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How to Become a Life Flight Pilot

by Mark Applegate

The Life Flight organization transports thousands of patients to hospital emergency rooms by medical helicopter when an ambulance is either not fast enough or the pickup location is remote. The organization also sometimes operates fixed wing airplanes for longer transportation needs. If you have flying experience and a desire to serve others, consider joining the ranks of these pilots by following the necessary steps.

Class Time

In order to fly a commercial helicopter, you must earn two licenses -- the Rotorcraft-Helicopter Private Pilot license and the Commercial Pilot license. This license process starts in the classroom at a reputable flight training facility. You will learn the basics of flight, instrument panels, flight safety and environmental concerns in your coursework, then will significant spend time in a flight simulation unit. After you receive your licenses, you will continue to spend time in mandatory bimonthly and quarterly training sessions to be sure that you are current on instrumentation. Most Life Flight pilots possess at least an associate's degree and many have a four-year degree or comparable military experience.

Flight Time

Flight time requirements may vary somewhat between flight schools, but Life Flight has a set of its own requirements in order to be considered for employment. Pilots are required to have 2,500 rotor wing flight hours and 2,500 rotor wing hours as the pilot in command, or PIC. Additionally, due to the on-call nature of Life Flight pilots, you are required to have at least 100 hours of unaided night flight time as a pilot in command. Life Flight also requires its pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of turbine time in an aircraft and be helicopter instrument rated.

Transitioning from Plane to Helicopter

If you have fixed wing flying experience, you can earn your helicopter license with fewer total flight hours. If you have exceeded 65 hours of pilot-in-command time in an airplane, your required flight time to earn your helicopter endorsement is reduced from 150 to between 80 and 90 hours. While this will speed up the process to be able to fly a Life Flight helicopter, you are generally not given credit for flight hours for the aircraft flight experience when being compared with others in competition for employment.

Medical Training

There are no formal requirements within the Life Flight program for a pilot to be trained in medical procedures. All Life Flight crews include highly specialized medical crews to operate medical equipment and assist the patient. Prospective pilots would have a competitive advantage with basic first aid certification, as they are often thrust into a situation in which this training would be useful, but this training is not listed with Life Flight as a necessary skill.

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