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How to Become a CareFlight Helicopter Pilot

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careertrend article image
Jupiterimages/ Images

When severely-injured patients require immediate help, it’s comforting to know that a service like CareFlight exists. These helicopters and fixed-wing air ambulances save lives every day, thanks to the partnership between talented pilots and triage specialists who undertake critical missions. Operating from cities in New South Wales, Australia (Sidney, Darwin and Perth), CareFlight hires the cream of the crop, so if you’re fortunate enough to join the team, you will serve with some impressive medical and technical talent.

Complete a college degree program in any of the sciences that will enable you to pursue further training in avionics. Undertake flight training school at a private, college or military school. Become adroit at operating a variety of airplane types. Amass the requisite number of flying hours your flying program mandates, then study for the written and flying exams that will lead to your license.

Enroll in medical training classes while pursuing flight-training studies. In particular, study triage, trauma and immediate care disciplines that prepare practitioners for emergencies on the fly. Find employment as a paramedic, firefighter, military corpsman or hospital emergency room staffer. If time and money allow, bolster your experience and training with volunteer humanitarian relief efforts.

Fulfill the CareFlight requirement of obtaining FAA medical certification. Only FAA-certified pilots are hired, so pursue the highest level of training you’re able to complete. The minimum credential is “Third Class,” required of student pilots, while a “Second Class” certificate is the benchmark for commercial pilots. Your application for a job with CareFlight is going to attract attention if you obtain a “First Class” certification.

Build a solid record of on-the-job flight experience. The more diversity you can show – commercial, private, cargo, military, humanitarian -- the better your chances of getting considered for a CareFlight slot. Amass flight hours and log time working under extreme conditions. You’ll be asked to retrieve the sick or wounded from precarious places and under difficult weather conditions, so time spent flying, landing and taking off in hurricanes, blizzards, windstorms and other treacherous conditions will be assets when you’re ready to approach CareFlight.

Apply directly CareFlight for a job once you’ve built a resume that combines your flying prowess with medical expertise. Visit the CareFlight website (see Resources) to peruse current job openings. If none exist, you can still e-mail a resume and credentials to the personnel department at [email protected].

Be patient. Honorable intentions, great training and a desire to be of service to seriously-injured people may make you the best-qualified helicopter pilot on the planet, but if there are no openings when you approach CareFlight, pursue other options while you wait. Whether you seek a civilian flying career or decide to fly for the military, maintain a valid pilot's license and regularly check CareFlight's website for jobs. As people who don’t know the meaning of “I give up” can attest, persistence regularly pays off.


Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.