From The Desk of The Editor

Is the Demand for Helicopter Pilots Ready to Expand?

I am betting that fewer-hour pilots stuck in the civilian flight school bubble are hoping the answer to that question is YES! Upward mobility has been stifled by slow movement in sectors like HAA, tours, and offshore oil and gas (O&G) support, brought on by doggedly low oil prices. Competition from military pilots entering the civilian ranks has further fulfilled job demand.

The truth is that the outlook for helicopter pilot job growth is a crapshoot; there are currently too many variables to know for sure what will happen. Having said that, I’m seeing some unusual, unforecasted signals from across the industry that make me cautiously optimistic.

For example, over the last few years, the O&G sector was ravaged by low oil prices, low production, and no exploration. This forced many big operators, who traditionally hire many new pilots each year, to ground, lease, or sell aircraft. I once asked a big O&G hirer, “What oil price is needed to start bringing pilots back?” Without hesitation he replied, “$45 per barrel.” Well, we’ve passed that price and are starting to see new life in that sector. Two factors that could keep O&G growth in check is the balance between demand for oil and our reserves, but nonetheless the outlook is brighter.

Another positive sign: two large organizations are currently on a hiring spree. The first is Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines (AA). Rotorcraft Pro recently entered into an agreement to help bring attention to Envoy Air’s program designed to take transitioning military helicopter pilots and make them AA pilots. AA is so critically short on fixed-wing pilots that they are dipping into the military helicopter pilot pool. This creates less competition for civilian helicopter pilots.

The other organization hiring is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with whom Rotorcraft Pro has also entered into a promotional agreement. As of early February, CBP is over 80 helicopter pilots short and recruiting heavily. Given the posture of the new Trump administration ramping up protection along the Mexican border, the demand for pilots in this area is likely to increase. Such demand will pull many pilots

out of normal civilian ranks and create some upward mobility. A downside is that the CBP hiring process is extremely rigorous and somewhat slow, so any positive impact may be delayed.

Finally, the biggest increase in U.S. pilot demand may come from how well POTUS and Congress cooperate. If both branches of government focus on deregulation, growing the military, unlocking energy markets, increasing manufacturing, and expanding CBP ... well, that cooperation could grow our industry and create many opportunities for rotorcraft businesses, pilots, and mechanics.

Bring on 2017!

Lyn Burks, Editor In Chief

Publisher Brig Bearden Editor-In-Chief Lyn Burks Assistant Editor Pam Landis Account Executive Teri Rivas Layout Design Bryan Matuskey Online Accounts Manager Lynnette Burks Copy Editor

Rick Weatherford Social Media Guru Laura Lentz

Subscription / Circulation Manager Pam Fulmer

Contributing Writers

James Careless Sharon Desfor

Rick Weatherford Eric Lian

Matt Johnson

Randy Mains Brad McNally Tim Pruitt

Randy Rowles Scott Skola

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Jan/Feb 2017

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