ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Brewster is a highly experienced aviation professional with a diverse background in both military and civilian flight operations. He holds dual Air Transport Pilot (ATP) licenses for both airplane and helicopter and is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in both. His flight time exceeds 7,600 hours and is split between airplanes and helicopters. During his military career he flew over 700 hours of actual combat flight time while in Vietnam and held numerous flight operations officer positions with several active Army and Army National Guard combat units. As a civilian, he has flown both airplane and helicopters while filling positions as FAA Part 135 Check Airman, Chief Pilot and Director of Operations.
This ebook is for all interested in a job or career in the civilian helicopter industry and is orientated toward anyone in the military who is debating whether to leave or stay in the service.
You are in the military wondering what it might be like to leave the service for a civilian flying job. Although you may also have fixed wing time, your primary background and career focus is primarily helicopters and your training has been the best ever given to a pilot. You have accumulated enough flight hours doing things with helicopters that were technically impossible to do 10 or even 5 years ago. This experience has made you very confident in your piloting capabilities.
Some of your missions have been downright scary for you and your crew, while your aircraft……..
Another key point, while in the military you are expected to properly handle your equipment and aircraft in a manner that protects its integrity and service life. However, the military also understands that there are times when flight equipment and aircraft may be stressed beyond their tolerances due to the mission or the need to simply survive. This may lead to component or structural damage. However, because it is combat, or even training, the military is more tolerant of these costs as part of the price necessary to complete the mission. In the civil world, if you damage your aircraft,………..
Chapter 1 -
DETERMINING YOUR FIRST STEPS TO A U.S. CIVILIAN PILOT CERTIFICATE
Knowing the requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) must be your first big step. Complying with the FARs are mandatory, if you want to be legal when you are flying as Pilot-in-Command on any flight as a civilian.
The primary FARs that you need to know are FAR Parts 61, 91 and 135…………..
After the completion of military initial flight training and the issuance of a military designated flight crewmember status as a pilot, you are eligible to take the Military Competency Helicopter (MCH) writtenexamination for either the private or commercial rating. This same exam is necessary if you leave the service and desire to obtain an original civil pilot certificate; however………………………….
Chapter 2 -
THE JOB APPLICATION PROCESS
The hiring process will vary from company to company and operator to operator, however, you should expect that a company or operator with a credible job opportunity to have the following steps in their hiring process.
Complete an Application – even with a sparkling resume that can be electronically transmitted by email, fax or listed on line, you can still expect to complete a company application that must be filled out with pen in hand. There is some logical reasoning behind this step……………..
Chapter 3 –
CHOOSE THE TYPE OF CIVILIAN JOB FIRST, THEN CHOOSE THE COMPANY
Your military service has or will expose you to a wide variety of flight environments and missions. Most of your military experiences will have application to your civilian career and some experiences are best forgotten or at least put in the closet as memories. Many of these experiences where you and your aircraft were on the edge are good education and good lessons for what you need to avoid in civilian flying. (There may be times as a civilian pilot that you will find yourself severely tested but unlike combat situations where you had no choice, you will have a choice in the civilian world and you will need to be conservative with your decisions to avoid unnecessary risk)
Major areas where civilian helicopter jobs are available …………..
Chapter 4 -
ATTITUDE OF A CIVILIAN PILOT
There is a major difference in the attitude expected from a civilian pilot versus what you might have experienced in the military.
For one thing, most civil jobs are more individual where you and your actions are far more visible than when flying in a military unit with dozens or even hundreds of other pilots all dressed and acting alike. Regardless of your skills and experiences, you will be expected to represent yourself in a professional manner that holds you out as an ambassador of the company which employs you. The anonymity of wearing all green, gray or camouflage will be gone and the ability to hide within a large unit’s multi-faceted mission requirements cloaked in military secrecy will no longer exist. You and your actions will be exposed to public and regulatory scrutiny in all you do and say. Your actions will speak louder than words and be the difference between a successful & fun flying career and one that is bouncing from job to job in never ending insecurity…………
Chapter 5 -
Every segment of the helicopter industry has its own set of minimum experience requirements for hiring a new pilot. As a rule of thumb 1,500 Pilot-in-command (PIC) hours should be treated as the baseline. Added to this will be other training such as Instrument flying experience, mountain flying, over water flying, search and rescue experience, lift work, Night Vision Goggle (NVG), EMS, etc. All these can add to your employability and compensation. Many civil operations such as logging and fire fighting also require special training over and above your flight experience. This training results in a special certification or “card” that must be renewed periodically for you to
Chapter 6 -
WHAT FAA DESIGNATED EXAMINERS SAY ABOUT HELICOPTER PILOTS
It is always interesting to learn what FAA pilot examiners have to say about the people receiving licensing flight checks from them. The average helicopter pilot examiner deals for the most part with new students working themselves up the licensing ladder from Private, Commercial, CFI and Instrument. Occasionally they get the active commercial pilot adding an instrument ticket and they get the former military pilot going for his commercial, instrument and/or ATP.
The examiners interviewed for this book conduct on average of over twenty-two helicopter flight checks per month and they have been doing this for the past twenty years……………
Chapter 7 –
WHAT JOBS ARE BEST IF YOU ARE - SINGLE? MARRIED? LIKE TRAVELING?
Unlike the military, you have a choice of where geographically you want to work and are even free to pick the company that will be your employer, if they are hiring. However, in today’s rapidly changing and competitive world, you may also have within a company the ability or need, depending on your perspective, for additional assignments away from home. In these decisions, it may be an important consideration if you have a family or dependents on whether you can accept these assignments or not.
Many civilian companies are only regional in nature and working outside their region is not an option. These companies may not have the ambition to work in other areas or perhaps the expense associated with working away from their home base is prohibitive………….
Chapter 8 -
THE REALITY OF PAY AND COMPENSATION
In the aviation industry today an interesting phenomenon is happening regarding compensation for helicopter pilots.
As a whole, helicopter pilots have historically always lagged behind or were paid considerably less than their airplane pilot counterparts and the ability to progress up through a structured compensation plan did not exist in helicopter operations, unless it was as part of a corporate flight department or a large operator.
Today, things have changed. Many helicopter operators are paying much more to entry level pilots when compared to fixed wing operators. This shift has not come quickly or easily. Lower pay was the norm until the 1990’s as the pool of available pilots from military and civil sources failed to keep pace…………
WORLD EVENTS AND HELICOPTER CAREERS
Starting with the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the helicopter truly came into its own as a multi-purpose aviation tool for the military. As the Vietnam War wound down, civilian helicopter operators and corporations starting hiring former military pilots for new emerging helicopter operations and as this evolution for the helicopter continued its tremendous versatility would be demonstrated through a myriad of world disasters from floods, earthquakes, avalanches, tsunamis, fires, hurricanes with Katrina being the biggest natural disaster followed by fires in the West and Southeast. Today, the world is a much better place to live because of the helicopter and the many missions it can perform.
Military pilots for the most part have already experienced this versatility, and on average, most civilians have yet to learn about. However, the use of military aircraft for a wide variety of non-military missions is working to expand civilian helicopter use as the public starts to gain a better understanding……………..
Chapter 4 –
Chapter 5 –
Chapter 6 –
WHAT FAA DESIGNATED HELICOPTER EXAMINERS SAY ABOUT MILITARY VS CIVILIAN PILOTS
Chapter 9 -
HELICOPTER INDUSTRY RESOURCES