Helicopter Pilots are different

© Crown copyright 2004

© Crown copyright 2004

What makes helicopter pilots different from fixed wings aircraft pilots?

It would be accurate to say that since helicopters are different than airplanes, pilots have to be different as well. It is common to see the saying “A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying, immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. That is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot” (Harry Reasoner, ) Would this explain why a helicopter pilot can be described as an anticipator of trouble?

We can also consider the type of work and environment in which the helicopter pilot has to work in when it comes to analyze its personality and why it differs from an aircraft pilot. On a typical day of work, most helicopters pilots don’t know where they will go and they have to be ready for any situation. They also spend a lot of time working on their own and have to make a lot of decisions, since they don’t have the same support structure as aircraft pilots, such as weather service or air traffic control, for example. They have to be on the lookout for anything in their flight path, do a VFR scan for air traffic, at the same time as keeping an eye on their engine instruments.

Most agree that it would be nice to be able to land on a flat area, but a helicopter pilot needs to be ready to land his helicopter virtually anywhere it fits! Even tho this can be a tricky maneuver, it gives the pilot more freedom and it is very useful in case of an emergency situation.

The pre-flight inspection done by helicopter pilots also makes them more aware of their machine and how they work. After all, “he who inspecteth not his aircraft gives his angels cause to concern him”. In addition to piloting the helicopter, the pilot is also often representing the company for which he works, talking with customers, solving problems, etc. He also has to look for landing sites wherever he goes, and is responsible for the people’s safety around his helicopter. All those things are not usually performed by aircraft pilots.

Are you a helicopter pilot? Do you consider yourself different from a fixed wings aircraft pilot?


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