When was the last time you looked at a helicopter and thought “How cool is being a helicopter pilot?”. Probably, I presume a very few but only the brave would have thought about it. There is a “gaga” in the aviation field when it comes to being a pilot. The most sought after or I should say overrated are the fighter pilots (pilots who fly fighter aircraft in the armed forces). Walking on the tarmac in their overalls tightened up with their anti-G suits and aviator sunglasses, fighter pilots have a separate fan following which makes them look like Hercules or Achilles in the air.
Is flying a fighter aircraft that tough which makes the men flying it, a class apart? Indeed, flying a fighter isn’t an easy job and it requires a lot of training and coordination between your senses and your brain to perform actions within less than milliseconds and make decisions. Travelling more than the speed of sound means your brain needs to be fast enough to cope with it. With such precision, when fighter pilots do some awe-inspiring aerobatics the world on the ground goes crazy. But….
I would say “Hang on, the real boss is a helicopter pilot”.
WHAT! Why in the world would you say that a helicopter pilot is better than a fighter pilot? (This is the question someone from the aviation world would ask me now). Okay, let’s look at it this way. What are the objectives of flying? Why did men want to fly in the first place? Out of curiosity? Okay, agreed but the more important reason is to travel faster and other such reasons which prove to be useful to mankind. What would someone gain out of an aerobatic team? Awesome stunts… that’s it. Okay, the larger cause for having fighters is to fight but where is the war nowadays that require fighters daily? Maybe not daily.
A helicopter pilot, on the other hand, is far more versatile than other stream pilots, just like his helicopter is. They can fly anywhere, anytime and land anywhere they want or people want them too. Look at the immense capability a helicopter can do and who can do it – Helicopter pilots. Wait! Don’t think that I am a helicopter pilot and hence I am biased towards them. No, I am just an aviation enthusiast. I find a helicopter pilot’s job tougher than other pilots because of the diverse and dynamic environment that they fly in. A helicopter and its pilot can transport people, civilians and troops with heavy vehicles like troop carriers, from anywhere to anywhere; they don’t need a runway. Isn’t that cool? They can fight forest fires with precision strike on the source zone; they can do combat missions with a variety of ammunition; they can rescue people from floods, mountains, beyond enemy lines and even in high seas. They can fly from a ship’s deck, they can fly from hilltops and mountains; they can even fly from building tops and god knows what else. (Well the helicopter pilots would know better than God about what else they can do; No offence God but its true). Least of all, they can do aerobatics too and that too some crazy stuff like even upside down.
What else makes their work tougher than the others? Its the level of safety. Traditional wide-bodied fixed-wing aircraft like airliners have a lot of safety aspects and a hell lot of time to react in a contingency since they fly at relatively higher altitudes. Fighter aircraft have the option of ejecting and hence offering a safety level better than others. Although, I don’t deny the part that flying itself is a risky business and split-second decisions are not just the requirement but mandatory to stay safe in the air. However, the level of protection or safety for a helicopter pilot is much lesser than his fixed-wing counterparts. Living a life, less than a millisecond at a time is what these gods of flying do daily. I once had the opportunity of flying in a 60-year-old helicopter, the Alouette III. I must say that the pilots with whom I flew (one of my close friends), showed me what their lives are like there up in the air.
If I had ever had the chance of becoming a pilot and knew all these, I would have become a helicopter pilot.
One thing is for sure – Helicopters are not for the faint-hearted. And helicopter pilots – definitely not human!!!
Cheers to all helicopter pilots out there!!!