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Having the skills needed to fly a helicopter makes you a valuable member of the team you with which you are working. Since a helicopter pilot is a fairly specialized job, it requires quite a bit of training to become proficient at it to the point where you can be sat in a helicopter and fly it by yourself. Helicopter pilot jobs in the military are filled by both armed forces personnel, and by civilians. Some of the benefits of working in the military as a civilian in the capacity are:
- Great work experience with on-site training
- Relatively high pay
- Possibility for obtaining additional contracts
- Looks great on a resume
Training and experience as a civilian helicopter pilot in the military.
When the military has a shortage of helicopter pilots available, or most of the ones that are usually used are in a combat zone, they turn to civilians to help fill the shortage. In some cases, it is even more cost effective for the military to hire out a position to a civilian contractor instead of training someone themselves to do it.
Flying a helicopter for the military is an experience that very few people get to have, even fewer are the number of people who aren’t enlisted who get to do it. Since every helicopter is different, especially in the military, you will get specialized on-site training to get you acclimated with the chopper’s controls on the type which you will be flying and how it might differ from ones you might already be used to. You’ll gain new skills that you can use outside of your contractor job once it complete, and you’ll probably have some fun stories to tell.
Getting contractor pay as a helicopter pilot.
While helicopter pilots are generally well paid, especially after a couple of years of experience under their belt, that pay will be amplified in the military. The base pay will probably stay close to what you might expect to find in a regular civilian job. If you are going to be operating a helicopter somewhere in the continental U.S., you’re still going to be making pretty good money, better than the starting pay of a helicopter pilot (around $40,000), but less than that of someone flying in a combat zone.
Flying a helicopter in places such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia can be somewhat perilous, as such, you will get paid quite a bit more than you normally would since you are a civilian. These contract jobs for highly volatile areas only range anywhere in length from 3-12 months. During that time though, hazard pay will be in effect which pays quite a bit more than a comparable spot for your experience level back home. The upper range of civilian contractor helicopter pilots can be over $120,000 annually, before taking into account hazard pay. Very few civilian helicopter pilot jobs can come close to a salary like that.
Extending your contract or signing a new contract to work in the military as a civilian.
Once you have already completed one contract, there is a very good chance that you can get another contract pretty easily if the same position is open, or if a similar position is available. Like any employer, the military would rather have someone who is known to be able to do the job well rather than a potential unknown employee. This opens up more doors to you in the military since you already have some experience and it is likely that they won’t have to train you as much, if at all, for basically the same position.
Since there are so many different types of support helicopters that civilian pilots can fly, people who have already finished one contract would probably be sought after to fill a similar role in a different kind of helicopter. There would be a little bit of additional training involved, but every situation is going to be slightly different, sometimes necessitating the use of a civilian contractor over an enlisted pilot.
Your experience as a military helicopter pilot will look great to future employers.
When thinking about potential jobs that you can get once you’re contract is over, assuming you don’t plan on signing another contract, the first thing that most people think of would probably be working for an emergency service. Firefighting helicopter pilots are needed by the Forest Service in order to keep wildfires under control every year. Pretty much every major city has a police helicopter, if not several, that either help patrol the skies or that help catch criminals, such as in high speed chases. Medical helicopters are also in widespread use throughout the country, delivering patients between medical facilities, and victims from the scene of accidents to hospitals for urgent care. Having military helicopter experience will go a long way in handling these high pressure situations. Employers know this and they will hire accordingly.
There are some jobs that might not immediately come to mind when you think about what a helicopter pilot can do once their contract is up, but they still play important roles in many sectors of industry. Oil companies require quite a few helicopter pilots to fly over their pipelines to make sure everything looks alright, and also to fly out teams of mechanics if something is wrong. Most airports and airlines that offer helicopter flights will require experienced pilots with over 1000 hours of flight time. Tourist helicopters fly over landmarks all the time, and news stations in major cities have a helicopter to check on traffic and report the latest news.
All of these businesses and services need helicopter pilots who are already trained and ready to begin working pretty much on day 1. The experience you gain by flying as a civilian contractor in the military will go a long way in helping you get a job outside of the military, and you can command a higher salary than you would without that extra experience.
If you have any comments or questions about how you can land your dream helicopter pilot job, then please feel free to add your comment to the article by filling in the form below.