The life of a helicopter pilot is an exciting one, with lots of potential career paths to explore. Some will want to go into the more leisurely options of transportation and sightseeing tours. Others want to follow a more dangerous and rewarding route with the emergency services.
Either way, there is no way to get into the cockpit and behind the controls without the right training. What does it take to become a qualified helicopter pilot? What training, flight hours and costs are now required to succeed?
Getting Started With Helicopter Pilot Training
To get up in the air, all pilots need a license to do so. There is a structured system in place that pilots can work through. The more they achieve, the more skilled they are. The more skilled they are, the more professional they seem. This is why many keen pilots are now looking beyond their commercial training.
Pilots start off with the student training – the basics – and then move onto private and commercial training. From there, there is the secondary option to look into CFI training. This means the Certificated Flight Instructor program. This CFI training is optional, yet many believe to be increasingly necessary these days.
First of all, it offers another level to a pilots skills and makes them more employable, as does additional instrument training. The more that an employer can trust a pilot in air, the better. Secondly, it gives pilots more time in the air, which is crucial when gaining experience.
While skills and technical knowledge are essential in helicopter pilot training, so is experienced in the air. A company hiring new pilots wants to see more than just a theoretical knowledge on display. There has to be practical experience and logged flight times behind the controls.
Each of these licenses levels carries a different minimum flight time requirement. This can be around 50 hours dual flight and ten solos for the private license, 150 total for the commercial and 200 to start as an instructor.
The problem for many new pilots is that employers often look for between 500 and 1000 hours before hiring. This means that licensed commercial pilots will need to top up with extra hours in the air. This is why that CFI is so popular.
There is more than the license type to think about when committing to helicopter pilot training.
Once trainees understand their path through the training system, they need to find the best school. Ideally, the flight school will be in the local area, as there will be many visits and hours to log. However, newcomers should not rush into the nearest option without taking a closer look.
The school has to be reputable, with good standards and instructors. It is like choosing any academic institution, as pilots will learn and build a relationship here for a long time.
Also, all hopeful wannabe-pilots also need to remember that this is not the only exam they need to pass here. There is also a medical exam via the FAA that determines a pilot’s physical ability to fly, rather than just their skills.
Employers and customers hiring a helicopter pilot want someone reliable with a good bill of health. This means healthy hearing and vision to control the aircraft safely, such as good color perception.
Anyone with heart problems or psychological disorders are too big a risk. One lapse in concentration, or even consciousness, and the pilot puts everyone on board in danger.
Finally, there is the consideration of the price.
Of course, all of this comes at a cost. Helicopter pilot training isn’t cheap and each hour in the air begins to add up. With dual flight sessions costing $200/hour on average, plus other charges, the private license can cost up to $15,000. This rises to up $20,000 to get the additional commercial license.
Where possible, it may be worth looking into loans and scholarship programs, especially for female pilots. This is a lot of money to pay to train, but it does set helicopter pilots up for exciting new career prospects.
Students pay similar amounts for a college education, and this works in a similar way. Also, it is important to remember that once pilots can start conducting their training, they can start to make money before becoming employed.