If you are one of the many people that looks skywards whenever you hear a helicopter approach, don’t worry. You’re not alone. And if you have ever wondered how to become a helicopter pilot, whether to fly helicopters for fun or perhaps as a new career, then you are probably fascinated by the subject and yet hesitant about taking the first step.
In fact, helicopter pilots come from incredibly diverse walks of life. We are not super human, we are normal people like you. This article gives an overview of what’s involved to become a helicopter pilot.
We hope you will be inspired and realise that you could do it too.
How Do I Become a Helicopter Pilot?
The only difference between someone who wishes they could become a helicopter pilot and someone who actually is a helicopter pilot, is simply taking the first step. And we know that this is the hardest part. We’re been there too.
You could become a helicopter pilot.
Read our essential guide below to learn more about how to become a helicopter pilot and enjoy the lifestyle and freedom that flying brings.
Becoming a helicopter pilot is within reach of anyone with normal health, co-ordination and aptitude and we teach helicopter pilots from all walks of life who all share one thing.
A love of flight and the freedom being a helicopter pilot brings.
What does flying helicopters involve?
Student training to become a helicopter pilot will teach you all of the skills needed to become a safe and proficient pilot. Don’t worry about learning everything all at once, the skills will come to you are you progress and become more confident.
The essential things you will learn when becoming a helicopter pilot are:
- Before flying, learn how to check weather conditions and any airspace restrictions along planned routes.
- Learn when need to file what is known as a flight plan with authorities. This often isn’t needed, especially on more local flights, though it’s important to know how to and when you need to.
- You will learn how to calculate fuel requirements and maximum loads.
- We will teach you the essential skills of carrying out safety checks, the daily checks and the checks we make just before we fly.
- You will learn the check lists that you need when you’re actually flying. You can read more about how easy it is to memorise in flight check lists here.
- We also teach you how to deal with emergencies and how to be confident when something unusual happens. For example, here’s our guide to helicopter autorotations, something that all helicopter pilots practise.
- If you’re flying from an airport – and of course helicopters don’t always need them – we show you how to gain clearance from air traffic control to take off.
- During the flight helicopter pilots use a range of instruments to navigate, control height and speed and communicate with air traffic controllers.
- You will learn how to become confident at talking with air traffic while flying the helicopter.
- After landing, post-flight paperwork is completed to remain legal and to show that the flight has taken place, both for your own records and also the maintenance company that cares for the helicopter.
How to I find out more and take that first step?
A good way to discover more and to be sure that learning to fly is something that you will truly love, a Trial Lesson is a good idea. That way you can experience helicopter flight, take the controls alongside your instructor and find our more without committing to the significant investment you need to become a pilot.
On a Trial Lesson, you will experience a full pre-flight briefing with your instructor, together with an introduction to all of the essential controls you will be using to take off, hover and fly. You will spend a lot of the time flying yourself and you will begin to learn the new environment of helicopter flight and the unique perspective it can give you.
For some people, the trial lesson satisfies their curiosity and that’s as far as it goes.
However, if you have read this far, the chances are that you will be inspired by what you discovered on that flight.
The Trial Lesson is very often the beginning of your journey to becoming a helicopter pilot.
If you like what you have learned so far, keep reading to learn more.
What License Will I Need to be a Helicopter Pilot?
Pilots across Europe are required to be licensed by the European Safety Agency (EASA) before they can fly any aircraft without being supervised by an instructor. In the UK these licences are issued and overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Any organisation the teaches helicopter pilots must be licensed by the CAA and is regularly monitored to ensure standards are maintained.
You must be 16 before you can fly solo, 17 to be awarded your PPL and 18 to get your Commercial Pilots Licence. You can begin training at any age, so long as you can reach all of the controls comfortably. A helicopter pilot can fly for as long as you can hold an aviation medical. Pilots can fly commercially up to 65 years old and be an instructor and private pilot beyond that.
During the PPL(H) you will get plenty of hands-on experience flying in our Robinson R44 helicopters which you can learn more about here.
- You will complete a minimum of 45 hours flight instruction, at least 25 hours of which will be dual instruction
- Under the guidance of our instructors, you will need to complete 10 hours of supervised solo flight time, this is including at least 5 hours of solo cross-country navigation
- One of these solo cross-country flights must be 100 nautical miles or more
- All together, you will learn, practice and perfect 30 flying exercises to become a helicopter pilot
- There’s also a lot to learn to ensure you are confident and safe flying and you will have to demonstrate that through written and practical tests.
All exams are completed in-house right here at Walton Wood
- You will complete 9 multiple choice written tests (Air law, Human performance, Meteorology, Communications, Principles of flight, Operational procedures, Flight performance and Planning, Aircraft General Knowledge & Navigation) which have a pass mark of 75%
- You will also pass an oral radio exam
- You will take your flying Skills Test which we can do through our in-house examiner, to demonstrate that you can competently carry out the procedures and manoeuvres that you have been taught, while acting as Pilot in Command.
The medical requirement for the PPL(H) is a Class 2 medical which will be issued by an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). There are several in our local area and we can help you find one that’s close to you.
Could I become a professional helicopter pilot?
One of the questions we are asked most frequently is just that. Could I make a living as a helicopter pilot?
The PPL(H) is a prerequisite for being able to gain your commercial helicopter licence. It makes the perfect stepping stone to a potential career as a helicopter pilot as the hours of flight time you gain from doing the PPL(H) count towards the 155 hours flight time you must have completed before you take the CPL (H).
The professional helicopter pilot industry is incredibly diverse. As you learn more about the professional helicopter pilot career path, you will realise that there are an incredibly varied ways to make a living as a helicopter pilot.
People assume that most pilots are ex-military helicopter pilots, especially Police and HEMS. In fact, many helicopter pilots are civilian trained, even in specialist areas such as firefighting, load lifting and oil rig flying.
It can be an incredibly varied life and you could carve a career out in anything from instructing to pleasure flying, corporate flying, oil rig flying in the North Sea, pipeline inspections, aerial filming or even Police and air ambulance work.
So Why Choose Yorkshire Helicopters?
Our base at Walton Wood is perfect for learning to fly helicopters. It’s the location of one of the UK’s leading helicopter maintenance facilities and close by the A1 motorway for easy access by car.
Additionally, we are only a few minutes flight from major international airports such as Doncaster and Leeds Bradford Airport. This means that as your training progresses, you will quickly become confident in with dealing with airliner traffic and the busy air traffic control areas.
Our relaxed instructing style means that we aren’t constantly watching the clock and finding things to charge you for.
We’re always here to offer advice and while flying helicopters will never be the cheapest way to travel, we will never sell you training or a service that we didn’t genuinely believe was right for you.
We use the Robinson R44 helicopter for all of our helicopter pilot training. It’s a four seat helicopter with several significant advantages over the smaller two seat R22. Read more about why we use the Robinson R44 for helicopter training right here.
We genuinely hope you found this article useful. And of you have always wished to try flying helicopters, perhaps you now feel that it is time to give us a call and talk about flying for real.