Real Answers from Real Pilots

Rotor Transition Program

(KI) #1

I know similar questions have been asked regarding Rotor Transition Programs but I did not come across any that offered the advice I am seeking.

I’m a 26 year old firefighter with a bachelors degree in biology. I just met the requirements to obtain a commercial helicopter license so I am a low time pilot. The income from firefighting helps pay for the required rotorcraft training along with benefits. My family has flown helicopters since I was in high school so rotorcraft hours would be easier for me to obtain than fixed wing hours. The firefighter schedule also allows me to help my family with the helicopter business.

I’ve always tossed the idea of flying commercial airliners for a major airline around. I understand the path is not easy and requires a tremendous amount of time and sacrifice. Pilots have talked to me about it in the past but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much more I could give back if I took the major airline route. The idea of doing what I love and traveling is very appealing too.

I’ve seen that some regional companies offer Rotor Transition Programs. Most seem to accept applicants with 1500 rotorcraft hours but Commutair accepts 1250 rotor hours.

Would it be worth me flying 1250 hours rotorcraft (since I have easier access to Helicopters) then applying to a Rotor Transition Program or starting all over and going strictly the fixed wing route? Would being a prior helicopter pilot make me a competitive candidate for a major airline? What would be a decent timeline to accomplish all this? Should I go ahead and work on a fixed wing license while trying to build the required hours?

Thank you for your time. I know I asked a lot of questions but I do not want to make a rash, uneducated decision.



I am no expert on helicopter flying, so those numbers will have to come from you. I don’t know how cheaply you can obtain helicopter flight time or training, or how quickly you can build the required flight time.

The major airlines hire airplane pilots, previous helicopter time is really more of a distraction than anything and in fact, some airlines might not even count it as flight time in their applications. Flying helicopters is very different than airplanes and the majors are looking for experienced airplane pilots. Now the regionals are desperate for pilots, so they are willing to offer the rotor transition programs, but even at that, you are absolutely taking the long way to get to the airlines.

If your goal is to be an airline pilot, I would focus solely on airplanes. Seniority is everything at the airlines and any delay in getting to the airlines could end up costing you greatly in the long run.




While I appreciate you may have easier access to helicopters this isn’t about just checking boxes. Rotary and fixed wing flying are very different. The FAA requires 1500hrs for an ATP because if you’re going to fly a jet full of passengers they want you to be experienced. If you want to be an airline pilot we fly fixed wing aircraft and that’s where your experience should be.


(KI) #4

Ok. Thank you for the quick and professional responses.