Category: Helicopter Studies

2018 Mid-Year Whirly-Girls Scholarship Opportunities Now Available

Upper Limit is excited to spread the word about five additional Whirly-Girls Scholarship Opportunities aimed at helping women build their careers in aviation!

Whirly-Girls International is continuing to provide amazing support for women in aviation, offering scholarship opportunities for both female fixed wing and rotor wing pilots, and the Whirly-Girls Scholarship Fund recently announced that they are opening the 2018 mid-year scholarship season. So, if you’re pursuing your career in aviation, and working through your fixed wing or rotor wing flight training with Upper Limit Aviation and our professional CFIs, these scholarships could be a fantastic chance for you to push your training and career to the next level. 5 deserving female aviators and Whirly-Girls members will be provided with the opportunity to “strengthen their knowledge and network by attending one of three industry-leading conferences: The CHC Safety & Quality Summit, HeliSuccess Career Development Seminar, or HAI HELI-EXPO.

Whirly-girls Scholarship application, for Mid-year Whirly-girls Scholarship opportunities in 2018

HeliSuccess Career Development Seminar

Rotorcraft Pro Media Network will be sending two Whirly-Girls to the 2-day HeliSuccess Career Development Seminar and Job fair, being held October 2018, in Las Vegas, NV. This seminar and job fair is great for lower time pilots or those in a transition phase of their career and provides an amazing opportunity for both learning and networking. The inside information gained here can give pilots a competitive edge when it comes to the helicopter industry hiring process.

2018 CHC Safety & Quality Summit

CHC and Collective Magazine will each be providing a Whirly-Girl with an all-expenses-paid scholarship to the 2018 CHC Safety & Quality Summit in Dallas, TX in October. These scholarships cover the conference attendance fee, a 2-day HFACS course either directly before or after the summit, flight, accommodations, and meals. The conference, according to Whirly-Girls, is suited to more experienced pilots and those with a strong interest in safety, and is centered around “sharing education and best practices in aviation safety.

2019 HAI HELI-EXPO

The final scholarship is provided by the  Whirly-Girls Scholarship Fund and Jean Tinsley’s estate, to commemorate “Jean’s love of meetings, also known as ‘hoverings,’.” The winner of this scholarship will be provided with an all-expenses-paid trip to the Whirly-Girls Awards Banquet and Annual meeting at the 2019 HAI HELI-EXPO in Atlanta, GA.

Robinson R22 helicopter at Upper Limit Aviation

Train in one of Upper Limit’s beautiful R22s!

In speaking about the opportunities, Whirly-Girls Vice President – Scholarships, Alison Martin said that in the helicopter industry, knowledge and networking are the keys to progressing in your career. “Without malice, women are still sometimes left on the outside of networking circles. Helping female aviators attend these conferences provides them with access to expertise and connections that may not be available in their current positions. This strengthens the talent pool of the entire industry and benefits everyone.

For more information on the mid-year Whirly-Girls Scholarship Opportunities, and to fill out an application, head over to the Whirly-Girls website. Keep in mind that you need to be a member of the Whirly-Girls to apply for these scholarships, and all applications are due by May 1, 2018.

Upper Limit Aviation strongly believes in helping build and advance the careers of female pilots, in both rotorcraft and fixed wing. And our dedication to female pilots isn’t limited strictly to flight training; if you need any help finding, applying for or deciding which scholarships to apply for, or would like more information on how you can use your scholarship to get your rotorcraft certificate with Upper Limit Aviation, please call us at 801-596-7722, or email us [email protected] and we’d be thrilled to help you.

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Power Your Flight Training at Upper Limit with an HFI Scholarship!

HFI is offering a variety of helicopter scholarships that can help you build a career as a helicopter pilot through flight training with Upper Limit Aviation.

Upper Limit Aviation is excited to promote another great scholarship opportunity to prospective helicopter pilots hoping to start or continue working towards their helicopter certificate through our fantastic flight training program. This scholarship is funded by Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) an organization that is dedicated to preserve and promote what they call the “rich heritage of vertical aviation,” while doing whatever they can to support future rotorcraft pilots and aviation technicians. HFI is run by a board of directors who, much like our founders and instructors, are passionate about encouraging those interested in helicopters and hoping to pursue their helicopter license.

Like Upper Limit Aviation, HFI supports education and job placement for student pilots and strongly encourages safety. HFI also promotes historic preservation through it’s HFI Trailblazer series about rotorcraft pioneers and advancements.

This year, dozens of scholarships are available to both men and women, young and old aviation enthusiasts and rotorcraft students. After using the scholarship to achieve your dream of earning your helicopter certificate through Upper Limit Aviation’s flight school, both HFI and ULA will help you find a career, through direct assistance from our faculty, as well as HFI’s annual career roundtable, and the other programs ULA offers to further your career goals, such as Pilot Pathways.

HFI has two fantastic helicopter scholarships available that we at Upper Limit think would be invaluable to our students: The Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship and the Michelle North Scholarship for Safety. Applications for both of these amazing aviation scholarships are due by November 30th, 2017 by midnight, EST.

An HFI Helicopter Scholarship can power your flight training at Upper Limit Aviation in a Robinson R22 Helicopter.

Train in one of our awesome Robinson R22s with a professional, experienced CFI!

To apply for the Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship, you must already have your private helicopter certificate and be enrolled in a commercial helicopter pilot rating program such as Upper Limit Aviation. Additionally, in order to qualify for the scholarship, you should be on the track to complete this rating after January 1st, 2018

The Michelle North Scholarship for Safety is for commercial helicopter pilots interested in enhancing their aviation career by adding additional focus on aviation safety. Named after Michelle North, an industry advocate of safety, the goal is to “encourage a stronger focus on safety education and training in helicopter operations.” In addition to other rewards, the winner of this scholarship gets full-tuition to attend the HFI Safety Management course at the HELI-EXPO in Las Vegas. To apply, you must have your commercial pilot rating, and demonstrate an “outstanding aptitude for safe flying and aviation best practices.”

Any of these amazing opportunities can help you become a better helicopter pilot through Upper Limit Aviation’s thorough and career-oriented flight training at either our Southern California or Salt Lake City locations.

For more information on how to apply, visit helicopterfoundation.org/scholarships or email [email protected]. You can also take this opportunity to contact our representatives at either school location and start the path toward your private or commercial helicopter license. Call or email us today and we can also help you find the scholarships that are best for you, walk you through the scholarship application process, and receive top-level training that will enable you to enjoy a career as a helicopter pilot!

Get Started with Your Flight Training Today!

For our Salt Lake City, UT location, call 801-596-7722 or email [email protected]

For our Temecula/Murrieta, CA location, call 951-696-7722 or email [email protected]

And click here to fill out our online application!

Upper Limit Aviation and Whirly-Girls Are Helping Women Learn to Fly

Upper Limit and Whirly-Girls to committed to helping women start their career in aviation.

For any woman who’s always wanted to learn to fly helicopters, or who has spent years imagining an exciting career in aviation, now is the perfect time to start your flight training with Upper Limit Aviation. And that’s because the application season for the 2018 Whirly Girl scholarships has just opened! 19 deserving female aviators and potential aviators will be awarded flight training scholarships, which could make Upper Limit’s already affordable flight training even more affordable!

Whirly-girls Scholarship application

The Whirly-Girls Scholarship Fund (or WGSF) is a nonprofit, charitable, and educational organization dedicated to sharing helicopter aviation with women, and helping female rotorcraft pilots receive the training they need to advance their careers. The Whirly-Girls themselves, an organization of female rotorcraft pilots nearly 2,000 strong, have been providing scholarships to deserving female aviators since 1974, with the many different scholarships in recent years valued at more than $175,000. Their goal is to open up aviation to women, as only 4% or so of all pilots are women. As their Vice President Alison Martin says, “Every female pilot owes it to herself to apply.”

One of Upper Limit Aviation's Robinson R22 Helicopters

Train in one of Upper Limit’s beautiful R22s!

There are a variety of aviation scholarships available this year, such as one for Advanced Mountain Flight Training (something Upper Limit excels at), the Thurn-Herr Annual Advanced Training Scholarship, a Robinson Helicopter Company R22/R44 Safety Course scholarship, and the Whirly-Girls Helicopter Add-On Flight Training Scholarship, among many others.

You can apply for these scholarship simply by paying a $50 fee to join the Whirly-Girls, and heading over to the application page on their website. Applications for all of these scholarships will be accepted until October 1st, 2017. That means you have two weeks to submit an application that could potentially change your life. Upper Limit Aviation strongly believes in the advancement of female pilots, both rotorcraft and fixed wing, and encourages everyone reading this to share and apply this exciting opportunity with any woman who has always dreamed of flying. Our dedication to female pilots isn’t limited strictly to flight training; if you need any help applying or deciding which scholarship to apply for, or would like more information on how you can use your scholarship to get your rotorcraft certificate with Upper Limit Aviation, please call us at 801-596-7722, or email us [email protected] and we’d be thrilled to help you.

Winning one of these scholarships could mean the difference between landing a career as a helicopter pilot you’re passionate about, or continuing to dream about the career that could have been. So don’t wait to start or advance your helicopter flight training; change your future today!

The winners will be announced and the scholarships awarded in February 2018, at the Annual Whirly-Girls Awards Banquet at Heli-Expo in Las Vegas, NV. Apply today, and contact us to find out more about the next steps toward earning your initial certification or earning advanced rotorcraft ratings. We hope to see you on the stage accepting a scholarship next year!

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

What To Look For In a Helicopter Flight School

When looking for a helicopter flight school, here are the 3 “W’s” you should pay attention to.

Margie O’Connor

You are outside enjoying the gentle breeze of a pure, blue-sky day when up above you hear the wap-wap-wap of a helicopter as it flies overhead. For a moment, you fixate on the helicopter, amazed at the way it flies and are immediately inspired to find a helicopter flight school. The yearning to fly a helicopter is strong. And so your search begins.

Beginning your rotorcraft journey can be daunting but with a little exploration and persistence, you will find the helicopter flight school that fits perfectly with your desires, budget and time.

The “What”

Helicopters-plain and simple. Maybe you found the helicopter’s ability to hover or fly in all directions, hypnotic. Or maybe you are a fixed-wing pilot intrigued by how the helicopter flies differently. For me, it was a little of both and then some. I first felt the power of a helicopter as it landed at the same airport I was training for my fixed-wing Private Pilot’s License. Standing on the airport ramp, I felt the rush of air from the rotor blades envelop me as if calling me to join in this rapture.

Aside from aerodynamics and their unique appeal, helicopters vary in many of the same ways that airplanes do. Some have one engine, like the Robinson R22, while others sport twin engines, such as the Bell 407. A helicopter flight school outfitted with a wide range of rotorcraft, like Upper Limit Aviation, can better fulfill the pilot’s demand for advanced ratings or operations, like high altitude or mountain flight.

The “Why”

A good place to start your search is by asking yourself why you want to fly a helicopter. Quite possibly, your goals are long-term and a helicopter profession is in your future. Helicopter jobs range from instructing to more advanced, like serving the emergency medical industry.
Maybe you desire a degree to complement your helicopter flight certificate. Some helicopter flight schools offer degree programs that coincide with flight training. Specifically tailored classes, like weather or helicopter systems, augment flight line learning with some degree programs even available online.

Or perhaps you simply covet the helicopter’s freedom to traverse across the skies and whisk just above the treetops. Does the sound of the rotor blades beating the sky instill a sense of awe in you? That same wonder alone has propelled many before you to fulfill their dream of flight at a helicopter flight school.

The “Where”

Several options exist for obtaining a helicopter license but not all may be in alignment with your goals. Attending military helicopter flight training, I graduated with a Commercial Rotary Wing license in just over a year but this route requires you serve an additional 6 years following graduation, so it’s not for everyone.

Civilian helicopter flight schools, like Upper Limit Aviation, provide outstanding opportunities for reaching your goals, no matter how in-depth, with typical progression from Private through Commercial doable in under 2 years.

Not only do helicopter flight schools provide a plentiful variety of helicopters but a generous pool of flight instructors from which to choose. And don’t forget about the plethora of financial assistance or payment plans to help make your dream of helicopter flight a reality.
Paramount in your decision when selecting a helicopter flight school is quality. Where will you receive the best training, with dedicated instructors, well-maintained helicopters and opportunities for advancement? Without careful consideration of these factors, you could find yourself frustrated and spending much more than anticipated.

So, although you can find helicopter flight schools in most states across the nation, be wary of those who offer training at what seems to be ridiculously low prices (if it seems too good to be true, it probably is). Don’t sacrifice quality for cost and keep in mind that cheaper is not always better. If you save money initially yet end up having to pay for additional lessons because the quality of instruction was lacking, you could end up paying more in the end.

Look at the total package in deciding on the best fitting helicopter flight school for you. After all, you deserve the best, least frustrating path when pursuing your dreams of learning to fly a helicopter. Hopefully, your first time at the controls will instill the same euphoric sense of joy I experienced – my flight instructor said I never quit smiling for the duration of my first flight – truly nothing more awesome than flying a helicopter.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

How Do You Fly a Helicopter?

John Peltier

Helicopter flight is fairly mysterious, isn’t it? How do all of those moving parts work in concert to make the helicopter move in just about any direction you can imagine? It reminds me of a diagram I saw as a helicopter student. It showed a helicopter, surrounded by four arrows going up, down, left, and right. Instead of the arrows labeled “lift”, “weight”, “thrust”, and “drag”, they were all labeled “magic”.

Actually, helicopter flying isn’t all that difficult. It just requires a lot of coordination, and that coordination comes with practice. Lots of it. So let’s go ahead and look at some of the basics of how you fly a helicopter.

How Do You Fly a Helicopter – Positioning

Left hand. The left hand always stays on what’s called the Collective. The collective earns its name from the fact that raising and lowering this lever will “collectively” change the pitch of the blades. Raise it and the pitch of all blades increases at the same time, increasing lift. Lower it and all blades decrease in pitch, decreasing lift.

The collective lever also has a handle that twists, controlling the throttle much like a motorcycle handle.

Right hand. The right hand always stays on what’s called the Cyclic. Like the collective, the cyclic gets its name from what it does. It changes the pitch of the blades “cyclically”, that is to say giving the blades different pitch angles depending on their position around the rotation. Move the cyclic to the left and pitch is increased on one side only, increasing lift generated on the right side so that the helicopter will go left.

Feet. The feet always stay on the pedals, and they control the amount of thrust generated by the tail rotor. The pitch of the tail rotor blades is always adjusted collectively. The reason for the tail rotor, and the importance of controlling it is to counter the torque produced by the engine and main rotor.

Helicopter Controls Diagram - How Do You Fly a Helicopter?

How Do You Fly a Helicopter – Control Diagram, courtesy of Fox 52

Imagine standing on a sheet of ice, facing your friend. You push your friend. What will happen? Both of you will actually slide backwards, away from each other. The same happens to a helicopter in the air. The rotors spin in a counter-clockwise direction on American-style helicopters. This makes the fuselage want to spin clockwise, in the opposite direction.

The tail rotor produces thrust to counteract this torque and keep the fuselage aligned. It will always produce some amount of thrust to the right. You need to fine-tune the amount of thrust that it generates in response to small changes in engine power output.

How Do You Fly a Helicopter – Putting It All Together

Your hands and feet need to be connected at all times. If one of them is doing something, the others better be doing something as well. Just about every maneuver, from the most simple to the complex, requires synchronous movement between both hands and feet. And unlike an airplane, you never take your hand off of the cyclic and only off of the collective for just a quick moment!

For example, picking up a helicopter from the ground to a hover at two feet above ground.

  • You need to raise your left hand to increase the collective pitch of all the blades.
  • If the helicopter is not equipped with a governor, you need to twist your left hand to add throttle as you’re raising the lever (increasing the pitch also increases the drag of the blades, which requires more power to overcome).
  • The increase in torque will make the helicopter want to spin to the right, so you need to increase pressure with your left foot (counter-clockwise blades).
  • The increase in collective pitch of the blades will also want to make the helicopter nose want to come up, so you need to move your right hand slightly forward to pitch back down.
  • All of these things happen more or less at the same time.

Another example. To decelerate in level flight, you need to do the following all at once:

  • Pull back slightly with your right hand to slow the helicopter down.
  • Pulling back will bring the nose up and climb, so you need to lower the collective pitch with your left hand to prevent the climb.
  • If the helicopter does not have a governor, you’ll need to twist your left hand to reduce the throttle as the collective pitch, thus drag, is reduced.
  • As the collective pitch is reduced, the torque will decrease and you’ll need to ease up on the amount of left pedal you’re using or else the helicopter will yaw to the left.

There’s a fun little maneuver called a “quick-stop”, where you practice stopping the helicopter from a high speed to nothing in a very short distance. You get really good at the simultaneous movement of “right hand back, left hand down, push right foot!”

How Do You Fly a Helicopter – Practice, Practice, Practice

These are all things that you can practice at home. You don’t even need a simulator! It’s called “chair-flying” and you can do it on the couch or at the dinner table – as long as you don’t mind weird looks from everyone else.

Just go through the maneuvers in your head. Say, “I’m going to pick the helicopter up off the ground and hover.” Then raise your left hand while pushing slightly forward with your right hand and pushing forward with your left foot. It’s that easy! Every maneuver in a helicopter has similar relationships.

And those are the basics of how you fly a helicopter! Don’t be intimidated by what other people say, or the perceived complexity of the machines. I’ve seen some students learn to hover during their first flight – this is the hardest thing to do in a helicopter! The analogy is that it’s like trying to balance a greasy ping-pong ball on the head of a pin.

But with an understanding of what the controls do, the maneuver, like all others in a helicopter, isn’t all that difficult.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

How Do Helicopters Fly?

Margie O’Connor

During my fixed-wing flight training, I witnessed what I thought to be a miracle – a Blackhawk helicopter landing at the same airport I was learning about the theory of airplane flight. Captivated by the powerful sound of the rotor blade, I instantly began to wonder. How did the rotor blades work to produce the lift necessary to keep the aircraft afloat? And were helicopter rotor systems susceptible to any of the same by-products of flight as the airplane?

I would soon discover the significance of words like flapping and feathering; that hunting was more than traipsing through the woods towards the nearest tree stand, and that coning and twist weren’t always referring to ice cream.
Helicopter flying has often been equated to rubbing your belly while patting your head and walking, all at the same time. There’s no doubt rotary wing flying involves a bit of manipulation unfamiliar to the fixed-wing crowd but proper manipulation of the wild yet fascinating components of the helicopter lead to the successful creation of lift, just like flying an airplane.

So how do helicopters fly? First, let’s decipher some helicopter vocabulary. Maybe in doing so, you will gain an appreciation (or at least a sense of awe, like I did) for helicopter flight.

Helicopter Rotor System Characteristics

Helicopters really come with two rotor blade systems – the main rotor system mounted above the cockpit and connected to the engine and the tail rotor, affixed to, well, the tail section (more on that in a future article). These two rotate simultaneously to produce and counteract lift, among other talents.

Like airplanes, helicopters must create enough lift to overcome weight to fly…it’s really all about balancing the forces. This vertical vector combined with centrifugal force produces a resultant force that’s not completely opposite the downward component of weight. So while your helicopter’s main rotor system is still creating lift, centrifugal force is stealing the thunder. If the goal is to take off vertically, the resultant vector needs some adjustment.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 1 - The resultant force of centrifugal force and lift.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 1 – The resultant force of centrifugal force and lift.

Coning

To make the resultant force more effective, the blades cone! Coning occurs to counteract our sneaky friend, centrifugal force. Ask and you shall receive…more lift that is. The blades flex upwards to more effectively concentrate the lift vertically. But beware – coning only augments lift to a certain point, after which it can actually degrade the amount of lift. Excessive coning can creep in at low RPMs, high gross weights, or high G maneuvers.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 2 - Blades coning.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 2 – Blades coning.

Blade Twist

Helicopter rotor blades move fast! And they create a great deal of lift but the lift is not consistent along the blade so engineers design a twist into the blade. Twisting the blade distributes this lift more evenly along the length of the rotor blade.

Dissymmetry of Lift

A look at dissymmetry of lift is necessary to lay the groundwork before moving forward. Dissymmetry of lift is essentially the difference in the lift between the advancing half of the rotor disk and the retreating half. When the speed of the blade combines with the airspeed of the helicopter (wind affects both here), The advancing blade pulls ahead in the race as it moves much faster and acquires greater lift. Conversely, the retreating blade slows down and loses lift. And the closer you get to the tip of the blade, the faster the blade moves!

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 3 - Dissymmetry of lift as viewed from above.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 3 – Dissymmetry of lift as viewed from above.

Although lift is a good thing, if half the helicopter has more than the other half, the aircraft may end up in a rolling situation (literally rolling over). To prevent the advancing blade from overpowering the retreating blade, we have to equalize lift. Several mechanisms exist to counteract this undesirable condition.

Flapping

As the main rotor blades travel, they want to fight off the dissymmetry of lift while having some fun. So they climb (flap up) as they advance around the right half of the rotor’s path and dive (flap down) as they round out the left side. This is flapping. They can do this because they teeter on a hinge. You can see this when the helicopter is sitting on the ground, not running. The blades actually droop (and no, not because they’re sad).

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 4 - As viewed from the back of the helicopter – advancing blade flaps up while retreating blade flaps down.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 4 – As viewed from the back of the helicopter – advancing blade flaps up while retreating blade flaps down.

The advancing blade flaps up, eventually decreasing its angle of attack. Conversely, the retreating blade flaps down, eventually creating an increase in the blade’s angle of attack and winning the battle against dissymmetry of lift.

Feathering

Feathering, like blade flapping, has a role in countering dissymmetry of lift. Feathering is the rotation of the blade about its span wise axis, by collective or cyclic inputs, which causes a change in blade pitch angle.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 5 - Feathering rotates the blade around the span wise axis.

How Do Helicopters Fly, Figure 5 – Feathering rotates the blade around the span wise axis.

Primary feathering occurs when you manipulate the cyclic, which in turn moves the thrust vector in the direction of movement (left, right, forward).

Leading and Lagging (also known as Hunting)

While the blade flaps up, the CG moves closer to the rotor mast. Why does this happen, you ask? Well, it’s all about Coriolis force. If you’ve ever watched ice skaters, you are familiar with Coriolis force (which simply states that as a mass moves closer to the center of rotation, it gains speed). So when the ice skater moves her arms closer to her body as she spins, her speed increases. The same thing occurs on a spinning rotor blade.

The faster blade also experiences a change in pitch and an increase in drag. If these stresses continue too long, the rotor blades risk excessive bending. Leading and lagging can give the blades some room to relax and unwind from their overstressed condition.

During leading and lagging, the rotor blade moves fore and aft (or hunts) in the plane of rotation. But this feature only frequents fully articulated rotor systems, so you may not encounter this when first learning to fly a helicopter.

In Conclusion

If the thought of learning to tackle a new, yet challenging mode of flight involving rotor blades seems intriguing, then maybe the time is ripe for you to leap into the world of helicopter flying.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References:

Dole, C. E. (1994). Flight Theory for Pilots. Redlands: Jeppesen Sanderson.

Headquarters, Department of the Army (2007). Fundamentals of Flight. Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Planning Your Helicopter Pilot Career

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Whether contemplating a helicopter pilot career or seeking a private rotorcraft pilot’s license, flying helicopters is like nothing most students have ever done or will ever do during their lifetimes. Prospective pilots of both genders are entering the field every single day from their late teens into their 50s and older. Earning a helicopter pilot’s license may be an exciting and challenging endeavor, but just like any other worthwhile endeavor, the achievement of earning that rotorcraft pilot’s license(s) requires a great deal of commitment, dedication, hard work, and a financial investment. On more than one occasion, it has been suggested that a rotorcraft pilot does not actually fly his or her helicopter, but rather they think their helicopter since this skill requires a major amount of eye-hand coordination but with minimal physiological movements.

In general, there are two paths to seeking a helicopter pilot career, and they are the civilian flight path or a military career. If you are contemplating the latter option, check for additional information which may be available through a university that offers flight training. For the purposes of this article, the focus will remain on the civilian flight path.

For the purpose of licensing, all professional helicopter pilots must hold a Commercial Rotorcraft License. However, almost all of these pilots have also obtained their Certificated Flight Instructor’s (CFI) credentials and many also have obtained their instrument rating. The typical licensing progression for professional helicopter pilots moves through Student, Private, Commercial, and CFI but many of these pilots will earn their instrument rating between the Private and Commercial certifications. The instrument rating may not be mandatory, but it is increasingly becoming a major benefit or requirement to access better jobs while creating a safer pilot overall. For all levels of licensure, flight training includes ground school and a demonstration of the practical application of these skills, and helicopter flight training is substantially more expensive than fixed wing or airplane training. This is due to the high cost of acquiring or purchasing, operating, maintaining, and insuring helicopters.

Although these costs had been historically significantly higher than fixed-wing flight training, they have risen more steeply since 9/11/2001. All pilots, from student on, are required by the FAA to pass a structured medical exam that is administered by an FAA approved physician which includes measuring healthy body function in addition to a hearing and vision testing. Although vision does not to be perfect, it must be correctable with lenses to a relatively high level, and color perception is also important. Certain red flag areas, such as a history of drug abuse, psychological disorders, heart problems or conditions that would cause a lapse in consciousness also raise cause for concern during FAA medical exams.

For each level of helicopter pilot license, there are minimum FAA flight time requirements. For example, the Private Pilot License requires a minimum of 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo time; however, 30-50 hours of dual time is much more realistic to ensure pilot competency. In general, flight time with an instructor costs in the range of $200/hour, and $150-$175/hour solo time with ground time costing approximately $30-$40/hour. These calculations suggest that it will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to earn a private pilot’s license for rotorcraft. In comparison, a commercial rotorcraft license requires that the pilot has a minimum of 150 total hours, and 100 hours of (PIC) Pilot In Command time. This can be earned by flying solo in pursuit of the Private License and any time thereafter when acting as PIC even when receiving flight instruction. Calculating these figures indicates that the cost of obtaining a commercial rotorcraft license costs an additional $18,000 to $20,000. Fixed wing pilots have an advantage here because a portion of their time can be applied to their on-add rotorcraft license which saves them time and money.

The benefits of making such a large investment in pursuing a dream of flying helicopters for a living are substantial. One big benefit is the diverse range of career opportunities for qualified rotorcraft pilots depending on geographical locations: aerial photography and filming, aerial stock mustering, scenic “joyflights” or discovery flights for the tourism industry, bushfire fighting, powerline surveys, marine pilot transfers, search and rescue (SAR), police air work, emergency medical service (HEMS), corporate flights and general charter service, agricultural crop spraying and livestock herding, media news and traffic reporting, and offshore (oil industry) services. Helicopter pilots are also in demand globally, so employment options exist virtually anywhere on the planet with a variety of salary ranges and an optimistic projection for employment in the future. However, keep in mind that accessing a current monetary exchange rate is usually a wise idea when considering employment in a foreign country. Also, verify the requirements for helicopter pilots’ licensing since they may be different in foreign countries from the FAA requirements in the United States.

Typically the work activities dictated by a helicopter pilot career in business, leisure or emergency response jobs would include: checking weather conditions, airspace restrictions and route planning; filing flight plans with authorities; calculating fuel requirements, weight and balance; conducting a flight check on the helicopter’s equipment and instruments; performing safety checks; and gaining clearance from ATC (air traffic control) for takeoff. During the flight, pilots are required to communicate, navigate and aviate or fly the helicopter, and post-flight they are required to complete all paperwork prior to preparing for the next flight including the duty hours log. There are strict guidelines governing the maximum number of flying hours, but the flight duties may include flying days, nights, weekends or a combination thereof since corporate or business flying often demands “standby” status. Some jobs requiring longer distances may involve overnight stays away from home that may or may not include paid allowances for these overnight stays or visits to more inhospitable areas. Although those that choose a helicopter pilot career enjoy the challenge, they soon realize that much of their flight time is spent in a cockpit where the conditions tend to be cramped and noisy, and when working as an offshore pilot or as a pilot in a similar environment, they are expected to don a survival suit. So, it is wise to consider not only the work activities that are a good fit for a helicopter pilot career but also the working hours and conditions before submitting that employment application.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

The Requirements for Getting Your Private Helicopter License

John Peltier

Don’t helicopters look fun to fly? Well, they are! You can take them anywhere and do anything with them. Okay, that may be a stretch and there are some limitations. But when compared with airplanes, helicopters can do anything.

If you’re interested in learning how to fly helicopters, take an introductory flight. Get some time on the controls and see what it’s like to fly one of these complex machines. If you have fun (and you mostly likely will), you should pursue your private helicopter license!

Why You Should Get Your Private Helicopter License

Obtaining your private helicopter license is the first step in going on to fly helicopters for a career. We do need to discuss the cold, hard truth of helicopters first: they’re expensive to fly.

Many pilots who get their private fixed-wing license do so because they want to take their families on little vacations on the weekends, or to travel faster than if they were driving. And in airplanes, you don’t need to be rich to do this.

The same doesn’t hold true for helicopters. Operating costs for a two-seat piston helicopter can be between two to three times the cost of a four-seat piston airplane. A four-seat piston helicopter can be between $500-$600 per hour to rent. This makes “renting a helicopter for the weekend” a hobby for the wealthy as it quickly adds up.

If money is a non-issue for you, then by all means, recreational helicopter flying will soon become one of your favorite hobbies!

But for the rest of us, getting a private helicopter license is a stepping-stone to future employment as a helicopter pilot.

What You Can Do With Your Private Helicopter License
R22 Helicopter flying at dusk

Photo by Steven Yeh

As previously mentioned, you’ll be able to rent helicopters and fly on your own once you have your private license. The FAA does place some restrictions on what private pilots can do.

  • You have to pay at least your fair share of operating costs when flying with other people. Meaning, if you end up paying $600 for the rental and fuel, and there are three of you, you need to pay at least $200 of that.
  • You can only fly in connection to a business if the flight is incidental to the business, i.e. you’re not specifically hired to fly for that business. You’re also prohibited from carrying passengers or cargo for hire.
  • You can fly for charitable events. Sometimes non-profits will auction off rides for charities for example, and you can do this as a private pilot.
  • One of the neat things about helicopters are their search-and-rescue capabilities. You can be reimbursed for your operating costs (but not for your time) if you participate in a search under the direct control of the agency in charge.
Steps in Getting Your Private Helicopter License

Selecting a school is one of the most important things to do in getting your license. You shouldn’t go to the school that’s the closest, or the cheapest. They may seem like the best choice for you, but they’re not the right reasons.

You need to do some research. Make a list and visit some schools if you can. At a minimum, call the school and talk to an instructor. Ask about their safety record, financing options, graduation time and rate, time-building opportunities, and job-placement opportunities. Once you are satisfied with the answers, then you can ask about price.

Be prepared to temporarily move if you need to – nothing will set you up for success more than selecting the right school!

Once you decide on a school, they’ll give you a list of the books and supplies you’ll need to purchase. Then you can start training!

Here are the requirements for your private helicopter license, straight from the Federal Aviation Regulations:

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, and write English
  • Be endorsed by an instructor who certifies that you are prepared for the written knowledge test
  • Pass a written knowledge test
  • Be endorsed by an instructor who certifies that they conducted your required training and that you are ready for the practical test (the check ride)
  • Meet aeronautical experience requirements outlined in the regulations (flying time and conditions)
  • Pass the practical test (check ride)
  • Hold at least a student pilot certificate (medical clearance)
  • Comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations
An R44 instrument panel

Photo by R44Flyer

You can complete your academic training via a home study course or in the classroom with an instructor. The latter is recommended because it’s much easier to ask questions as they come up, or have things explained differently. Knowledge areas that you’ll need to learn and will be tested on include physiology, emergency procedures, helicopter systems, weather, chart reading, navigation, and regulations.

A private helicopter license requires 40 hours of aeronautical experience. These 40 hours must include:

  • 20 hours of training from an authorized instructor
  • 10 hours of solo flight training to include
    • 3 hours cross-country
    • One cross-country over 100 miles with landings at three points
    • 3 takeoffs and landings at an airport with a control tower
  • 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a helicopter
  • 3 hours of night training to include a cross-country over 50 miles and 10 takeoffs and landings
  • 3 hours of training within 2 months of the practical test

Remember that these numbers are minimums! Only a few pilots will actually get their license right at 40 hours. Most pilots will require somewhere around 50 hours before they’re ready for the practical test.

Costs for Getting Your Private Helicopter License

This is usually the first question that potential pilots will ask about their training. It’s a difficult question to answer because of all the different variables involved with helicopter flight training.

First, operating costs vary from school to school. This is a function of fuel costs at different locations, hangar & office rental costs, employee wages, etc.

Second, you are a big variable in the cost. Your motivation and dedication to your training will help keep costs down! And as mentioned earlier, many pilots don’t complete their training right at 40 hours. So it’s difficult to say how much training you will need, and this makes a difference on the total cost.

Make sure to be consistent in your training. Don’t take breaks for weeks at a time if you can avoid it. There’s that saying “two steps forward and one step back” – this is what will happen if you take large breaks during your training. You’ll have to go back and revisit some things that you already completed. Training a few days a week is an optimal pace. It’ll cost you more money upfront but will save you money in the long run. Training as the money becomes available isn’t a good choice.

But to give you a ballpark figure for an R22 (a two-seat training helicopter), a private license should run you between $12,000-$15,000.

After You Get Your Private Helicopter License

Build time when you can so that you can reach the ultimate goal of getting a commercial license! Ways to build time include pursuing your instrument rating or going flying with another pilot and splitting costs.

Never stop studying. You’re a brand new pilot now, and there’s a lot of knowledge to maintain! Not only that but a lot of it will be changing – the FAA changes airspace and regulations every year. Stay on top of it! A good idea to stay disciplined about this is to have one study topic per week. Make a calendar and tackle this topic throughout the week. This won’t just make you a better pilot, but your life could depend on it!

It’s never too early to start researching potential employers. Don’t get too hung up on one because it’ll still be a few years before you have the experience necessary to apply for these jobs, but it’ll give you a good idea of what’s out there and what you want to focus on during your training.

Getting your private helicopter license is an achievement that you should be very proud of – you worked hard for it and put aside part of your life to pursue this dream. You’ll never have more fun flying than during your helicopter training. Make the most of it!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Why You Should Get Your Commercial Helicopter License

John Peltier

Looking for an exciting aviation career? Forget airplanes and fly something that doesn’t need a runway! A career as a helicopter pilot will afford you the ability to travel all over the world and get paid to do things that seem like they only come out of the movies.

But the first step – you need to get your commercial helicopter license.

If you want to fly helicopters, getting a commercial helicopter license is more or less mandatory unless you’re swimming in money. Unlike general aviation airplanes, helicopters cost much more to rent (around $250/hr just for a two-seater) and have more stringent insurance requirements. And this is after the more expensive training. This makes helicopter flying a hobby for the rich, whereas the rest of us need to find another way to fly them. But why complain about an opportunity to get paid to do it?

What You Can Do With Your Commercial Helicopter License

Many helicopter jobs require a fair amount of time in the cockpit to be eligible. But it is possible for you to start making money almost immediately after getting your commercial helicopter license.

Aerial view from a helicopter of the Hawaii coast

Some schools have tour operations going on in addition to flight instruction, and pilots can start flying tours in piston helicopters after receiving their certificate.

Many commercial helicopter students will also go directly into flight instructor training, and this is a great way to build hours for a couple of years before transitioning to jobs in larger turbines.

From there, your imagination is the limit. Fly medical supplies into the African bush. Drop off scientists in the Arctic. Fight fires. Make movies. What do you want to do?

Steps in Getting Your Commercial Helicopter License

The first thing you should do is research schools. And don’t pick a school based on the price! This can get you in trouble with substandard training and/or safety.

You should be prepared to move if needed – don’t pick a school just because it’s close to home either. You should actually make visits out to these schools and interview the staff. Ask about their safety record, job placement opportunities after training, and get some feedback from some of the other students. Check out their equipment also, both simulators and the actual aircraft. Are they clean and in a presentable condition? This reflects greatly on the school. Some schools may have financing available either directly or offered through a third party, and you should inquire about this too if you’ll need financing.

Once you decide on a school, the next step is the actual training. If you already have your private helicopter license or are starting from scratch, be prepared for a lot of study and hard work! You should really put as much focus as you can into the training – this will set you up for success further down the road.

Here are the requirements for your commercial helicopter license, straight from the Federal Aviation Regulations:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, and write English
  • Be endorsed from an instructor who certifies that you are prepared for the written knowledge test
  • Pass a written knowledge test
  • Be endorsed from an instructor who certifies that they conducted your required training and that you are ready for the practical test (the check ride)
  • Meet aeronautical experience requirements outlined in the regulations (flying time and conditions)
  • Pass the practical test (check ride)
  • Hold at least a private pilot certificate
  • Comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations

The aeronautical knowledge required for the test includes things like airspace definitions, aviation weather, emergency procedures, aircraft systems, and so on. You will learn all of this in ground training and/or a home study course.

Your are required to have at a minimum 150 hours of flight time (aeronautical experience) that includes:

  • 100 hours in powered aircraft, 50 of which is in helicopters
  • 100 hours of pilot-in-command time, which includes:
    • 35 hours in helicopters
    • 10 hours cross-country flight in helicopters
  • 20 hours of training which includes:
    • 5 hours training of flying the helicopter by only reference to instruments
    • One 2-hour cross-country during the day, longer than 50 miles
    • One 2-hour cross-country during nighttime, longer than 50 miles
    • Three hours preparing for the test with an instructor within 2 months of the practical test
  • 10 hours of solo flight (an instructor may also be present) which includes:
    • One cross-country, landing at three points, with one segment longer than 50 miles
    • 5 hours of night flying with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings

The numbers may seem big, but it goes by fast! You can also combine certain requirements, like doing some of your instrument flying training during one of your cross-country flights. So long as you have the total 150 hours of flight time, you’re good.

Costs for Getting Your Commercial Helicopter License

This is a common question for students seeking their commercial helicopter license, but it’s not an easy one to answer based on all the variables.

Helicopter flying against a blue sky

For one, fuel costs vary around the country. Second, different operators are looking for different profit margins and this has a big impact on the variation in pricing. Third, other operating costs are factored in also, such as the school’s hangar rental, insurance premiums, employee wages, etc.

And finally, a lot of it depends on YOU. The minimums are just that, minimums. Don’t be upset if your instructor won’t sign you off at exactly 150 hours! It’s very rare for a student pilot to get signed off at the bare minimum. And instructors won’t just keep you flying so that they can make a buck – they were in your shoes once upon a time also and want to keep costs down for you.

One great way to keep costs down is to keep your training consistent – don’t take breaks for weeks at a time because that will set you back slightly with each break. Flying a few days a week is a great pace – enough to keep you on top of your training but not too much to get burned out. It is reasonable to get your license in approximately 9 months at this pace, starting from zero experience.

If you’re looking for a ballpark figure, a private pilot license will cost you around $12,000-$15,000 and a commercial helicopter license on top of that will cost another $30,000-$33,000. So, somewhere between $42,000-$48,000. Again, that varies greatly from school to school and with student progression.

After You Get Your Commercial Helicopter License

Don’t stop there! As we mentioned previously, working as a flight instructor is a great way, if not the best way, for new commercial helicopter pilots to build hours required by other employers. Flying as an instructor also makes you a better pilot. It’s great résumé fodder when you go for that next job.

Having an instrument rating is another piece of the puzzle that employers are looking for. While most helicopter pilots won’t actually fly in instrument meteorological conditions during their careers, having instrument training again makes you a better pilot and shows employers that you’re dedicated to becoming the best pilot. It’s another great investment that will pay dividends in the future.

And never stop studying! The brain can only hold a finite amount of information, not to mention that a lot of that information changes with the industry.

The bottom line: getting your commercial helicopter license requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but you’ll have one of the most satisfying, intense, fun jobs that you can imagine!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Aviation and Your Flight Training: Choose the Best for a Lasting Impression

Wilson Gilliam, Jr.

A paper on economic aerospace forecasting could be as thick as your computer screen is tall. Even the FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2015 – 2035 is nearly 140 pages long. I’m glad this post is long on brevity and to the point about how you can fit into the increasingly influential world of aviation and aerospace.

The word “aviation” may not capture the complete role that aeronautics will have on our world during the foreseeable future. Having been a pilot for almost three decades, I’ve tended to consider the flying universe in terms of my own perspective. Within the last few years, I’ve realized that the aviation / aeronautics business will have an immeasurable influence on the world and will open up a myriad of economic opportunities. There is, or will be something for everyone.

A Cessna Citation on the runway - Aviation and Flight Training: Choosing the Best

Technology is driving innovation within many aerospace subsets. Innovations in imaging are permitting the use of lighter airborne equipment. Smaller, lighter aircraft can now perform aerial observation and recording missions than ever before. Computer chip memory increases are leading to an ever increasing number of features in avionics. Turbine engines are becoming more lightweight, resulting in a popular trend to design and utilize small business jets. These advancements are resulting in an increasing number of aviation career opportunities in the following areas (not all inclusive):

  • Aircraft Crew Operations
  • Drones
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Aircraft Ground Support (FBO operations)
  • Avionics (GPS and aircraft tracking products especially)
  • Aircraft Maintenance
  • Aircraft Design
  • Computer Programming

What better way to get acquainted with this burgeoning industry than earning a pilot’s license or a college degree in aviation? Having “in the seat” experience lends pilots an edge in the aeronautical job hunt by having first-hand knowledge of the flying world at work. This physical skills interface with aviation lays a bedrock foundation for almost any aerospace occupational field.

Pursuing an aviation interest in one emphasis can open doors in another. I remember initially attempting to prepare myself to be an airline pilot. I wound up owning an aviation company with a helicopter ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) instead. Maximizing your exposure within an interest area is the first step toward longer-term success.

Reduce the chances of becoming deflated by learning from a well-established, proven organization. As you begin to make decisions about your aeronautical flight training and/or college education, align yourself with a proven provider. Having a committed, well-experienced organization on your side from the beginning will help contain those early frustrations and career growing pains that all of us have experienced.

There is no substitute for learning from the best. After earning my flight instructor’s certificate in helicopters, I traveled to New York to attend some aircraft transition training for two weeks. The instructor introduced himself to me as Bill Staubach, a retired flight instructor from Fort Rucker. Now, that was a last name that brought back memories.

A helicopter flying with a pilot and flight instructor

The only Staubach that I’d ever known was stitched to the first name of “Roger” and threw a football for the Dallas Cowboys during my childhood. I figured that anyone with that last name couldn’t be bad at anything. I was right about Bill. He flew a helicopter just about like Roger threw a football. The funny thing is that they really were related. Bill is Roger’s uncle.

Before I flew with Bill, I had only performed some well-managed, full-touchdown autorotations. The instructor’s hands were always nudging the controls like Mother Goose and I never knew which one of us was pulling or pushing on what (and that’s not a good thing). Imagine my surprise as I flared too high for our first auto and I noticed Bill to my left, arms folded tapping his feet and hardly paying attention. He was singing…

Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me – ‘cause I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.

The touchdown had nothing to do with the word “touch” and everything to do with slam, bend and panic. The result was an instructor-controlled hop back to the pad and prolonged stint in the classroom, talking about RANT (RPM, Airspeed, Normal Rate of Decent, Touchdown Point). He must have asked me 3,000 times – “What are three indications of an engine failure?” He knew that I knew the answer (needle split, left yaw and quiet). He was ingraining it in my memory like chipping hieroglyphics into a stone tablet. Bill’s skill as a flight instructor challenged me to be a better, more confident pilot. I believe that I passed along Bill’s etiquette and fundamentals to my own students after that.

Giving yourself an edge by lining yourself up with the best is an advantage that you cannot afford to miss out on. If your flight lessons are the first venture into aviation, then your contact with the training school will result in a long lasting impression. Hint: Make sure it’s the right school. The impression will serve to educate and motivate you into remaining engaged in one of many aviation careers.

The aeronautical / aviation industry will have a tremendous influence on the world’s economy in the coming generation. Why not be a part of it? No matter what your age, there’s going to be room for everyone that’s interested. Not only can you work in an exciting environment, the freedom will exist to “spread your wings” to other industry areas as you fly along.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Helicopter License

John Peltier

You don’t often hear much about recreational helicopter flying – nowhere near the level of recreational fixed-wing flying. It’s generally considered a hobby for the wealthy, and employment for the rest of us. Costs for licensing, insurance, acquisition, and maintenance make it prohibitively expensive for pilots who may easily have the financial means to do the same with an airplane. Should this stop you from pursuing your helicopter license? Absolutely not! The most exciting thing I ever did as a civilian flight student was taking the doors off of a Robinson 22 and landing on a mountain peak no bigger than the footprint of the helicopter skids. This led to obtaining my commercial helicopter license, followed shortly by employment as a helicopter tour pilot.

Most pilots who get their helicopter licenses do so for career opportunities. The normal progression for helicopter pilots is to get a private pilot helicopter license, then commercial license, followed by a flight instructor rating, instrument rating, and instrument flight instructor rating. Some helicopter pilots will eventually go on and obtain their airline transport pilot license.

Just a note on the requirements outlined below. These are the minimums. It is very possible, most certainly likely, that you may require more instruction than the FAA minimum. Do not take this personally at all – your instructor is only setting you up for success! For complete details on all of the requirements, specifically flight & training requirements, see the Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61.

Costs will also widely vary from location to location, and also reflect current fuel costs. You should use the following numbers as ballpark figures only.

Private Pilot – Helicopter License

It all starts here! Take an intro flight and if you like it, go on to pursue your initial helicopter license.

FAA Requirements

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Log 40 hours of flight time, which includes 20 hours of instruction and 10 hours of solo flight
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Ground instruction & testing – $2,000
  • Aircraft rental & flight instruction – $12,000
    • Total – $14,000

A Helicopter flying over scenic terrain - All About Getting Your Helicopter License

Commercial Pilot – Helicopter License

This is the big requirement to be able to make money with your helicopter license. Some employers may require extra training. The estimated costs are in addition to your private pilot helicopter license.

FAA Requirements

  • Hold a Private Pilot License
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Log 150 hours of flight time, which includes 100 hours of flight in powered aircraft and at least 50 hours in helicopters.
  • Flight time must also include 100 hours of pilot-in-command time (35 in helicopters), 10 hours of cross-country flight, and 5 hours of night.
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Ground instruction & testing – $2,000
  • Aircraft rental & flight instruction – $30,000
    • Total – $32,000

Certified Flight Instructor Rating

This isn’t really considered a helicopter license, but rather a rating. A rating appends privileges to a license – in this case, it allows you to use your commercial helicopter license to teach others to fly helicopters.

FAA Requirements

  • Hold a Commercial Helicopter Pilot License
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Log at least 15 hours pilot-in-command in helicopters
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Ground instruction & testing – $3,000
  • Aircraft rental & flight instruction – $7,000
    • Total – $10,000

Helicopter Instrument Rating

Again, this is a rating that allows you to use any helicopter license for the privilege of flying in instrument meteorological conditions.

FAA Requirements

  • Hold a minimum Private Pilot License, or enrolled in training
  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Log 50 hours of cross country flight as pilot-in-command, 10 of which must be in helicopters
  • Log 40 hours of flight by reference to instruments only, 15 of which must be with an instructor
  • The 40 hours of instrument time can be combined with the cross country requirement
  • You may also substitute up to 20 hours of instrument time by using an approved flight simulator
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Ground instruction & testing – $2,000
  • Simulator rental & instruction – $3,000
  • Aircraft rental & flight instruction – $8,000
    • Total – $13,000

sam-cribbs

Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument

This rating will allow you to teach other helicopter pilots how to fly in instrument meteorological conditions.

FAA Requirements

  • Hold a Commercial Helicopter License with Helicopter Instrument Rating
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Ground instruction & testing – $500
  • Aircraft rental & instruction – $1,500
    • Total – $2,000

Airline Transport Pilot Helicopter License

This helicopter license isn’t something you’ll just go get after your first helicopter lessons. The flight experience requirements are high and will usually take years to obtain.

FAA Requirements

  • Hold a Commercial Pilot License with Instrument Rating
  • Be at least 23 years old
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Log at least 1,200 hour of pilot time, which includes 500 hours of cross-country time, 100 hours of night flying, and 75 hours of instrument time.
  • 200 hours of this flight time must be in helicopters. Night time and instrument time has other helicopter-specific requirements outlined in the regulations.
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass an oral test
  • Pass a practical flight test

Estimated Costs

  • Because the flight time requirements are so high, you will most likely only get this flight time through flight as an employed helicopter pilot – so you’ll be logging it on the company dime.

In Conclusion

There are as many reasons to get a helicopter license as there are helicopter pilot job descriptions. And helicopter pilots fly a wide variety of missions! Getting your helicopter license will be a challenge, but at the same time will be some of the most fun you’ve ever had. You’ll be rewarded with unique jobs all over the world if you complete the challenge.

Many helicopter schools have programs where you can combine training. For example, combine the private pilot helicopter license and instrument training. Or combine the commercial pilot and instrument training. This is a great way to cut costs and get to your end goal sooner than if you got each license on its own.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your helicopter license!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Helicopter Pilot Careers: What Jobs Are Out There?

John Peltier

Wondering what’s available in helicopter pilot careers? Don’t worry, there’s no shortage these days. With the current cadre of Vietnam War-era pilots retired or retiring and an absence of younger military pilots filling their place, there are plenty of helicopter pilot careers available.

Being a helicopter pilot isn’t just all about flying helicopters. Helicopter pilots have a lot of responsibility, an indication of all the difficult training required to get to where they’re at.

helicopter pilot careersHelicopter Pilot Duties

As a helicopter pilot, you’ll be ultimately responsible for the safety of your crew and your helicopter. You’ll have to check cargo & passenger manifests to make sure that it doesn’t exceed the limits of your helicopter. You’ll have to study the weather and be familiar with FAA restrictions, using these skills to plan your flights. You’ll need to carefully inspect your helicopter both before and after the flight to make sure it’s in a safe, flyable condition. There is usually paperwork required after each flight, a requirement of both the FAA and most likely your employer. But there’s a whole lot of fun flying in between!

Helicopter pilots aren’t just helicopter pilots when they go to work. Part of being a licensed and employable helicopter pilot means passing an annual physical exam and staying out of trouble with the law.

Starting Your Helicopter Pilot Career

The helicopter pilot career ladder is more or less set in stone for new commercial pilots building flight time, but after that, it’s like a “choose your own adventure” book with the variety of missions that helicopters fly.

Helicopter flight instructors are always in demand and every helicopter pilot is an instructor at one point in their career. As a new commercial pilot with your instructor license, you’ll be passing down your recently acquired knowledge to new pilots. In doing so, you’ll be building valuable flight time. This flight time is necessary before moving on to other helicopter careers. Being a helicopter instructor also makes you a better pilot. You’ll need to refine your maneuvers in order to demonstrate them to new pilots. And those new pilots will present you with situations that really make you think on your feet!

Other than acting as a flight instructor, flying tours is probably the other helicopter pilot career that almost all helicopter pilots will eventually perform. The exciting thing about tours is the wide variety of locations available. And these locations are not the boring ones – they’re places like Kauai, the Grand Canyon, Alaska glaciers, and Lake Tahoe. Not to mention all of the international destinations! Every day you’ll be flying over scenery that tourists are paying top-dollar to experience. This is a great intermediate helicopter pilot career and aids in building flight time fast. Many pilots are ready to move on to higher-profile helicopter pilot careers after only one busy tour season.

Advanced Helicopter Pilot Careers
helicopter pilot careers

Photo by Acroterion

Building time as an instructor and tour pilot is necessary for many turbine jobs. One of the most rewarding civilian helicopter pilot careers is in the emergency services field. Whether it’s fire, medical, or law enforcement, you’ll go to bed satisfied knowing that you saved lives that day. These jobs are very demanding and will really put you to the test.

Wildfire helicopter pilots are often out in the field for weeks at a time during fire season, away from family and friends, flying through smoke all day and all night.

Emergency medical services pilots are on standby, watching TV, reading, or sleeping when the call comes in – then at the drop of a hat are required to pilot their helicopter through fog to land in an area just slightly larger than their rotor diameter, surrounded by telephone wires, and take a patient to a hospital.

Law enforcement pilots almost always need to spend some time on the street initially, meaning you’ll first have to go to a law enforcement academy. Do well on the ground and you’ll quickly find yourself in the air performing a variety of law enforcement tasks, which include highway patrols and search & rescue.

Outside of the emergency services sector, there are more helicopter missions than could possibly be covered here.

helicopter pilot careers

Photo by JL Johnson

Some other examples of helicopter pilot careers:

  • Getting footage for news outlets, also called Electronic News Gathering.
  • Livestock mustering. Herding cattle in the cockpit of a helicopter rather than on the back of a horse!
  • Aerial photography & cinematography. Some of the best footage in movies and television shows is shot from helicopters!
  • Utilities surveying. Gas companies, telephone companies, and power companies require their transcontinental lines to be surveyed on a regular basis. Sometimes you’ll need to position your helicopter right next to tall wires so that a serviceman can make repairs in the air!
  • Many helicopters are often used for personnel transport. This could be taking workers out to offshore oil platforms or chauffeuring the executive of a large national bank.
  • A few more jobs would include agricultural crop spraying, logging, aerial construction, and heli-skiing.
Helicopter Pilots Are Totally Unique

Being a helicopter pilot is not like being an airline captain. Some jobs will allow you to settle in one area for life, but these helicopter careers are usually rare. More often than not you’ll be chasing jobs as old ones get phased out and new ones come up. You’ll have as much opportunity for diversity as you want to take. Some helicopter pilots have said that they’re the type of people who get restless staying in one spot for too long, and that’s why they chose a career as a helicopter pilot – the lifestyle perfectly fed their urge to travel, be on the move, and/or be challenged with new jobs regularly.

If this sounds exciting to you, now is a great time to start researching flight schools to begin your helicopter pilot career!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.