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Is Being a Helicopter Pilot a Good Career?

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Many helicopter pilots are driven by a need to see the world from above and a disdain for a desk job. But they must be well-grounded when it comes to taking care of the aircraft, its cargo and passengers. The career can be rewarding for those who can handle its stresses and the cost of training.

Let Your Spirit Soar

The scenery from a helicopter is a lot different from that of an office cubicle. Pilots can work in exotic locations as long as they can find passengers or cargo to transport. In 2013, Chevron was hiring helicopter pilots to support its operations in the Gulf of Mexico. One company offers helicopter tours of South Florida over the Miami metro area and nearby Keys. Others offer sightseeing tours or transport for businessmen in the New York City area.

Answer The Call Of Duty

Helicopter pilots have multiple choices for public service careers for those who gain satisfaction from helping people. U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilots help stop drugs from entering U.S. borders, rescue stranded individuals and direct waterway traffic. The Coast Guard saved 4,000 lives in 2008 alone, many through the use of helicopters. Other helicopter pilots fight fires, fly injured individuals to hospitals or work for the U.S. military. These jobs pose serious hazards, but also come with the rewarding feeling of helping save lives and uphold the law.

Stress And Schedule

Helicopter pilots can have erratic schedules and be forced to spend time away from home. Chevron's helicopter pilots often work seven days on and seven days off. For the seven-day work shift, the pilot must stay offshore or at remote bases away from family. Helicopter pilots are responsible for the safety of the crew, cargo and craft. They need to make snap decisions in bad weather or when equipment fails. If you can’t handle stress and responsibility, this job may not appeal to you.

Training Comes With A Cost

Acquiring hours to qualify as a commercial pilot requires an investment of time and money. It only takes 10 hours of flight time to obtain a private license, but a commercial license takes 150 hours, part of which must be spent flying solo, and demonstrating proficiency with the flight instruments. Employers often require more hours on top of the required 150, and you’ll have to pay for the flight time. Seventy hours of flight time at the multi-state school Helicopter Academy cost $15,750 in 2013. Some helicopter pilots accumulate hours in the military or as teachers to help defray the cost.

2016 Salary Information for Airline and Commercial Pilots

Airline and commercial pilots earned a median annual salary of $111,270 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, airline and commercial pilots earned a 25th percentile salary of $77,450, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $166,140, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 124,800 people were employed in the U.S. as airline and commercial pilots.