How to get a Helicopter License

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If you have dreamed of getting your helicopter license, now is the time to become a helicopter pilot. There are numerous helicoptor job opportunities for pilots with a helicopter license, such as tourism, news stations, or just for fun. Earning a helicopter license is challenging, but rewarding aviation career choice for many people, but perhaps the best thing about being a helicopter pilot is that most anyone can become one. However, there are some things you need to know first about becoming a helicopter pilot, and how it is much different from flying a plane.

How to get a Helicopter License

The first thing you want to do before undertaking any helicopter flying lessons is ensuring that you do not have any health issues that will interfere with your flying. You will need to get an FAA medical certificate. The most important condition to test for is your vision. Not having 20/20 uncorrected vision is fine, so long as it can be corrected with lenses. Colorblindness is a huge hurdle for many would-be pilots because the ability to distinguish color is such a large part of the job that if you cannot tell blues from greens, or reds from greens, you may find that you cannot become a pilot at all. Other health factors may include drug use, heart and cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, or anything that may induce a loss of consciousness while in the pilot’s seat. It is important to check with a certified FAA physician to get a thorough check-up before pursuing any helicopter pilot training. .

Getting you helicopter license will require you to get a private pilot helicopter certificate. If you’ve already gotten your aircraft pilot’s license, you will need to get your helicopter rating. For the same reasons that you need a special license to drive an 18-wheeler or a motorcycle instead of a regular sedan, a helicopter features vastly different parts and requires a whole new set of skills to fly, as opposed to flying an airplane. While you may think that they are similar, they are not; helicopters handle much differently than airplanes, the flight controls on helicopters are very different. Also, consider the aerodynamcis, which are vastly different than airplanes.

If you are looking to become a professinal helicopter pilot then you will need to get your commercial helicopter license.  This opens up helicopter career options for you and will allow you to get paid to fly helicopter. First you will need to get your private helicopter pilot license. 

Here are the requirements for your private helicopter license as per Federal Aviation Regulations:

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, and write English
  • Be endorsed by an instructor who certifies that you are prepared for the written knowledge test
  • Pass a written knowledge test
  • Be endorsed by an instructor who certifies that they conducted your required training and that you are ready for the practical test (the check ride)
  • Meet aeronautical experience requirements outlined in the regulations (flying time and conditions)
  • Pass the practical test (check ride)
  • Hold at least a student pilot certificate (medical clearance)
  • Comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations

You can complete your academic training via a home study course or in the classroom with a helicopter instructor. Knowledge areas that you’ll need to learn and will be tested on include flight physiology, emergency procedures, helicopter systems, aviation weather, navigation, and FAA regulations.

A private helicopter license requires 40 hours of aeronautical experience. These 40 hours must include:

  • 20 hours of training from an authorized instructor
  • 10 hours of solo flight training to include
  • 3 hours cross-country
  • One cross-country over 100 miles with landings at three points
  • 3 takeoffs and landings at an airport with a control tower
  • 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a helicopter
  • 3 hours of night training to include a cross-country over 50 miles and 10 takeoffs and landings

These numbers are the minimums required to get a helicopter license. Not many pilots will actually get their helicopter license right at 40 flight hours. Most helicopter pilots will require somewhere around 50-60 flight hours before they’re ready for the FAA practical test.

Helicopter Flight School

Once you’ve decided on getting your helicopter license, you want to start looking for a helicopter flight school. It is exceptionally important that you find a helicopter flight school that feels right to you, because getting into a

helicopter flight school that you don’t like can very easily crush your spark of enthusiasm. Helicopter lessons are long, and packed with information. You need to ensure that you can stay focused on the material while staying motivated to show up again. Go and interview your flight instructors, get to know their teaching methods. You are about to embark on a great adventure, and you will want to ensure that you can stand being with the same instructor for several months. It’s like getting into a relationship; first you find the one you like, and then you throw a bunch of money at it. Except, instead of getting married, you get your license at the end, and an incredible feeling of accomplishment.

Research your helicopter flight schools. Look at their credentials, and ensure that their teaching practices leave you feeling confident. Trust your gut; if anything leaves you feeling unsure, look around some more.

Helicopter License Cost

Helicopter pilot training is not cheap, and you will have to dish out some money to become fully licensed. Costs you will have to cover is instructional time both in the air and on the ground, and each hour you are doing either will run you just shy of $400. In a year, that amounts to about $15,000 just to qualify for a helicopter license, and does not include the cost of becoming a flight instructor (which requires even more hours and $40,000 – $50,000 more dollars). While the cost does seem like a lot, there are financial aid programs and loans that you can look into to help mitigate the cost of getting your license.

For a basic helicopter license, you will need to spend several hours both in the air and on the ground, and the hours you spend up in a helicopter are spent accompanied by one or two instructors to help keep things running smoothly.  Helicopter flying lessons cover some of the hours you need as a pilot, but certainly not all of them, and you will be expected to undertake many more hours by yourself after you are completely certified. As a new helicopter pilot, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of information you’ll need to know, especially if you’ve already been a regular airplane pilot for a few years. There’s so much to re-learn, and while some information from flying a plane carries over, most of the techniques change drastically. After all, a helicopter is not the same as an airplane at all, and requires a different set of skills to be able to fly.

A rewarding experience

Flying a helicopter is a fun and rewarding experience after you’ve finally gotten your helicopter license and are clear to fly. The more hours you spend in the craft, the easier it becomes, and you may find yourself eager to get back in the air again. As well, there are numerous careers open to you as a helicopter pilot, many of which pay really well. Of course, there are few people who get into aviation for the money, but rather, the joy of being up in the air, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a relaxing, and simultaneously exhilarating experience that you relive every day you fly.

Careers are endless as a helicopter pilot, ranging from news casting to agriculture and even fire fighting. Search and rescue, EMS transport, and police work are high risk jobs, but can be rewarding in their own right. As for the salary each makes, it differs between areas as well as what kind of helicopter pilot you are. However, if you’re passionate about your career choice, the salary doesn’t matter so much.