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tobese

Aspiring pilot advice thread

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I started my flying career as a military helo pilot and at best I can say that I dabbled in the commercial VFR helo world. 

As a military pilot, you are trained in a very regimented manner and nowadays this training takes quite a long time (in comparison to commercial VFR).  Things are done "by the book" and one shall not stray from the book (ie creativity, no matter how safe, is frowned upon). Most of your "experience" is of the training variety, day in and day out, until you are deployed on operations, and the operations can be somewhat frequent or never depending on the mood of the sitting government. Upgrading from co-pilot to aircraft captain is generally a long process as all current operational CAF helicopters are multi-crew.  The emphasis is on holding an IFR ticket on your respective aircraft type, so the more natural transition from military to commercial flying is in the IFR world.

The general consensus in the commercial VFR world is to avoid hiring ex-military pilots (unless things have changed). Some military pilots have not made a good impression on their commercial VFR employers and it has at times made it difficult for others trying to get in to shake the reputation of military pilots.

When I dabbled in the VFR commercial world, I came to the realization quite quickly that despite a few thousand hours of military flying under my belt, I was like a duck out of water.  The skill set and mindset required to fly effectively in the commercial VFR world is different from military flying. There is more freedom in the commercial VFR world to be creative in order to get the job done (as compared to the strictly regimented military flying), provided it is done safely. As an example with respect to rules, VFR weather limits are lower in order to get the job done - half mile and clear of cloud commercial VFR single pilot, you launch with the Mk1 A1 Eyeball and drop water on the fires; half mile clear of cloud under military rules, you don't launch or you launch IFR only.  As an example with respect to skills, long lining 100 ft+ is truly an art - I have been amazed at some of the VFR commercial pilots and what they can do with a 100', 150', 200+' longline - and longlining skills today are likely essential to get hired on. I was fine short lining, but my longlining skills were absent to say the least. I can honestly say that I only scratched the surface of the spectrum of commercial VFR flying, and I take my hat off to those who have been in the industry as a career.

Also, in the military you have a whole host of support for your operations before and after your flights.  In the commercial VFR world it is just you, or just you and the engineer.  Comparatively speaking, military pilots/crews and techs are pampered in comparison to their commercial VFR counterparts - but that is by necessity in the different worlds that each operate in.

Retired now, I enjoyed my career as a military pilot. And I also very much enjoyed my brief foray into commercial VFR flying - call it happily refreshing.   Both are challenging in their own ways, both have their rewards, both have their issues.

In the end, it's a lifestyle choice.

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Since i've been in this industry over 30yrs, I know that there are many views on whats good and whats bad.

and i especially get a kick out of the replies in here.

please take them for what they are.... their experience.

your experience will be different depending on how you approach the situations laid before you.

I encourage you to chase your dreams, be prepared to fall, or to soar. No one can determine your outcome or direction except yourself.

And remember, some guys are so protective of their feeble careers they will try to steer you astray for their own protection.

 

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Yes,,,,GrayHorizons, that's what it must be. 

1 hour ago, GrayHorizons said:

And remember, some guys are so protective of their feeble careers they will try to steer you astray for their own protection.

Anyone giving an honest opionion of the Canadian helicopter industry, is worried their job may be taken by the fresh 100 hr pilot out of school LOL.

He asked for honest opinions, and thats what he got. Your screwball reason for why we gave an honest opinion is off base and insulting.   

 

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The problem with VFR heli is simple.  Once you get 1000+hrs longline and mountain experience, thats it.   Fires are fires, drills still suck a heli-ski 1/2mile gets old.   A bigger aircraft isn't always better either or even pay more. Good companies are few and far between and the pay tops out really quick.  Fixed wing at least has progression in your career and larger companies are professionally run.

 

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8 hours ago, 49 Merc said:

Yes,,,,GrayHorizons, that's what it must be. 

Anyone giving an honest opionion of the Canadian helicopter industry, is worried their job may be taken by the fresh 100 hr pilot out of school LOL.

He asked for honest opinions, and thats what he got. Your screwball reason for why we gave an honest opinion is off base and insulting.   

 

if you're insulted by my comment than it did what it was supposed to. I aim to call out anyone if the shoe fits. as much as you believe your opinion matters, so does mine.

 but in all honestly i wasn't directing my comments at you so take your fragility and chill. I have no problem if someone points out the positive and negative aspects that separate the fixed wing and rotary worlds, thats a fair discussion.

it gets very old very fast listening to the same old posts about people saying the industry sucks. its exactly what you make it out to be. some guys want it to suck, they try very hard to make it suck...for everyone.  They are a cancer to the industry, there is no arguing that. They are the ones that should have turned right, instead of left and taken a different career path.

carry on. 

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Normally a lurker, but I'll step into the line of fire on this one.

Tobese - As you read through  these threads, you'll see a perfect example of the helicopter industry. Positive and negative attitudes, but the same is true in a lot of industries that are in a state of transition. There are a lot of personalities - you've got bad pilots with good attitudes, bad pilots with bad attitudes, good pilots with bad attitudes and what I personally look for good pilots with good attitudes. You can read through this mostly anonymous thread and make your own conclusions. If you're lucky enough to be one of the few that decides to pursue this career and actually make a living at it - you'll get to see these personalities live and in person in hangars, bush camps, and fire camps.

Before I did my training 20 years ago (civvy route) I met with pilots that tried to talk to me out of it, I did it anyway - despite their best efforts to talk some sense into me. I too had no guarantees and the industry was slowing down. I've been lucky, a lot luckier than most. As I've progressed through the steps - pistons to lights to intermediates and currently on mediums I've learned a lot, and I've got a lot to learn. I've also met with the sons and daughters of friends from a previous professional life who want to fly helicopters. I too have tried to tell them to go the fixed wing route for a better work/life balance. Some listen, some don't, and that is their decision. 

As far as military vs civilian - Crusty has given the best insight into military transitioning into civilian flying. They really are two different worlds in a lot of ways. Companies like former military pilots for IFR jobs, it's just the way it is. Especially the offshore companies. Very structured, either follow the rules or you won't do well. In the military you won't fly a whole lot, but you'll receive very structured training that is paid for, plus a salary, and IFR training and experience but won't get a ton of flying in most cases. In the civilian route you'll be in debt. If you train while working you'll be doing 2 steps forward and 1 step back unless you are consistently flying, and in the end have 100 hour VFR licence and likely no guaranteed employment. You have to decide what's best for you. 

There are good days and bad days. It is what you make of it. But even on the bad days, if you're bumping along at all of 100 knots in the mountains of BC and Alberta, or the cold, windy, foggy "Oh my God how do people fly here." east coast, or the hidden gem of the Arctic where you're very unlikely to get a tail rotor strike on a tree but there's lots of rocks to worry about - you can still look out the window at scenery very few people that have ever walked the earth will see and think, ya, it was worth it. 

Good luck, and make an educated decision.

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On 12/19/2019 at 8:54 AM, Crusty said:

I started my flying career as a military helo pilot and at best I can say that I dabbled in the commercial VFR helo world. 

As a military pilot, you are trained in a very regimented manner and nowadays this training takes quite a long time (in comparison to commercial VFR).  Things are done "by the book" and one shall not stray from the book (ie creativity, no matter how safe, is frowned upon). Most of your "experience" is of the training variety, day in and day out, until you are deployed on operations, and the operations can be somewhat frequent or never depending on the mood of the sitting government. Upgrading from co-pilot to aircraft captain is generally a long process as all current operational CAF helicopters are multi-crew.  The emphasis is on holding an IFR ticket on your respective aircraft type, so the more natural transition from military to commercial flying is in the IFR world.

The general consensus in the commercial VFR world is to avoid hiring ex-military pilots (unless things have changed). Some military pilots have not made a good impression on their commercial VFR employers and it has at times made it difficult for others trying to get in to shake the reputation of military pilots.

When I dabbled in the VFR commercial world, I came to the realization quite quickly that despite a few thousand hours of military flying under my belt, I was like a duck out of water.  The skill set and mindset required to fly effectively in the commercial VFR world is different from military flying. There is more freedom in the commercial VFR world to be creative in order to get the job done (as compared to the strictly regimented military flying), provided it is done safely. As an example with respect to rules, VFR weather limits are lower in order to get the job done - half mile and clear of cloud commercial VFR single pilot, you launch with the Mk1 A1 Eyeball and drop water on the fires; half mile clear of cloud under military rules, you don't launch or you launch IFR only.  As an example with respect to skills, long lining 100 ft+ is truly an art - I have been amazed at some of the VFR commercial pilots and what they can do with a 100', 150', 200+' longline - and longlining skills today are likely essential to get hired on. I was fine short lining, but my longlining skills were absent to say the least. I can honestly say that I only scratched the surface of the spectrum of commercial VFR flying, and I take my hat off to those who have been in the industry as a career.

Also, in the military you have a whole host of support for your operations before and after your flights.  In the commercial VFR world it is just you, or just you and the engineer.  Comparatively speaking, military pilots/crews and techs are pampered in comparison to their commercial VFR counterparts - but that is by necessity in the different worlds that each operate in.

Retired now, I enjoyed my career as a military pilot. And I also very much enjoyed my brief foray into commercial VFR flying - call it happily refreshing.   Both are challenging in their own ways, both have their rewards, both have their issues.

In the end it's a lifestyle choice.

Wow, thank you for the insight and depth of response into this question! 

I don't have much experience with military environments, is there much politics and bureaucracy? Do you know how many years you need to give back to them after you have your license? Is there a way you would summarize the difference in lifestyles between the two paths?

I'm trying to keep all my options open right now as I gather as much info as I possibly can. Currently have an aptitude test with the CAF scheduled for the new year!

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GrayHorizons

Not insulted personally, but your attitude that anyone that doesn't think like you is  "fragile" "feeble" and worried about their job is pretty asinine.

Someone asks for advise on this forum, its given by many, and just because you disagree with them, you go right to the insults, and demeaning posts.

Maybe next time, give your advice, and try not to disrespect the other members of the forum just because it doesn't align with your views.

Carry on

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My best recommendation for you tobese, and depending where you live, is to get a hold of the closest helicopter squadron and arrange a visit or a phone call.  Your best place to start is with the Adjutant, Operations or Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO).  Any one of those can get you pointed in the right direction for your fact finding mission.  Of greatest importance to you at this time would be to talk to any pilots fresh out of their OTU (Operational Training Unit) or pilots who are awaiting training.  Talking to some of those folks will give you the very latest gen on how long they've been in, how long to get to wings status, how long to wait for training, pros and cons of their experiences, how happy/sad they are. 

My information would be a bit dated, but I do know that it is a journey from enrolment in the RCAF to getting your wings to getting your operational training. Think of a time frame of years to accomplish all of that.  And it;s not just flying - there is the mandatory officer development training, multiple courses related and not related to flying, and so on.  When I joined back in the day, it was selection process, then basic officer training (Chilliwack), then primary flight training (Musketeer), then French language training, then survival training, then basic jet training (Tutor), then helicopter training (Jet Ranger/OH58A), then operational training (Kiowa), and then posted to my first unit (Kiowa). That whole process took 2 1/2 years to get to my first operational unit - it is close to double that now. With the current pilot shortage, I believe they have waived the requirement for a diploma or degree as a prerequisite for the pilot trade.  Thinking Chinooks? Even longer.

Current payback time is on the order of 5 years post wings (takes you to 10-12 years of service under the current system).  

Bureaucracy? I chuckled quite a long time at that question. Yes - to the extreme - hope that you have a good sense of humour and patience.

Lifestyle differences?

In the military: steady pay (not impacted by hours flown - based on trade, rank and time in trade), clean sheets, roof over your head, you're told what to wear every day and it's a life of rules, orders and regulations, lots of training flying, always someone looking over your shoulder, job security is high, annual flight hours are low. The operational flying is great and you get to see the world. Would I do it all over again? Yes

In the commercial VFR world (please defer to the folks on this board who have done it as a career for their more relevant experiences, but in my case): pay was good but varied significantly depending whether on spec, on contract, hours flown; exciting flying (fires), all single pilot flying, not boring holes in the sky doing training, skills/experience gathered quickly once you start to fly regularly, thinking outside the box to get the job done instead of being constrained by a myriad of rules and regulations, it's a small world in the commercial helo sector and reputation is everything, accommodations vary throughout the comfort spectrum, you work hard for the money you make when you're in the field (definitely no silver platters or pampering here) Would I do it all over again? Yes

It's a lifestyle choice - ask thousands of questions and talk face to face with people who are currently in the business  (both military and civ) - ask the right questions and ask the hard questions.

Best of luck to you.

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1 hour ago, 49 Merc said:

GrayHorizons

Not insulted personally, but your attitude that anyone that doesn't think like you is  "fragile" "feeble" and worried about their job is pretty asinine.

Someone asks for advise on this forum, its given by many, and just because you disagree with them, you go right to the insults, and demeaning posts.

Maybe next time, give your advice, and try not to disrespect the other members of the forum just because it doesn't align with your views.

Carry on

Never once has he not been condescending or not always right. He is in fact the president of his own fan club..

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