Helicopter training is being done all over the world. There are various schools to choose from. The training is expensive, so it is of great importance to find the right school. I will not make any suggestions of specific schools, but give you an idea of what to look for. There is no such thing as the perfect school. This article will also concern most people who would like to pursue a professional career in helicopters.
First of all, find out what you want to do with helicopters. There are many licenses options available. These are a few of them:
Private Pilot License Helicopter (PPL-H) is for non-commercial flying and you are not allowed to fly for compensation, with a few exceptions.
Commercial Pilot License Helicopter (CPL-H) allows you to fly for compensation all by yourself or as a second in command in companies with dual pilots.
Airline Transport Pilot License Helicopter (ATPL-H) gives you the possibility to work as a captain, pilot in command, in a dual pilot aircraft.
Certified Flight Instructor Helicopter (CFI-H) is needed for you to work as an instructor on helicopters.
Certified Flight Instrument Instructor Helicopter (CFII-H) is required in order to teach students taking the instrument rating.
You can also have different ratings connected to each respective license and several courses for specific jobs:
Instrument rating: flying solely by the instruments e.g. in clouds or fog
Turbine rating: an endorsement to fly helicopters driven by turbine engines
External load: a course for flying with a load hanging from a line under the helicopter
Mountain flying: teaches you the flying skills in mountainous terrain and high altitude flying
As mentioned above, helicopter training is very expensive. Normally you will pay for each lesson with your instructor and for each hour of flight. The prices of flying may vary, but is normally around $150/h without instructor. To take PPL-H, CPL-H, CFI-H, CFII-H, instrument rating, external load and mountain flying course costs between $30-35,000. This is depending on your skills, ability to learn and previous experience. I have heard from the Norwegian and the Swedish military that previous fixed-wing flying makes it easier to understand how the helicopter works and performs. All of the licenses, ratings and courses are recommended if you want to have a professional career as a helicopter pilot.
You don’t have to take all of the licenses and courses. To be a commercial pilot, PPL-H and CPL-H is the only two that is required, although the other courses will make you a more experienced and qualified pilot. You will need 150 hours to do a checkride for the commercial license. The other licenses and courses can be taken within these hours. Some companies require the complete education.
The complete training can be done in an average time of eight to nine months. There have been students taking the full education in four months, but this is not a good way if you don’t have any prior experience. The moral is that being a pilot, in a general view, is a school of a lifetime. Every flight is a different experience. Most schools in the United States allow you to schedule all flights and ground school. This means that you set your own pace. It is necessary that you don’t exceed your ability to learn. This is where flight schools differ from universities or colleges. The training will cost the same whether you’re using four months or ten months. Total cost of the schools are normally without living expenses.
During the training you will learn many maneuvers, do various types of flying and get knowledge from different issues that will make your flying safe. The theory consists of issues like aerodynamics, flight planning, navigation, meteorology, performance and regulations. The flying will teach you numerous maneuvers, dealing with emergency situations, cross country flying, night flying, off-airport landings, radio communications and more.
Pilots are not superhuman, but a certain degree of health is required. To obtain information about these, please look at the fixed-wing pages of this website. The qualifications are the same.
You will need a place to live when you’re studying. Most schools can help you finding your own place, or share an apartment with a fellow student. The last option is normally the best. The first three months are the most important ones. Having someone to study with and getting other sides of an issue is the best studying you could ever do. It is very easy to mix things up in the beginning, which can be fatal when it comes to an emergency.
When it comes to the financial matter, this is entirely up to you. This is normally the hardest part of the training or before starting the training. Remember that the time used on the education varies from person to person. You can be good at the theory but have problems with the flying or vice versa. Having spare money is something I found inevitable. In my opinion $2,000 as a backup is a necessity. When you have taken all the licenses and ratings, you will need time to apply for work and to keep you and your licenses current.
Last of all – anybody can learn how to fly, but not everyone should. Being a helicopter pilot is a profession where responsibility and good attitudes are needed. There is no such thing as a stupid, old pilot.