“Helicopter pilots, Daredevils of the skies”,“Real pilots don’t need runways”. These are a few quotes that you normally hear when it comes to a helicopter pilot. When you look at the profession from outside, its a very tempting and adventurous job. After flying helicopters since the last few years I wouldn’t deny it either. But i would like to point out a few negatives because of which people do not want to be helicopter pilots.
The training cost to become a helicopter pilot or to get your commercial helicopter license is almost the same or even more than becoming an airplane pilot. Though it takes only 150 hours to get a commercial helicopter pilot license compared to 200 hours in case of fixed wing. The per hour operational cost of a helicopter is way more than an airplane. For example the per hour cost to fly a Cessna 172 is close to 290 USD but the per hour cost to fly a Robinson 44 helicopter is close to 500 USD. So thats the biggest deterrent towards training to become a helicopter pilot as compared to fixed wing pilots.
My instructor used to say, “Helicopters are not machines that are meant to fly”. I never used to understand what he used to say. But as i flew more and more, i understood. Compared to aeroplanes, its much more difficult to fly and control a helicopter. A helicopter is thousands of moving parts in sync with the pilot as its soul. If you compare the rate of accidents in case of helicopters is also higher as compared to aeroplanes. Becoming a helicopter pilot needs a good level of skill and coordination, but with the profession comes a lot of risk.
The life of a helicopter pilot is adventurous but not glamorous. Of course I’m saying this in comparison with the life of a fixed wing pilot. When you picture a pilot, you imagine the uniform. In case of helicopters, 70 percent do not wear uniforms. It varies with companies, but you can see some in uniforms, some in overalls, some in civil clothing. Secondly operations are not necessarily from airports, it can be from absolutely anywhere, starting from the city side to a remote island. Also when it comes to accommodation, sometimes a helicopter pilot finds himself in a luxurious 5 star hotel and sometimes in a makeshift accommodation or even in tents when it comes to remote areas.
Helicopter pilots initially make around 50- 100K USD a year. There are experienced helicopter pilots who even make close to 200- 300K USD a year. But in comparison to the risk a helicopter pilot takes the pay, in most cases is less. If you compare the pay standards to fixed wing, we can say that the pay in case of experienced pilots is slightly less.
when it comes to Indians there is another disadvantage. There are no helicopter pilot training schools in India. For a student to become a helicopter pilot he or she will have to go abroad to countries like US, Canada, South Africa etc. So when a student in India looks at being a pilot, he or she sees that there are no training schools in India and at the same cost they can do their fixed wing training(CPL) and there are multiple schools in India to do CPL training. So why would anyone choose being a helicopter pilot.
Though I have listed out multitude of negatives, there are also positives. There is no other job that is more adventurous than that of a helicopter pilot. The landscapes and the remote cultures that a helicopter pilot gets to experience will never be experienced by an airplane pilot. Also, the work life balance in case of a helicopter pilot is much better than airplane pilots. And in most of the cases helicopters do not have to fly at night and the holiday options given to the pilots are much better. In all, in any profession, there are positives and negatives, it’s upto you to choose. Leave it to your heart, enjoy life, happy landings.
For more information on being a helicopter pilot go to : www.dgca.gov.in