Don't Just Sit in the Passenger Seat — Learn to Fly a Helicopter!

By Andrew Myers

July 15, 2020 Educational

Remember the days of playing flight simulators instead of doing your homework? You begged your parents for one of those cool joysticks so you could feel like a real pilot. What happened to those days?

You may be older now, but your dreams are still alive, so why not learn how to fly and experience views like no other by committing to a real adventure as a helicopter pilot.

What Do I Have to Do to Become a Helicopter Pilot?

It's difficult to overstate the value of becoming a helicopter pilot. There's nothing quite like floating several hundred feet in the air and flying low to the ground like a hawk. But make no mistake, becoming a helicopter pilot takes a lot of hard work and financial investment.

Getting a helicopter pilot's license requires training, experience, and a few other items to check off the list.

Before you even start training, you have to meet a few language and age requirements. In most places, you have to be at least 17 years old to enroll in helicopter school. You also need to speak, write, and understand the English language.

Once you meet these requirements, you can apply for flight school. After you complete flight school, you have to log training hours with an instructor's logbook endorsement. Finally, you have to practice a written, oral, and practical test.

FAQs

These frequently asked questions pertain specifically to U.S. federal aviation regulations. If you are attempting certification in another country, you must check with the country's aviation administration.

How Do I Start From Scratch?

If you're starting from scratch, you may not know where to look for a flight school. The best place to look is the HAI Membership Directory. Their website can direct you to "Pilot Training" under "Types of Products or "Service."

After you settle on the school you want to attend; you'll probably wonder how long it's going to take to complete schooling. The duration of your training depends on your schedule and how quickly the weather permits you to complete your log hours.

FAA requires at least 40 instruction flight hours. Of these 40 hours, 20 must be with an instructor, and 10ten must be on your own. It takes the average student around 50 to 60 hours to complete their flight hours, which equates to about six months to a year of work.

Flight school teaches the basics: basic airmanship, emergency procedures, enough skills to pilot a plane safely. In addition to basic airmanship, you'll learn the regulations that control basic airmanship.

How Much Does It Cost?

Finally, what you've probably all been wondering: how much does it cost?

As you can imagine, learning to fly is expensive. But if you do some research and make some calls, you will find it might still be obtainable with a reasonable budget. Here is a break down of common expenses.

First, you have to rent a helicopter; then, you'll have to rent an instructor. This can vary from a couple hundred an hour to thousands depending on availability, equipment types, and instructors. A school is a great way to start the process.

Most schools, however, offer pay as you go options, so you don't have to worry about taking out a second mortgage.

Careers as a helicopter pilot require more training -- additional certificates, and extra training hours.

What If I Already Have a Fixed-Wing Pilot's Certificate?

The requirements for adding a rotorcraft rating are reasonably straightforward. If you already have a private pilot certificate and a 3rd-class or higher medical certificate, you have to complete at least 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo flight.

After you log your hours, you must complete an oral exam and a check ride. But you do not have to retake the written exam.

How much rotorcraft training costs depends again on how much time you have to spare, and who you contract. The average price for rotorcraft training after you have a fixed-wing license is around $8,000-$10,000.

Again, if you want to become a career pilot, you need at least a commercial certificate, which requires more training and money.

The Main Differences between flying a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft are as follows.

The main difference between helicopters and planes is approaching zero airspeeds. Takeoffs, landings, and the possibility to hover are different from airplanes to helicopters.

Emergency procedures are different in helicopters because emergencies require various maneuvers and management procedures.

But what if I earned my fixed-wing license in another country? If you received a fixed-wing permit in another country, you must check to see if the U.S. honors that country's certification process.

What If You Flew In the Military

Most U.S. private sector aviation authorities give military pilots the option to credit their military experience towards certifications. But to do so, military pilots must have documented proof they graduated from a U.S. Armed Forces training school. They must also prove they have qualified status as a military pilot.

Becoming a Certified Helicopter Flight Instructor

After you've completed your helicopter pilot training, and you've completed your commercial helicopter training, you may be interested in becoming a helicopter pilot instructor.

To become a certified helicopter instructor, you must log 1000 flight hours. It's possible to receive payment while going through the instructor's training.

Career Opportunities

The typical career path for helicopter pilots begins by flying for tour groups. While working for a tour group, you can see some beautiful places from a unique perspective, such as the Grand Canyon or the Alaskan peaks. After flying for a tour company, you can switch to EMS services.

With all the new advancements of rescue choppers, you can also consider becoming a rescue pilot- a highly rewarding career path.

Learn to Fly a Helicopter

If becoming a pilot is your life-long dream, it's within your grasp. You just have to put forth the required effort. It may be an expensive investment, but nothing compares to the feeling of controlling a chopper.

Start your pilot's journey and learn to fly a helicopter today! If you ever have any questions about purchasing a hecliotoper contact Jason Zilberbrand, ASA and President of VREF for help.