flight experience, proficiency, equipment used, etc. But it’s an investment that will pay off in spades further down the road as you progress in your career as a helicopter pilot.

After Getting Your Helicopter Instrument Rating

Stay current if you can! If you’re an instructor at a school that has a flight simulator, jump in and knock out the required maneuvers every six months. If you don’t have access to a simulator, you’ll need to fork out the money for renting an instrument trainer but that’s your call. Maintaining current will only make you better.

If you’re part of a commercial operation, you won’t be able to “rent” the ship and maintaining currency may be more difficult. Some operators may let you shoot an approach to the runway every now and then instead of going to your landing spot, and this will help you stay current.

Don’t forget to show it off! Make sure it gets on your résumé when you’re looking for a job. It’ll not only help you get the job, but it’ll help make you a safer, better pilot!

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How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

Learning to Fly Isn’t as Hard as You Think

Wondering how to become a helicopter pilot? The first steps to getting into a cockpit are clearly defined, and most people qualify to start training immediately. Here are the details you need to know.

You’re watching the quintessential over-the-top car chase scene and the star is making a getaway so fast the police can’t catch him. No back street short cut combination will put the cops at a great enough advantage to cut the hero off. Then the helicopters enter the high-speed chase. There’s no more hiding for the poor car. Air power is simply better. You think to yourself, “That would be a cool job. How do I get a job like that?” The answer: start flying helicopters. Get some experience. Then apply for the job.

Anyone can buy a discovery flight in a helicopter. A discovery flight is essentially an introduction lesson for you. Much like an introduction to martial arts class or an introduction to painting, you can buy an introduction lesson to flying. The lesson normally lasts about two hours. In that time you would get a basic introduction to the parts of a helicopter and how they work. You also get to fly with an instructor for about half an hour. The discovery flight is normally a short flight just around the airport. If you are savvy enough to point the way and you don’t live very far away from the airport, you could even ask the instructor to fly over your house.

You’ll need to find a school that teaches flying in order to buy a discovery flight in a helicopter. These schools aren’t usually the local high school or recreation center. A school that teaches flying can be found at your local airport. You are likely familiar with the international airport near you; these are the airports where airlines operate. In some cases international airports are too busy for learning to fly, but many flight schools do operate from these airports. Flight training also happens at local airports, which are likely closer to you. An online search for airports near your city will reveal the small local airports in your area. You can also use this (av-info.faa.gov/PilotSchool.asp) search engine on the Federal Aviation Administration website to find the address of flight schools in your state.

Once you find the flight school nearest you, simply walk in for a visit. Be sure to visit the flight school before buying the discovery flight. You’ll want to see the aircraft and meet at least one instructor. Though appointments aren’t typically required, you may want to call and make an appointment with the school. This will ensure you don’t have to wait around to talk to someone once you get there. In addition, it helps the school be prepared for your visit.

If you like what you see, ask to schedule a discovery flight. The cost should be anywhere from one hundred to two hundred dollars if the school has smaller aircraft. You’ll be charged for the aircraft hourly operating expenses as well as the flight instructor hourly fee. The aircraft cost can be negotiable if you are willing to reduce the time you spend in the air. Consider paying for half an hour instead of an hour in the air if you are strapped for cash. The instructor hourly rate is likely not negotiable. You’ll be charged for the amount of time you spend with the instructor whether on the ground or in the air. Be prepared to pay the bill for the discovery flight prior to takeoff or immediately upon returning to the airport from your flight.

If the flight is enjoyable, you may want to consider scheduling your first lesson immediately. You’ll be required to verify your citizenship prior to starting training with two forms of identification. Generally, you’ll need your instructor to teach you for twenty or so hours before you are ready to go it alone. Before your instructor gives you permission to fly alone in the helicopter, he’ll check your abilities to ensure you can fly a helicopter alone safely.

All pilots must also complete a medical evaluation. Before you can fly by yourself you’ll need to visit an aeromedical doctor to get a certificate stating you are healthy enough to fly. The doctor will check your vision to be sure you can differentiate between a red and green light and have 20/40 vision or better, with glasses if you need them. The doctor will speak to you from across the room at a conversational volume to find out if you can hear well enough to fly. You’ll also need to provide a urine sample for basic testing. Neurologic, mental, diabetic, and cardiovascular conditions may require a more extensive review by your doctor.

As you can see, the first steps for getting into the cockpit are pretty simple. Most people qualify to start training immediately. Find a school near you and schedule a visit and a discovery flight. If you like it, sign up for training. And don’t worry too much: a pilot medical evaluation for a pilot in training is far from intimidating.

So, now that you know the first steps on how to become a helicopter pilot, what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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Helicopter Pilots: Landing a Good Job Includes Networking

What is your industry network and who is in it? If you don’t know, you need to know. For helicopter pilots, landing the best job is all about pilot skills, experience, AND networking. Of course, you will need a good resume, the right type of experience, and some very good people skills. But even more important, you must be known by those who have influence in the industry. Helicopter pilots get hired because they have good connections with reputable people within the industry. Essentially, they know somebody. If you are not known, you might struggle to find good jobs that pay well.

The absolute best “networking” opportunity is to attend Heli Expo presented by Helicopter Association International. Another great opportunity can be found at the Heli Success conference in Las Vegas. Both conferences are incredible opportunities to meet prospective industry influencers.

Being “professional” is a serious matter, and you need to be a serious pilot. However, having a good personality is just as important. Always be approachable, humble, and courteous. Be willing to smile, laugh at appropriate times, and be comfortable being yourself. If you struggle with “people” (too shy or too aggressive) work on your people skills during flight training. Both “piloting skills” and “people skills” will advance your career, or hold you back. Again, landing the best pilot job is all about networking.

Networking is not about passing out business cards. In the helicopter aviation world networking is work. You must be authentic, genuine, conscientious, alert, and passionate about the helicopter industry. It helps if you like people, or at least enjoy meeting new people. When networking with the influencers of the helicopter industry remember that they have the same interests you have – flying helicopters. Learn to enjoy the process and maximize your opportunities. Always remember, first impressions are important so take it seriously.

Networking – What is it?

  • Building professional relationships
  • Introducing yourself and meet people known
  • Find people with similar backgrounds and interests
  • Get known
  • Join industry associations and be willing to serve
  • Listen, learn, and be receptive

What networking isn’t

  • Schmoozing, brown-nosing
  • Appear needy, pushy, disingenuous
  • Whipping out business cards
  • Connecting online without a proper introduction
  • Shot-gunning blind resumes

Your First Connection Comes From Your Flight School – Choose Wisely

The first important connection you will establish comes from the helicopter flight school you attend. This connection can help you, or hurt you. It depends on the quality of the helicopter school and the type of training you receive. The top schools will prepare you for industry, including helping you to development leadership skills (people skills).

Moreover, the best helicopter flight schools can help you get your first job. First, the better flight schools hire their top graduates (CFI). Second, the best flight training programs are networked with Tier 1 employers, and, therefore, are positioned to help graduates get their first industry job outside of flight instruction. Tier 1 employers will recruit pilots from the best flight schools. Your reputation as a pilot will be tied to the school you trained with.

You will hear that the “helicopter aviation industry is very small”. You will hear this over and over again. Why? Because it is true. Helicopter pilots build their reputations over time, both good and bad. If you stick around long enough, people in the industry will know you by reputation before they meet you. You certainly do not want to burn any bridges or fail an employer. Negative “nicks” on your reputation will follow you everywhere. If you are a good pilot, people will know. If you are jumping from job-to-job, they will know that too. If you are “networked,” a great communicator with good people skills, AND you are a good pilot, your resume will be at the top of every stack.

How are your people skills? Do you need leadership training?

Helicopter pilots with good people skills naturally know how to build strong connections with industry leaders. The question is: “How are your people and leadership skills?” Are you coachable? Are you teachable? Do you listen? Do you communicate well? Do you follow instructions? Do you submit to authority? Do you get along well with colleagues and customers? If not, you need help. Your pilot career will only go so far, and regardless of your experience you will be overlooked and left behind.

If you are a great communicator with good people skills, it will be easier for you to build strong connections with industry leaders. If not, get some help now. Find a school that will teach you flight training AND people skills. We are not suggesting that you become a “brown noser” – that never works and will always backfire. We are referring to an authentic desire to learn from the best. Be a good student, never be a know-it-all, and be hungry to learn while working very hard. Be dependable, flexible, courteous, respectful, and fair. Always be willing to learn from every situation. Treat everyone with respect, honor, and protect their dignity – just like you would want to be treated. Essentially, be a professional in every way.

Industry experts will tell you to find a mentor

The helicopter industry experts will tell you that you need to find several mentors early in your career. Find several people who have risen to the top of the aviation industry. Reach out and establish a professional relationship. At the right time, in the right moment, ask them to help you to be the best all around pilot. Don’t be intrusive, or arrogant, but simply say, “how did you get here (industry leader) and can you help me craft my career?”

Attend industry conferences and meet people face-to-face. Be patient. It may take dozens of conferences before you can connect with industry leaders. Once you have established a connection, never “name drop”. Never exaggerate your experience. Be humble and appreciative. Show prospective mentors that you are serious about professionalism, and be willing to develop real relationships. Never let your mentor down and do not soil his/her reputation by acting like a bonehead – you might not recover.

The time to develop a network starts before you start flight school

The time to develop your industry connections is now. Before you choose a flight school, do your homework. Call Tier 1 employers and ask them for a recommendation on flight schools. If you have chosen a school, before you sign on the dotted line, call around and find out if they have a good reputation for producing quality helicopter pilots for the industry.

Networking Tips for Introverts

  • Network one-on-one rather than in big groups
  • Work toward creating valuable, deep relationships with a handful of approachable influencers
  • Prepare in advance – anticipate key topics and have questions ready to get a conversation going
  • Help someone else network, or pair up with someone you know to get an introduction

5 Tips to get your foot in the door

  • Discipline yourself and make a plan
  • Stay alert – look for opportunities to be around the right people at the right time
  • Don’t hijack conversations or outstay your welcome
  • Be open to new ideas and alternative plans
  • Utilize the people you already know

The Network Code of Ethics

  • First impressions are everything
  • Everyone you meet will be evaluating you – be smart
  • Helicopter aviation is a small industry – people talk
  • Think about proper business attire – if in doubt, overdress
  • Take out piercings and cover tattoos
  • Be smart with alcohol – don’t get sloshed
  • Know your career plans
  • Get rid of negative attitudes or sense of entitlement
  • Social Media can sink your ship

HAI – Heli Expo Networking Opportunities

  • Pilot Mentoring Panels
  • Industry Job Fair
  • Rotor Safety Challenges
  • Welcome Reception
  • Annual Membership Breakfast
  • Committee Meetings
  • Salute to Excellence Awards Dinner
  • Heli Expo Exhibitor Booths
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The Cicare CH-12 Helicopter

The CICARE CH-12, is the latest offering from the Cicaré company. It is a two-seat light helicopter for civilian use that is sold as a kit. This product summarizes the experience of Augusto Cicaré and the creativity of an avant-garde design team.

The result is an aesthetically stunning helicopter for both exterior and interior lines, an unprecedented design in this type of aircraft. One of the most important design premises were the interior comfort, so that we can say that our cabine is one of the most comfortable of the segment.

The CICARE CH-12 is made entirely of aerospace materials and the blades are made of composite materials with useful life on condition. The CH-12 is presented as a new option and it sums up many technical solutions provided for the creativity and experience of Augusto Cicaré. The power plant used is Lycoming O-360, which gives us the greatest safety as regards one of the most important components in a helicopter.

About Cicaré Helicopters

  • Cicare has 14 different models of helicopters, and the Helicopter Flight Trainer Cicaré SVH-4, which positions them as worldwide Research and Development leaders in the Aerospace sector.
  • Throughout their developments they have researched and tested different technologies. As for rotors: (two-bladed, three-bladed and four blades, rigid, semi-rigid and articulated, conventional and contrarrotantes). As for different engines (piston and turbine), and different sizes (from 115 kgs cars a two-seater of 1400 kgs), so that the solutions that we are using in their products today are the result of experience.
  • Cicaré technical manager, Mr. Augusto Cicaré has an important track record. Among his main achievements there are: in 1958 flew his first helicopter, the CH-1, becoming the first to do so in Latin America; he was the world pioneered of ultralight helicopter.
  • Cicaré built the CICARE CH-4 in 1980, one of the world’s first ultra-light, then the CH-6 CH-7 model, recognized for its innovative command system.
  • In 1996 he invented the Simulator / Trainer Helicopter Flight Cicaré SVH-3, which was awarded with gold medal for best invention of the world in the aerospace category in the Geneva Motor Show in 1999.
  • Cicare S.A. have a professional team that have been working with Augusto Cicare for years, and a variety of developments that allow us to offer models and configurations that will cover the needs and tastes of different markets. They are currently producing the Simulator / Trainer Helicopter Flight CICARE SVH-3, the one seat helicopter CH-7B and the first pre-serie of the two-seater helicopter CICARE CH-12.
  • Cicaré is also in the final stage of development of the tandem two-seater helicopter powered turbine CICARE CH-14.
Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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SFAR 73: What is it and Why is it Important for Student Pilots?

Due to a series of “student pilot” accidents involving Robinson aircraft the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on March 27, 1995, established a specific training requirement for the R22 and R44 helicopters. These requirements applied to students under instruction, pilots acting as pilot in command (PIC), and flight instructors. Below we provide a bried explanation of the SFAR 73 and what it means. For a detailed explanation please see the resources provided at the bottom of this page.

In order for a student, pilot, or instructor to manipulate the controls of an R22 or R44 helicopter, they first have to have received “awareness training” from an authorized flight instructor (CFI). The CFI is authorized by the FAA, and therefore able to issue the students or pilots an endorsement stating that they have received the propoer awareness training regarding the R22 or R44.

Over the years, innovations in helicopter design and new regulations from the FAA have made helicopters safer, more reliable, and easier (less complicated) to fly. SFAR 73 was an innovation to flight training that made a big difference in regard to safety and improved flight training.

For more information regarding SFAR scroll down below the videos.

ULA Training Video – R22 Collective Video

To see all the ULA Training Videos on Youtube – click here

ULA Training Video – R22 Cyclic Video

ULA Training Vidoe – R22 – AntiTorque Foot Pedals

Student Solo Flight

In order for any student pilot to solo in an R22 (assuming the student does not hold a rotorcraft helicopter rating), he/she must log 20 hours of flight first. These hours must be flown with a CFI (dual-instruction), and obtain not only the standard solo endorsements (in logbook and on student pilot license), but he/she must also obtain an SFAR solo endorsement from the instructor.

If the student wishes to skip the R22 and start in the R44, he/she must log 20 hours of dual-instruction in the R44and obtain not only the standard solo endorsements (in logbook and on student pilot license), but he/she must also obtain an SFAR solo endorsement.

The endorsement is as follows:

I certify that Mr./Ms. _______________ has received the awareness training required by SFAR 73, 2 (A)(3)(i-v) on __________ (Date).

__________ (Instructor) __________ (Certificate Number) __________ (Exp. Date)
Robinson R22 and R44 Helicopter SFAR 73 Awareness Training is the required ground training that students and pilots must have before they can manipulate (fly) the flight controls of an R22 or R44 Helicopter. The awareness training also covers Low RPM leading to Low Rotor RPM Stall, Low G leading to Mast Bumping and Energy Management.

Other Valuable Resources

SFAR Youtube Video Training (training video 1) (training video 2)

Helicopter Training Videos

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Caleb Mason: ULA Graduate and Ag Pilot

Caleb Mason, Upper Limit Aviation graduate and current Agriculture Pilot (or Ag Pilot), recently shared an update regarding his commercial pilot journey – bringing us up to speed about what has transpired since he finished the ULA flight training program less than a year ago.

Ag Pilots fly specially-designed helicopters to apply herbicides, insecticides, seeds and fertilizers on crops, orchards, forests, fields, and swamps. Other applications include counting cattle and inspecting crops.

Caleb Mason is 33 years old, and has accumulated 550 of flight hours by flying for Ag Air, Inc., in Central California. Ag Air, Inc., is a fairly small Agriculture aerial applicator company, flying between 400hrs to 600hrs annually. Caleb shared his impression of his new job with Ag Air, “I love what i do, I love working with the growers and getting to know them and being able to help them continue to farm in the area.”

Caleb started our conversation by saying, “agricultural piloting is an interesting field, and I don’t have a wide spread grasp of the entire industry, but in my particular area, which is the San Joaquin and Stanislaus County, we work predominately with row crops, tomatoes, corn, beans, alfalfa, pumpkins and watermelons. We are also branching out to include walnuts and almonds orchards.”

Caleb’s Agriculture Career Journey Stated Well Before Flight School

Caleb stated that he got into Agriculture spraying because he knew the owner of Ag Air, Inc., prior to attending flight school. Caleb had actually started working in the agricultural industry prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps. In addition, during his flight school training in Salt Lake City, Caleb studied for the for the California’s aerial applicator license. Caleb used his network contact and previous work experience to plan out his career path before he earned a single pilot certificate.

While Mason was not flying or studying during flight training he found the time to pick up some work with Ag Air, Inc. as a “loader” (loading chemicals on to the helicopter tanks). It was during that time that Caleb received the training about chemicals, how they interact, their applications. More importantly, Mason learned how to work safely around helicopters.

When Mason left Upper Limit in December of 2014, he earned his commercial and instrument ratings, along with gaining experience with external load flying (300 flight hours). Caleb started full time employment with Ag Air right after he left Salt Lake City.

Due to the fact that Caleb had low flight hours, his boss came up with a training program in order to get the company’s insurance provider to cover him. Caleb stated that “An Ag Pilot from his area earns any where between $30,000 to $80,000 annually, depending upon experience and commission rates”.

Caleb’s Early Employment as an Ag Pilot

“At first, I could only ferry the helicopter to and from the job site. I couldn’t actually work as a crop duster. Next, I was to rinsing loads at the end of each job. At the end of every job we would run clean water through the spray system to rinse out any chemical residue that may damage the crops in the next job. While it seemed frustrating at the time, it helped me get used to taking off with a load, how to effectively perform Ag turns, and how to survey the fields for hazards such as wires, irrigation stand pipes, people in adjacent fields and other crop dusters in the area.”

Eventually, Caleb was ready to fly, “My boss and I would fly together – he would fly a load, and I would fly a load. That way he could double check how far off line I was and if I was able to get good coverage.”

“Before and after jobs we did a lot of training on how to lay a job out, what is the requirement from the farmer? I learned how many gallons per acre are we trying to achieve and the proper material required for each job. I learned all about the difference between coarse droplets and fine droplets and their proper use. I also learned about where to best set up the nurse truck and be efficient through the field.”

“By May I was flying jobs solo with oversight of our senior pilot, who would watch from the ground and then critique the job after we got back. There is a lot that goes into flying Ag applicators.”

How Caleb Stood Out Over Other Pilots

During flight school Caleb constructed a smart career plan. Caleb shared his method with us to pass along to current students, as Mason stated, “One of the things that I did to make myself more appealing to my boss was that I also got my A&P (Airframe & Powerplant) while i was going to flight school. So not only do I work as an Ag Pilot but I also do almost all of the maintenance.” Now that was smart!

Because of where Ag Air is located they are able to fly about 9 to 10 months of the year. They spray herbicide to kill weeds and pesticide to kill insects. In addition, Ag Air performs aerial fertilizing, seeding, cherry drying and frost control. Caleb went on to say, “An area we are getting more work from is the organic sector. There are 268 registered chemicals you can spray on organic produce and it is still considered organic. It is big business in California.”

Caleb’s Time in Salt Lake City, Utah at Upper Limit Aviation

“There are a lot of nice things about Utah. I got big into rock climbing when I was there and was spoiled with being so close to all the fantastic spots that were only minutes away. I also really enjoyed all of the instructors I worked with at ULA. From Matt Tanzer, who was my private pilot instructor, to Chelsea Tugaw, Chad Stevens, Kevin Horn and many more. These people brought fort. In addition, ULA was very helpful when I was looking to move to Salt Lake City when I first got out of the Marine Corps.”

Caleb has a job that he loves, working with people he likes, and has a clear vision of his future. We congratulate Caleb on a job well done, and wish him continued success as he advances his pilot career.

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More Female Helicopter Pilots in the Industry

There is a very recent upward trend of female helicopter pilots entering into the “male dominated” helicopter industry. We believe this is good news, and this movement seems to be world wide. At Upper Limit Aviation we are finding that more women are donning flight suits with the aspiration of becoming commercial helicopter pilots.

This article focuses on this upward trend, and attempts to bring more awareness to women regarding the career opportunities in aviation – specifically the helicopter pilot segment of aviation.

Currently, there are many women working in the aviation industry – from airline gate agents and flight attendants, to every nook and cranny of the corporate airline arena. However, until recently, not many women have been found in the cockpit as pilots, especially in the rotorcraft world. But things are changing.

And on that positive note, the Whirly-Girls Scholarship fund has announced five additional scholarships to be awarded to women in the helicopter aviation industry. The application for procuring these scholarships closes on October 1, 2015.

One example among many is Starlite Helicopter and Fixed Wing Training Academy, out of Western Cape, South Africa. Starlite has seen a tremendous increase in the enrollment of women into their helicopter flight school. (see recent news video below). Starlite’s story is only one of many stories being played out all over the globe.

For many years now most everyone in the aviation industry has been trying to attract more women into the pilot’s seat. However, for women there seems to be insurmountable walls, hurdles, and obstacles preventing them from joining the commercial pilot ranks. We believe that we can be a part of changing that.

There has been a noticeable stagnation in the number of women pilots up until 20 years ago. The reason for the lack of growth is complicated. Some of the more obvious reasons are related to our culture, lack of funding, misconceptions regarding skill development, and lack of awareness of career opportunities. And, there has been some unexplainable “mysterious” reasons that no one can put their finger on.

Growth Trends of Female Helicopter Pilots in the Industry

Although women have been involved in the aviation industry since its beginning, the growth of women pilots over the last 100 years has been less than impressive. Nonetheless, we believe that there is a bright future for women in aviation, especially in the area of helicopters. There are strong indicators in the industry that the number of female pilots is going up, and will continue to do so into the next decade.

Currently, 5% of airline pilots are women, and only 450 sit in the captain’s seat. However, the 5% represents a big increase when compared to twenty years ago. We believe this growth trend will continue for fixed wing pilots. In the helicopter world women pilots make up less than 3% of the total number of pilots. Even though 3% seems small, its a huge increase when compared to even 10 years ago.

At Upper Limit Aviation we have seen a steady flow of women enrolling in our flight schools. However, we are not satisfied, and we are committed to work even harder to recruit female students until we see explosive growth and see more female helicopter pilots.

The Misconception of Skill Development in Women

It takes a great deal of physical coordination to fly helicopters. In addition, pilot’s have to have good eyesight, good hearing, and be able to handle mulit-tasking well (both mental and physical activities). It should also be obvious, that good pilots need fast and smooth reflexes, and stable minds (they cannot panic or crack under pressure).

Some industry experts say that women are better equipped than men in their ability to make the delicate and graceful controlled movements that are required of helicopter pilots. They even say that women can react more quickly, handle navigation with more finesse, and have a better sense of direction (intuition).

Some believe that women, in regard to their fine motor movements are more subtle, giving them an distinct advantage over men when movement involves piloting skills. Women pilots are also thought to have great leadership abilities. They are more patient, more humble, and more cautious. Whether any of these statements are true is debatable, and more importantly, irrelevent. Female pilots we have known have shown that women can be great pilots, just like men, period!

Generally, most women are physically and mentally equipped to be pilot helicopters. It is our experience that women make incredible pilots, and we would like to see more women enroll into flight school. If this is true, the issue must be that too many women do not think they can become good pilots.

To become a commercial pilot it takes a total 100% commitment. To become an employable (safe and competent) pilot it takes piloting skills, competency, and professionalism. We believe that women are just as capable as men, in regard to fulfilling the important elements of piloting. Women are just as committed, dedicated, and willing to make the sacrifices of becoming a professional pilot as the men. The only issue is that there are less women venturing into flight school. We would like to change this dynamic.

If you know any women that have dreamed of becoming a pilot, please go and encourage them to pursue their dream. Perhaps share this article with them and be a part of the movement of more women becoming commercial pilots.

For more information about Helicopter Pilot Careers, see the links below.

Tier 1 Piloting Jobs

Tier 2 Piloting Jobs

Tier 3 Piloting Jobs

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Enstrom TH180: Will it Compete with the Robinson R22?

Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has a new training aircraft called the TH180 but the company had been keeping the details of this new helicopter confidential until Heli Expo last March 2015. Could this helicopter, the Enstrom TH180, answer the call for a low-cost training alternative to the Robinson 22, which is by far the most widely used helicopter in flight training?

It is uncertain whether the new TH180 will impact the well-defined niche and sales of the Robinson R22, but we know for sure that Enstrom is passionate about safety and their helicopters offer superior performance for flight training, aviation law enforcement training and commercial operations.

Enstrom TH180 Helicopter is a low-cost, 2-seat, piston-powered aircraft is slated for certification before the end of 2015. The TH180 aircraft is a cut-back version of the Enstrom’s popular FX-280 three-seat model.

Enstrom officials said the TH180 should have direct operating costs of approximately $175 per hour and an hourly fuel burn of less than 12 gallons per hour. The price of the TH180 at launch is expected to be around $365K.

This aircraft is powered by the 210-hp Lycoming HIO-390 engine and it features an electric clutch switch and a engine harness. All Enstrom Helicopters are made in the United States with domestic parts and labor.

Will Enstrom’s plan to release a flight training aircraft competitor to the Robinson R22 create downward pressure on the price of flight training? This prospect is one that many in the industry are watching closely, since the it may influence flight training costs and availability in a significant way. We will most definitely be watching these developments with great interest, and keeping you posted on this topic.

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Landing Helicopter Tour Jobs

“Almost every day during flight training or flying tours you’ll have an incredible Ah-Ha moment.  You are in the air when it  hits you; you can’t believe you get to fly helicopters for a living,” said Troy Barnum, former helicopter Flight Instructor for Upper Limit Aviation.

An aptitude test taken in high school is what ignited the spark of curiosity for Troy to look into the aviation industry.  The test recommended he seek a career in fixing airplanes, but he saw himself flying them instead. “The test said my interest would put me as being an airplane mechanic. I said ‘I don’t know about turning wrenches, but I’ll go fly the darn things’ and from there that’s where it all started.”

Troy attended Boise State University in Boise Idaho and earned bachelors degree in Business Administration.  After he was done with his degree, he decided to go to flight school where Tina Barnum, Troy’s wife helped to keep him motivated throughout his training.

“My wife was supportive of me following my dream and without her I don’t think I could have made it trough it.  She helped quiz me when I was learning everything I needed to learn, but the biggest help was when she helped boost my confidence after a bad flight.”

After Troy had completed helicopter flight school, he began instructing new students that enrolled in the school.

“It was the biggest weight lifted off my chest, this was the career I wanted and to be offered a chance to be an Instructor after flight school was a huge relief.”

While Troy was the teacher, he was still able to learn a few things himself. “Your first student, when you start instructing, is always the scariest, it is because of the small amount of instructing time you have gone into it.  Every little thing seems like a big deal and after you get more time as an instructor you realize it actually isn’t that big a deal.”

“The thing I love the most is teaching new students how to hover.  I remember sitting in the seat and watching them struggle thinking ‘I was that guy just a few months ago’ and now I’m the guy that stabilizes the helicopter for them.”

For Troy, it was important to know he gave his students everything they needed to succeed. “I loved to see my students get it and succeed, for me it is more about teaching them how to fly rather than just building my own flight time.  The first student I sent for his check ride actually failed it, and it just felt like I had failed the check ride.  After a remediation flight, he went back and passed and was actually flying at commercial standards.”

Helicopter Tour Jobs After Flight Training

Troy took his first job after Upper Limit Aviation, landing one of the available helicopter tour jobs in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  While Troy’s main job was doing tours over the beach, he was able to do a few unique flights that opened his eyes to just how diverse helicopters could be. “You get groups of people who get weird ideas and they throw a helicopter into it because they know people love helicopters.  I was able to do an Easter egg drop for a bunch of school kids. I had never done it before so when I dropped them they all landed in one big pile; afterward I realized I should have scattered them.  As I flew away, I looked back to see a bunch of kids running toward this big pile of eggs… it was great. The other flight that was different was a golf ball drop for a fundraiser, where I dropped about one or two hundred pounds of golf balls on the putting green. uUnfortunately I missed the hole by about 10 feet.”

After flying tours in Myrtle Beach, Troy made the move to come back to ULA as an instructor, but this time he had more than just the normal point-to-point flights under his belt.  Troy had real helicopter industry experience to share with his students, which gave them a first-hand account of the industry, and opportunities such as helicopter tour jobs, outside of flight school.

“Helicopters are different from airplanes; you get to do random things like drop Easter eggs and golf balls, which makes flying helicopters a lot of fun.” While it was important to keep his students excited about their future in flying, he also tried to keep them focused on the hard work ahead.

“The biggest misconception about flying is that it is only filled with fun – that is only 50 percent of things. There is a lot of work to do as a pilot and when you go through flight school.  You have to know how to react in emergencies and such, there is a lot of serious natured things when flying a helicopter that people need to be prepared to handle when they get into it.”

Troy has built enough flight time after instructing at Upper Limit Aviation to move on to helicopter tour jobs in the Grand Canyon.  He is now flying for Papillon Airways, which is the world’s largest aerial sightseeing company. “I look forward to continuing my progression in learning new things.  The Grand Canyon is one of the seven wonders of the world, and I get to fly in it every day.  You never get tired of seeing all of these beautiful scenic locations.  The variety of things you get to see when you fly is what makes flying so great.”

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