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From The Desk of The Editor “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”


Remember that line? In the 1996 fi lm Jerry Maguire, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), tests Jerry’s (Tom Cruise) resolve by making him repeatedly yell into the phone, “Show me the money!” Well, if all the U.S. helicopter pilots were on a collective (pun slightly intended) phone call with their employers, it seems they would be screaming the same thing.


We took the inaugural Rotorcraft Pro U.S. Helicopter Pilot Salary & Benefi ts Survey to the streets … and over 800 pilots from every sector and experience level responded, sharing their salaries, benefi ts, and opinions on a variety of job-related questions. Pilots answered that “salary” was the most important attribute of their jobs. In line with that response, when asked what least satisfi es them, the majority also picked salary, with management concerns coming in second place.


Refl ecting on a 2006 industry salary survey, it’s clear that wages have generally increased. For example, in 2006 the midrange salary for single-engine turbine helicopter pilots was $50,000. In 2012, the midrange for the same group was $75,000. Since 2012 though, the midrange for single-engine turbine helicopter pilots has remained stagnant; it has not moved from the $75,000 midpoint.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the infl ation rate from 2006 to 2014 averaged 1.98 percent per year for a total of 17.9 percent. Comparatively, during that same period, the median salary for single- engine turbine helicopter pilots increased by 50 percent, handily beating reported infl ation.


Given the cost of entry, specifi c skill requirements, and the risks associated with the work, arguments have been made that helicopter pilots have been traditionally underpaid. The reasons why have been greatly debated. Some claim it’s simple supply and demand determining wages. Others add that retiring military pilots entering the civil market accept lower wages, knowing they will be subsidized by pensions and low-cost medical coverage. Some even claim that operators take advantage of a pilot’s desire to fl y, especially in the early stages of his or her career. It’s likely that all three reasons have played a role in keeping wages depressed in certain segments of the industry. However, overall I believe supply and demand rules the day.


On the other side of the scales, we did see steady wage increases. In my estimation, two factors drove the rapid growth in pay during that period. First, was unionization—or threat of unionization—across several sectors. Second, was the dwindling supply of experienced pilots. There was a big group of older “high-timers” at one end, and a large amount of new “low-timers” (think Silver State bubble) at the other end. But most of the job growth in sectors like EMS required middle-aged 2,000- to 4,000-hour pilots, and those who fi t that description were in short supply. So for the sake of attracting and retaining experience, wages rose.


While debates and theories will continue to percolate, the purpose of the Rotorcraft Pro salary survey is to engage our readership, glean insights, share observations, and create a resource that will be referenced by both employers and pilots. Let us know how we did; the results begin on page 24.


Lyn Burks, Editor In Chief


Publisher Brig Bearden


brig@rotorcraftpro.com Editor-In-Chief Lyn Burks


lyn.burks@rotorcraftpro.com Layout Design David Matuskey


production@rotorcraftpro.com Online Accounts Manager Lynnette Burks


lynnette.burks@rotorcraftpro.com Copy Editor


Rick Weatherford rick@rotorcraftpro.com Social Media Guru Josh Lash


Clay Branum / Rick Weatherford Contributing Writers


Rick Adams James Careless


Randy Mains Brad McNally


Steve Goldsworthy Tim Pruitt Caterina Hessler Matt Johnson


Randy Rowles Scott Skola


Rotorcraft Pro®


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2


May 2015


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