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The Truth About Helicopter Pilot Salaries: Debunking Common Myths

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Helicopter Pilot

Despite the glamorous image of helicopter pilots flying over breathtaking landscapes, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. For those who want to become a helicopter pilot or are already one, the topic of salaries is often a sensitive one. There are many myths surrounding helicopter pilot salaries that need debunking. In this blog post, we’ll reveal the truth about them.

Myth #1: Helicopter Pilots Make Tons of Money

Fact: While it’s true that some experienced and seasoned helicopter pilots earn six-figure salaries, it’s only a small portion of the industry. The majority of helicopter pilots make much less compared to their fixed-wing counterparts. According to Payscale.com, in 2021, the average helicopter pilot salary was $78k per year in the United States.

Helicopter pilots’ earnings depend on various factors such as experience level, type of work they perform (EMS flights vs. air tours), geographic location where they work (rural areas vs. metropolitan cities), and type of employer (private operators vs. major airlines).

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Myth #2: Private Aviation Pays More Than Commercial Aviation

Fact: Surprisingly enough, private aviation doesn’t always offer higher pay than commercial aviation. According to JobMonkey.com, corporate helicopter pilots earn an average salary between $75k-$90k annually, with benefits included. This might seem attractive at first glance. However, commercial airline pilot jobs typically offer better benefits packages with medical insurance options, vacation days off/leave policies, and retirement savings plans.

Moreover, commercial airlines also provide more predictable routes and schedules that allow for better work/life balance compared to private aviation. Landing times are often unpredictable, especially during bad weather conditions, which means long hours away from home for corporate travelers.

Myth #3: Becoming A Helicopter Pilot Is Easy And Cheap

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Fact: Obtaining your Private Pilot License for helicopters can cost anywhere from $15k-$25k depending on where you do your training, the amount of flight time you need to acquire, and other associated costs. This includes expenses such as ground school, flight hours (which can range from 30-50 hours), rental fees, and instructor wages.

Moreover, becoming a helicopter pilot requires many months of intense studying and preparation in order to pass the necessary written and practical exams needed to obtain an FAA license. Aside from that, obtaining proper insurance as a commercial helicopter pilot is very expensive and requires additional travel costs, such as transportation and lodging, while attending conferences or continuing education courses.

Myth #4: Helicopter Pilots Never Have Job Security Issues

Fact: Helicopter pilots are often subject to layoffs when companies experience economic hardship or downturns in their industry. For example, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on travel restrictions, many helicopter tour operators have seen their revenue streams hit hard, which means cuts in jobs and reduced work schedules.

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As such, job security isn’t guaranteed even if one is licensed or has established themselves in the field.

Myth #5: The Lifestyle Of A Helicopter Pilot Is Glittering And Glamorous

Fact: While some helicopter pilots may get to fly celebrities around beautiful locations on Earth, the lifestyle isn’t all about glamour. Pilots have long workdays involving early start times before sunrise and late shifts well after sunset, depending on their employer’s needs at any given time.

Often working weekends during peak seasons like summer holidays or Christmas for aerial tours, the job can involve spending more time away from family over holiday periods. Corporate travelers usually need to reach their desired destinations while avoiding traffic conditions, which can be hazardous, especially around urban areas notorious for traffic congestion.

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Conclusion

The truth about helicopter pilot salaries is that they’re not always what people think they are. Even though it seems that pilots earn a lot more than the average Joe, this couldn’t be further from reality. Helicopter pilots work long hours, face unpredictable schedules or lifestyles, and have a high burnout rate which can impact their overall well-being.

Furthermore, becoming a helicopter pilot requires hard work, dedication, and commitment to obtain the necessary qualifications to succeed within the industry. It’s thus important to debunk these myths surrounding salary expectations so anyone looking into potentially entering this field of aviation knows what they’re getting themselves into before taking off on their first training flight ride.

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