Flying helicopters can offer some exciting and challenging roles. In the UK many civilian helicopter pilots operate on oil and gas exploration support missions, carrying passengers, cargo and supplies to oil and gas platforms in the North Sea (often from Aberdeen) or flying pipeline inspections. With the ever-far-reaching search for new oil and gas reserves, the demand in this area has grown greatly in recent years.
Other work includes agricultural work such as crop fertilisation, mapping and aeriel photography flights, air taxi and company executive flights which are particularly succcessful during economic boom times, and, between the UK and Scilly Isles, a fare-paying passenger service operates.
The police use helicopters increasingly for surveillance work and air ambulance services provide invaluable urgent medical support and transportation of patients to specialist hospitals in emergency situations.
Nevertheless, the helicopter industry is very small, particularly compared to the airline industry which has around ten times more qualified pilots. As with the airline sector, there is little sponsorship of commercial helicopter training which has the same requirements as for fixed-wing training, with some module changes to reflect rotary-wing requirements. Many civilian helicopter roles are filled by military pilots retiring from the armed services, so again if you wish to go down the commercial route, do get as much advice as you can before embarking on training and ensure you meet the minimum medical requirements.
The Army Air Corps has the largest helicopter fleet of the armed forces but both the RAF and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm also train helicopter pilots.
To understand more about the role of the Helicopter Pilot, look at the Flying Links page - follow the links to the Airline webpages, the magazine webpages and the links to aviation organisations such as The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (including the publication So You Want to Be a Pilot?) and join the Aviation Skills Partnership Network to become part of the network discussions and access the latest aviation information