• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors

Tips for a Successful Military to Civilian Transition

Posted 12 years 67 days ago ago by Admin

Military to Civilian Image


Tips for a Successful Military to Civilian Transition - By Heidi Ames

When I left the military in pursuit of my first civilian flying job, I assumed Part 135 was a common component on several different Bell 206 models.  My first helicopter job was with a small company that had difficulty making payroll and cut corners on maintenance and training.  My priority after this experience was to seek out a large and stable company that adhered to the regulations and preferably had direct deposit.

As a hiring manager, I often encounter pilots who are as unaware to the ways of civil aviation as I once was.  I wish I had had a mentor to guide me through the process of preparation for making that jump.  In this article, I hope to impart some of my experience and share my tips for those military pilots who will soon separate or retire and will be seeking a career in the civilian helicopter industry.

My first bit of advice for those pilots who are separating:  do your homework!  For example:  if you are seeking an EMS position and only have 1500 total hours, you will probably be unable to in many cases, due to the hiring minimums of most, if not all EMS operators.  In this example, you may  need to plan on pursuing another type of work to build hours, or you can remain in the military until you have the requisite total hours.

Be the Early Bird

Research what type of work you want to do and are qualified for (EMS, GOM, Utility, Tours, etc.)  You can also determine the type of company you want to work for (large vs. small), and where you want to live.


·       Attend career fairs, check employment web sites, and visit your ACAP or TAP office.

·       Establish a firm transition date.  Most operators will not want to consider you for a position until around 6-8 weeks out.  It is acceptable to contact an operator for information earlier, but most will not want to hold a position for longer than a few months.

·       Once you are 6-8 weeks out, contact potential employers with a firm idea of location or type of position you are seeking.

·       Getting your foot in the door is key.  You may not get your dream location right away, but those who are flexible may be able to move to those locations at a later time.  If you have a specific location in mind, seek out the employer in that area and find out what is available.

·       Be financially prepared.  It may take 2-4 months to complete the hiring process and begin work.  Try not to put yourself in a position in which you have to take a job.  If you are not happy in your chosen position, you will not want to stay long and really do not want to get a reputation as a “job hopper.”   

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

Put your resume out there!  Do not limit your opportunities or apply to just one company.  The company may not have a position for you at that time, but may know someone who does.  Do not forget to network with colleagues who have already transitioned to the civilian sector.  Employers prefer candidates who are recommended by reliable current employees. 

Get Ready for Inspection

·       Obtain a professional civilian e-mail address and voicemail.  Killerloop360@... may not be the impression you want to convey.  Avoid using military e-mail addresses as they may expire during your job search.

·       Delete questionable content from social networking sites.

·       Get the appropriate certificates.  A military physical is not suitable.  You must have an FAA Medical Certificate (Class II at a minimum for most positions).   The old FAA paper licenses are no longer valid to exercise the privileges of a Commercial Pilot.  If you have one of these, you will need to go to FAA.gov to obtain a new credit card type license.

·       Flight time.  The logging of time is different than in the military.  If you have any questions about your PIC time or total time, schedule an appointment with an FAA inspector.  I do not recommend changing your flight time based upon what another pilot in your unit thinks he understands from the FARs.

Have a transition plan for your family

You should also keep in mind that there will be costs associated with your transition in the form of moving as well as a potential “gap” in employment. Use your free military move wisely.  Many companies offer relocation assistance, but it may not be enough to cover the full cost of the move.  Research “gap” insurance.  If you are separating, you may need to purchase insurance to get you through the “gap” in employment. If possible, visit the potential job location to research schools, housing, spouse employment opportunities, etc. to make sure you have all bases covered.


Civilianize your resume, experience, and verbiage for your interview.  Keep in mind that there is a very good chance that the person reviewing your resume, may have never served in the military.  Here is an example of a job description riddled with military jargon a well as an appropriate translation.

MILITARY JARGON:  BN SIP/ME for the 82nd AHB, Ft. Bragg, N.C.:   Served as AO SME during a deployment to an OCONUS location.  Further responsible for the unit ATP and served as NVG PLT Ldr.

TRANSLATED:  Training Manager and Flight Instructor:  Responsible for a corporate level training program and instruction of 14 pilots in local area procedures and flight procedures.  Also served as mid-level manager for 8 pilots.

Above all, don’t be modest.  Your military experience is a selling point as indicated in the bullet statements below:

·       Self confidence, accepts responsibility

·       Demonstrated leadership skills

·       Ability to take the initiative

·       Creative thinking, ability to be flexible

·       Positive, “can do” approach to the job

·       Team player


Do not hesitate to express your desire to learn in your new environment.  Humility goes a long way with a potential employer when you are new to the industry.


Professionalism is the Key

It is most important to keep in mind the civilian helicopter industry is very small and your reputation follows you.  Be professional in your conduct before, during, and after the hiring process.  Be timely in your responsiveness to employers.  Address any and all employment offers; no response does not indicate an offer of non-acceptance.  Above all, show an appropriate level of commitment to your employer.  You do not want to gain a reputation as a gypsy; most employers will want you to commit to a year (or a season for utility or tours work).

Resource Websites for Military to Civilian Transition

www.thehelicopterstore.com (Military to Civilian Transition EBook)








Heidi Ames is a Pilot Hiring Manager for Med-Trans Corporation, a Nationwide Part 135 EMS Operator. Other experience includes: Master Army Aviator with 18 years civilian and military experience. Regional Aviation Manager, Check Airman and Day, Night, NVG Instructor Pilot.