Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs in Washington State

Editor’s note: The following article is not intended to be a ranking, but is only to serve as a list of possible options. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Washington state has some great options when it comes to helicopter jobs. Having both large metropolitan areas and mountainous terrain provides variety for pilots looking to take off in the state. FLYING reviewed the most popular helicopter pilot jobs in Washington State and five came out on top.  

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Quicklook: Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs in Washington State

  • Best for job security: Military helicopter pilot
  • Best for adrenaline seekers: Helicopter skiing 
  • Best for internal satisfaction: Emergency medical service/air ambulance helicopter pilot
  • Best public service career: Law enforcement helicopter pilot
  • Best opportunity for remote work: Aerial application helicopter pilot

5 Best Helicopter Pilot Jobs – Washington State

When choosing the best helicopter job for you in Washington state, it is best to understand what kind of industry you are looking to get into, if this is a time-building stepping stone, and the size of the company. Once you have gauged these metrics, you can look into jobs that fit the bill. Here are our top picks for the best helicopter jobs in Washington state.

Military Helicopter Pilot 

Washington state is home to seven military installations with almost all housing helicopters. Military helicopter pilots are part of an elite group of service members who are trained to fly helicopters inside and outside of wartime. The military has different types of helicopters depending on the branch.  For example, the Navy has SH-60 Seahawks and V-22 Ospreys, while the Army flies AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawks and more.

Location: Any of the seven military installations in Washington state

Salary or Per-Trip Price: Military pay is based on time in service and location of orders.

Benefits: 

  • Job Security, health and housing benefits for you and your family
  • Opportunity to travel the world  
  • Paid education benefits 
  • Possible sign-on bonuses 

Disadvantages: 

  • Contractual obligations
  • Possible separation from loved ones for extended periods of time

Helicopter Skiing Pilot

A helicopter ski pilot is similar to a tour guide pilot but is different in the fact that the pilot will land and drop passengers high in the mountains for the purpose of skiing to the bottom. Helicopter ski pilots must take specific training courses to understand the safety and skill needed to land and drop skiers from high altitudes in snow.

Location:  Jobs for helicopter skiing pilots are located at all major mountain skiing destinations in Washington state. 

Salary or Per-Trip Price: Depending on the ski resort you are employed with, pay for a helicopter ski pilot can range anywhere from $16.00/hr to $75,000 per year.

Benefits: 

  • Exciting career with multiple mountain stations 
  • National parks have great benefits

Disadvantages:

  • Lower pay at some resorts
  • High-risk environment in snowy conditions
  • Additional training required 

Law Enforcement Helicopter Pilot

Law enforcement helicopter pilots, similar to medevac pilots, are at the front line in emergencies. Being a law enforcement helicopter pilot is a highly skilled position that requires the ability to maneuver and land in tight metropolitan areas as well as mountainous terrain.  Law enforcement helicopter pilots can be employed as a deputy sheriff for a county, as an officer for a city police department, or as an agent for a national organization, Drug Enforcement Administration or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Location: Throughout Washington state with high demand in metropolitan areas.

Salary or Per-Trip Price: The average annual pay for a law enforcement helicopter pilot in Washington state is $65,000 a year.

Benefits: 

  • Job security
  • State and/or federal government benefits i.e., paid holidays, 401K matching, etc.
  • Public service career 

Disadvantages: 

  • Lower paying than most other helicopter pilot job options in Washington state
  • High risk environment with exposure to criminal activity

Emergency Medical Service/Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot 

Emergency medical service helicopter pilots are a top job in Washington and those that do it are an essential part of the emergency service department. 

Location: All major cities within Washington house an air ambulance division.

Salary or Per-Trip Price: Average salary for medical services pilots in Washington state is $107,258, with the potential to make more in large metropolitan areas.

Benefits: 

  • Most emergency service or hospital air ambulance divisions offer comprehensive health benefits packages with medical/hospital coverage
  • Average pay for a helicopter pilot in the state
  • Emergency medicine can bring an intrinsic reward

Disadvantages: 

  • High stress 
  • High risk  
  • On call for long hours

Aerial Application Helicopter Pilot

Washington state has nearly 200,000 acres of farm and ranch land. This means there is plenty of opportunity in agriculture for aerial application (crop dusting) pilots. Some of the aerial application pilot jobs within the state are state-funded and come with great benefits

Location:  Throughout Washington state (with potential travel to other states)

Salary or Per-Trip Price: The average aerial applicator pilot salary in Washington state is $90,921.

Benefits: 

  • Opportunity for contract, employed, and government positions 
  • Opportunity for low-time hour pilots and time-building
  • Work rotating weeks/months

Disadvantages: 

  • One of the highest fatality rates in aviation
  • Working with pesticides and other hazardous materials
  • Some positions may be seasonal

Commercial Helicopter Pilot Requirements in Washington State

To become a commercial pilot in the state of Washington state, you must:

  • Hold a current commercial helicopter pilot certificate
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Read, speak, write, and understand the English language
  • Hold at least a second-class medical certificate
  • Obtain a minimum of 40 hours of helicopter flight training and 10 hours of ground instruction
  • Satisfactorily pass an FAA-required flight test

After all the requirements are completed, you may apply to helicopter jobs within the state.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Commercial Helicopter Pilot? 

The timeframe it takes to become a helicopter pilot depends a lot on how much time you are devoting to training and where you complete your training. Starting flight training with no experience, to getting a commercial helicopter certificate may take six to 12 months, if you are attending training full time. For part-time student pilots, a commercial pilot certificate can take longer, up to 12 to 24 months. 

What To Consider When Looking for Helicopter Pilot Jobs

When determining if a helicopter pilot job is right for you, there are several basic questions you should ask: 

1) Does the company offer job security? 

2) What are the safety protocols? 

3) How much will you make? 

4) What is the location of the position? 

Choose the position that best meets your requirements in each of these areas before applying

Job Security

Helicopter pilot jobs normally come with inherent job security due to the high demand, and the technical skills the job requires, but it is important to understand your potential employer’s industry and operations. Job security is important to understand and take into consideration when applying for a helicopter pilot job because you do not want to be stuck looking for a new position, in cases of company closure, bankruptcy, or a recession. Look for long-standing companies that have years of experience hiring and training pilots. Ask current and former employees their opinions or look at reviews online to gauge job security.

Safety 

It’s important to show that you put safety first in any aviation profession, but especially as a pilot. Safety in the aviation industry should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Companies that hire helicopter pilots should be dedicated to the safety of the pilot as well as the passengers. Research the safety protocols of the companies you apply to online or by asking current and former pilots. During your interviews, ask the hiring manager if there are any specific safety protocols you should be aware of before taking the position.

Salary

Salary is one of the most important metrics when applying for a new position. Set a guideline for yourself and your family and apply to companies and positions that meet those guidelines. If you are right out of flight school, do not have unrealistic expectations of salary, but find the best position to fit your needs in the short term. The more experience you get, the higher the salary you can ask for. Salaries for helicopter pilot jobs in Washington state average between $91,197 and $138,257 a year, or more; however, the average salary for helicopter pilots in Washington state hovers around $107,534, per year.

Location

When searching for a pilot job, focus on the area you want to live in. Whether that be Washington state or another state, helicopter pilot jobs are everywhere, so choose a location you will be happy to live in for the long term. 

What other Pilot Jobs Are in Washington State? 

If you are looking to move into a fixed-wing position in Washington state consider the following:

  • Seattle Seaplanes
  • State of Washington Department of Natural Resources
  • LifeFlight Network
  • Horizon Air, Subsidiary of Alaska Airlines
  • SkyWest Airlines

A Volcanic View From Above

Applying to a new job can be daunting but in Washington state you have options. Choosing the best helicopter job in Washington state for you can be easy if you consider the most important metrics, safety, salary, location, and job security. Learn more about helicopter pilot jobs and stay up to date on the top news in aviation by subscribing to FLYING Magazine.

FAQ

What is helicopter skiing?

A helicopter ski pilot is similar to a tour guide pilot but is different in the fact that the pilot will land and drop passengers high in the mountains for the purpose of skiing to the bottom.

How much do helicopter pilots make in the Coast Guard?

Military pay is based on time in service and location of orders.

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