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Subject: This Wonderful Industry
 
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FH1100PilotUser is Offline
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04/18/2012 11:56 AM  
PART I:

Most of you know that I take a short-term, seasonal job drying cherries up in Washington state in the summer flying an old Sikorsky S-55.  It's an odd job in that it requires us to be on continuous duty pretty much from June 1st through the end of the season when the cherries are picked.  It's not a high flight time job, since we only fly after it rains which, last year it didn't do very much.  So we sat around.  A lot.  The younger guys were in frustrated agony; I kicked my feet up and just smiled.  Paid to sit around and *not* fly?  I'm in!

Business has been picking up.  Some of the pilots who were with us last year are not available this year.  The owners asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to come up and spend the summer with us. 

I didn't, but through one of those friend-of-a-friend deals, I was given a phone number of a guy who was highly recommended.  Said guy is from the U.K.  He's in his 50's.  A little late in life he decided he wanted to be a helicopter pilot and chucked his career to start flight training here in the States.  By January of 2004 he was working for a flight school in New Jersey.  This lead to a series of CFI jobs at sketchy flight schools.  That all ended in May 2009. 

He looked for jobs, but flight schools don't want to hire someone like him because they know he'll be gone very soon once he hits 1,000 hours (which is, even he admits, probably true).  Some tour companies he applied with (I won't name them) made it abundantly clear that they wanted younger guys they could more easily, um, manipulate...with regard to schedules and not bitching too much about maintenance "issues."  See, older guys don't put up with as much crap as younger guys.  And in this business there's always a lot of crap.

Positives and negatives: He hasn't flown since 2009; 850 hours; no instrument rating but a lot of throttle-twisting time; flight review- expired; flight physical- expired.  Hopes- dashed.

After a couple of phone calls, the guy called back and said he's sorry but he couldn't take the job.  It's a sad story.  The money situation has put him in a real bind.  He's living in N.J. with friends- no permanent address.  He has no job, but he needs to get back to Florida to renew his visa.  He needs a flight physical and a biennial.  Those, plus the costs to simply travel to Washington are beyond his means at the moment.  He says he's going back to his old field to make some money.  Maybe...maybe he'll be able to pursue a flying job again.  But it's all on hold for now.  At this point his opinion of the industry is extremely negative and he has begun to regret his decision to do this at all...

PART II:

A lot of those who are in the industry sometimes lose their objectivity. They only see the good things about being a helicopter pilot- only see the fun.  They minimize the negatives.  They tell people that we are "lucky" to not work one of those awful 9-to-5 office jobs where we're stuck in a cubicle which, as everyone knows is the ONLY alternative to being a helicopter pilot, which most of us have never even had to do.  They enthusiastically and wholeheartily urge people to chuck their careers and learn to fly.  "Do it!" they say.  "You can make it!" they say.  "You'll never regret it!" they say.

Over the years I've been roundly criticized in these forums for my advice to middle-aged guys who are thinking of changing careers and becoming professional helicopter pilots.  That advice has always been: Don't underestimate how tough it's going to be and the effort you'll have to make and the length of time it'll take to become marketable; don't underestimate the obstacles.  Do understand that it might not work out, because chances are very high that it won't.  It is a HUGE crapshoot.  And you may regret it.  I don't say it's impossible, but it sure ain't a given that it will happen simply because you want it to- even if you want it with all your heart.

Personally, I hope this guy changes his mind and comes to work with us this summer.  Even if he doesn't I'll do whatever I can to help him out.  But I wonder how many others are out there like him- like Silver State grads who got discouraged and were never able to make it.  Guys who bought into the dream but are now living a nightmare.

Things haven't changed a bit: This is a tough, tough industry to make it in.
FH1100PilotUser is Offline
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05/01/2012 1:03 PM  

UPDATE

So about this guy who was recommended to me, the guy I wrote about above... 

He ended up agreeing to come out and work with us for the summer.  But it took a bit of coersion, coordination and cooperation.

My friend Mikey (a terrific guy and a great pilot who himself is closer to the start of his career than the end, as I am)...anyway, Mikey agreed to "sponsor" an airline ticket from the guy's home to Brewster, Washington, which I thought was extremely generous.  What we then agreed to was this: Mikey will get him a ticket to Nashville, and then I'll pick him up there and he can ride with me the rest of the way in my car.  That way, he can see a bit of the country, share the driving, and I'll have some company for the three-day trip.  When we get out to Washington, the company we're working for will give him a "biennial" and get him current and trained up.  Win/win!

I tell you all this for a couple of reasons.  Primarily, as "down" as I am on this industry, I want people to know that there ARE opportunities that come up now and then.  Even when it seems hopeless, something comes out of the blue that you could not expect. 

Secondly, I want to encourage all of you low-timers out there to network your asses off.  Make as many friends (real friends, not just acquaintances) in the business as you can...AND THEN KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THEM!  With cell phones and Facebook, there is simply no excuse not to.  I didn't know this guy from Adam, but he's a friend-of-a-friend - Mikey has mentioned him to me in the past.  So I'm willing to help him out because I trust my friend's judgment.  Are there other pilots who are equally deserving and who also need a break like this?  Sure, I'll bet there are plenty.  But *this* is the guy we know, so *this* is the guy we're looking after. 

And truthfully, I'm not sure how much of a "break" this really is.  I don't know where it's going to lead for this guy.  I'm hoping that he'll use the experience of flying the S-55 and turn it into some other job...somewhere.  At least he'll be among a bunch of pilots who know pilots who know... you get the idea.  It's so much easier to get a job when you already have a job.

So we'll see.  My current boss, who initially said he was just going to park our helicopter here in Alabama while I'm gone, has gone into panic-mode now that he's coming to the reality of not having it available for two and a half months!  Oh well.  At least I'll have something I can come back to after the cherries are all picked.  Should be an interesting summer!

clipperdudeUser is Offline

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05/01/2012 2:26 PM  
You guys "sponsored" to get him TO YOU!,...and I just spent 1,500 bucks getting to an interview, I guess it IS good to know people, who know people, who know people!

I hope he makes it!
JohanBUser is Offline
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05/19/2012 11:49 AM  
FH1100, I know what you're talking about. I got my CFI right when Silver State destroyed thousands of dreams, and subsequently was 15th in line for a few measly CFI jobs at the school I just spent my lives' savings, + $20 000 more (thanks Sam!).

Times were tough, but I expanded my resume with some fuel-handiling and quality control experiences since shortly after I started my initial training with a job at the local FBO working the line. After each month in the sun on the ramp I still needed some $$ to conver the rent. One of thooose jobs.

This experience, and like you mentioned, people I met on the ramp and in the hangars, is what 'set me free' in the end. Initially the line experience got me a job at a big oilfield heli company, working the fuel systems, and that stint got me a similar job at an even bigger oilifield heli company, where I'm still at.

The timing, and the contacts, (and the stars) all lined up for that job, and the deal was they'll let me build hours whilst working the maintenance style job.

Show me a fledgling pilot saying no to that and I'll show you and accidental pilot.

Long story short, I got a job that included coincidental flight time at the leading gulf heli company with 175 hours on the clock.

I'm at 800 now, after 2 years, making a livable wage, home almost every night.

To circle back to your post, my appointment served as 2 things: a) inspiration to many (that something like this even happened anymore) and b) making a remarkable amount of people very jealous, the latter for which I don't care much.

I'll second your warnings, though: entree is tough, and sometimes dedication isn't enough to break the barrier. Sometimes luck is the brick-breaker.

Ask me, I know.

I hope to pay the luck forward oneday. I can only hope there are more pilots out there that are willing to 'pay it forward' for the sake of those kept behind.

Regards
skipperUser is Offline
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05/19/2012 12:34 PM  
It's not just the helicopter industry that's struggling. Fixed wing isn't "a bowl of dried cherries", either to tie it back to the OP. Any flying job regardless of how desirable should be given serious consideration the way the economy is. Employers can afford to be very picky. As for a friend of a friend of a friend, the old 6 degrees of separation, maybe one of us will be on one end of that or the other. I know I am.
FiveohUser is Offline
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05/19/2012 4:44 PM  
Well said. There's no doubt that this industry can be a big azz kicker for all of us. But just like the above post mentions.....network, network, network. I can not say enough about it. I started training when I was 36 years old. Had my CFII in less than two years. I did that while working full-time as a police officer. Being off three days a week allowed me to train often. I initially planned on getting my 1000 hrs and heading to the GOM. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that my best option at my age was to finish my time at the PD, retire, and then pursue it. Here I am 10 years later and my retirement date is 14 months away. There is no doubt that I made the right decision. But you have to meet folks, get your name out there, and always do a good job. Those people tell people who tell people and before long you've got lots of contacts. For me this led to moving to different airframes, including a transition in to FW. I was lucky enough to get a part-time gig as a relief pilot in a 44 flying pipeline on my days off, flight instruction in a 300c, BFR's, predator eradication, photo flight's blah blah blah. You get the picture. Plus the 44 gig led to the owner sending me to get my SFAR endorsement to instruct in it, and on his dime. There's just no telling what opportunities will transpire from something so simple. It's taken some time but I'm 1800 hrs+ and real close to getting that pension. Then I'm planning on heading to the GOM. My goal before next summer is to get my ATP. So if one chooses to do this, especially being middle aged like myself, then they better be committed and also be very patient. IF you are persistent it will pay off. I'm at the point now where I'm able to help another pilot out who just finished his PPL. So when given the opportunity, always pay it forward like they say. FIveoh
clipperdudeUser is Offline

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05/19/2012 8:46 PM  
Yep, you guys hit the nail on the head! The two things that every wannabe needs to make a career in aviation happen; a good paying (non aviation) job to fall back on while you build hours, and friends,...lots and lots of friends!
boatpixUser is Offline
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06/06/2012 1:49 PM  
We had a one of our boat photo pilots ask about doing some cherry drying. Did some near Portland in one of our pontoon equipped R22 Mariners with BOATPIX.com insignias on the side. He didn't like it. Liked the safety of being over the water without trees and wires. I told him to return to the boats and let someone else hassle with the cherries. He flew for a season wish us in our dual pilot R22 and then got a job flying single pilot R22 on a house photo contract (where the photographer didn't know how to manipulate the controls, ergo single pilot). So we were able to take a guy that had a cfi and no job into a job with us and then to a more complicated job. And fulfilled his dream. I spoke to one of my pilots today that thought he got a tour job in an r44 but that fizzled after he moved to a beach. He flies an R22 for us at www.helicopteracademy.com on the boat photo contract. I told him to move back to his old desk job, back to his bed and stay there until he gets a turbine job somewhere and just fly boat photo for us on weekends. He was dissapointed that the R44 tour job didn't work out but happy he can get the revenue from his normal job and the money from flying for us for about 20 hours on the weekends. It is a wonderful industry if you find someone that has lots of helicopters and needs people to fly them on some contract that makes sense. Find someone that has a job for you and you will find a wonderful experience and you will see this as a wonderul industry.
clipperdudeUser is Offline

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06/06/2012 2:12 PM  
Posted By boatpix on 06/06/2012 1:49 PM
We had a one of our boat photo pilots ask about doing some cherry drying. Did some near Portland in one of our pontoon equipped R22 Mariners with BOATPIX.com insignias on the side. He didn't like it. Liked the safety of being over the water without trees and wires. I told him to return to the boats and let someone else hassle with the cherries. He flew for a season wish us in our dual pilot R22 and then got a job flying single pilot R22 on a house photo contract (where the photographer didn't know how to manipulate the controls, ergo single pilot). So we were able to take a guy that had a cfi and no job into a job with us and then to a more complicated job. And fulfilled his dream. I spoke to one of my pilots today that thought he got a tour job in an r44 but that fizzled after he moved to a beach. He flies an R22 for us at www.helicopteracademy.com on the boat photo contract. I told him to move back to his old desk job, back to his bed and stay there until he gets a turbine job somewhere and just fly boat photo for us on weekends. He was dissapointed that the R44 tour job didn't work out but happy he can get the revenue from his normal job and the money from flying for us for about 20 hours on the weekends. It is a wonderful industry if you find someone that has lots of helicopters and needs people to fly them on some contract that makes sense. Find someone that has a job for you and you will find a wonderful experience and you will see this as a wonderul industry.


I would think that the pontoons would get in the way of the airflow needed to dry the cherries? I have a feeling that's the same R44 tour job I missed out on too? Its great that your pilots are so successful, too bad though that you won't hire a pilot unless he buys 100hrs from you first!
boatpixUser is Offline
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06/08/2012 3:42 PM  
An example of why we need a pilot to have 100 hours flying on our contract can be explained by something that happened today. We have two helicopters at an event and they pilots go out and photograph boats entered in this shark fishing tournament. They come back with all these pictures but somehow they forgot to zoom in on the boats. So the helicopter is at a safe distance and there is a telephoto lens that can zoom. Rather than zooming in on the boat the images show all the boats too far away. They won't make that mistake this afternoon. So, learning has taken place.
clipperdudeUser is Offline

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06/08/2012 8:08 PM  
Posted By boatpix on 06/08/2012 3:42 PM
An example of why we need a pilot to have 100 hours flying on our contract can be explained by something that happened today. We have two helicopters at an event and they pilots go out and photograph boats entered in this shark fishing tournament. They come back with all these pictures but somehow they forgot to zoom in on the boats. So the helicopter is at a safe distance and there is a telephoto lens that can zoom. Rather than zooming in on the boat the images show all the boats too far away. They won't make that mistake this afternoon. So, learning has taken place.


Perhaps you should hire professional photographers instead if having pilots take pictures (which is pointless since you cannot log taking pictures as flight time!). I'm all for company training. That R44 position at the beach that fizzled on me included 2 weeks of training,...at no cost to me! The cherry drying position I had included training,...at no cost to me! You seem to be the only one who charges for company training,...and 100hrs?,...there's no way it takes that much!
toadUser is Offline
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06/08/2012 8:28 PM  
Your story does give hope. My story is even shorter. Tried to get loans back in 2007 as the crash began. Checked out two schools,one in Texas one in Florida. Had a chance to fly a R-44 nd a Schwitzer. I was hooked. Ecconomy still sucks. But would like to get into the industry in any capacity. Any ideas???
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06/18/2012 9:03 AM  
Yes this can be a harsh business but also a pleasant one. It's what you make of it and like Bob says, network!

I'm all for paying it forward and have had many help me during the years. Don't get discouraged however when you pay it forward and it bites you in the ass. Just keep pushing forward.

I just spent the last 13 months helping someone start a tour business. Once I got to San Antonio I created the Ops Manuals, company policies, got them the Part 136 LOA, designed and let them borrow my VOIP phone system (it translates voice mails to transcribed emails and I installed it too), designed and registered their private heliport, designed and installed 2 alarm systems and 2 IT systems for the passenger terminal and the hangar, redesigned the tour routes to make them safer, efficient, and neighbor friendly, etc, etc, etc....I'll stop now or I'll be here all day and it's been so many more things.

I started off doing it for free (he paid some of my expenses on days I drove to meetings) before I moved to the town where the business was going to be because I really believed I could make a difference and have him start this company in a safe efficient manner. At the beginning of this year I moved here and I was supposed to begin receiving a very small salary plus per diem. Four months later when it came time to pay me what he owed me he said he didn't have money so I got stuck short about $15,000. Of course now that the company is running he told me he doesn't need a Chief Pilot anymore and I was forced to take a 60% salary reduction. That might be fine if he knew anything about civilian flying but he doesn't have a clue which is a shame but he'll soon find out how much he needs one.

His partner calls herself Director of Marketing but really? A Director of Marking who doesn't want to use Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or anything like that because she's afraid someone will copy her pictures (which anyone can take from the $39 helicopter ride where she got hers) and make postcards! So she's missing out on the best FREE advertising in the world, social media, because she might lose $20 in postcards? Who uses postcards any more anyway? That's what Facebook is for!

Anyway my point is that when you get a chance to pay it forward do it and don't look back. They say they don't have money to pay me what they owe me but just hired another employee for the front desk. Hmm? Four employees up front for 2 or 3 flights a day? Will it work out? Maybe or maybe not but I have the satisfaction of knowing I did a good thing no matter what. I believe though that in the end it will come back to me in good positive energy.

I will never forget a guy here who many know called Gene. I remember how after posting here for a while we met at the airport in Orlando where I was working and he had flown into. I was wearing the company polo shirt and it had a BELL helicopter embroidered on it. Since we had a Bell222 I figured it was a 222. When we met he said "nice BELL430" and I stupidly said "no it's a 222". It clearly had 4 blades but I had never noticed it. What did Gene do? Nothing he kept talking to me and we had a fine time. He could have corrected me and made me feel dumb but he let it slide. I admired that so much of him that I took that as a sign of how a simple thing like that helped me become a better pilot.

Knowledge is power and how you help others will help you too. I brought up this memory because "Pay it forward" is one of Gene's favorite sayings.

Be safe friends !

Self discipline is when you do something that you know is right even though you don't want to do it. As a professional and safe pilot you have to maintain control over your desires & emotions. Have INTEGRITY and great WORK ETHIC and you'll succeed in life.
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