What Is a Helicopter Air Ambulance Pilot's Salary?

By Shelley Moore

  • Overview

    What Is a Helicopter Air Ambulance Pilot's Salary?
    A helicopter air ambulance pilot transports critically injured or ill persons to hospital trauma centers, and also carries a flight nurse and paramedic who administer life support care. Air medical services are a vital component of community health care systems, and the helicopter air ambulance pilot is essential for these lifesaving procedures.
  • Entry-level pilots

    Helicopter pilot salaries are very wide-ranging depending on the company they work for and their level of experience. Common entry-level jobs include flight instructor or pipeline/power line patrol pilots. These jobs can pay as low as $20,000 and as high as $45,000, according to Hot Helicopter Jobs (see Resources).
  • Experience Requirements

    Most air ambulance companies require 1000 to 3000 hours of flight time for new pilots. They prefer instrument-rated, or IFR, pilots who are proficient at flying at night, in bad weather, and in other situations with poor visibility. They do also hire visual flight rule pilots. IFR pilots make an average of $5000 more per year than VFR pilots.


  • Starting Salary

    According to Helicopter Salaries (see Resources), the average starting salary for a helicopter air ambulance pilot is between $47,000 to $52,000, with an increase of about $5,000 after five years on the job. Some companies provide relocation bonuses of $5,000 to new hires as well. Air ambulance pilots typically work a schedule of 7 days on and 7 days off, which means they work weekends and holidays. They are provided with full benefits, including health insurance, paid vacations and holidays, and a 401(k) plan.
  • Considerations

    Along with their flight activity, the pilots must keep the helicopter clean and ready to go at a moment's notice, and submit all paperwork in a timely manner. They must have stamina and endurance, and be very alert. A helicopter air ambulance pilot must be mentally stable, and able to handle disturbing sights and odors, and multiple victims. The pilot sometimes is the person dealing with traumatized family members as the medical crew works on the patients. The job is emotionally and physically demanding, but also is exciting and highly rewarding, as the pilot is actively involved in saving lives under time-sensitive conditions. As of 2009, a helicopter air ambulance pilot can make an average of $85,000 annually after many years of experience, and sometimes more, depending on the company.
  • Potential

    Higher salaries can be acquired by advancing to base pilot supervisor, with an average starting salary of around $70,000, and potential for up to $105,000 after several years on the job. The supervisor works with the area manager and medical supervisors to make sure the base operates in an efficient, safe, and cost-effective manner. Supervisors coordinate flight planning, aircraft maintenance, and resources for mission support. The base pilot supervisor also acts as the base safety officer.
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