A journey to get professional Helicopter Pilot
The Dream, Decision & Plan – Summer 2014
It all started as a small kid. Helicopters created a tremendous affection.
But it seemed being just the dream of a lifetime. Totally impossible.
Aged 39 – out of the blue – everything changed and turned into reality.
What about yourself – Are you still dreaming?
my personal background
You might be thinking to yourself why have I clicked this link to come through to read someone else’s life story or résumé? You may be interested in acquiring a helicopter pilot license perhaps even a professional pilot’s license and think to yourself, could I do it?
In my case becoming a professional helicopter pilot wasn’t the next obvious step of my career and it might not be in your case but perhaps after reading this you may be thinking…
“Ok, if he could do it, I can do it as well” – Live your passion, live your dream!
It’s not just me there are many other pilots out there that could tell you about their own personal sudden shift in life to finally follow their dream and become a professional helicopter pilot.
Born and raised in Switzerland, I was surrounded by high mountains from the start. Of course, being Swiss, before I could even walk my mother had me on a pair of skis. Already than, I would see those fantastic Helicopters fly around steep rock cliffs & land on top of them.
Honestly, I do not remember, if that was exactly the age I started to take notice of those magical birds. It was the way my childish eyes were caught fascinated by those majestic machines.
Since then, the dream to become a helicopter pilot has never stopped. Watching a helicopter, wherever it happens to be on the globe, brings back those same fascinated eyes from childhood.
Since my personal journey named “From_Zero_to_Pro” has started, seeing helicopters has become increasingly frequent but still just as exciting and fascinating as before.
reality and work
Back in Switzerland at twelve years old, I was prescribed my first pair of glasses. The disaster of my lifetime or so I thought at the time. I saw this as a very clear message that I will never become a helicopter pilot for the army. Flying in the military is the cheapest and most obvious way to start a pilot’s career. I assume that’s pretty much same all over the world. The big dream got totally extinguished – it will never happen.
Being teenager I was curious about many other different things in life, this particular dream was almost forgotten. I loved playing the drums, piano and flying para-gliders in my spare time. Later I ended up studying the law and worked as legal adviser before eventually founding an internet startup company.
That was all great and highly promising, it also allowed me to travel all over the globe attending exciting conferences and meeting fascinating people. There was no reason to not just continue that way and follow the path laid ahead of me.
doubting my life
Aged 38 I was suddenly struck with a problem in my life forcing me into a long and unexpected brake from my usual work routine. This was by no means the first time such an imposed brake forced me into a holding pattern.
Normally I would have gotten over it and after a little turbulence gotten back onto roughly the same heading as before. I would have continued with new experiences stronger than before, however this time it was different.
During this brake, Spring 2014, I built a four bladed remote controlled drone called a Quadcopter. While teaching myself how to fly the drone at the lake of Zürich, I was constantly thinking about my life. Somehow I was back in my childish daydreams.
I had been feeling like this for two months when I met a cute older couple that happened to walk past while I was flying the Quadcopter. The couple must have been in there mid-eighties. Watching my Quadcopter the lady suddenly started talking… “my husband had always dreamed of being pilot.” As I was flying and therefore watching the Qudacopter, I could not properly look at him, but a very short glance was enough to recognize his face from the newspapers.
Despite knowing exactly who he was and what a successful career he had, I asked him what he did for a living. He could not take his almost ancient but childish looking eyes from my Quadcopter. He only answered “She is right, that has been my all time dream.”
one coffee that changed my life
Monday, July 28th 2014 will remain like a big red mark in my personal calendar.
I was invited for a coffee by a friend called Malvina while she was in Switzerland visiting family. I had not known Malvina long but when we met on this particular Monday July 28th 2014 I started to tell her my newest endeavors. Eventually I started complaining about the stupid brake I was having, but also explaining how cool this Quadcopter was. She briefly interrupted me and the following conversation started…
“Have you ever answered yourself those two famous questions?” – “What two famous questions?”
“First, what would you do, if you had only 6 more months left to live and second, what would you do if you’d never have to work again without any concerns about money?” – “Come on, that is totally ridiculous. Those two questions are way too simple, probably everyone on the globe had thought about them. It’s absolutely impossible to plan life this way” – “Can you answer them?”
She really insisted on getting an answer and I felt her pushing. Her style was very bold, having barely known each other at the time I could not take her seriously.
Reacting quickly I only joked back… “Firstly I would probably travel to all the places I have never been to before and second I would definitely buy a helicopter and just fly myself around. But I can not fly and can not afford a helicopter and anyway …”
Taking my answer very serious and again interrupting, she asked quite harshly “So why don’t you become a professional helicopter pilot?” – “Well, dreaming is always good, but unfortunately that is absolutely impossible, because …
a million reasons, “why” it is impossible anyway
Like anyone that only dreams about a their lifetimes dream, instead of doing it. I was totally sure, that flying helicopters was an unrealistic and unachivable ambition. I had a list of reasons why I thought I couldn’t fly professionally.
– my eyes – I wear glasses
– my age – I am too old (39)
– my experience – I have absolutely none – I’d have to start at ZERO
– my opportunities – I would never find a job starting that late
– my time – all together it would take me YEARS
– my wallet – it’s too expensive
Of course I had even more reasons, but she stopped me anyway at excuse n° 2 saying…
EASA license – 1 year training – London Airspace
“ 1. You are definitely not too old yet. 2. Glasses are absolutely no issue, as long as you are not colour blind. 3. There are affordable flight schools which can train you to become a commercial helicopter pilot in the UK and all within one year. 4. there are plenty of jobs, in fact there are not enough helicopter pilots for the constantly rising need of helicopters especially in the newly emerging markets around the world”
I was speechless, before I could continue my list of reasons why this was an absolutely unreasonable plan that would never work she continued…
“Listen, you look healthy to me, but I am not a doctor. You would have to pass a medical test, that’s true, but it only takes one day. Skip the class two medical, required for a PPL, and complete a class one medical. This medical is what you will require to work as a commercial pilot“.
“If you pass it, 3/4 of your concerns are history, why don’t you start with this? Stop being your own barrier. It is possible and I’m sure if this is your all time dream, you will never regret this step.”
“Are you sure about these job opportunities?” – “Yes” – “And why exactly UK? There are no mountains at all? – “You will have to pass internationally respected UK exams, you’ll get the globally accepted EASA license and fly in and around the London Air Space. Not only is flying around London great fun, but it is also considered to be one of the most challenging airspaces in the world due to it being some of the most congested airspace in the world. Once you complete your licence there, you can go and literally work where ever you want”.
“There must be horrible pitfalls – this all sounds way too good!” – “No. There are no pitfalls. I will send you two links – one for the medical and one for the training academy.”
Our talk continued for one more hour, from here I do not remember anything except walking back home at around 4pm. I felt completely drunk and captured by the conversation that just took place.
That same evening I checked the links. Booking an appointment at the medical center of the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) in Gatwick and contacted the mentioned training academy.
medical test and trial lesson
Two weeks later – I was due to attend a conference in London, perfect time to visit the UK aviation house at Gatwick to have my medical examination. I passed all medical tests without any problems. I couldn’t believe it just happened. Straight from there I headed down towards South England.
The next day, August 12th 2014, I arrived at the Aerodrome in Goodwood, where I had booked my initial trial lesson with Phoenix Helicopters Academy. It was an awesome flight. My first flight in a Robinson 22 helicopter.
Afterwards I travelled back home to Switzerland. During this trip I felt even worse than drunk. A strange mixture of emotions as my mind attempted to make sense of what just happened. Did I really fly in a training helicopter? And did I seriously pass the medical? I had to stop driving and look at this medical certificate at least ten times.
decision & plan
On that same journey back home I started to cancel all my duties in my mind and clear off my calendar for the rest of my life for something new. Something totally different. My dream.
The decision was made. The only remaining question was how to organize and plan everything and when to start.
October 14th 2014 I started my first proper flying lesson at Goodwood Aerodrome with Phoenix Helicopter Academy.
I still cannot believe that it took me more than 20 years to find out that my old dream did not actually die. It still could become reality!
I decided to get this website and blog started and to share my journey with anyone else interested in flying helicopters.
I hope with helpful and entertaining … Enjoy.