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Why Working as a Helicopter Engineer Could Be the Perfect Aviation Career For You

  • by: James Boyce
  • On: 5, Dec 2023
4 min read

When most people think of the aviation industry, they most likely think of planes. Millions of flights take off and land every day, and planes transport vast amounts of global trade.

But that isn’t all that makes up the aviation industry. The global helicopter industry is worth around $58 billion today, and is predicted to be worth $76 billion by 2030. Used around the world in all kinds of environments, including cities, deserts, over oceans, and the arctic, helicopters are powerful, versatile means of transport that have performed under conditions that planes simply could not handle.

When it comes to the aviation industry, while there are many jobs working with planes, don’t forget about the chance to work with helicopters. With specialisations leading to higher salaries and increased job security, many new engineers getting into the aviation sector are considering careers as helicopter mechanics.

Commonly called ‘rotorcraft’ in the industry, helicopters are agile and versatile, and so are their mechanics.

What does a helicopter mechanic do?

A helicopter mechanic’s job is to carry out maintenance and repair work on the airframe and powerplant. Some mechanics choose to specialise in just one particular section, or a particular type of aircraft.

As a helicopter mechanic, your most important job is to maintain the safety of the aircraft, the same as any other aviation engineer.

Your day-to-day responsibilities might include:

  • Inspecting aircraft
  • Diagnosing faults and deciding how best to repair them
  • Carrying out any necessary repairs or replacing parts
  • Testing repairs and measuring general performance
  • Ensuring that the aircraft meets all safety regulations
  • Keeping records of all work carried out on the aircraft
  • Being available on-call for emergency repairs
  • Providing clients with technical advice

Why you should consider a career as a helicopter engineer

Helicopter engineers’ salaries are high

One of the most important things to consider about any job is the salary you can expect from it. Average helicopter engineer salaries in the UK start at around £30,000 annually. As you gain experience, you may end up on around £57,000 annually, possibly higher if you’re leading divisions.

Helicopters are used in emergency services and rescue operations

Many helicopter engineers feel a deep sense of pride in their work due to the fact that helicopters are routinely used in rescue operations.

The coastguard, police, fire service, armed forces, and search and rescue services all use helicopters in missions which save lives. This sense of purpose, that their work makes a real difference, is often invaluable for engineers.

You learn transferable skills

While working as a helicopter mechanic, you’ll learn plenty of skills that could serve you across any engineering career.

You’ll not only work with the physical machinery, but also the software and data to do with performance, which can be used across all aspects of engineering.

You’ll gain more than just technical knowledge: analytical thinking, problem solving, time management, and teamwork are all key elements of working with helicopters. These skills can help you in any career.

How you can become a helicopter mechanic

Many helicopter engineers will have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, but it isn’t 100% necessary. Some aircraft engineering companies offer graduate training schemes which can be a way into the industry.

In the UK, to keep in line with the safety standards set out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a helicopter mechanic must be licensed.

To do this, you will need to take exams, as well as gain a certain amount of practical maintenance experience with a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) 145 Maintenance Organisation. This usually takes around 3-4 years, where you will qualify as an aircraft fitter.

You can then prepare for the CAA examinations to get your license.

A category A licence is required for minor maintenance tasks and the replacement of parts.

A category B licence is required for work on more complex aircraft, with more difficult maintenance required.

Both licenses need to be renewed every five years.

The UK helicopter industry

Many UK-based aviation companies work in the helicopter industry. Leonardo Helicopters is one major manufacturer and has a partnership with the UK Government. Other firms that supply components for rotary-wing aircraft include Rolls-Royce, Smiths Industries, and BAE Systems.

Career progression for helicopter mechanics

A helicopter mechanic’s role can branch into several different career options. Once you have enough qualifications and experience, you could become a lead mechanic, an avionics supervisor, or even a maintenance controller.

Some mechanics are even able to branch out into design, developing the blade technology, engine design, airframes, or electrical systems for some of the biggest aviation companies in the world.

When you look for your next aviation job, consider applying to work with helicopters. Your work could help you stand out across your career, and even save lives.
Read more about the aviation sector, or learn how to figure out what hiring managers are looking for.

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