Helicopter Charter Pilot

"From single pilot off-airport night landings, to flying down the Le Mans straight during the 24hr race, Raiyan gives us an insight into his life as a helicopter charter pilot!"

We’re super excited to bring you this article from Raiyan, a highly experienced charter pilot currently operating out of London. He’s very kindly given us a behind the scenes run down of what his working life consists of, sharing the challenges and adventures along the way!

Raiyan also runs a superb sightseeing and charter broker firm, so if you’re ever after an incredible sightseeing tour, or in need of a charter flight in the UK, FlyFast is the place to go!

Company, Position & Base?

AW109 Charter Pilot, Biggin Hill Airport

Can you summarise your job role as a helicopter pilot in one sentence?

I fly VIP clients in an AW109 as a single pilot IFR captain, providing a door-to-door service for a variety of destinations spanning from jet transfers to private estates to major cities.

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Raiyans AW109

Example of a typical “day in the life” of a charter helicopter pilot?

Each day starts with reviewing the flight brief – assessing the weather, time of flight (day or night) and the conditions (cloud base, visibility, freezing level and wind). I then begin flight and fuel planning, deciding whether the flight will be under VFR or IFR and have alternates in place if needed. Following the paperwork, a pre-flight check is carried out by either myself or an engineer to ensure the machine is ready to go. The cabin will also be cleaned and prepared for our clients by either myself or the ramp staff shortly before departure. My flights vary from airport transfers, London and Paris runs to trips to remote estates and film shoots spanning the UK, Ireland and France – requiring a great deal of flexibility and adaptability to plans changing, at times, minutes before departure. The day is a blend of working with our excellent ops team and the company as a whole in order to safely and efficiently cater to the needs of a demanding and diverse client base.

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Why did you choose this helicopter pilot job & what path did you take to get here?

 I love the variety the charter pilot job brings, along with some really challenging decision making and flying. Flying a single pilot IFR helicopter like the AW109 gives us the same abilities as a jet – which can fly a CAT1 ILS with a fully coupled, 3 or 4 axis autopilot but can also take you from the middle of a city to an off-airfield private site at night, flying a manual approach to a NATO T.

I started in operations at flying schools to get me into the industry and learn it from the ground up. I then moved on to flying sightseeing and high intensity pleasure flights all over the UK and Ireland in a B206 which created a great foundation for me as a CPL whilst dabbling in operations during the off season. The pandemic gave me a chance to do my IR which led to a position flying the S92 offshore from Aberdeen and Shetland where I learned to land on helideck and vessels in some very poor conditions. I have since moved back to London, flying the lovely AW109 and hopefully the AW139 in the near future.

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Raiyan operating the AW109

2 favourite aspects of this helicopter pilot job?

  • Access to some amazing places as some of the landing sites are inaccessible to the public like private estates and spending the day of “work” having lunch and exploring some of most beautiful parts of the country.
  • The pilots and ops team get on very well with each other so there’s always a great environment in the office, even on the wintery down days (with the occasional nerf war) 

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AW109 Night Landing

One great thing about your company

The people I work with! If there is advice or help needed for anything, from some time off to a complex technical question, there is always someone available. This extends from the pilots and ops to engineering and ramp staff.

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What do you find the 2 most challenging aspects or impacts?

  • Single pilot off airfield night operations are one of the more challenging parts of my job due to the nature of their surroundings with obstacles like large trees and they are mostly operated during the winter season. These sites are normally located within private estates and our dedicated lighting team is on site with comms and lay out a NATO T for us to make our approach to. It is particularly challenging during the winter as freezing levels have a huge impact on decision making as well as a lack of alternate airports open at the time of flight.
  • The work life balance can be quite challenging at times, as is the case with many parts of client driven aviation, there can be last minute changes and significant delays (as is their right when chartering an aircraft). The ops team are very good at following up on client movements and keeping us in the loop so we can still get some down time while away from base.

Most surprising part of the job for you?

When I started VIP charter, the sheer cost of everything and how frequently they flew was the most surprising part for me.

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Most memorable day on the job as a charter helicopter pilot?

There are a few! I was one of 22 pilots flying the heads of state at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, UK.

I also had the opportunity to fly the shuttles from Paris Heliport to the Le Mans 24h and we had authorisation to fly over the track as the race was live. Flying down the straight was the only time I have been overtaken by a car while in the AW109!

I was very lucky one Saturday morning when I got a call to ferry an R44 from the UK to Romania, flying through 7 countries. The France to Romania leg was completed in 7 hours in a single day.

 

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If you could go back to the start of your career as a helicopter pilot and do anything differently, what would it be and why?

I don’t think I would want to do anything differently as it has given me such a variety of experiences and I have had the chance to meet and learn from so many people along the way.

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Raiyan operating the S92

Most commonly asked flying question you get at a party? What’s your answer?

Have you flown anyone famous? What are they like? Yes, they are just people trying to get from A to B as quick as they can.

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Would you recommend your career path to budding or current helicopter pilots right now? Any advice for them?

Absolutely, it is very good time to be a pilot as there is a lot of work out there. In the UK, the best places to start are getting a turbine rating and flying sightseeing tours, flight instructing or doing an instrument rating and flying offshore to build multi engine instrument time. Networking is and will be one of the most important parts of your aviation career.

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Raiyans stint flying the S92

Rough flying hours per month

Approx 35-50 hours a month although, we can fly from 1 to 15 sectors a day

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What does a “bad day at work” look like for you

The weather is far worse than forecast and I have had to divert to an airport a significant distance away from where my client needs to be. The good side of working for a charter operator is I always have the backing of my chief pilot and the ops team so there is minimal commercial pressure for making safety related decisions.

What does a “great day at work” look like for you

Flying to the big events like Ascot where all the pilots from around the country get to catch up or flying to a remote part of the country easily accessed by helicopter.

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Flying up the River Thames

FlyFast

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As we mentioned at the start – Raiyan also runs a superb sightseeing and charter broker firm, so if you’re ever after an incredible sightseeing tour, or in need of a charter flight in the UK, FlyFast is the place to go!

We’d like to really thank Raiyan for taking the time to answer our questions & for his transparency about his work & life. We’re extremely grateful he gave up his time to share his experience, and looking forward to hearing how his next few years as a charter helicopter pilot play out!

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To follow Raiyans journey, check out his personal instagram @heli.rwf
Also check out his FlyFast Instagram @FlyFast.co.uk

Helpful Links

FlyFast– Bespoke helicopter charters & sightseeing

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