Helicopter pilots are primarily responsible for ensuring the smooth and safe operation of helicopters before, during, and after flight missions. They work in a variety of areas, such as health and safety (including in rescue work, forest fire fighting, and health transport operations), law enforcement, news gathering, tourism, and commercial transport. Helicopter pilots are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their vehicles are mission-ready, which involves examining maintenance and regulatory compliance records and checking that their helicopters meet industry, federal, and state standards. Pilots must seek out repairs and inspections as needed. In flight, helicopter pilots guide the vehicle and communicate with air traffic personnel, following all guidelines for safe travel in the skies. Additionally, they ensure that all passengers and cargo are properly secured prior to take off and at all times during flight. In cases of inclement weather, helicopter pilots must monitor conditions and determine the safety of flying conditions.
Helicopter pilots work in several environments, principally in the cockpit of their vehicle and in the hangar or landing pad preparing the vehicle for flight or maintenance. They may also meet with clients, co-workers, and regulatory officials to give information about their and their vehicles capabilities and status. Helicopter pilots work a variety of schedules; they may work rotating shifts, by contract, or on a fixed schedule.
Helicopter pilots are required to hold a substantial number of certifications and specific relevant experience. They must have an appropriate helicopter pilot’s license, as well as any industry specific certifications (e.g., a medical certificate to transport patients or organs for transplant). They must have a minimum number of flight hours, included aided and unaided time in the air. In some positions, they may be required to have night flight experience.
Helicopter Pilot Tasks
- Monitor navigational aids and flight instrumentation.
- Register flight plans, load helicopters, calculate weight and monitor and adjust fuel levels.
- Inspect and conduct pre-flight tests and fly helicopters to designated locations.
- Communicate with ground control, home office and other aircraft.