My name is Capt Sanjith Christopher, and I’m a helicopter pilot. I have been flying since the last 4 years. I have accumulated around 2000 hours of helicopter flight time as of now. Though its not much, but its pretty good for a guy who is 26 years old. The machines I have flown are Schweizer 300, Robinson 22, Robinson 44 and Dauphin AS365N. Presently, I am flying for the Indian Govt and my base of flying changes every month.
What can you expect as a helicopter pilot!!
So, if your thinking of a glamorous life with fancy hotels and women hovering around you while you walk in and out of airports showing off your Raybans, well this isn’t the life for you. The life of a helicopter pilot is filled with adventure, but not with much of glamour. Sometimes your living in a decent hotel and sometimes in a tent. At once, your having a 7 course buffet and sometimes you end up missing all your meals. Sometimes there are fixed schedules for the month, and sometimes you don’t even know whats going to happen in the next few hours. So what I mean to say is, its an unpredictable life. Most of the pilots are never on schedule, but called as per requirement, which means, you cannot plan anything in advance.
First of all you should come to terms with the fact that you cannot compare yourself with an airplane pilot. Both the fields are totally different and widely apart. But the experiences you get and the sights you see as a helicopter pilot is something which an airplane pilot can never imagine about.
Now lets look into the kind of flying we do…
Even though all over the world, there are news about rising oil prices and the aviation industry suffering losses, offshore flying has been a growing industry. Offshore helicopter pilots transfer rig workers, engineers and executives to oil rigs and mobile survey vessels all over the world in the quest for “black gold”. The best of machines and the pilots are used in this field. This particular sector of flying is the highest paid and also with the highest requirement. Only 20% of the helicopter pilots get the chance to fly in this sector. The flying, with pilots having to land on tiny remote platforms in the middle of the night. In addition, some oil rigs float, which means their landing pads will heave and move. Pilots also have to land on the ships that support giant oil drilling expeditions.
Medical evacuation flying
In this kind of flying, it involves alot of waiting. And when a medical evacuation comes in, let it be day or night or the worst of weathers, these pilots fly out and save lives. Its a pretty highly paid job and its the kind of flying which most of the pilots want to do. I guess its also because of the satisfaction it gives in saving lives.
Many of the VIPS and corporates prefer helicopters over fixed wing as it provides access to remote areas and places where an airplane cannot land. After offshore flying, this is one of the sectors of helicopter flying which is in high demand, but the payment isn’t as high as offshore flying. In India, DGCA has set high standards for pilots flying VIPS. These pilots have to land in remote areas and difficult conditions, which requires them to be highly skilled and qualified.
Now, I wouldn’t say this flying isn’t difficult, but its relatively easier than the three kinds of flying I’ve specified above. Sometimes pilots have to face very difficult people while flying. In most of the cases, we fly people whose language is alien which makes it impossible to communicate with them.
Often passengers are flown out of remote locations, and having certain weight restrictions in the helicopter, it also leads to arguments and fights between the locals and the pilots, as in few cases pilots aren’t able to carry all the passengers.
Most of the fresher pilots try out to start out as an instructor. Its one of the riskiest but lowest paid jobs in the field. They are paid as low as 20$ an hour. Needless to say, they end up facing crazy people at times. Once these pilots built up at least 1000 hours of flight time, they move out in search of better jobs.
There are also other kinds of flying like, tuna fishing, logging, winching, disaster management, flying for the fire department, but all this is seasonal or as per requirements. The pay is also variable but not much.
So finally this is a brief description of the life of a helicopter pilot. When you come to this field, you should know that its not about the glamour, but the passion for flying. A helicopter pilot gets to see and experience things which no one else will in a lifetime!!. If you want a life of adventure be a helicopter pilot, but if you want a stable 9-5 job, go work in a bank.
Further Information on www.dgca.nic.in