View Full Version : helicopter pilot training/financing
12-15-2007, 08:51 AM
Just wondering if anyone here could offer any insight, I have a 20 yr. old son that is interested in pursuing a helicopter pilot career. When he graduated from high school we kind of checked into training for this career and was kind of discouraged because of inability to acheive financing on his own. Basically, what we found was just to borrow the money outright from private loans and have a huge loan in the end and then try to pursue getting flight hours through the certified flight instructor method or join the military and get training through them. Just wondering if there is any other thoughts, grants, etc available we may not be aware of?
Thanks for any help in advance.
12-15-2007, 09:20 AM
You've pretty much summed it up - I'd stay away from borrowing a ton of money for training, because of the income level he'll see when finished & for years afterward. Getting a job as a low time helicopter pilot is extremely difficult...
I did a variation on the first method - paid for my PPL(H), then worked for a helicopter operator making very little money as a combination driver/loader/A&P mechanic & got to ferry helicopters between job sites. Took me a year to get enough hours for my CPL(H), but as soon as I did I also had a flying job for the same company. That's the hard part, getting that first job with low time! I had the advantage of having the A&P license, and money saved up for the PPL which I did in a month right after getting out of the military (which is where I got the helicopter maintenance experience).
If he has no interest in actually being a soldier, joining the military just to be a pilot won't be good - he won't be happy, you're a soldier first & pilot second even as a Warrant Officer. He just needs to fully understand that & know what he's getting into, to make an informed choice if he can even get accepted to the program.
12-15-2007, 09:45 AM
I tell my kid's that it is not easy and they may not like it but they can be anything they wan't to be in the Military if they wan't it bad enough and wan't to work hard enough for it .
Annapolis and West Point are free with guaranteed job placement .
Thats all I got . Like Brett said there is no money in it . You have to be doing it because you love it . The Chicks sometimes dig it , but as soon as they fined out your poor they are gone . But you can't help but look cool flying a Helicopter .
12-15-2007, 11:56 AM
In addition to Brett's thoughtful suggestions your son will find additional information on PPRuNe - Rotorheads (http://www.pprune.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=23)
12-15-2007, 01:07 PM
There used to be a program out in Arizona at the local community college that had a commercial helicopter program. I found out it too late. I think the town was Benson. It was Cochise Community College. I was told you could use typical student loans to pay for it or grants if you qualify. This was back in 1994. I hope this helps, I wish your son the best of luck.
12-16-2007, 05:03 AM
The cheapest way to accomplish your son's goals would be to get a fixed wing rating first, then do a rotorcraft "add-on" rating. A fixed wing commerical would cost approx. $15K and a helicopter add-on would be approx. $10-15K for a total of about $25K. A helicopter commercial alone would be 160 to 200 hours at approx $2-300 per hour.
I have an AS degree from Cochise Community College from the early '70's. At that time there was no flying programs but it is a great place for studing since there's absolutely nothing to do in Douglas,Az.
12-16-2007, 05:51 AM
Here in Arkadelphia we have a University(Henderson State University) where one can pursue a BA degree in Aviation. They have their own aircraft(FW) that a student can use. at a cost of course It has very good instruction and could lead to the career that your son wants to pursue. DocRob was the chair for that department before he retired. He posts on the forum and I'm sure would answer any questions you might have on their program. I almost forgot. If your son has some Heli experience then applies to the Military he would have a better chance getting into their program. Just my two cents.
12-16-2007, 06:00 AM
If he wants to be a helicopter pilot, doing the fixed wing rating first to save a few bucks is a bad idea - sure, it's cheaper. But without enough actual time in type nobody will hire him because the insurance companies won't cover him.
12-16-2007, 07:11 AM
The fixed wing may save some money, like others have said, you need the helicopter time. If he instructs in a 22 as his first job (which is the most likely scenario), you will need a minimum of 200hrs. If the ship is insured through Pathfinder, it is 300hrs.
Flying a helicopter is different from a fixed wing, even at the 150hr mark, (the minimum for commercial) many are not ready. Many are not immediately ready for the CFI. The skill sets are more difficult to learn and there is less room for error. If he wants to fly helicopters, fly helicopters.
There is a company called Pilot Finance Inc. They will finance one rating at a time and are easy to deal with. Sallie Mae is a pain. All are unsecured loans and will have high interest. Only "good deal" is a home equity line. Better deal is to work and pay as he goes. He can get prvt-cfi for around 65k. So he should be able to do it in three or four years working and paying as he goes. He can do it in a year, but will come out with 75k in debt at 11%. Coming out loan free will give him a better start.
12-16-2007, 09:12 AM
Thanks again for all of your replies to my post.
To Brett S...After viewing your profile, I'm assuming that you make your living by being a helicopter pilot? Just kind of curious on average what can a helicopter pilot expect to make for a living? I know alot of it probably depends on location, and whether its Medivac, oil rigs, utility, etc, just kind of curious.
12-16-2007, 09:32 AM
I used to - I got out because of low pay combined with constant moving around. Was ok when younger & single...got old.
I'm in IT now which isn't nearly as much fun but is a lot more financially rewarding & stable.
As a new pilot, he'll be making next to nothing probably as a CFI until getting 1000 hours or so - most other jobs won't even look at you until then, if nothing else because of insurance requirements. Most operators want someone with far more than that for things like air ambulance, 2500+ hours is common. You can make a decent living but you definitely won't get rich.
12-16-2007, 10:45 AM
Rotor & Wing magazine does periodic salary surveys for the whole helicopter industry. I'm afraid I've already thrown out the last issue I had with that data, but you might be able to track it down online, through a library, from another pilot, etc.
12-16-2007, 11:08 AM
There's a section at justhelicopters.com with salary tables from some of the big operators - just remember a new CPL won't qualify for any of those gigs, that's a few years down the road.
12-19-2007, 09:08 AM
Lineman's son wants to fly helicopters but is restricted on money. The best way would be to get all helicopter time for purposes of insurance. Another option would be to get into a college with an aviation program and get his flight time there plus degree. These two options solve only one problem for Lineman's son...helicopter flight time not the expense! On the other hand, army flight training is free not including your service obligation. You will build flight time for free and fly in the most demanding airspace in the world. You will need to pass an entrance exam (woqt), a class 1 physical and a selection board. The army likes to see about 60 credit hours of post high school education but this varies as does the amount of slots available for training. It's cheap flying, they pay you! Lineman, this is the only solution that addresses both flight time and cost.
The ugly reality of flying for a living is the sub-standard wages. It doesn't matter if you fly fixed or rotary wing most companies pay less than the national average salary. In the past, it was the dream to fly for the Big airlines but they have now reduced their wages by a third and stopped retirement plans completely.
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