Sunday, April 27, 2014

Do You Want To Be An EMS Helicopter Pilot? Here Is How You Do It....

In my travels, I frequently meet young people who are interested in becoming EMS helicopter pilots. While many of us flying HEMS today received our training and built our experience in the military, in the future that will not be the path for many.

Hello, how are you doing? been a while since we chatted. A friend of mine recently had a friend of his contact me wanting information about becoming a Rotary Wing aviator via the civilian route. He is former Navy and plans on using the GI bill for flight training. You are in a much better position to advise him as to the job market etc. Would you mind if I gave him your email and let him contact you?

In the Army, flying a helicopter is a third-tier duty. First you are a soldier, then an officer, and when these responsibilities are complete, then -maybe -you fly. Indeed, flying is but a small part of a military pilot's responsibilities, and not everyone is interested in the additional duties. Whereas the military used to be a good way to a great retirement and lifetime healthcare, those days are over - military members are faced with cutbacks at every turn.

I had the pleasure recently of meeting a fine example of the future of helicopter aviation, HEMS in particular. Zack Taylor is a line-pilot flying AStar helicopters all over Georgia and Florida, he is also the owner of a helicopter-business in Clearwater, Florida, and between his two obligations he is a busy young man. The business Zack owns does tours, and for-hire utility work, but his main focus is on flight training. And he does it well.

Zack Taylor

Here is a biographical excerpt from his company website...
Zack Taylor has been a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI, CFII) in helicopters since 2008. Zack is also a Designated Pilot Examiner with the Tampa FSDO and provides in-house check rides for our helicopter students. When Zack is not at the flight school, he is usually flying Eurocopters for AirLife in Florida and Georgia. Prior to flying EMS Zack flew Bell Helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil platforms and also has experience flying tours as well as years of flight instruction experience in the Tampa Bay area. His turbine helicopter and “real world” experience along with his teaching background make him a well-rounded instructor.

Click here to visit Zack Taylor's company, Tampa Bay Aviation...

The fact that Zack is a designated pilot examiner is no small detail. This means he can both train and certify pilots to earn a living flying. Of course he has a full staff of instructors, and 12 aircraft (both fixed and rotor) under his control - but it is his connections that are key.

SideBar: Zack has almost completed the requirements to operate as a CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 141 school. This would allow GI Bill recipients to use their benefit for flight training. Stay tuned... From our time together on the HEMS line, I have picked up that Zack is going to do well for himself - but more importantly it occurred to me recently that he is in a favored position to help lots of other people who want to fly helicopters do well for themselves too.

Michelle O'Keefe, Director of Operations

Say you want to become an EMS helicopter pilot without spending six or a dozen years in the military. You now have a clear path with connections from start to finish. At Tampa Bay Aviation you can progress from your first-ever helicopter flight to a commercial-flight-instructor qualification with 200 hours of experience. As an instructor you teach the next wannabe, (aviation is a pyramid scheme) and add time to your logbook on his or her dime. You won't make much money instructing, and will probably sleep in a crash-pad and eat Ramen Noodles, (like many airline pilots flying the line today) but you will quickly progress towards an experience level that will allow you to earn a real paycheck.

Instructor Mr. Roland Collins

A good and logical next step for an aspiring HEMS pilot would be to fly tours for one of the two tour companies owned by the largest air-medical helicopter company in the world. Air Methods Corporation recently bought Sundance Helicopters in Las Vegas and Blue Hawaiian Helicopters in Hawaii, in part to create a pipeline for EMS pilots who can finish building their flight experience by flying tours. Tour pilots fly long hours each day, and build time more quickly than perhaps any other sector of the helicopter business.

Instructor Ken Djoenne

The one piece missing from Air Method's recent vertical-integration move is the initial leap from earthling to aviator. But Zack Taylor can do this - and he works for Air Methods...In discussion Zack told me about how he bought the company he and his wife own today. He was an employee, and then the prior owner offered a deal Zack couldn't refuse. He jumped in and hit the ground running, and has grown his business since beginning. In fact he is so busy that he is trying to work out a way to serve two masters at once - here's hoping he succeeds.

Tampa Bay Aviation by the numbers...

Two hundred hours and an instructor qualification will run you around $65,000 - or around $60,000 if you pay up front for the entire qualification. This sounds like a lot - but if you dig into what it costs to operate a helicopter it will make more sense. The cost is a barrier to entry into the profession, and is one reason why a new EMS pilot earns about 4 times what a new airline pilot does... Student loan programs are available.

Zack owns his own simulator. This helps control his costs and yours. The sim is $140.00 per hour, the aircraft is 290.00 per hour. These prices include the instructor. The simulator allows a student to experience things not possible (due to risk) in an aircraft. It is good stuff.There are many different ways to become a HEMS pilot, Zack Taylor and Tampa Bay Aviation have helped to create clear path to success...
safe flights, and I hope to see you on the line...

1 comment:

  1. I am a fixed wing student pilot at Zach and Laura’s business and have admired their "can do attitude “of my generation. When not flying EMS Zach is doing everything from hauling office equipment in the back of his truck to purchasing aircraft for their fleet. His wife Laura runs day to day operations while also raising two young boys. An impressive couple having owned my own business and knowing how much time a business can consume.
    They have an interesting business model where they sell discounted Airplane and Helicopter “lessons” or “flights” through “Groupon” coupons to bring folks in and when they are “hooked” on flying whether in a Helicopter or Airplane they can accommodate just about any level of training. My CFI Chris Simons is one of the best CFI’s I have encountered and I have flown with well over a half a dozen at various schools because of scheduling and other personnel issues. Zach and Laura have added an impressive number of aircraft and CFI’s to accommodate their growing demand and if they become a Part 141 Flight School there will be no looking back for this couple. Kudos!


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