Duties and responsibilities
A commercial helicopter pilot is a commercial pilot who (yes, you guessed it) drives a helicopter. They might drive a helicopter that carries passengers and cargo, or they might drive this helicopter to witness things from a bird’s-eye view. Regardless of who/what is onboard, helicopter pilots can expect to have duties and responsibilities such as:
- Inspecting the helicopter, its control systems and its instruments before beginning a flight
- Checking the weather conditions are suitable for flying
- Creating a flight plan, based on these weather conditions. This flight plan will determine the safest and most efficient route
- Operating controls and instruments whilst the helicopter if flying
- Ensuring the helicopter is functioning correctly throughout the flight
- If passengers are onboard, ensuring their safety
- Landing the helicopter in the correct location
Helicopter pilots are commercial pilots. Therefore, they must receive flight training at an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved flight school. In order to get accepted onto flight training, helicopter pilots will need a high school diploma.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as not being afraid of heights or flying, pilots need skills such as:
- Interpersonal skills, as helicopter pilots need to build trusting relationships with passengers and other crew members
- Leadership skills, as helicopter pilots are often the most senior person on the air craft and must instruct others
- Communication skills, as helicopter pilots need to clearly communicate with lots of people, such as air traffic control
- Observational skills, as helicopter pilots must observe numerous screens, gauges and dials to ensure that the systems are functioning correctly
- Quick reaction time, as helicopter pilots must be able to respond quickly and with good judgement to unforeseen circumstances
- Spatial awareness, as helicopter pilots must be able to navigate planes through the sky
Most helicopter pilots will work full time. However, their hours may vary depending on who they work for. Some helicopter pilots may take short trips, others may take longer ones and have to be away from home.
According to salary.com the median annual salary for a helicopter pilot in the United States is $97,116. The bottom 10% can expect to earn less than $68,918 and the highest 10% earn over $150,160 per annum.
Helicopter pilots are only commercial pilots. Therefore, with a college degree and additional experience and training, helicopter pilots can advance to become airline or military pilots.