New Year… New Career?

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New Year… New Career?

You don’t have to go straight from school and into pilot training to successfully obtain a professional helicopter pilot’s licence and a great career. Plenty, in fact probably even the majority of self-improver (self-funded as opposed to military) pilots who are now flying in sectors from HEMS to Oil and Gas to Police to Aerial Firefighting, started their working life doing something other than aviation – after all, there’s always time for a second career if you want it badly enough.

So how does one give up the day job and teleport themselves into the pilot’s seat to train for that new and exciting career without giving the impression that it’s a midlife crisis and they’re chasing some kind of childhood dream? There’s also the question of time, money and your friends and family being subjected to conversations about your passion for helicopters, day and night. Have you ever thought about it?

The good news is you are not alone – hundreds of people have dreamt it, and more importantly, they have done it! Your friends and family will forgive you for boring them silly once you’re qualified and they’re being flown like VIPs into a country hotel for a posh lunch – in fact, they will be proud. And so will you, when you have to pinch yourself every morning as you skip to work thinking about what the view from your office window looks like now, compared to before.

Are you excited that this could actually be you? If so, read on. Let’s look at the practicalities first. The training options can be overwhelming so it’s a little easier to start with the fundamentals – how much time do you have? You might have heard there are two training routes; modular and integrated. Either will work nicely if you can afford to give up work completely and treat the training as if you have already started your job. Doing it full-time is always the quickest way – it takes 12 months on an integrated course – slightly longer on a modular course but to a point, the time it takes boils down to your commitment and progress. Some have actually achieved it in less.

Let’s look at the differences. Integrated training is essentially zero to hero in one continuous, full-time course. You’re taught in the classroom every day for a year and it’s extremely structured. You qualify with a CPL(H) – commercial licence in the minimum hours possible – 135 plus the skill test (typically about two hours). Modular training offers a great deal of flexibility, and this works well for many students. As it says on the tin, you bolt the individual modules together. There are three main parts – start with a private pilot’s licence – PPL(H),  study for your commercial written exams whilst you build flying hours, and then take the commercial modular flying course. You’ll end up with just over 190 hours doing it this way.

Both routes give you exactly the same professional licence but modular training offers flexibility to continue working or juggle family life. This will obviously take you longer but if you’re committed and don’t let life and distractions get in the way, you can typically achieve it in 14-18 months – less if you get your head down. If you struggle to manage your own time, however, self-studying for the commercial exams can be tricky.

The good news here is that there if you do find that distance learning isn’t working for you, there is an option to jump into the classroom for around 10 months after you complete your PPL(H), and it’s full-time (five days a week) but after you complete your first four exams you get two days each week when you can go flying to build some hours (and you can remind yourself why you’re studying so hard – motivation!).

The second big hurdle is finance. Modular students who successfully complete our PPL(H) course can apply for our annual scholarship programme which can fund a substantial part of your professional training if you are successful in receiving an award. You can apply year after year so do make sure you submit an application even if you’re not successful the first time around. We are always looking for the next stand-out individuals to join the team.

You do however need to have a plan for financing your training in the event that your scholarship application is not successful, very few have all the money right at the start. The modular course comes with a modular payment option, which is quite handy because we can help you plan it all out and find a timescale which suits your individual situation.

What about jobs? That’s one of the most common questions we get asked. The quickest route to paid flying work (and lots of it) is to get yourself onto an instructor course. Our FI(H) course comes with a full-time position at the end of your training and a lot of flying – typically 600 – 800 hours per year to fill your logbook with lots of Pilot in Command (PIC) time, and the best part – you are getting paid to fly a helicopter every day! It also makes you really employable to other sectors once you have done it for a year to 18 months.

The Flight Instructor course is an add-on to the CPL, and there’s an annual FI scholarship too, so you could even get your course fully funded. Alternatively, you might wish to skip the FI course, add an instrument rating and go straight into offshore Oil and Gas. There’s a direct route into co-pilot positions with anything upwards of 200 hours once you have obtained an IR(H). The offshore opportunities available depend on how much recruiting is going on at the time. Often the best thing to do is get your basic CPL(H) and keep an open mind about which route to take (FI or IR) depending on what the market looks like at the time you qualify. You can also go into HEMS co-pilot positions with an IR, but the demand for FI’s is always high – we never have enough!

So it might seem the path to success is full of hurdles and choices, but if was that easy everyone would be doing it – after all, a helicopter pilot career is the world’s best-kept secret! And the thing is, anyone, CAN do it – if you’re serious and determined to see it through you will find a way over those hurdles… and we’re here to help.

It’s all about investing in your future – getting qualified to do a job you love, and we’ve seen people from all walks of life achieve their dream career. Our team would be more than happy to talk you through your options – they’re very experienced and can help you make an informed decision about whether this is for you. Take the first step and join us for our first virtual career seminar of 2021 this Saturday, 9th January at 09:30. If you’re keen to get started straight away it’s not too late to apply for our next integrated CPL(H) course which starts in just a few weeks time.

Speak to a member of our team on 0116 259 0186 to find out more.

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