Beginning your journey as a paid helicopter pilot can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. Many helicopter pilots just out of flight school worry that finding a low hour helicopter pilot job is going to be challenging. While finding a job is by no means a walk in the park, there are usually at least a few job roles that are open to low-hour pilots.
If you’re just done with flight school – well, it’s probably best you go back. This time, though, you will be going back as a flight instructor.
Becoming a flight instructor is the most common path helicopter pilots go down once they start looking for jobs, primarily because it is one of the very few jobs available to low-hour helicopter pilots.
Working as a helicopter flight instructor also has the benefit of allowing you to efficiently build up your flight hours and gain more experience while also getting paid.
There are many flight schools that prefer to hire their students as instructors, so this also means that finding that all-important first job can be easier. Of course, if during your training you demonstrated that you were a good, hardworking, responsible student, it’s more likely that you will be hired.
Working as a flight instructor is rarely something a helicopter pilot will do for many years, but there is no better way to get started making money and quickly gain the experience necessary to apply for higher-paying jobs.
Becoming a helicopter tour pilot is another popular route to go down. One of the best things about becoming a tour pilot is that it can be both a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Every passenger, many of whom have never stepped foot inside a helicopter, will be excited and smiling from takeoff to landing as you show them the sights.
While working as a tour pilot is a good option, keep in mind that the work can often be seasonal to coincide with the tourist season. If you don’t live near any tourist hotspots you also have to be willing to relocate.
Agricultural work isn’t just limited to fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters have a unique role to play in the industry due to their unique ability to get into tight areas that are either difficult or impossible to spray with airplanes.
Helicopters are also much better suited to areas surrounded by obstacles like trees or power lines, and are more friendly to the public as they eliminate the need to turn over roads and houses. The ability to refuel, and mix and load chemicals right on the field is another big plus.
Depending on the operation, in agricultural helicopter work, you may make as many as 50-60 takeoffs and landings in a day. However, be aware that it is some of the most dangerous and grueling flying you can do.
If you want to work as an ag pilot, the more experience you have the better. It’s, therefore, best to build up more hours and experience by working as a flight instructor or tour pilot before you apply.
Is It Hard to Get a Job As a Helicopter Pilot With Low Hours?
The demand for helicopter pilots isn’t so great that you will be able to just walk into a job. But we can say this for virtually any other industry too.
The key is of course to be persistent while also not losing heart. Eventually, you will find a job like all other helicopter pilots with low hours before you have.
It’s also a good idea to network as much as possible. Getting to know as many people in the industry as possible can open up more doors and lead to more opportunities.