Any commercial helicopter pilot will tell you that the view from their office window is the best in the world. They will also tell you that the path to getting that view is a big commitment. It is hard work, both in terms of the flight training and the home study required to gain the Theoretical Knowledge exams. And there is no getting away from it – there is a significant financial commitment as well. But is it all worth it – what are the prospects?
The answer to this will vary and may be different (one way or the other) by the time you qualify. In general terms, there is a demand for skilled and qualified helicopter pilots.
Most commercial helicopter pilots start their careers flying single engine helicopters such as the Robinson R44, Bell 206 Jet Ranger and AS350 Squirrel on charter flights, sightseeing flights, pleasure flights and aerial filming and photography missions. Every day is different with a range of different tasks. One day you may be taking a bride and groom to their wedding or students to their school prom. The next day you may be flying sponsors and guests in to a major event such as Royal Ascot or the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. You will have a wide variety of flights to undertake, all adding to your experience as a helicopter pilot and all adding to your flying hours.
Many pilots choose to stay in this sector of the industry and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of undertaking a different task every time they take to the air. Many more pilots use this experience and the flying hours they accumulate as a stepping stone to other sectors. And, having earned some money to offset the initial investment they can add additional qualifications to their licences such as Type Ratings for additional aircraft types, Flight Instructors Qualification, Instrument Rating or upgrading their CPL(H) to an ATPL(H) to enable them to pilot multi-crew aircraft.
There is currently a wide range of opportunities available to qualified and experienced pilots, both in the UK and across the world. These include:
- VIP and Corporate Charter, flying twin engine aircraft such as the Agusta 109 and EC135
- Flight Instruction, teaching the next generation of pilots to fly
- Air Ambulance – UK Air Ambulances have started operating at night as well as during the day, doubling their requirement for pilots
- Police – it is a myth that all Police pilots are ex-military. More and more are being recruited from the civilian world
- Search and Rescue – as the UK SAR service transfers totally to the private sector, more pilots are being recruited from the civilian sector
- Oil – the North Sea oil industry employs a large number of pilots and, as oil exploration expands in the Irish Sea, there is plenty of demand for pilots – and most of these are civilian trained
- Utilities – a large number of pilots are employed by companies conducting aerial surveys of, and maintaining, the UK’s gas pipeline and electricity networks, with an increasing number of pilots also being employed looking after the rapidly expanding wind turbine sector
It would be wrong to say that a CPL(H) qualification will guarantee you a job. You may not make your fortune in this industry. The situation may be different in a year or two’s time when you qualify. But it is fair to say that there is currently a good demand for helicopter pilots. Start that next step in your career – give Central Helicopters a ring and take that next step today!