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Career Advice for Helicopter Pilots From an Aviation Teacher

If your career goals include flying a helicopter for a living, check out this interview with aviation teacher and writer Helen Krasner! She offers career advice for helicopter pilots — and she’s the author of The Helicopter Pilot’s Companion. By the way, her book isn’t geared towards female pilots, nor is it just for helicopter pilots.

Before her tips, a quip:  

“When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others,” said famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 – when she was just a couple of weeks shy of her 40th birthday – should challenge us to set new goals and break new records, even if we might fail.  

Helen Krasner must have listened to Earhart’s advice! Not only did she earn her commercial helicopter pilot’s license, she also teaches aviation. Read The Helicopter Pilot’s Companion: A Manual for Helicopter Enthusiasts for more info about flying, landing, radio communications, etc. And below are Krasner’s career goals — including how she became a helicopter pilot and what it’s like to write freelance articles about aviation. 

Career Advice for Helicopter Pilots From an Aviation Teacher

Helen Krasner holds a commercial helicopter pilot’s license and instructor’s rating, and works as a part-time helicopter instructor. She also writes about aviation for several magazines, both print and on-line. The Helicopter Pilot’s Companion is based on some of those articles, and is designed to appeal as much to the rotary enthusiast as to those who actually fly helicopters. 

How did you become a helicopter pilot?  

I had a financial windfall, and decided to fulfill an ambition by learning to fly.  Having flown fixed-wing aircraft for a year, I went for a trial helicopter lesson for something different to do, and just loved it.  I decided to carry on, and quickly realized that I’d eventually run out of money.  Then it occurred to me that if I passed some exams, maybe I could become an instructor and get paid to fly.  So I decided to give it a go…and the rest, as they say, is history.  

How many female helicopter pilots are there in the UK (and/or North America)? 

In the UK they are 6% of all private pilots, 2-3% of commercial pilots; I believe the US figures are similar.  I’m not sure of actual figures, but a couple of years ago I worked out that there were only about a dozen female helicopter instructors in the whole of the UK.  

Do you experience reluctance or even discrimination from clients or the public because you’re a female pilot?

What I usually experience is surprise!  Most people think I’m the receptionist or tea lady, despite my wearing a uniform of pilot’s shirt and tie.  One bloke even said, “This is going to sound silly, but I didn’t realize women flew helicopters”.   If there’s any discrimination it’s well-hidden, but this is reticent Brits we’re talking about.  I sometimes suspect that the probing questions on aerodynamics that I get are designed to test me, since as soon as I mention dissymmetry of lift, they don’t say another word.  The only person who ever refused to fly with me was female! 

What’s the best way to deal with discrimination in career goals – such as against female pilots?

I tend to ignore it.  If they want to fly with me they can, if not, I couldn’t really care less. 

What sort of commercial flying do you do?

I’m officially a freelance aviation instructor, but at the moment I only work for Staffordshire Helicopters, a small flying school based at Burton-on-Trent in the Midlands.  Though if work doesn’t pick up a bit, I may be looking elsewhere.  

What led you to write The Helicopter Pilot’s Companion?

I’d been writing regular instructing-type articles for Today’s Pilot magazine for several years, and had it in the back of my mind to turn them into a book. Then a fixed-wing instructor friend had a book published by Crowood Press, and gave me the name of her contact.  I wrote with a general and rather vague enquiry; he replied saying he liked the idea, and could I have a detailed proposal and synopsis ready for their meeting on Monday.  This was Wednesday!  Needless to say, I did it; you don’t turn down something like that. 

How would readers benefit from your book?

It’s designed both to be interesting to non-flyers, and to give useful and practical advice to private pilots, particularly those who haven’t been flying for long. It’s easy to read, and is mainly based on my own experience of flying helicopters. 

What would surprise people to learn about career goals, female pilots, writing this book, or flying helicopters in general?

They seem surprised to hear that women have been flying since 1910, and flying helicopters since the very start of rotary aviation. For instance, Hanna Reitsch, Hitler’s test pilot, was testing helicopters back in the 1930s.  Female pilots aren’t doing anything new or revolutionary. 

Have you written other books?

Midges, Maps and Muesli is an account of a 5000 mile walk round the coast of Britain which I did in 1986/87, gaining an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.  It’s recently been re-published with an extra chapter, explaining how I went from doing that to becoming a helicopter pilot.

How do you find the time to write, fly, run a small craft business, and volunteer for the animal welfare shelter?

Good question!  I’m single and have no kids, which probably helps… my family of five cats don’t ask for a lot really.  Other than that I guess I’m just fairly well organized.

If you have any questions or thoughts on Krasner’s experience as an aviation instructor and freelance writer, or your own career as a helicopter pilot, please comment below…

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For more info on helicopter and other aviation, read Helen Krasner’s aviation articles on Suite101.

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4 thoughts on “Career Advice for Helicopter Pilots From an Aviation Teacher”

  1. What a great accomplishment, Helen! Gotta tell you, I love the way you’re pursuing your career as a pilot and writer, and that you had the motivation to self-publish your book. This was written a couple years ago…are you still in the same field, flying helicopters? Are you still writing?


  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    Helen’s given you some great advice for pursuing your aviation career! I also encourage you to call your local organizations. I don’t know about India, but here in Canada there is some help for women who are pursuing career goals. Not necessarily financial help, but mentoring and support that helps you stay focused, determined, and optimistic.

    I wish you all the best, and hope you let me know how things go…


  3. Hi Jatan. I sympathise! Finding the money for flying is always a problem for people, particularly in a recession. The first thing to do is an internet search for Flying Scholarships. I’m afraid I don’t know what scholarships and bursaries are available in your country, but there probably will be some. Apply for all that you can; often there aren’t many applicants so you’ll stand a good chance. Other than that, it’s difficult. It might be wise to go back to college and get a degree; then you can get a better paid job to help you pay for flying training. It’s what many people have to do. Be patient, and good luck!

  4. hello mam myself JATAN DEORA (female)0 from india , flying is my dream i actually left my graduation in 2nd year just because flying is what i always wanted to do i went for my ground classes to delhi 2 years back and applied to many of the flying schools also , i believe flying is all what i wanna do but m goin through some financial problems and during my ground classes i studied the market very keenly and the recession period and boom in aviation industry came as a bad face to me and i cudnt prepare my self to go for my flying because m already not facing a good time in financial part , but i really wanna do chpl now i m back to my graduation again but as previously m not happy with this , can you suggest me a way which can help me with the flying cost or make me eligible to pursue my flying on my own ………it would be a really appreciable favor if you can guide me