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Subject: jobs as pilot/mechanic?
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helicopterpilot88User is Offline
JH Veteran
JH Veteran
Posts:26

07/28/2011 12:38 AM  
Hello folks. I am a bit inquisitive as to how many of you are Pilot /Mechanics? I currently hold my CPL and hopefully my CFI (22's) this summer. By the end of this winter i will have my first mechanic rating (Airframe) . When i have both of my A &P ratings, i would like to work for an operator maintaining their helicopter while logging flight time for them. One of my instructors did this as a humanitarian pilot overseas in a C206 , and i would like to do similar work. I know that i will need to have performed the maintenance previously, or be supervised, so maybe i will need some maintenance experience before this is realistic? I guess mainly i don't see a whole lot of job openings requesting a pilot/ mechanic position; so what can i look forward too, and how marketable will i really be? Will i ever log flight time or just be used up as a wrench most of the time? Experienced words welcome-lay it on me, thank you.
hurleyjonathanUser is Offline
JH Veteran
JH Veteran
Posts:30

08/31/2011 10:18 AM  
I am an A&P and am finishing my commercial right now. The reality is you will be low time on both ends, the helicopter mechanic side is very hard to get into, and then on the flight time side, a low time pilot is a low time pilot. I am in this position right now. I work for a 121 fixed wing company, but almost landed my first helicopter mechanic job with a bit of flying here and there. As an a&p and rotor pilot, Once you have the skill on both side you will be worth a lot to a smaller operator or field operator. The bigger company's are only going to hire you as one or the other, but to it might get you hired sooner.
sns3guppyUser is Offline
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Posts:41

11/26/2011 3:49 AM  
I've been a mechanic and pilot throughout my career.  I began turning wrenches as a teenager to pay for flight lessons.  Not all my jobs over the years have involved doing both jobs, but many have.  Some jobs have been the direct result of having both, although most were either one, or the other. 

Before you pick a direction, decide first which you want to do more.  Which is your priority?  Do you want to fly, or do you want to turn wrenches.  Before you snap to one or the other, consider that both are honorable, fulfilling professions, both are highly involved and require great technical understanding, responsibility, and bring grave consequences for inattention and poor performance.   Either one, on it's own, may consume a lifetime, or a full career.  Both may be done together, or alternatingly used throughout one's career.

I got my first job in aviation cleaning and maintaining airplanes, helping open airframes, assisting in hundred hour inspections, and anything else I could do, as a kid in high school.  I used that to pay for flying lessons.  My first job after high school was ag work; crop dusting.  My ability (and more importantly, willingness) to work on the equipment I flew was a deciding factor for my employer.

I'm alive today because I look at things critically as both a mechanic and pilot.  There are things I will or won't accept in an aircraft that those who don't have a maintenance background might over look. 

I've been out of work as a pilot, and immediately found work as a mechanic, where other pilots I knew weren't nearly so fortunate.  In fact, the problem was choosing which job I'd take.  The last time this happened, turning wrenches lead to some side instructing, flying charter, and a check-airman position.   My first turbojet job came as an invitation to be a copilot and corporate director of maintenance.  Another position at another operator lead to my acting as director of maintenance when the existing one quit, at a time when I needed to make more money.  I was able, because I could fulfill both roles.  I flew and did paperwork and turned wrenches. 

Be careful if you want to fly.  Pilots are a dime a dozen, but mechanics are more in demand.  I've responded to jobs that advertised for a pilot, but as soon as the employer learned that I had a maintenance background, suddenly the job offer was for a mechanic or director of maintenance, with a little flying if time permitted.  I've been working jobs as a pilot that began to degenerate into more wrenching and less flying as time went on.  I don't say "degenerate" in a negative way; I say it to illustrate that a flying job morphed into something else; I went to fly, but ended up doing something else because of additional qualifications.  In the end, I didn't get as much flying as the next guy at that company.  Sometimes that meant I didn't get as much pay, sometimes it meant I worked longer hours for the same pay.  Often it meant I worked harder.  I ended the day dirtier and greasier, and there was a period for some years in there where my hands never healed; I always had safety wire cuts or tears on my hands and arms, burns, oil or grease in my skin and fingernails, and for a long time I didn't have an item of clothing free engine oil and hydraulic fluid stains.

Flying is a career of moves and job changes, temporary work, furloughs, companies closing, low wages, struggling, and change.  You live from medical to medical, your career hanging on being able to pass the next medical exam, the next checkride.   It's a clean career, compared to being a mechanic; sometimes it actually involves wearing white shirts (a stupid act around aircraft, in my opinion).  Being a pilot is better than working for a living, although often you'll question that concept, because where others spent eight hours a day in the office and then lead their own life, it's a rare thing to give just eight hours of your day to the job.  Many jobs take you away from home for days or weeks or months or even years at a time, and though you may not be flying all day, you're still not sleeping in your own bed, you're still somewhere at the behest of an employer, and you're still getting paid for just a fraction of that time away.  You'll find that for every hour you spend aloft, you'll spend an average of four total hours dedicated to the job.  Fly two hours, you've likely just put in a six to eight hour day.   It's like that.

Turning wrenches is rewarding.  If you like technical problems, if you like puzzles, if you like precision, if you like mechanical things, if you like working with your hands, if you like tools, the smell of fuel and oil and hydraulic fluid, if you enjoy getting dirty, if you appreciate a high degree of responsibility, if you're a driver that sees a job through and leaves no stone unturned, then aircraft maintenance may be for you.  If you like variety, it's a great profession.  Driving rivets one day, inspecting a spline shaft in an engine the next, dressing a propeller or rotor, tensioning a cable, troubleshooting an electrical system, or fabricating a hydraulic line are examples of the variety you may face.  Pilots drive, but mechanics are the reason the aircraft is available to go fly every day or each night.  When a patient is picked up on a road at a motor vehicle accident scene at night, the pilot prevents the aircraft from striking anything, but everyone on board owes their safety and their life, every second of that operation, to the mechanic who did things right.  Aircraft get worked-on around the clock, but flown for just a few hours; it's really the mechanic's aircraft, and the pilot simply borrows it for a while.

Being a mechanic means you'll need your own tools.  They're expensive, and they're a lifetime, continuing investment.  Plan accordingly.

Take whichever role you choose; there's no reason you can't be both.  Being both at the same time can be counterproductive and dangerous; trying to troubleshoot when you should be performing an emergency procedure, for example, can get you killed, as can trying to out think the manufacturer or the checklist. 

I think being a pilot has a great opportunity to help make you a better mechanic. Being a mechanic can greatly enhance you as a pilot, I believe.  If you want to do both, do both.  If you're able to do both, do both.  Either one may be the pathway to the other.  If you love one more than the the other, then give that your energy and effort, because the one you don't love may rob you of your dreams.  It happens.  Whichever you choose, plan on a long road and a career that takes twists and turns and a long time to develop.  The rewards are worth the effort, in my opinion, and proportional to the same.  Good luck.
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