One of the things that many people think about when considering learning to fly helicopters is simply, “So, what skills do I have that will transfer? I wonder if I will be a natural? I wonder if I won’t be able to do it at all?”
That thought is often followed by the confidence sapping view that you maybe don’t have “The Right Stuff” to be a helicopter pilot.
In fact, both viewpoints are wrong and you’re being unfair on yourself if you go searching down that route.
Helicopter pilots aren’t astronauts or test pilots. However some helicopter pilots have become astronauts, so we’re happy to take that one. Most of us don’t bungee jump from skyscrapers or go cave diving. We don’t fly underneath bridges upside down.
We’d love to be able to claim that we are super heroes, however in fact we’re pretty normal people like you.
If you are a normal, average person with an average education, male or female, then you can almost certainly learn to fly a helicopter.
However to answer the original headline, are there any skills or professions that transfer to being a helicopter pilot? Actually, there are very few.
The reason for this is because the unconscious actions that you will learn to perform when flying, such as hovering, spot turning, flying sideways and backwards, have very few equivalents in other areas. Even fixed wing pilots have a completely different set of actions and skills. These skills are sometimes called ‘motor responses’ and they are actions that do not requite conscious thought. If you’re a real geek, this article explains it.
For sure, if you have above average eye hand coordination, then that will help. However the skills and ‘motor responses’ that you may have acquired, for example in car track driving, definitely do not transfer. The only thing you’ll be bringing over will be your natural coordination skill. The rest is irrelevant.
If you’re particularly talented at studying for exams, that may well help to a degree. However if you struggled with written tests at school and college, don’t let that deter you.
The most important skill that you can bring along?
An open mind and a willingness to learn new skills. That’s part of the fun. You’re going to learn a new skill set and something new on each flight. Just enough to place you comfortably outside of your comfort zone. In a good way. And once you’ve mastered one thing we will be ready and waiting to introduce something new.
Accept the fun fact that many of the things you thought would be useful – XBox hero, University geek, bungee jumper, Candy Crush expert – they’re all not really transferable. Instead, accept that what you’re learning is the most amazing fun and that when you achieve it, you’re joining a niche in aviation that many pilots never get to do.
You can say you’re a helicopter pilot.
The article is part of a series that aim to answer all of the questions you’ve ever had if you’re thinking of learning to fly helicopters. You can read the first post here, or click the links below for the rest of the series