What Does It Take To Become A Helicopter Pilot?

If you are considering a change of direction in your career and are looking to the skies for that change, you may well have thought of becoming a helicopter pilot. As you would imagine, the training involved in learning to fly these majestic machines is comprehensive and thorough.

Taking to the Skies

Anyone who has attempted to keep a remote controlled helicopter in the air for more than a few seconds will appreciate the fact that they require minute and constant adjustments, to cope with changes in wind speed and other factors in the air. When this is extrapolated to a full sized helicopter, the enormity of the task is hard to ignore. The training involved in learning to become a helicopter pilot addresses all aspects of the flight, from pre-flight checks to touchdown.

How Long does it Take?

Similar to learning to drive a car, there is no set time limit to undertake helicopter pilot training. People learn at different rates and as such, what may seem a reasonable length of time to some could seem like an eternity (or indeed far too short) to others. If your training is intensive, with many sessions each week, it is feasible to complete training for your license in anything from about three to six months. Anything shorter than three months is ill-advised as it is likely to be so fast as to not allow you to properly absorb the necessary theory behind helicopter flight. Conversely, spending too long between lessons can hamper progress, so it is worth talking to your instructor at the beginning of your programme to work out the optimum programme.

Training for Commercial or Private Flight

There are understandably different qualifications for helicopter pilots depending on whether you are aiming to fly for fun or as a career. The private pilot’s license is the first qualification necessary and allows you to pilot a helicopter for pleasure, with your friends or family riding along with you. If you are intent on flying commercially, once you have passed the initial private pilot’s license, you can work towards the more involved commercial license.

Private Pilot’s License

A private pilot’s license (PPL) allows you to fly within Britain and across Europe if you fancy getting further afield, opening the doors to some truly memorable weekends away. A PPL requires a minimum mandatory flight time of 45 hours, made up of dual instruction flight, supervised solo flight and solo flight. The training includes being able to navigate a flight which is at least 100 nautical miles. Following your flight training, there will be an examination with a CAA approved flight examiner.

Commercial Pilot’s License

The next step after completing a PPL is the commercial pilot’s license (CPL), allowing you to gain work as a helicopter pilot. In addition to holding a PPL, people wishing to train for a CPL must be 18 years old or over, have completed at least 155 flight hours, with at least 50 of those hours in command. Likewise, there are a number of CPL theoretical examinations which must be passed, along with the all-important medical. Following your comprehensive helicopter pilot training, you will take a practical exam with an accredited assessor. At this point, your occupation could be “Helicopter Pilot.”

Alice Aires has written articles for a range of sites, on subjects including helicopter training. Visit Central helicopters for helicopter pilot training. When she is not writing, Alice is often found taking a stroll around the parks of the North West with her children.