High oil prices may be hitting the bottom lines of major airlines but they are proving a boon to the rotor market. And it's not just the manufacturers who are benefiting more drilling and exploration means that helicopter pilots and engineers are in strong demand.

Robert Bruce, account manager with energy recruitment specialists Oilcareers says that the company has witnessed a two-fold increase in openings in a range of oil industry jobs over the past 12 months.

"High oil prices are making unexplored territories a lot more economical to develop right now," he says. "The companies can't get the oil out of the ground quick enough they basically can't get the personnel they need. From entry-level rough-neck positions to chief executive of a multinational company, across the board there are an increasing number of jobs available."

Rotor specialist March Aviation says that this strong demand is also being felt in the helicopter pilot and engineer market, with demand exceeding supply in some cases.

"For every dollar a barrel of oil goes up it makes it more attractive for companies to prospect in remoter areas, which are generally only accessible by helicopter.

Norsk S-76 W445
© Sikorsky 
 S-76 engineers are particularly sought after by oil companies

"This is having an effect we are very busy and actively looking and we can't get enough people at the moment. There is a real shortage of good helicopter people," says Russell Higham, director at March Aviation.

For pilots, off-shore experience is a necessity, but employers are taking a pragmatic approach to the engineer shortage and some are willing to employ fixed-wing engineers who want to move over to the rotor side.

Engineers with S-76 and Eurocopter experience are particularly in demand by the oil industry, but there is demand across the board, according to Higham. Typical of the type of jobs available are positions in north and west Africa, Central Asia and the UK for S-76 typed B1 and B2 engineers paying up to £1,400 ($2,600) a week.

Although rotor specialists traditionally earn less than those working with fixed-wing the nature of work in the oil industry means that overall packages can be quite attractive.

Many overseas positions are tax-free and accommodation and travel expenses for non-UK posts are often included.

"When you take into account the earnings for being offshore or in a remote location and the per diems and other advantages, such as tax-free status when it applies, these roles suddenly start to look very attractive. We have found that some of our clients have also been increasing their salaries to try and recruit and retain staff," Higham says.

Source: FlightGlobal.com