Helicopters are one of the most versatile vehicles ever invented. Their unique ability to hover in mid-air, fly sideways, backwards and being able to land in a space no bigger than a tennis court make them uniquely suited to perform a wide variety of tasks.
If you're thinking about a career as a professional helicopter pilot now is the time. Helicopter use is at an all time high and the imminent retirement of many veteran pilots means increased opportunity for those who want to fly helicopters as a career.
These are some of the many professional helicopter pilot positions that are available now and will continue to be available into the foreseeable future.
I. Emergency Medical Services (EMS)- These are the helicopters that respond to life threatening emergencies on our nations interstates, highways, and local roads. EMS helicopter pilots usually fly as a single pilot and sometimes in weather that is less than favorable. The flight time requirements differ but for the most part you will need a minimum of 2000 hrs of pilot in command (PIC) flight time in order to be considered a competitive candidate. As far as who you'll be working for...most EMS helicopters are owned by a company that is separate from the hospital. The company leases out the pilots and the helicopters to the hospital. Notice that I said most. There are hospitals that directly employ EMS helicopters and their pilots.
II. Electronic News Gathering (ENG)- Pilots who fly Electronic News Gathering missions report on traffic conditions, cover local events like parades and festivals and also give us that wonderful coverage of high and low speed police chases. These pilots usually work a split shift that corresponds with the morning and evening rush hours and are on call in case of developing stories.
III. Government Agencies- The federal, state, and local governments offer a wealth of flying opportunities. On the Federal level agencies such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), ICE (immigration and customs enforcement), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), DHS (Department of Homeland Security) as well as others offer flying opportunities that are diverse and wide-ranging. On the state levels state departments of transportation and wildlife.
IV. Military- Military flying can be one of the most rewarding types of flying. In government and military flying money is less of an issue. Excellent training is the norm and you could be flying some of the most advanced helicopters on some of the most exciting missions.
V. Law Enforcement- Flying for state and local law enforcement can also be very rewarding. In most law enforcement agencies they hire pilots from within the ranks of ground officers. So, if you want to fly for a state or local law enforcement agency you can expect to be an officer on the ground for a few years
VI. Petroleum Support- Petroleum support pilots fly workers and equipment from on shore locations to off shore oil rigs. They usually stay at bases strategically located near the rigs and will work an extended number of days and than have an extended number of days off. (for example 7 days on and 7 days off). In the United States most of these pilots work along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and some work in Alaska.
These helicopter pilot careers are available to anyone who desires a career as a professional pilot. They all offer challenge, adventure, excitement, and financial rewards. If any of these positions interest you, research what skills you need to acquire the position. Put a plan of action in place and act on that plan.
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