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Helicopter pilot - Are You Heading for Burnout?

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

As a helicopter pilot, burnout is a real concern. The long hours, high stress environment, and demanding nature of the job can all take their toll on even the most experienced pilots.

In this blog post, we'll explore the causes of helicopter pilot burnout, how to prevent it, and what you can do to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

Causes of Helicopter Pilot Burnout

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to burnout in helicopter pilots. Some of the most common include:

  1. High Stress Environment: Helicopter pilots operate in high-stress environments, such as during search and rescue missions, firefighting operations, EMS and military combat missions. The constant pressure to perform at a high level can be mentally and physically exhausting.

  2. Long Hours: Helicopter pilots often work long hours, especially during busy seasons like fire season or during military deployments. Emergency Services (EMS) pilots mainly work 7/7 or 14/14 without a break. Tour helicopter pilots often work 7 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can lead to fatigue and a lack of work-life balance.

  3. High Workload: Pilots are responsible for a lot of tasks, including navigating, monitoring instruments, communicating with air traffic control, and ensuring the safety of passengers or cargo. The high workload can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

  4. Traumatic Events: Pilots may experience traumatic events, such as crashes, near-misses, or the loss of passengers or crew. These events can cause emotional distress and increase the risk of burnout.

Preventing Helicopter Pilot Burnout

There are several strategies that helicopter pilots can use to prevent burnout, including:

  1. Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: Pilots should prioritize healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga.

  2. Building Support Networks: Pilots should have a support network of family, friends, and colleagues who can provide emotional support and help with practical needs, such as childcare or running errands.

  3. Setting Realistic Goals: Pilots should set realistic goals and prioritize tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed by their workload.

  4. Seeking Professional Help: Pilots who are experiencing burnout symptoms should seek professional help, such as counseling or therapy.

  5. Taking Time Off: Pilots should take time off from work to recharge and rest. This can include taking vacations, taking a break during the day, or taking sick leave if needed.


Helicopter pilot burnout is a real concern, but there are strategies that pilots can use to prevent it. By prioritizing self-care, building support networks, setting realistic goals, seeking professional help when needed, and taking time off when needed, helicopter pilots can reduce the risk of burnout and perform at their best. If you're a helicopter pilot, make sure to prioritize your mental and physical health to avoid burnout and stay safe in the air.

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