How To Become A Helicopter Pilot

The steps on how to become a helicopter pilot are extensive and time consuming, but the rewards, in the end, is well worth the journey. For general aviation, all pilots are generally required to log about 30 hours of in-flight experience, apply for and pass the PPL-H exam, have an FAA Third Class Medical exam.
Flying helicopters, with comparison to standard winged air crafts, is a significantly different experience. Helicopter pilots are expected to be alert and able to act quickly under intense pressure. Helicopter pilots should be detailed-oriented and have a supreme knowledge of standard flying instruments and helicopter equipment. Helicopter pilots should have excellent problem solving skills and the ability to work in stressful situations.

Flight School

It is best to research the best flight school to meet your personal needs. Flight schools can be very expensive based on the student’s prior experience and needs. Tuition rates can vary for flight schools between $3000 – $6000 dollars. To cover expenses, many students will go to private loans or federal government financial aid. To cut expenses, some students will join the military for military flight experience. This cuts the cost of training significantly, but it also requires your commitment to service in the military, as well as the danger involved with the service.

PPL-H License Requirements

Flight school trains students for the ability to fly and maintain their helicopters. The key is to get as many hours of flight experience as possible. Many of the exams accompanying helicopter pilot’s licenses are based on helicopter flight. To be approved for your Private Pilot License for Helicopters, or your PPL-H, you must log in at least 20 hours of flight experience, with 10 hours of solo flight time. Take-offs and landings are a substantial part of the flight exam, and must be given heavier focus. To acquire your PPL-H, you must also obtain an FAA Third Class Medical Exam. Forms with this exam are available through most flight schools and from the FAA directly.

PPL-H Exam

The PPL-H consists of a one – two hour oral exam. This exam is based on knowledge of the helicopter, flight instruments, and maneuverability. Accompanied by this exam is a one-hour in-flight exam with a Certified Flight Instructor. The instructor will ask you to perform special maneuvers mid-flight, as well as rate your use of the radio communication. Again, a large aspect of proper flight control is how you handle take-offs and landings.

Flight Hours

Flight hours are always important. In fact, your flight experience and how many flight hours you have logged is one of the most important parts of acquiring any form of pilot license. Helicopter pilots must be trained to handle any situation they may encounter, which is why helicopter licenses require different forms of flight experience. Helicopter pilots must have logged night hours, solo hours, and cross-country hours as well. Private helicopter pilots are required to have about 30 hours or so of logged flight experience before passing the PPL-H. CPL-H, or Commercial Pilot License for Helicopters, however, requires around 150 hours of flight experience. On top of that, most jobs will require even more hours logged.

FAA Certification

All helicopter pilots are required to have their FAA certificate to be a professional pilot. A private license will allow you to fly a helicopter, but not to take a paid position or to take paying customers on flights. To acquire your FAA certificate you must take a computer-based multiple-choice test. Applicants must score a minimum of a 70 on the test to pass. Pilots are also required to receive a second medical exam, the Second Class Medical Certification. This exam confirms that all pilots have at least a 20/20 vision, either corrected or uncorrected vision is fine, with stable blood pressure. Pilots also may not have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness. Student pilots must meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years old and be able to speak proper English. All commercial pilots must also have their PPL-H before applying for their commercial license.

CPL-H Requirements

Commercial pilots are required to complete the CPL-H in the ground school at the flight academy. On average, the cost of tuition and all other expenses for obtaining your CPL-H runs around $36,000. If attending a full time flight school, the license can be acquired in as little as one – two months. This course is sometimes available through some community colleges, as well. The CPL-H consists of a written exam, as well as another in-flight exam with a certified flight instructor. Commercial pilots are required to have about 150 hours of flight experience logged including : 100 hours of pilot in command experience, 20 hours of cross-country flight, and about 20 hours of activities on the FAA-approved commercial pilots areas of operation list. Sometimes, pilots are required to have Certified Flight Instructor credentials, but this is not always a requirement.

The only federal requirement to become a commercial pilot is the CPL-H. This does not, however, mean you are able to leave flight school directly into a new job. Many jobs require extensive hours of flight experience before making positions available. This is why many pilots continue to give flight instruction, to build their flight experience. For example, most Medevac pilots are required to have about 1,500 to 2,000 hours of flight experience. Flight hours can be logged by renting a helicopter and flying recreationally, but rented helicopters can run about $200 an hour. Most pilots, for this reason, will continue to instruct students. This gives them paid flight hours and experience.