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United States Coast Guard helicopter pilots receive compensation according to a standardized base pay scale set by Congress. The base pay amount depends on a USCG chopper pilot's rank and length of service. USCG pilot salaries also include allowances and incentives, such as flight pay. Coast Guard pilots fly in all weather conditions, and run considerable risks. They must meet high standards and undergo extensive training.
USCG helicopter pilots are crucial to the Coast Guard's Search and Rescue mission. They fly emergency missions in all sorts of weather. A chopper pilot may have to hold the aircraft steady in high winds while swimmers are lowered into the water and injured people are lifted up by a hoist. Coast Guard pilots also play a role in law enforcement and national security. For example, helicopters are used to locate and track drug smuggling submarines and surface craft. The chopper pilot is responsible for ensuring that the aircraft and its equipment are functioning properly before setting off on a mission.
If you want to become a USCG chopper pilot, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 21 and 31 at the time you are selected for flight school. A baccalaureate degree is required, but it can be in any academic discipline. You must pass a flight physical. A criminal conviction within the past three years is a disqualification. A candidate must manage his finances properly. For instance, you may not have a bankruptcy within the last 10 years.
Once accepted, a prospective Coast Guard officer attends Officer Candidate School. OCS is a rigorous 17-week course. You study law enforcement and military subjects in addition to leadership, management and navigation. The next step is Coast Guard Flight School, which is located in Pensacola, Florida. Some Coast Guard pilots are recruited from other branches of the military through the Direct Commission Aviator program. Flight training time for these pilots is shorter, and is aimed mainly at training them for the specific aircraft the Coast Guard uses. Normally, prospective Coast Guard officers and pilots participate in the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative. However, enlisted personnel and civilians with college degrees may apply to OCS as well.
Coast Guard salaries consist of the base pay amount augmented by allowances, bonuses and incentives. The lowest rank for pilots is ensign. A newly commissioned ensign is paid $3,035 per month as of 2017. This equals $36,420 per year. The base pay increases every couple of years and each time an officer is promoted. By the time a Cost Guard pilot is a full lieutenant with six years of service, her monthly base pay is $5,657 or $67,784 annually. Base pay for a full commander with 20 years of service is $8,798 monthly, equal to an annual amount of $105,576 per year.
USCG pilots receive two monthly amounts related to their aviator status. Aviator Careers Incentive Pay is based on length of service. ACIP ranges from $125 to $840 per month. Chopper pilots also get flight pay, which is determined by rank. An ensign receives $150 per month. Flight pay for a full commander is $250.
Coast Guard officers may receive additional compensation based on their duties and assignment locations. These include meal allowances, housing allowances and extra pay for especially hazardous duty. Coast Guard pilots agree to serve for at least 11 years. They may be offered a bonus in exchange for agreeing to remain in the service for a longer period of time.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about career, employment and job preparation issues. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology with a focus on employment and labor from Georgia State University. He has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop career opportunities for people with disabilities.