Almost everyone looks up when they hear a helicopter flying overhead, right? There’s a certain mystique about helicopters and the people who pilot them. Helicopters are fast, they’re agile and they can get into places that a fixed wing aircraft couldn’t hope to. Helicopter pilots conduct search and rescue operations, they airlift wounded military members out of hot zones, they provide aerial reconnaissance, civilian medical transport and more.

According to the FAA, to become a helicopter pilot, you must satisfy the following criteria:
  1. Fly a minimum of 40 hours. This must include: 20 hours of flight training with an instructor. 3 hours of cross country flight. …
  2. Pass a written test.
  3. Pass an oral test.
  4. Pass a final skills test with an FAA-approved examiner.

How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

Step-by-step guide to becoming a helicopter pilot

Certain milestones must be achieved before becoming a helicopter pilot. For instance, a commercial helicopter pilot must first pass all exams to obtain a private pilot license. Pilots must pass written and flight exams to obtain a pilots license, log the required amount of flight time and gain relative experience according to job specifications. If you want to pursue a career as a helicopter pilot, follow these five steps:

1. Schedule a medical exam

Before enrolling in school or a flight training program, pilot candidates will need to pass a medical exam to determine that their mental and physical health will not interfere with flying. The exam must be performed by a Federal Aviation Administration-approved physician. Doctors will check for health problems that may interfere with obtaining a license, such as:

2. Earn a degree or attend a flight school

Unless you plan to fly a helicopter for personal enjoyment, you may consider obtaining a degree. Most helicopter pilot employers require an associate or bachelors degree in math, physics or aeronautical engineering. Some universities that offer aviation programs also provide the process to obtain licenses.

Attending a flight school may be a shorter route to licensing since the program focuses specifically on what it takes to become a pilot. This includes adequate flight time and exam preparation for written, oral and flight exams. Student pilots study helicopter controls and practice take-off and landing maneuvers. Pilots first learn with the use of simulators then with an instructor beside them. Eventually, solo flights take place when the instructor decides the student is ready.

3. Secure financial aid

Some flight schools and private companies offer loans, such as the Career Training Loan, for those interested in becoming pilots. Some industry groups may offer training, education or scholarship opportunities. In lieu of school, candidates may choose to enter the military, where training and licensing are offered in exchange for service. If you are a pilot with a fixed-wing license, you can apply for a rotorcraft license as an add-on, which may reduce the requirement for flight hours.

4. Obtain the proper licenses

Helicopter pilots earn a private license first, then go on to earn a commercial license. Some pilots may aspire to become an Airline Transport Pilot, the highest achievement recognized by the FAA. For all licensing, practice exams are available on the FAA website. Age requirements dictate that while a 16-year-old can earn a certification, individuals must be 17 before they can qualify for a private license. Licensing requires accumulating daytime and nighttime flight hours, as well as dual and solo trips.

To obtain a private license, pilots must:

The 40 hours of flight time includes:

Once pilots have their private helicopter license, they can expand job opportunities by taking their education and training to the next level to obtain a commercial helicopter pilot license.

To obtain a commercial helicopter license, candidates must:

The commercial pilots exam contains 30-50 questions and applicants must earn a grade of at least 70% to pass. The flight exam requires answering questions like identifying the functions and parts of aircraft as well as performing maneuvers, such as handling a crisis or explaining simple points of procedure. Flight exams consist of planning and executing a short flight with the instructor beside the student pilot. If errors are made, the instructor may ask the pilot to start the exam over or retake part of the test.

Earning the ATP designation puts pilots in a more competitive job market. This designation requires extensive flight experience and is generally sought after a few years of experience as a commercial pilot.

To become an ATP, candidates must:

5. Update your resume

A resume should contain how many flight hours a pilot has, the aircraft the pilot is familiar with and whether they have earned any awards from flight school. Some flight schools may provide resume templates for pilots so they can include all pertinent flying and training information.

What does a helicopter pilot do?

Helicopter pilots are found in a variety of industries to serve private individuals or commercial operations. Pilots may provide transportation services, seek military service or become flight instructors.

Some industries that employ helicopter pilots include:

Average helicopter pilot salary

Here are some common questions about becoming a helicopter pilot:

What sort of math skills do helicopter pilots need?

Pilots use many math skills when operating rotorcraft. Typical subjects include skills in algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. Students can opt to take math classes at college or study independently with books or study guides written specifically for pilots.

How much will my education and training cost?

Becoming a helicopter pilot is a costly undertaking. Most pilots can expect to pay between $10,000 and $15,000 for a private license and $18,000 to $20,000 for a commercial license. Flight time instruction generally runs $200 per dual hour and $160 per solo hour. Written exams cost between $200 to $500 and flight exams cost roughly $500.

Should I attend a flight school instead of college?

Helicopter pilot candidates can attend flight school in place of traditional college. Flight schools may offer scholarships or job opportunities as flight instructors. Flight schools offer the added bonus of obtaining a degree and pilot license at the same time.

Can I get a private pilots license without a high school education?

You will need to have earned at least a GED certificate to enter flight school.

What is an instrument rating?

Holding an instrument rating means pilots can fly during periods of low visibility. This rating is also known as instrument meteorological conditions or IMC. To qualify, pilots must have at least 40 hours of instrument flight experience and 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command.

What can I expect from helicopter pilot training?

Once you start, prepare to complete your education and comply with all training requirements. Pilots need to keep flying to hone their skills, as they can erode if not practiced regularly. Pilots need to stay up to date on flight procedures and protocols and may be tested periodically.

Generally, you can earn a private license in about three months, depending on how often you can complete flight training. Pilots average two to three flights per week plus classroom preparation. Class and flight training help pilots maintain skill proficiency and expand on previous lessons. Taking an ample amount of time to learn lets pilots overcome learning plateaus or assist where they are having difficulties.


How long does it take to become a pilot for helicopter?

On average, a helicopter private pilot certificate takes 2 – 4 months full-time training. A commercial helicopter pilot certificate can then take another 2 – 6 months. For most students, completing a full-flight training program of PPL, CPL, CFI & CFII takes 8 – 12 months.

Is it hard to get a job as a helicopter pilot?

So, is it easy to get a job as a helicopter pilot? The short answer is yes, it should be pretty easy for you to get a job as a helicopter pilot once you’ve earned your certifications and built your flight hours.

Do helicopter pilots make good money?

The salaries of Helicopter Pilots in the US range from $14,109 to $376,520 , with a median salary of $76,784 . The middle 57% of Helicopter Pilots makes between $76,784 and $176,651, with the top 86% making $376,520.

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