Helicopter ATP

July 14, 2010 by Tim McAdams

A few companies have started putting a helicopter ATP prerequisite into their employment requirements and some have offered to pay for their existing pilots to obtain one. However, the vast majority of helicopter pilot jobs do not require an ATP by regulation. This is true for the higher paying jobs flying larger helicopters as well.

The same is not true on the fixed wing side. Advancing to the airlines requires an ATP. Likewise, the aeronautical experience for an ATP varies between airplanes and helicopters. For example, a fixed wing ATP requires a total flight time of 1500 hours, while a rotor wing one requires 1200 hours.

So what are the advantages of an ATP for helicopter pilots? I think it projects a higher level of professionalism and a demonstrated ability to fly to higher standards. Moreover, employers might like the fact that the person holding the ATP has verifiable flight time of at least 1200 hours since the FAA endorsed their application for the ATP flight examination. If you are fortunate enough to work for an employer who will pay for your ATP, then that’s an opportunity worth seizing.

Acquiring an ATP on your own is valuable in today’s job market as an ATP can give a potential new hire an edge over someone who doesn’t hold one. Some companies have a higher pay scale or pay a bonus for prospective pilots with an ATP. The same can be said for a college degree, it’s not required, but having one can sure help. If flying helicopters is your chosen career path then holding yourself to the highest standards, certification and professionalism will only enhance your career.

11 Responses to “Helicopter ATP”

  1. Ehud Gavron Says:

    I understand the value of training. Sadly flight schools specializing in rotorcraft are closing all over the country. Students can get a Private Pilot’s license fairly easily with a bit of travel. The commercial certificate (what I’m working on) isn’t that much more difficult, just expensive in time and money. Becoming a CFI is more of the same. (each of course to more exacting standards).

    Then comes the problem… there are plenty of CFIs waiting tables, brokering real-estate, and my favorite instructor is now dealing blackjack at a casino. That leaves exactly zero CFI jobs for the newbies.

    Without the ability to build hours on someone else’s nickel, the would-be CIVILIAN rotorcraft pilot has insufficient resources to get to any number of hundreds of further hours… or even the ATP.

    I want to be a professional helicopter pilot. Despite the talk of the Vietnam Veterans retiring, there are plenty of 1000-5000 hour CFIs (who are out of work) who will take the jobs these Vets leave.

    That’s the picture from the bottom. Maybe it’s a sqewed perspective. I’d love to hear from those who have done it recently.

    Ehud
    Tucson AZ

  2. Brendan Fitzpatrick Says:

    Good thoughts Tim – I’m deciding whether or not to get my commercial. Not going to change careers and do it full time. I’m thinking part time now and maybe more in retirement. 1200 hours is a long, long expensive way away.

  3. Dave Tibbals Says:

    Good artical. Very accurate regarding the rising requirements for the better jobs on the market. Last year I decided to take on the challenge of the ATP certificate for personal skills and knowledge improvement. I believe that every 2 years or so, pilots should endeavor to increase their ratings just to keep the learning skills active. I was not really in the market to improve, or change, my employment situation, but that was the result. Companies were actually calling me with offers. Nice!

    The previous responses listed below are accurate, but that is the nature of the industry, both fixed and rotary wing. There are 141 providers that have excellent referal services for employment, and there are some schools that do not. With the collapse of Silver State Helicopters the market was flooded with fairly experienced CFI pilots, so there will be a bit of a glut for a while. Just keep in mind that the way one progresses in the profession is through relationships. The jobs are out there, and if you have the magic 1,000 hr mark, you are marketable. Be willing to consider a SIC job in a larger aircraft, be willing to move, stay lean and hungry and it will be very rewarding.

  4. EMS'R Says:

    This article is accurate but I would add that a pilot with an ATP that may have demonstrated an “ability to fly to higher standards” somewhere, sometime, on a checkride doesn’t always make him the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to workin the sticks. I have seen plenty of examples.
    Unfortunately finding a company that will incentivise your ATP training is rare and unless some aspect of instrument flying comes into play on the job the simple truth is that there is no practical advantage to having it in most segments of the industry.
    As a pilot one needs to weigh the costs and benefits before sheling out many thousands (more) for the rating.

  5. Eric Miller Says:

    In the filtering action that is a Chief Pilot/Gen Manager screening of resumes these days, the ATP (R/W or Fixed Wing) is simply an indication to the potential employer that you have the abilty to and a record of, the willingness to progress beyond the minimum requirments for the position. This is an indication that the capacity and willingness to “grow with the company/Job” that exists. Combined with a stable job history, no accidents, incidents or violations on your record you’ll look pretty good to the Insurance companies too. They are running a business-costs, turnover and safety are all important. Having these may get your “foot in the door”, get you the Interview etc. but expect to have to battle for every single bit of salary/compensation above the minimums too. The dream of every manger out there is to brag to the “big boss” how he got “a Chuck Yeager” for minimum wages. They always expect you to be willing to work or show up almost over qualified for little or no extra pay for the time , experience and qualifications you bring to the organization. In Short —If they find out you can be “low balled”, they’ll do it. As they load extra work, responsibilities and duties on you it’ll be a bear to get them to “PAY extra” for them. If they find out you’ll work for free-They’ll be glad to let you do it !! Then a few months later they’ll get irritated because you’re not “doing more”. Go Figure.

  6. J R Adams Says:

    URS is soliciting Instructor Pilots for Fort Rucker. Starting pay is $65K. See below:

    Job Requirements
    Minimum Requirements:
    Qualifications for INSTRUCTOR PILOTS: 1. Must have rotorcraft helicopter CFI or DOD rotary wing instructor rating, 2. Commercial rotorcraft helicopter license, 3. Minimum 500 hours in category. 4. Must have a current FAA Second Class Medical Certificate prior to beginning MOI training. 5. For instrument instructors (not Primary,not BWS), additionally, 100 hours minimum of hood, weather and simulator time combined. IMPORTANT:Applicants for employment are subject to Government approval. Only applicants meeting minimum requirements may be considered for employment. Starting salary is $67,596 after completion of MOI training and passage of government acceptance checkride. There are scheduled annual salary increases. We provide primary (contact), instrument and basic warfighting skills instruction in the TH67.

  7. J R Adams Says:

    Wrong on the starting salary; now $67,500.

  8. Bernie Krasowski Says:

    We’ve ALL been there. Now, many years ago when I first started flying I too wanted to do the airline thing, and the airplane ATP was quite a goal to look toward. I also knew that buying all my flight time was going to make the journey that much longer. I was in the Army and took my Commercial ride just before I left for Germany on a three year tour. I got my Instrument rating and became a CFI and started instructing. On my return to the USA I went to Ft. Rucker, Alabama and attended Rotary Wing flight training and got time in the Hughes TH-55A and UH-1H. The FAA rubber stamped the rotary wing commercial and instrument. On my first assignment after school I added my II, ME, and MEI ratings. Retruning to Ft. Rucker for the Army’s Instructor Pilot course in the Huey. Retruning from Germany again, I attended the instrument examiner’s course enroute to Ft. Polk, La. where I spent a tour flying Medevac in a UH-1V, and later got rated in the UH-60 Blackhawk. It was in Louisiana, and not having flown an airplane in years that I got my ATP airplane. Remember I was an instrument examiner and that was most helpful. On my way to Korea I stopped by by a school in South Carolina and flew with nice guy for a few days and got my FAA CFI rotorcraft Helicopter rating.
    After retiring from the Army in 1990 I started corporate flying mostly jets and some turbo prop equipment. When the company I was working for sold their turbo prop the boss said he didn’t need three pilots so I was on the street. I took a job as a contractor at Ft. Riley, Kansas, where I had retired from, running a UH-60 Blackhawk simulator. While at the sim I contacted a rotary wing designated examiner and we put together a training plan and evaluation for the ATP and CFII Helicopter. I’ve never needed either one but just like the Masters degree I got while I was running the sim are in my back pocket if I need them. You need to consider ALL possibilities to acquire the training and experience that you need not only for what your doing now, but for what you might want to be doing next. No, I never did get to the airlines, however, I fly a Citation Sovereign for a company and am reasonibly compensated to do so. The Army is still training pilots to fly those helicopters, and yes there are wars going on, BUT lets look at it like this. My military experience started in 1969, not a popular time to be in the military, and no, I didn’t go to Viet Nam, but the possibility was still there. If that’s the way to achieve your goal DON’T underestimate it! P.S. I knew someone who wanted to get a corporate job with one of the fractional companies. I kept on him about getting his ATP. Once he got his ATP he not only started getting responses to his resume, he got a job with one of them.

  9. Jim Borger Says:

    If you’re going to be a professional pilot, get an ATP. If you’re building your time as a civilian, get some night time. You’ll need 100 hours of night to get an ATP.

  10. Sean C Says:

    One important thing for employers to keep in mind is that an ATP rating is NOT an assurance that a particular job candidate is an experienced, current instrument pilot. All it means is that at some point in the past, he or she happened to meet the minimum requirements and was proficient at least long enough to complete the checkride. Instrument currency and actual proficiency are both very perishable skills, and it’s up to the individual to keep those skills up to date.

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