RTP: It is an opportunity of a lifetime even if you don’t pursue the airlines as a career. The opportunity to have someone else pay for your fixed-wing add-ons through RTP (or even if you pay for some of your own ratings) will be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars–maybe millions of dollars over your career.
Take the job with the regional just for a year or two, depending on the contract, even if you still only want to just fly helicopters. The reason for maximizing this opportunity is that you will have made yourself ten times more marketable and a better overall pilot. As a helo guy/gal, all you can do is fly helicopters, nothing else. You are very limited. After this program you will have every rating you will EVER need.
Plus, with two years at a 121 regional, you will have an additional 1500-2000 hours of ME FW jet time, and you will be incredibly proficient with instruments.
After leaving the Army, or as a civilian, once you’ve hit the “magic” hours for a turbine job, you can be a: HEMS pilot, tour pilot, offshore pilot, utility pilot, etc.
After doing the regional gig, you are now qualified to take a job as all of the above PLUS: airline pilot, freight pilot, contract fixed/rotor pilot for the government, military, overseas contract, foreign carriers in Europe, Middle East, Asia, South America, etc., corporate pilot (fixed or rotary, or both), anywhere from a local company to a Fortune 100 company, law enforcement pilot, medevac pilot (fixed or rotary), Instructor Pilot (CAE, Flight Safety, Higher Power, Airline, or local part 61/141 school), government pilot (FAA, Forestry, Dep. of Interior, etc), frefighting pilot (Fixed or Rotary), pilot for Cessna, Beechcraft, Lockheed, Gulfstream, Embraer, Bombardier, etc., or DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner–fixed and rotary).
Your flying job prospects are limitless after doing the regional airline gig. You can always go back to flying helicopters if you want to, but this opportunity will NOT always be there. Again, you can always go back to flying helicopters. Having the fixed-wing experience will also give you the chance to pick a job that best meets your professional and personal goals for you and your family.
Just think about it.
American Airlines B777 First Officer
Former U.S. Army, AH-64/C-12
The biggest problem I see with the civilian rotorcraft job market is that the jobs are usually in undesirable locations, the experience level required and the amount of risk involved is usually not commensurate to the compensation, the schedules are typically shift work, and on, and on, and on. Airplane jobs abound everywhere and in every variety to fit the lifestyle you want for yourself and your family.
I need to you be IFR, Single pilot and land to crash sites in the middle of the night. Here is $40k a year. I also want you to have 5000 hours, 1000 hours actual weather and 2500 hours of night.
This program will be the best thing for the helicopter pilots. It is going to force the industry to start to pay pilots what they are worth.
I'm still on the fence about this one. As an HAA guy, I made about $90K last year. Granted that was with alot of workover at time and a half. My schedule as an HAA guy is a week ON of twelve hour shifts followed by a week completely OFF followed by a week ON... ... ... etc. That nets me 15 days a month off if I choose to use them. I can generally get as much or as little overtime as I want, and with four pilots at the base, we can trade shifts back and forth and generally get the days off we want. My base pay (with NO overtime) is about $73K with appx 11 days of paid-time-off per year, and I live about a half hour from work.
I worry that if I transition to the regionals, it will be four to six years before I even work my way back to where I currently am in terms of pay and QOL. Granted, the future after that looks great; but that four to six years scares me to death. Any former HAA guys that have been flying the regionals for at least a couple of years now??
A lot of folks compare day 1 as an airline pilot to day 5000 as a helicopter pilot. It might be helpful to think about it another way: you are a top tier helicopter pilot, pretty much maxed out in your career field. I am not a HAA guy so I don't know but I don't think your situation could get much better as far as salary, time off, etc.
If you go airlines, you're entering a new field as a beginner, so you have to put some time in before you return to your current professional level. But you'll get to that point in a few years and have a lot higher to climb. If where you're at has job satisfaction, the salary is great, benefits, etc. then you're good to go but if you want something more in the long term, make the jump.