Helicopter Pilot

A helicopter pilot within the wildlife and conservation sector is someone who is involved in routine aerial patrols and monitoring as well as game capture operations and emergency call outs.  

In day to day work you may; check weather conditions and airspace restrictions, calculate fuel requirements and maximum loads, safety checks, check helicopter’s equipment and instruments, post-flight paperwork, conduct wildlife censuses, participate in wildlife collaring, participate in game capture, conduct air surveillance patrols and law enforcement, transport people and assist in emergency call outs.

Key Skills Required:

  • Excellent hand-eye coordination
  • Excellent spatial awareness
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure
  • Good decision-making skills
  • Quick reaction time
  • Discipline
  • Ability to work well individually and as part of a team

Key Points to Know:

  • Helicopter pilot roles often require a minimum number of hours flight time as well as a minimum number of hours game capture experience (depending on the role you are applying for).
  • A helicopter pilot is usually on-call in case of emergencies and has a very varied workload, due to this they do not usually have a ‘standard day’ or ‘normal’ working hours.

To be a Helicopter Pilot you will need to:

Get a Commercial Pilot License (Helicopter) through the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – this training course is generally very expensive and normally requires you to have 5 GCSEs including English, Maths and Science. You will also need to hold a Private Pilot License (Helicopter), have a certain number of flight hours logged and pass aptitude and medical tests to be eligible for the CPL (H) course.

Estimated average salary: £25,000 – £45,000 annually.
Note: The salary for passenger-carrying helicopters is considerably more but for work within the conservation and wildlife sectors you can expect to earn the above amount.

As a Helicopter Pilot, you can anticipate employment in a variety of roles including:

  • National Parks
  • Private Game Reserves
  • Anti-poaching Units
  • Nonprofit Organisations

Being a helicopter pilot is an exhilarating career that can take you to a wide variety of incredible places to carry out a vast range of tasks from game capture to antipoaching. It may be a dream job for many but it is also an extremely expensive path as a commercial pilot license is very costly. You will often work alongside wildlife veterinarians, anti-poaching units and conservationists.

Another option if you are interested in flying within the conservation sector is as a Fixed Wing Pilot. This is often a more accessible route in terms of training and costs. As a Fixed Wing Pilot you would be involved in routine aerial patrols and monitoring as well as game counts, locating and tracking wildlife and supporting anti-poaching units. The licenses for fixed wing pilots are more affordable than helicopter pilot licenses.

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Megan Richards