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Subject: How Many Hours Do Army Pilots Usually Have After Discharge?
 
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zCaptainUser is Offline
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07/27/2011 1:40 PM  
I'm wondering how many hours army chopper pilots usually have when they finally get out of the military, assuming they get out after their term is up.

Also what does an army chopper pilot who has a lot of hours in a turbine chopper have to do to get commercial jobs once he's out of the service? Do they simply take the FAA verbal/written tests and then their all good or what?

Thanks
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07/28/2011 1:38 AM  
I am not a military pilot, but I am seriously considering becoming one and from my research and from knowing quite a few helicopter jockies both active dute and retired, I know a thing or two about that career path. From what I have been told, unless you are joining the U.S. Army, it is very difficult to become a rotorwing pilot in the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and especially the Coast Guard. This is due to the fact that the other branches of the military do not have nearly as many helo's as the Army and the fact that all the other branches require their pilots to have a 4 year degree. The Army is still pretty tough to get into if you are going in strictly to fly helicopters, but if you are one of the lucky ones, here are some of the things you can expect:

To be accepted into the WOFT (Warrant Officer Flight Training) program, you will meet with a recruiter and will you will complete a flight packet. This takes some time as you will be required to gather a lot of information about yourself and put it down on paper. You will also need at least 7 letters of recommendation from people other than your family and hopefully people who hold some time of influencial position within the scope of their specific responsibility. You will need to meet a weight "limit" and if you surpass the weight limit, you will be measured to find your body fat index. If you are over the percentage, you will have to lose weight and build muscle. Once your packet is complete and you reach the physical standards, you will be sent to MEPS, where an extremely thorough physical will be conducted over the course of a few days. If you pass the MEPS exam and your packet is in order, you will be given a date where you must sit on a board interview that is conducted by at least 3 Army Officers. These Officers will ask you questions about the Army and about you personally. Remember that you will most likely be one of a few people being interviewed that day and it is very important that you have something that sets you apart from the "average-joe" who also has the dream of flying helicopters. I have heard that it will usually take several attempts at the board interview to be accepted into the WOFT program, if you are accepted.

It is critical that you put your packet together and pass the oral board interview if you want to fly helicopters in the Army. If you are accepted into the WOFT program, you have a gauranteed flight slot (use that term losely, as they can take it away as quickly as they gave it to you if they dont like you and if you don't preform to their expectations). This means that when you sign the dotted line and committ your life to the Army, your contract will state that you will be going to Basic Training (9 weeks), then you will be going to WOCS (Warrant Officer Candidate School) for 6 weeks) and then you will be going to WOFT, which averages 18 - 24 months. Depending on your class rank and the needs of the Army, you will either fly the Apache, the Blackhawk, the Chinook, or the Kiowa Warrior. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

As far as how much time you will get as a helicopte pilot in the Military, that really depends on the airframe you are flying and if the nation is at War or not. Right now, active duty helicopter pilots flying the Blackhawk are coming home from 12 month deployements with a minimum of 700 hours of combat flight experience. Most are coming back with over 1000 and over half of that time is NVG / night time, which is extremely important when it comes to getting a job in the civilian world.

The pro's of flying helicopters in the Military:
YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR TRAINING.

YOU FLY AWESOME AIRCRAFT THAT ARE VERY WELL MAINTAINED.

YOU WILL BUILD NIGHT TIME AND NVG TIME.

A LOT OF CIVILIAN EMPLOYERS WILL CUT THEIR REQUIREMENTS IN HALF FOR MILITARY TRAINED PILOTS.

HUGE PLUS TO HAVE MILITARY FLIGHT TRAINING AND TIME ON RESUME.

UNLESS YOU FLY THE KIOWA, ALL OF YOUR FLIGHT TIME WILL BE TWIN TURBINE TIME (EXCEPT YOUR TRAINING) AND YOU WILL BE FLYING AN AIRCRAFT THAT FALLS IN THE CATEGORY OVER 11,999 POUNDS, WHICH IS IMPORTANT IF YOU WANT TO FLY CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT THAT FALL IN THAT CATEGORY.

THE CONS OF FLYING HELICOPTERS IN THE MILITARY:
HARD FAMILY LIFE BECAUSE OF BEING DEPLOYED AND BEING AWAY FROM FAMILY

TIME COMMITMENT AT THE VERY MINIMUM OIS 7 YEARS AND THAT 7 YEARS BEGINS AFTER YOUR FLIGHT TRAINING. SO YOU MOST LIKELY WILL HAVE AT LEAST 2 YEARS IN THE ARMY BEFORE YOUR ACTUAL TIME COMMITMENT BEGINS. IN REALITY, YOU WILL HAVE ALMOST 10 YEARS IN THE ARMY ONCE YOUR INITIAL 7 YEAR COMMITMENT IS COMPLETE.


I'm not sure exactly what it would take to get an FAA commercial license once your out of the military or even while your still in, but my guess is it wouldn't be more than a written and oral exam and mabye a quick flight. The bottom line is if you join the Army to fly helicopters, you will build a good amount of flight time during "war time" and you will still build a decent amount of flight time during "peace time". Either way, you are flying awesome aircraft and not having to spend a dime.
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07/28/2011 9:42 AM  

You should understand; you join the military to become a soldier, not a pilot. Anyone who believes once you sign on the dotted line guarantees flight training is misguided.

 

Military pilots historically don’t get much flight time, respectively. For example, a friend of mine was a 25 year career Army aviator.  He retired with just under 5000 hours. I logged the same amount of hours in half that time in the civilian sector.

 

Considering military flight training as free is an understatement. Then again, it depends on what your definition of “free” is. IMO, a 6 year commitment in the military is hardly “free”.

 

If you really want to know the real pros and cons, I’d suggest you speak with a current or former military pilot.


Having worked for many operators, NONE have ever reduced minimum flight requirments for ex-military pilots.
 

And no, this is not meant to “bash” military aviators as I hold them in the utmost highest regards.

 

fmtndtUser is Offline
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07/28/2011 9:56 AM  
Posted By pdmatheson on 07/28/2011 1:38 AM
I am not a military pilot, but I am seriously considering becoming one and from my research and from knowing quite a few helicopter jockies both active dute and retired, I know a thing or two about that career path.
A LOT OF CIVILIAN EMPLOYERS WILL CUT THEIR REQUIREMENTS IN HALF FOR MILITARY TRAINED PILOTS.


Maybe you should stick to writing about what you know and NOT what you have heard. I can categorically state that what you have heard is wrong. I do not know of ANY civilian company that will half the hours requirements, they may be out there however. There are some out there that prefer to not hire ex-military guys---especially those who are fresh out of the military. Like Spike said---a military pilot is a soldier first--he is NOT trained to fly in the civilian sector. Yes he can fly an aircraft, but needs to be transitioned to the civilian world when he leaves the military. Imagine the looks and laughs that I would get if I said I was going to fly their military missions--after all---it is flying a helicopter right? Also like Spike, I am not knocking the military guys--I too have the up most regard for what they do. Their reputation, just like that of the civilian pilots is tarred by a few bad apples.

Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Teach a helicopter pilot to fish-and he will sit on a boat and drink beer all day....
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07/28/2011 10:36 AM  
From my research it kind of sounds impossible to go the civilian route. I'd actually prefer it but how does one get turbine time if no company will hire you to fly turbine choppers unless you have 2000 + hours? lol

Definitely not going to get turbine time as a CFI !!


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07/28/2011 10:53 AM  

Turbine time comes after building time, usually as a CFI in a piston powered helicopter (recip). Once you have gained a substantial amount of recip time, then companies are more willing to transition you into their turbines. You gain time to get time.

 

How do you get trained? Just like any education, you need to pay for it. How you pay for it is up to you….. If you do not have any money, then probably the best bet is to get a job and save….

 

zCaptainUser is Offline
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07/28/2011 11:10 AM  
Are you sure about that? How many hours in a piston heli do you think you need to have before you can transition to a turbine? And do you mean getting a job for a company in a turbine or still working as a CFI ?
ikesspikeUser is Offline
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07/28/2011 1:13 PM  

Yes..  This is how the business works. Pay for training and become a CFII and get hired by a flight school and build time teaching. Hours to move up into a turbine may vary but typically range between 1500 to 2000 hours.  Look on the Job page and look at the minimums for particular companies. However, getting that first job is near impossible these days with the number of unemployed CFI’s out in the marketplace competing for those jobs. NEAR impossible but not impossible….

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07/28/2011 1:51 PM  
Let me start off by saying I just retired from the Army as a CW4 after 23 years. I was flying as a Warrant for about 17 of that. Generally military pilots have lower flight times than their counterpart civilian pilots. In the military you are a soldier as your occupation and a pilot as your specialty, so it is feast or famine. In a normal year you can get as low as 120 or so typically up to well over a 1000 hours in a combat tour. If you join the Army don't expect to fly a helicopter every day, and when you do it is usually a 3 hour max flight total. Obviously during a combat tour you will fly your butt off, but normal ops at home station don't expect to be buying extra logbooks. One good thing about the military is that you will be flying a complex helicopter, NVG's, and probably multi-engine your entire career. As for a career after, you can head out into town and get a military equivalency, so I have a CFI-Instrument as well a a commercial helicopter rating. I also have a BV-234 type rating for all my Chinook time. The minimums required by a company hiring you are exactly the same as any other person applying for the job. I just started my new job last month... Oh yeah, and you get a very nice paycheck while in the military. :)
pdmathesonUser is Offline
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07/28/2011 3:30 PM  
fmtndt, Thank you for your comments and for putting me in my place. I am incorrect in my assertion that "A LOT OF CIVILIAN EMPLOYERS WILL CUT THEIR REQUIREMENTS IN HALF FOR MILITARY TRAINED PILOTS." I however am aware that the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) will cut their total time in half for Military trained pilots. I have also been on the hiring board for an air medical program who has on several occasions reduced the required total time during the interview, allowing certain applicants to be hired who were military trained and had spent over 20 years flying in the military. This is definitely not the "norm" but because I have actually seen it happen, I feel justified in posting it. As far as sticking to what I know, I appreciate that, but I feel very confident in what I know about this industry as it is my life's passion and the field I am about to graduate in. I'm not saying that a degree makes me a genius, or that my life's experiences thus far make me better educated in the field of rotor-wing aviation, so please don't misunderstand, I know that I have a lot to learn and I am grateful for those that open doors and help me fulfill my passion and dream of flying helicopters. I appreciate those that have much more experience than I do, who are able to help those like me and correct or point out discrepancies or mistakes, after all we are all human and not perfect, so thank you.
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07/28/2011 4:35 PM  

CBP is not a “civilian employer”.  They are the Federal Government.

 

“Waiving” particular time requirements is common within the industry and not specific to ex-military pilots. This happens when an employer REALLY likes an applicant but the applicant is short on time in some category. If a company prefers ex-mil types then that may be their hiring philosophy. On the flip side of that, as fmtndt pointed out, other companies can and do have the opposite philosophy.

 

While an education with a good dose of passion and hard work mean something in this business, nothing beats years of industry experience. Graduating into this field is one thing and I appreciate that (I know verbal judo too). But a rough guess with this thread alone, you’re probably getting over 60 years of experience and roughly 28K hours in the seat with 3 of the posters (and still learning). In short, we’re not dreaming about flying helicopters………

 

Welcome to the forum……

pdmathesonUser is Offline
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07/29/2011 1:35 PM  
Your right, the CBP is the Federal Government, not a civlian employer and I should have specified that in my second response .

It is not my intention to disrespect or misrepresent this industry and it's experienced pilots. I look up to the experienced pilots and as you pointed out, "in short, we're not dreaming about flying helicopters........" Well I am dreaming about flying helicopters. Every single day it is my waking thought, it's what I dream about at night, it encompasses my entire life and all I am doing, or trying to do is everything I know how to fulfill my dream of flying. I guess what I am saying is, I know my place. I know I am a newbie commercial pilot with probably not even 2 percent of flight time that most experienced pilots on this forum have. I know that my amatuer comments may warrant a correction and I am open and beyond excited to listen to those with "years of industry experience". I need and want the guidance, counsel, direction, instruction, etc....and I am grateful to those who are willing to offer it.

ikesspikeUser is Offline
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07/29/2011 5:37 PM  

Like I said, welcome to the forum….

 

This forum and others will have what you’re looking for. That is, solid information regarding the helicopter industry.  Please understand, when replies to questions contain misinformation, others here including myself, will try to provide the best and most accurate information which truly represent this business based upon our experiences. You, yourself probably wouldn’t appreciate a response to a legitimate question of yours from someone with little or no experience in that particular field or sector. Especially, if the inaccurate information influences a decision upon the reader, such as, what flight school should be avoided… This was the case a few years back where many students failed to heed the warnings from those who came before them……. Truly, it’s nothing personal. Just business…

 

Most of us here with experience are here to help the new folks in anyway we can and “give back” to the industry (most are former CFI's so we can't help it). Therefore, If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask…

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07/30/2011 5:46 AM  
Nice thread as I'm a Army aviator just at 2 years from retirement. Hours really depend on your airframe and what you do in that airframe. Due our deployment schedule we are flying alot per year, on the downside most of our peace time flying is waiting to get ready for the next deployment, and that includes the airframes. The environment is especially harsh on helos, the reset process seems to take at least half of our allotted "at home" time which leaves little stateside flying. I agree to an extent about military guys operating in the national airspace, we hardly get the IFR training we would like, I have to make up some of that on my own with civilian fixed-wing flying.

Most guys will come out with at least a Comm RW Inst. if they took the time at Ft. Rucker to take the mil comp test. Although many don't realize you need a current FAA physical to exercise those privileges. My only real hour level worry was unaided night time, as fly aided. Most employers now are going to some sort of NVG program.
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07/31/2011 10:58 AM  
There are no doubt some interesting responses. First, employers don't half flight time requirements for mil pilots, it's HIGHLY rare. CBP is a huge exception because it's a government job, they pander to ex government employees ie military pilots, nothing new there. It's only fair. You guys are nutting over turbine time and "when do I get to fly a turbine chopper?" Let me tell you something. If you want to learn how to fly a helicopter, fly a recip as a CFI without a governor for 1000 hours or so, the skills you acquire with that are priceless. Military pilots are trained for military flying, and their training is great for that, but often times that doesn't bode well for the civilian transition. Providing you go to the right civi school and you plan on working in the civi market, you shouldn't go into the military. Noticed I said the right civi school, many are horrible, a few are great. If you don't have the assets, well then you're on the hook with uncle sam, and with the downturn in the wars and defense cuts, you might spend 20 years in the military and come with 2000 hours, which is laughable. I've been flying civi for 17 years and have around 6000 plus hours, and done just about everything other than shoot guns off of a helicopter. Take care and good luck!!
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07/31/2011 7:48 PM  
Posted By Carlsagan2010 on 07/31/2011 10:58 AM
...with the downturn in the wars and defense cuts, you might spend 20 years in the military and come with 2000 hours,...
So what do you guys do when you're not flying?


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08/02/2011 4:12 AM  
Extra duties , PT , Company duties , weapon , and mask cleaning , formations , Classroom , deployments , sim training , deployments , "camping" , a lot of time spent in platoon rooms hangar flying etc. chartwork , annual training , ad nauseum. There is always a way to productively and not so productively to spend your military duty time aside from flying.
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08/06/2011 8:12 AM  

I can answer the original question I think.  My original ADSO was up in March.  I'm still in, but at that point I had about 1850.  500 NVG, 60 unaided, 20 W (AI).  The rest was day.  I had a comercial instrument.  I keep seeing people post this nonsense about how you'll spend "20 years and only get 2000 hours".  Its just not true, at least if you go the army warrant route, the other branches might be different I don't know.  All of my peers flew about what I did, so if you just do your initial commitment you'll have 1600-2200 hours would be a good prediction.

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08/29/2011 2:34 AM  
Everyone flies a lot when deployed. When you are stateside it depends a lot on your unit's mission. I am a Warrant Officer in the Army and have been flying for 12 years. I have a little over 3000 thousand hours. I first started my career flying Blackhawks in a medevac company and the hours were few, maybe like 150 a year. I then became an instructor pilot and went to an air assault company and flew a lot more. From their I flew Kiowa's supporting a Training Center and that mission meant between 40 to 60 hours a month. And when I became an Instructor Pilot in the Kiowa and an Instrument Flight Examiner (Army version of a CFII) my hours were more like 80 a month. Two years ago I transitioned to Longbow Apaches and when stateside I first flew little, but then became a Pilot in Command and my hours shot up drastically. As an attack aviator your flying is either feast or famine. During unit training events you will fly alot. I became Maintenance Test Pilot in the Longbow two months ago. Although a MTP doesn't fly as much as others, I am currently deployed and they are keeping me busy. And when I am not test flying I am going out on missions that typically last for 6 or more hours of flight time.


Your career is what you make of it. Likewise, if you want to fly a lot, and you know your stuff and the PIC's like flying with you, you will get to fly more than the others that sit and whine. When I was a WOJG I was taught to get flight time and learn some cool stuff, one had to hang with the MTP's and help them out and you would get to go out on test flights.

Hope this helps. I came in off the street into WOFT 12 years ago and haven't regretted it at all. At times it sucks bad, real bad, and other times you can't believe you are getting paid for this. I just hope they don't change my retirement benefits, then I might think differently about the last 12 years, but that is for another post.

Have a great day.
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