How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

How to Become a Helicopter Pilot: Your Comprehensive Guide

Introduction: The Thrill of Flying Helicopters

Many aviation lovers dream of becoming helicopter pilots. The special skill of hovering taking off and landing vertically makes helicopters a thrilling and flexible means of travel. This manual will guide you through the process of becoming a helicopter pilot starting from training to achieving certifications.


Becoming a Commercial Helicopter Pilot: The Path to Professionalism

Starting the path, to becoming a helicopter pilot involves undergoing flight training and committing to mastering the skills needed for flying helicopters. Aspiring pilots usually kick off their journey by acquiring a pilot license, which lays down the groundwork for their aviation career. This initial phase includes completing flight training at a respected flight school and successfully passing a hands on flight assessment showcasing proficiency, in flight techniques and emergency protocols. Moreover individuals aiming to become pilots need to ace a written knowledge exam conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to obtain their pilot certificate.

Elevating Skills Through Advanced Training and Certifications

After obtaining a private pilot certificate, individuals seeking to pursue a career as a commercial helicopter pilot undergo further training to acquire additional certifications and ratings. This includes earning an instrument rating, which enables pilots to fly in adverse weather conditions and navigate solely by reference to instruments. Moreover, aspiring commercial helicopter pilots often pursue a certified flight instructor (CFI) rating, allowing them to provide flight instruction to student pilots and build valuable flight experience while honing their teaching skills.

Navigating Career Paths and Opportunities in the Aviation Industry

Upon successfully completing advanced training and obtaining requisite certifications, commercial helicopter pilots have a myriad of career opportunities available to them. Many choose to enter the realm of emergency medical services (EMS) or engage in search and rescue operations, where their piloting skills are essential in providing critical assistance during emergencies. Others may pursue careers in aerial photography, tourism, or corporate transportation, leveraging their expertise to cater to diverse industry needs.

Maintaining Proficiency and Pursuing Continuous Learning

As professionals in a dynamic industry, commercial helicopter pilots must prioritize ongoing training and education to stay abreast of advancements in technology and regulatory requirements. This includes regularly renewing medical certificates and staying current with FAA regulations through recurrent training and proficiency checks. By remaining dedicated to their craft and continuously enhancing their skills, commercial helicopter pilots uphold the highest standards of safety and excellence in aviation.

Earning Your Helicopter Pilot's License: Navigating Flight Training Schools

Embarking on the journey to become a proficient helicopter pilot begins with enrolling in a reputable flight training school. These institutions provide aspiring pilots with the essential knowledge and hands-on experience required to obtain their helicopter pilot license. Throughout helicopter flight training, students learn crucial skills outlined in resources like the ASA Helicopter Flying Handbook, which serves as a comprehensive guide to helicopter operations, maneuvers, and safety procedures. Under the guidance of experienced flight instructors, aspiring pilots undergo rigorous training that covers various aspects of helicopter flight, including navigation, emergency procedures, and advanced maneuvers.


From Private to Professional: The Pathway to a Commercial Pilot License

As pilots progress in their training, they work towards achieving milestones such as obtaining a private pilot license, which serves as a foundation for their aviation career. With dedication and commitment, they advance to more advanced stages, culminating in the pursuit of a commercial pilot license. This professional accreditation signifies a pilot's proficiency in operating helicopters for commercial purposes, whether in fields like aerial photography, tourism, or emergency services. Through a combination of classroom instruction, practical flight experience, and specialized training programs like professional pilot programs, individuals transform into skilled professionals ready to embark on rewarding careers as commercial helicopter pilots.

Becoming a Professional Helicopter Pilot: A Comprehensive Guide

Aspiring to become a professional helicopter pilot involves a structured path beginning with obtaining an FAA medical certificate. Prospective pilots must secure at least a third class medical certificate to ensure they meet the health standards necessary for flying. The journey starts with obtaining a student pilot certificate and completing helicopter training at a reputable flight school. This training includes mastering helicopter systems, flight planning, and accumulating flight hours. Achieving a private helicopter license is the first major milestone, requiring a written knowledge test and a practical flight test. For those aiming to instruct, a flight instructor certificate is essential, which involves additional training and flight instructor rating.

Lucrative Career Paths: Average Salary and Employment Opportunities

Aircraft mechanics are well compensated for their role, in the industry with a yearly salary exceeding that of many other occupations. They receive pay and benefits reflecting the demand for skilled professionals in aviation. Job prospects in this field are plentiful whether working for airlines, the private firms. Aircraft mechanics can anticipate compensation for their skills and proficiency, in carrying out maintenance duties.

Advancing in Your Helicopter Pilot Career: Certifications and Training

To further advance, pilots must secure a commercial helicopter pilot license, also known as a commercial pilot certificate. This certification necessitates extensive flight time and rigorous helicopter pilot training. Some may choose to join the Air Force for specialized training and experience with both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. As a professional helicopter pilot, continuous education and training are crucial, often involving participation in a professional pilot program. Completing these steps, including the practical flight test and obtaining various class medical certificates, ensures that pilots are well-equipped to handle the demands of commercial and instructional flying, paving the way for a rewarding career in aviation.

1. Understand the Basic Requirements

Before you start your adventure it's important to grasp the prerequisites for pursuing a career as a helicopter pilot. These prerequisites encompass:

  • Age: To begin training you need to be 16 years old and to get a private pilot license you must be 17 years old.

  • Language: It's important to have a grasp of English, for communication and following instructions. Make sure to get a certificate from an FAA approved aviation examiner.

  • Medical Certificate: For a pilot license you'll need at a third class medical certificate but commercial pilots require a second class certificate.

2. Choose the Right Training Program

When deciding on a training program you have a range of options to choose from, such, as university aviation programs or specialized flight schools that focus on helicopter training. Here are some important factors to keep in mind while making your decision:

  • Accreditation: Ensure the school is accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

  • Reputation: Research reviews and testimonials from former students.

  • Location: Choose a school in a location that is convenient and where you can log consistent flight hours.

3. Obtain a Student Pilot Certificate

Before you can start flying solo, you need a student pilot certificate. The application process includes:

  • Filling Out an Application: Submit an application through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system.

  • Medical Examination: Complete a medical examination to ensure you meet the necessary health standards.


4. Enroll in Ground School

Ground school provides the theoretical knowledge required to become a helicopter pilot. Topics covered include:

  • Aerodynamics: Grasping the concepts, behind flight.

  • Navigation: Mastering the use of maps, GPS and other tools for finding your way.

  • Weather: Exploring meteorology and its impact, on flying conditions.

  • Regulations: Getting to know the FAA rules and airspace regulations.

5. Begin Flight Training

Flight training is divided into several stages:

  • Introductory Flight: Experience flying with an instructor to get a feel for the controls and basic maneuvers.

  • Dual Instruction: Learn to fly with an instructor, covering basic to advanced maneuvers, emergency procedures, and navigation.

  • Solo Flights: Once you demonstrate proficiency, you'll begin solo flights under the supervision of your instructor.

  • Cross-Country Flights: Gain experience flying to different locations, both solo and with an instructor.

6. Obtain a Private Pilot License

To earn your private pilot license (PPL), you must:

  • Complete Required Flight Hours: The FAA requires a minimum of 40 flight hours, including 20 hours with an instructor and 10 solo hours.

  • Pass the Written Exam: Take and pass the FAA written knowledge test.

  • Pass the Checkride: Complete a practical flight test, known as a checkride, with an FAA examiner. This includes an oral exam and a flight test.

7. Pursue Advanced Certifications

If you aim to become a commercial helicopter pilot, additional training and certifications are required:

  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL): To become a pilot you need to log least 150 flight hours, which includes mastering advanced maneuvers flying at night and completing cross country flights. Additionally you must pass a written exam and a checkride to obtain your Commercial Pilot License (CPL).

  • Instrument Rating: Getting an Instrument Rating is essential as it trains you to navigate through weather conditions by relying on instruments, than visual cues.

  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI): For those aspiring to teach flying skills to others obtaining a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certification is necessary. This involves undergoing training and passing tests.

Steps to Becoming a Helicopter Pilot

To become a helicopter pilot, you must begin by obtaining a student pilot certificate and enrolling in a reputable flight school for helicopter training. This process involves learning helicopter systems, flight planning, and accumulating flight hours. To get the answer about how to become a helicopter pilot, you must pass a written knowledge test and complete a practical flight test to earn your private helicopter license.

Advancing further, to become a helicopter pilot at a commercial level, you will need to obtain a commercial helicopter license, which entails additional flight time and rigorous training. Finally, to know about how to become a helicopter pilot and excel professionally, continuous education, and possibly earning a flight instructor certificate, is essential for mastering the skills required in this demanding field.

Timeline to Becoming a Pilot: What to Expect

When considering how long to become a pilot, various factors come into play, including the type of pilot certification you aim for and the intensity of your training program. Typically, to become a private pilot, it may take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the frequency of your lessons and your ability to pass the required tests.

To understand how long to become a pilot at the commercial level, you should expect a more extended period, often one to two years, as it involves accumulating significant flight hours and advanced training. If your goal is to become an airline transport pilot, the process can take several years due to the high number of flight hours and stringent certification requirements. Overall, how long to become a pilot varies greatly based on individual circumstances and career goals.


Becoming a helicopter pilot can be tough yet fulfilling. If you stick to these guidelines and stay dedicated, to learning and practice you can make your aspiration of piloting helicopters a reality whether it's for fun or, as a career. The possibilities are endless!