After a nice Christmas break and quite some paperwork I managed to get all the ratings on my brand new licence at the CAA in Gatwick! It feels like a huge milestone and I am incredibly happy with the result. But now onto the next step… The job hunt!
A lot of people ask me what I want to fly next, and while I certainly have my preferences, the cool thing about helicopters is that the variety and amount of options are endless. My main focus at the moment, as mentioned in previous posts is offshore and air ambulance. In the UK, both those operations feature a multi-crew environment (first officer (F/O) and captain working together instead of just a captain). This allows for a nice way in for pilots in my current position (experience): around 800 hours with an IR.
Back in the Netherlands and other EU countries for instance, air ambulance and police flying is mostly still done in a single crew environment. This means that the requirements to get a job in the cockpit requires a huge amount of experience, as you’re responsible for everything straight away. As an F/O however, you don’t have to have an insane amount of experience and it’s very nice to be able to learn from the (usually very experienced) pilot next to you. You’ll learn a lot along the way and by the time you’ve been exposed enough to the specific kind of operation and the hour requirement, you can make your way into the captain’s seat.
In the UK, the VIP industry is bigger than in The Netherlands as well, especially around London. All of these operations are usually flown in multi-engine helicopters as they’ll require to land in congested or hostile areas (London Battersea, yachts, islands etc). In addition to that, depending on the Operator or VIP, the helicopters are flown multi or single-crew. If it is single crew, again, you’ll need a lot of experience and someone in my position would not be thrown in the deep like that before the company either knows you very well or there’s a safety pilot present. However, the multi crew environment offers a nice way in as the experience required for the F/O seat will be way less.
This is generally true for all multi-crew operations, to a certain extent. There are a lot of differences depending on the operation, client, location, helicopter, operator etc. Take offshore for instance: minimum requirements for pilots are set by the clients (BP, Shell etc) as their insurance mandates certain standards, so everything is quite black and white. However, just like in a lot of other industries, networking is key. Knowing the right people at the right time at the right company can be the difference between getting no reply off anyone or being invited for an interview and grading / selection process. This will be an important tool for me as I am, experience wise, at the bottom of the ladder. I am very fortunate I can be a flight instructor while looking at my next step. I love my current job but I am also extremely excited to discover more about the next possibilities, and despite the not-so-booming offshore industry, I am confident myself and other people in my position can achieve the career they are dreaming of.
Apologies to anyone who received 3 emails instead of 1, WordPress experienced some issues. Upcoming posts will feature most of my findings and cover some industry insights, and if the next big step is here, this will be the place to find out!