helicopter pilot graduate

Becoming a Helicopter Pilot: Graduate Success Story

Group 3 Aviation helicopter pilot graduate Robert Satz is today a successful line pilot for Guardian Helicopters, a professional utility helicopter operator at Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, California. He’s living his dream because, as he shares, he never gave up on achieving it.

Robert took his first helicopter flight in 1992, a demonstration flight where he asked the instructor to show him what the helicopter could do.

“I spent the first 20 minutes sure I’d never get in a helicopter again, and the next 40 minutes falling in love,” he said. “I was hooked.”

Robert began flight training, but stopped after 30 hours of experience. He’d been researching the industry and felt he had little chance to find work after he’d completed his training. He instead went to work as an auto mechanic. But his heart never truly left helicopters. He stayed engaged in the industry, asking questions and attending the Helicopter Association International’s annual Heli-Expo.

Eight years later, he decided he’d make the leap for good. After researching many flight schools in California, he decided Group 3 Aviation was best fit for him.

“There are a number of good schools out there, and I took the time to visit and interview with them,” Robert said. “But it was the thoughtful and intelligent way the flight instructors at Group 3 Aviation answered my questions that made me choose this school.”

Robert completed his training, receiving his private, commercial, instrument and flight instructor ratings. He graduated on Oct. 1, 2000, and was hired by Group 3 Aviation the next day.

Under the guidance of the Group 3 Aviation owners and instructors who trained him, Robert built experience and skill as an instructor for 18 months while also achieving his instrument flight instructor rating before taking a summer seasonal position at Temsco Helicopters in Alaska.

At Temsco he received his turbine transition and through training in flying FAA Part 135 operations.

For the next several years Robert led the life of a helicopter pilot, going where the job took him. He worked in Chicago flying news and private charter then went to Louisiana to fly offshore oil support. With each job came more experience in different helicopters and flying conditions, each one making him a better and more skilled pilot.

In 2014, as the oil industry began to experience an economic downturn, Robert went back to flight school to receive long-line training in hopes of landing a utility flying position, preferably in fire fighting.

As luck would have it, after receiving long-line training, he sent out resumes to several operators, including Guardian Helicopters. Guardian is neighbors with Group 3 Aviation and Robert had become casual acquaintances with Guardian’s owner while he worked at Group 3 Aviation.

Within the week, Robert received a call for an interview.

“I couldn’t believe it in the end,” Robert said. “I knew you’d travel around a lot as a pilot, but I didn’t expect I’d land a job minutes from my house at my own airport. And I’m doing the work I’d always wanted to do.”

Today, as a line pilot for Guardian Helicopters, Robert flies an exclusive use contract for multiple agencies assisting with fire fighting. In addition to fire suppression, he also supports fire-fighting efforts by flying cargo and even short haul emergency medical extractions.

“My advice to anyone looking to become a helicopter pilot is to never give up on your dreams,” he says. “Network, go where you can get work, keep a positive attitude on the job, and stay dedicated. I started flying when I was 28 and now I’m 53. I never gave up. Every job I had along the way got me here.”

If you’re interested in learning more about a career as a helicopter pilot, give us a call and consider taking your first demo flight to see what it is all about. We look forward to hearing from you!