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tion/sick leave, and retirement savings programs that can include a compa- ny match. Pay scales can have steps ranging from 1 – 25 years with a senior

pilot who is an IFR Captain and 25 years on the job earning $118+k per year. To learn more about helicopter operator pay scales and benefit pack- ages, please visit FYI – Mr. Palmer also cautions new pilots to understand that com-

muters are responsible for all travel expenses incurred while getting to and from work. This could include such items as airfare, driving, hotels, or the expense of having a spare vehicle (a.k.a. airport junker), which can be used to get back and forth between the local airport and work base. This is important information to know so that one can factor in how commuting might impact net take home pay.

BASE LIVING One of the shocks to a new pilot’s sensibilities when heading to the

GOM is the change in lifestyle that is required. Virtually everything about the transition will turn your whole world upside down. Think about it, from a flying perspective, you will go from flying mostly over land to nearly always being over water. But at least the work involves a helicopter, which can make that part of the transition more exciting. But what about the time spent when not working? Remember, you are

at work 24 hours a day, for seven to fourteen days straight, and physically removed from family, friends, and the familiar comforts of home. Most often pilot bases are established in fairly remote and somewhat austere locations. In other words, there are rarely major towns nearby with shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants. Pile onto the remote locations the fact that you will not only be liv-

ing in a mobile home, but also sharing it during your hitch with other pilots. I visited Bristow’s Galiano base, which is considered to be a “super base”. The base is basically a large bustling patch of ground with a few hangars, a passenger terminal, a massive dirt parking lot, a bunch of helicopters and dozens of mobile homes in neat rows which house the people on hitch. Once you get over the fact that you are now living in a mobile home,

one finds that the accommodations (at least at this base) were very clean, fairly new, and quite sufficient for habitation. Not only does each trailer have a common full kitchen and living room area, but several other crea- ture comforts are provided such as flat screen TV’s and wireless internet. Most importantly, pilots at this base are provided with their own private bedroom and bathroom while living there on hitch. It should also be men- tioned that not every base uses mobile homes. There are some GOM bases that utilize apartments for housing as well.

CULTURE Another major area of adjustment for most commuters is embracing

the local culture. I carefully selected the word “embrace” to describe what a pilot must be able to do if he or she wishes to excel in the GOM envi- ronment and truly enjoy the work experience. Specific to Southern Louisiana is a sub-culture of people called

Cajuns. Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speaking settlers from Acadia in what are now the Maritime provinces of Canada). Today, the Cajuns make

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