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!

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.

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

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 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Flight School

Early in childhood, most of us were taught these basic types of questions and how to apply them in any given situation. When it comes to choosing a flight school, these old friends will not lead you astray. Selecting where to do your pilot training is a serious endeavor that can be tedious, confusing, and often overwhelming. My goal, however, is that you walk away from this article feeling a bit more prepared when taking the first steps toward your next aviation adventure, whatever and whenever that may be.

Choosing a Flight School: The Who

Do your best to meet several flight instructors, including those who would likely be assigned to you. If the Chief Instructor Pilot is available to discuss their programs, that’s even better. Try to speak with some of the office staff and aircraft maintainers, as well. Talk to them about their backgrounds, ask all your questions, and don’t be afraid to get their opinion on the company and training programs. You would be surprised the kinds of insight people will offer when given the opportunity.

Choosing a Flight School: The What

A Cessna 172 Skyhawk in flight.

Take a good look at the aircraft you’ll be flying, as well as the number of aircraft available versus the number flown on a daily basis. Having twenty aircraft means very little if only three of them are airworthy, and should be looked at as a red flag. Inside the aircraft of today’s schools, the systems and equipment can vary greatly. Do the majority of aircraft have glass cockpits or steam gauges? Dual GPS or a single VOR? Are you looking to be trained only in aircraft with new digital, glass cockpits? The options will be many, so have an idea of your equipment desires before you venture out.

Choosing a Flight School: The When

A student’s pace in training can largely be determined by availability, both on the part of the instructor and the student. Ask about CFI-to-Student ratios, and be honest with yourself about your own availability. Perhaps your planned schedule only allows for early morning flights on the weekends, which the school may or may not be able to support. These will be some of the factors that determine your expectations for the pace at which you complete training. Be justifiably leery of any school whose main attraction is a shortest-time-to-ratings mantra; effective instruction will be inherently efficient and should establish a reasonable pace unique to every student.

Choosing a Flight School: The Where

Is the airport in a remote location? Is it near an International Airport? Is it based at an International Airport? Are there other flight schools at the same airport, adding to the daily traffic density? How will those factors affect your training and do they align with your desires as a student pilot? Some students seek the structure and added rigor of Class Bravo airspace, while others may want the quiet radios of a small, hometown airstrip. Ask to see the briefing rooms where you’ll do ground training, as well as maintenance spaces and administrative offices. You’ll be spending a good amount of time, and money, so get to know the facilities.

Choosing a Flight School: The Why

One of the most efficient questions you can ask a prospective school is “Why should I choose your flight school over every other flight school?” This is where doing your homework and visiting multiple schools if your local area affords it, can really pay dividends. No flight school should be shy about answering this question. In fact, one would hope to hear a prideful undertone in their response.

Choosing a Flight School: The Howchoosing a flight school

The final two questions are a culmination of everything we have discussed. Often times the first and most decisiveaspect of flight training is “How much will it cost?” A valid concern considering the cost of present day flight training. Get specifics in writing for aircraft (including variously equipped), instructors, ground school, written exam and checkride fees, required vs. desired training supplies, security badge fees, and any other school-specific costs. This will be one of the best ways to compare apples-to-apples between various locations.

The last question, and in my opinion far and away the most important: How did you feel? Every flight school is different, from the people to the aircraft to the fabric on the chairs in the lobby. It is of the utmost importance that you not only feel comfortable and safe in the environment but that you get a deeper, internal sense of “this is the right place for me”. I would offer the flight school should feel the same way. They should be accepting of and forthcoming regarding your questions and supportive of you choosing what best suits you and your goals as a pilot. If they aren’t, how does that make you feel?

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.

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!

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Helicopter Pilot Salary: How Much Can You Make?

John Peltier

If you’re considering a career as a helicopter pilot, one of the many aspects you’re undoubtedly wondering about is a helicopter pilot’s salary. I wish there was an easy answer for this, but the truth is that with all of the helicopter pilot jobs available, the helicopter pilot salary range is very wide. But that’s one of the things that make helicopters so cool – the wide variety of missions that you can fly!

On the low end, a commercial helicopter pilot may only earn $25,000 per year while on the high end a salary may be as much as $150,000. The website Payscale.com has surveyed helicopter pilots and found that the average helicopter pilot salary is roughly $73,000.

The Starting Helicopter Pilot Salary

If you’re a new commercial helicopter pilot, chances are you’ll have to pay your dues as a flight instructor. Some tour companies will let new pilots fly piston helicopters on tours if the flight hours for insurance minimums are met.

Flight instructors are for the most part not on “salary”; they get paid by the hour. And this varies between flight hours, ground instructor hours, simulator hours, etc. Different schools also have big swings in pay scales depending on instructor experience and operating costs of the school. If you have a lot of students at a big school chances are you’ll be doing well. At a small school with only a couple of students, you may need to take on a second job until you can build more hours. An average, full-time flight instructor can anticipate making $30,000 during the first year. It may not sound like a lot of money but is necessary for building helicopter flight time for pilot jobs with a higher salary.

The Mid-Range Helicopter Pilot Salary

Helicopter pilot flying a helicopter over a forested area - Helicopter Pilot Salary

Once you get somewhere over 1,000 hours you’ll be able to secure better helicopter pilot jobs, and most definitely one with a better salary than what you have been earning. Flying as a tour pilot in a turbine helicopter is usually the next progression. An entry-level turbine tour pilot usually makes somewhere around $40,000-$50,000. But again, much of this depends on location, company size, experience level, etc.

Pilots in emergency services generally make more money. A helicopter pilot salary for EMS can range from $50,000-$90,000 per year. Firefighting helicopter pilots typically only work those jobs during the fire season, somewhere around six months, and earn on average $75,000 in the six-month period.

The High-End Helicopter Pilot Salary

The high end of helicopter pilot salaries include jobs flying the offshore oilrigs, and for business executives and other VIPs. These helicopter pilots can expect to earn over $100,000 per year.

Payscale.com has also found that some of the higher-paying helicopter pilot jobs are in Jacksonville, Florida, where an average helicopter pilot salary of $108,000 was reported. Similar salaries were reported in San Diego and New York City. Some of this is compensation for living expenses in those areas. You may be earning more, but you’ll also be forced to spend more.

Bonuses may be available for jobs that require moving around (a relocation allowance) and/or for time in remote areas like the Arctic.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is, don’t expect to earn a lot of money your first few years as a helicopter pilot. This is true in any pilot job. Many people hear “pilot” and immediately see dollar signs in their head. Just like any job you’ll have to pay your dues first and it will challenge you. But it pays off, not only with a better salary later on down the road, but also with the opportunities to do things with a helicopter that fixed-wing pilots only dream of.

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The Differences Between Helicopter Flying and Airplane Flying

Margie O’Connor

When asked how helicopter flying is different from flying an airplane, my response has always been the same: it’s much more difficult to eat a sandwich while flying a helicopter, whereas, in a well-trimmed airplane, light finger pressure on the yoke is enough to hold the aircraft straight and level while eating a sandwich with the other.

Why is this? Well, helicopter flying, although an adrenalin mounting endeavor (and the one I prefer), requires the use of both hands simultaneously on the controls. Does this mandate a white-knuckle grip, through all phases of flight, to keep the helicopter flying? Quite the contrary. Helicopter pilots are typically taught to place their hands and feet on the controls and then simply “think” about flying the helicopter or applying very small, smooth movements via the flight controls. But both hands are still occupied.

Aerodynamic Forces

Helicopter and fixed-wing flying use the same aerodynamic principles – just applied in slightly different ways. Lift, weight, thrust and drag play a role in the movement of both aircraft.

Thrust must be greater than drag to cause forward movement in an airplane in flight. In helicopter flying, these same forces act as vectors to accommodate the condition of flight (i.e., left, right, up, down, etc.). For example, in forward helicopter flight, lift acts as the vertical component of the Total Aerodynamic Force (TAF) and drag takes up the position opposite and perpendicular to the TAF. Or using a different visual, lift makes up the vertical component of the total lift vector with thrust acting perpendicular and opposite to lift in the same vector – thrust either acting forward (in forward flight) or left, right or to the rear (in the corresponding direction).

In steady state, un-accelerated flight in an airplane, lift equals weight and thrust equals drag. In a hover (in a no wind condition) lift and thrust combine into one force and are equal to and act opposite the sum of weight and drag.

Airflow

While these same forces come into play in both helicopter and airplane flying, the airflow is slightly different. In an airplane, the air flow over the wing speeds up as the aircraft’s speed increases. Helicopter flying incorporates both the helicopter’s speed and the speed at which the rotor blades move through the air.

How do we manipulate all these forces? Well, in an airplane, the pilot uses the control yoke or column and rudder pedals. In helicopter flying, the collective, cyclic and antitorque pedals control the forces in flight.

Controlling the Forces

In helicopter flying, the pilot’s left hand controls the collective and sometimes a throttle, depending on the aircraft. The collective is a bar or stick, if you will, parallel to the floor of the helicopter, when in the down position. As the pilot lifts the collective, the corresponding change in the rotor blade’s pitch angle increases lift and thus helps “lift” the helicopter up. The collective controls the up and down of the entire helicopter.

The pilot’s right hand controls the cyclic, positioned between the pilot’s legs. The cyclic runs somewhat perpendicular to the floor of the helicopter and provides pitch and roll about the lateral and longitudinal axes, respectively. The cyclic essentially works by changing the tip path plane of the rotor allowing you to maneuver in directions impossible for the fixed-wing pilot. So, yes, you can actually fly backward (without help from an excessively strong headwind) or hover over a fixed location!

While collective and cyclic keep your hands busy, the antitorque pedals demand your feet participate, as well. In a single rotor system, like those found on many trainer helicopters, pushing on the right pedal, turns the helicopter to the right while pressure on the left pedal, rotates the aircraft left. But that’s not the primary function of these two pedals on the floor. Their main purpose in life is not to add yet another required movement to flying a helicopter but rather to counteract torque.

Torque is the force that causes rotation and is countering the main rotation of the rotor blades. In aircraft flown in the United States, rotor blades rotate counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the rotors. Based on Newton’s third law of motion, torque imparts the tendency for the nose of the helicopter to move right. Antitorque pedals exist then, to counter torque.

So there you have it. Flying helicopters differs from flying airplanes mainly in the controls you will use… and that it may be slightly more difficult to eat a sandwich. But I’m still partial to helicopter flying: there’s nothing quite as awesome as hovering.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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References:

Center, U. S. (1996, July). Theory of Rotary Wing Flight. Fort Rucker, Alabama, United States of America.

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

Harp, P. (1996). Pilot’s Desk Reference for the UH-60 Helicopter. In P. Harp, Aerodynamics (pp. 6-18, 6-21, 6-32). Enterprise: Presentation’s Plus.

Michael J. Kroes, J. R. (1993). Aircraft Basic Science. Westerville: Glencoe Division of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.

Flight Simulator Training: Cutting Costs and Improving Skills

Stimulation by Simulation

Vern Weiss

A long time ago they discovered that training pilots could be done more efficiently if there were a means to duplicate the objectives of instruction given in an aircraft. Not only could pilot training be cheaper but some maneuvers could be accomplished without the window of vulnerability for hazards that comes with some training scenarios when attempted in an aircraft.

A Brief History of Flight Simulator Training

Very rudimentary ground-based simulators had been developed to teach pilots target practice during World War I. It wasn’t until a musical instrument manufacturer and hobby flier became dissatisfied with his own flight training that the first functional simulator became a reality. In 1927, Edwin Link used components from church organs to build his first simulator which featured spartan generic cockpit controls and instruments mounted on a movable platform. Other than erratic and wobbly instrument indications and movement of the student’s seat in the trainer, it provided little else. Even so, Link sold the idea to the military and manufactured some 10,000 of these Link trainers. The Link trainer remained the standard for pilot simulator training until the mid-1950s when Pan American Airways contracted the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company to develop the first full-motion, aircraft-specific simulator. At the same time, United Airlines bought the same simulator but added a visual display which was provided by a camera moving over a model of miniature cities and ground terrain.

Over the years the development of flight simulator training has steadily improved and its value increased. As aircraft operators noticed the cost-effectiveness of using such devices, government agencies took notice as well and began to offer “relief” from some pilot licensing requirements when simulators are used.

The Flight Simulator Training vs. Aircraft Issue

At the center of the simulator-versus-aircraft training issue is the credit toward pilot certification for one over the other. For the purpose of this narrative let’s confine our discussion to flight simulation that comes under the watch of the US Federal Aviation Administration. Other countries have their own governance such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that define their own certification criteria. In order to receive FAA approval for use of a flight simulator, it must meet many design, functional and demonstrable requirements. In other words, the PC computer program, Microsoft® Flight Simulator does not satisfy those requirements. Although some maintain the program is helpful to pilots for casual use, it fails to meet the strict demands of the FAA regulations as a training tool.

The classifications of simulators have become confusing and sometimes clumsily blurred. In fact, there are over 30 such classifications worldwide! Simply stated, the difference in the classifications is this: If the simulator has a letter designation (i.e. Level “C” simulator) it moves and costs big bucks. If the simulator has a numerical designation (i.e. Level “5” simulator), it doesn’t move but still costs a lot of dough (although not as much). The higher the number or letter, the more sophisticated the device. Only devices that move are recognized by the FAA as “simulators.” Those that don’t are considered “trainers” or “devices.” The big difference is that full flight simulators can be used to meet most requirements of a pilot check-ride whereas partial credit for training hours is all you can expect from a trainer.

The 7 Levels of Flight Training Devices and 4 Levels of Flight Simulator

Level 1 flight training devices (FTDs) are no longer manufactured and those few that still exist have been grandfathered into the approval process, but it is unlikely you will encounter one today.

Level 2 FTDs are also no longer manufactured although some operators still use theirs that were grandfathered into the approval process years ago.

Level 3 FTDs are no longer approved however some continue to be in use. The FAA now considers those Level 3 trainers as “Advanced Aviation Training Devices” which is a new classification that we’ll cover later.

Level 4 FTDs consist of a touch-screen and are used only for procedural, navigation and flight management system training. Such trainers are generic and do not have any distinction between aircraft class such as single engine or multi-engine nor do they incorporate a control yoke. These are similar to what is known as a “cockpit procedures trainer” and today the FAA is only officially certifying them for use in helicopter training. They do exist for airplanes however their use is not approved for the training requirements of fixed wing ratings. Visual systems are not required.

Level 5 FTDs begin to look more like an aircraft and are configured with aircraft class attributes (single-engine, multi-engine etc). While Level 5 trainers are certified as representative of a generic single-engine aircraft, some manufacturers are producing Level 5 devices with specific attributes of a particular model of aircraft. Level 5 trainers require special FAA certification and a control yoke, but a visual system is not required.

Level 6 FTDs must be designed and certificated to provide you with accurate function as well as tactile, aerodynamic and spatial relationships (i.e. as you increase power you receive instrument indications of a commenced climb and increased backward pressure on the yoke requiring input and trim). A physical cockpit with accurate controls and instrumentation is required, but a visual system is still not required.

Level 7 FTDs must be model specific with all applicable aerodynamics, flight controls, and systems including a vibration and visual system. These trainers are presently only certificated for helicopters.

But wait! We’re not done yet!

A new classification of FTD has appeared on the scene: The Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD) and the Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD). What makes the BATD and AATD confusing is that certification by the FAA is often subjective and without specific criteria as defined by regulation. To further muddy the water…although the BATD and AATD is a flight training device and not a simulator, it is not required to move; however, it might, depending on its manufacturer! Furthermore, even though an AATD may offer motion it still does not qualify under the FAA guidelines for meeting the requirements of pilot training in the same way that a full flight simulator would. An AATD can save up to a maximum of 10 hours of aircraft flight time toward your instrument rating and 2.5 hours toward your private license. Like any FTD, an AATD assists in making you more familiar so as not to require repetitive practice while an aircraft Hobbs meter is ticking away (which means: $$$).

What do the “Big Boys” (and Girls) Use for Flight Simulator Training?

Now that all this talk about the 7 levels has given you a headache, let’s add the coup de grâce to send you running for the aspirin bottle: SIMULATORS.

Mercifully there are only 4 categories of full-flight simulators, Level “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D.”

Level “A” simulators are now gasping and wheezing and nearly extinct. In fact, there are only about a dozen left. They’re required to provide motion of course but provide only rudimentary visual displays and less sophisticated aerodynamic modeling such as the properties of ground effect. Level “A” simulators are only certified for fixed wing aircraft and not helicopters.

Level “B” is slightly more sophisticated than Level “A” simulators although only a handful remain in the US. 80% of an FAA type rating may be completed in one, but the remainder of the check ride must be accomplished in an actual aircraft. These simulators provide you with a higher degree of aerodynamic feedback, physical movement on their motion bases and better panoramic visual displays. In addition to widespread use for airplane training, this is the lowest level simulator that is approved for helicopters.

Level “C” simulators are only slightly different than Level “B” simulators. The visual displays are improved and both feedback and response time is more realistic. Only Level “C” and “D” simulators are approved for a full pilot proficiency check. Other simulators can be used for instrument portions of your proficiency check, but credit is not given for the landing portion as is permitted in Level “C” and “D” versions.

Level “D” simulators are approved for use for a full type rating because of their sophistication. This is the highest level of simulator currently available. In addition to sound, these simulators can even generate smoke in the cockpit to simulate a system fire; no kidding! Full daytime and nighttime visuals are required as well as 150 degrees of up, down and horizontally accurate visual displays. Such simulators are incredibly expensive with a price tag that runs between $1 million to $40 million, depending on whether your shopping with coupons.

So What’s the Best Way You Can Save Money with Flight Simulator Training?

The answer to this question is simple: utilize some form of training device that will not only save money on aircraft rental/expense but also permit you to make mistakes, practice and repeat maneuvers until you are confident and comfortable.

Today there are a lot of different flight simulator training devices being manufactured and the question as to which one is best for you comes down to either an AATD or a Level 5 FTD. Right now the FAA credits more FTD training time toward your license when you use a Level 5 FTD than with an AATD. To be fair, however, there is an FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to grant applicants the same credit toward a license or rating in either type of training device. What a student should not ignore is the enormous benefits offered in a Level 5 FTD over an AATD. A Level 5 FTD provides far greater fidelity in feel, response and performance and the experience is closer to what you experience in a real aircraft. At the same time, the Level 5 FTD is aircraft specific whereas an AATD is generic and is to flying like foosball is to playing real soccer.

The bottom line is that Level 5 FTDs provide better quality training because the perceptions are well defined. In the event that the NPRM does not become law, Level 5 FTD training will still stand head and shoulders above AATDs, not only by saving you a great deal in cost on the minimum hour requirements but by making your training time much more realistic and efficient.

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.

Sources:

FAA Advisory Circular 61-136A November 17, 2014

FAA Advisory Circular AC-120-40B July 29, 1991

FAA Part 61 Regulations

Federal Register, July 6, 2015 NPRM Aviation Training Device Credit for Pilot Certification

FAA Flight Simulation Training Device Qualification (FSTD) Bulletin 10-02

Telephone conversation with Jeremy Brown, Frasca December 2, 2015

AOPA “ABCs of Simulators” Alton Marsh May 1, 2011 (http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2011/May/1/ABCs-of-Simulators)

Have You Ever Thought of Becoming a Pilot?

The Journey from Fixed Wing Single Engines to Jets

Shawn Arena

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That is one question I am sure almost all of us can remember being asked by either parents, teachers, or friends when we were young. Most certainly we replied with an answer such as a ballplayer, a doctor, a nurse, or a fireman.

As we mature and experience the world around us our dreams continue to expand – until that one day when someone would ask that follow-up question “Have you ever thought of becoming a pilot?” Almost immediately our dreams turned towards the sky. That is what happened with me. Though I had a grandfather who first flew in the 1930s, I was left to discover for myself what I wanted to do when I grew up-until he asked the question that titles this article.

If someone has posed that question to you and you don’t know where to begin, hopefully this article will serve as that ‘leading edge of the wing’ to provide some insight. “But I don’t know where to start” may be the question you are asking yourself right now. Don’t worry, there are options readily available to explore. If you are in elementary school, consider a high school that has an aviation program. More and more high schools are expanding their core curriculum to include a private pilot ground school that can lead to earning your Fixed Wing Private Pilot, Single Engine Land Certificate. A nice add-on to also consider with your high school education is getting involved with an ROTC program- an easy bridge to an aviation career. That is what really motivated me!

After high school the amount of four-year universities that offer an aviation education are numerous: Embry-Riddle, Arizona State, Auburn, Ohio State, and Baylor Universities are just a few of the many offering Bachelor’s Degrees in an aviation program.

If you are considering a career in any branch of the military, aviation is an important component of their respective career paths as well (especially the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps. and Coast Guard).

Another option to consider if the aviation college or the military paths are not appealing, go down to your local airport and check out the FAA designated flight schools at a Fixed Based Operator (FBO). They are always eager to answer all your questions, provide a career path or even offer you a Discovery Flight to get started on your dream.

Either way you choose to pursue, advance ratings and certifications follow accordingly after the single engine experience. The tip of the pyramid however is the title of Air Transport Rated Pilot (ATP) – another fancy name for Commercial Airline Pilot. The commercial airline pilot is the typical mindset the general public thinks of when talking about aviation. Though the road may be tough – starting out as a regional pilot and then ‘getting your dream shot’ as an airline pilot, the satisfaction is priceless. Corporate aviation is a similar path to the airline pilot career. Since by definition commercial pilots are flying for hire – you get to fly executive aircraft with state-of-the-art automation to some of the most beautiful places on earth. Wow!

So what are you waiting for? Start by exploring your local airport, high school or even college catalogs to see which track you want to pursue as you’re researching becoming a pilot. After all the sky’s the limit.

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How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

Learning to Fly Isn’t as Hard as You Think

Wondering how to become a helicopter pilot? The first steps to getting into a cockpit are clearly defined, and most people qualify to start training immediately. Here are the details you need to know.

You’re watching the quintessential over-the-top car chase scene and the star is making a getaway so fast the police can’t catch him. No back street short cut combination will put the cops at a great enough advantage to cut the hero off. Then the helicopters enter the high-speed chase. There’s no more hiding for the poor car. Air power is simply better. You think to yourself, “That would be a cool job. How do I get a job like that?” The answer: start flying helicopters. Get some experience. Then apply for the job.

Anyone can buy a discovery flight in a helicopter. A discovery flight is essentially an introduction lesson for you. Much like an introduction to martial arts class or an introduction to painting, you can buy an introduction lesson to flying. The lesson normally lasts about two hours. In that time you would get a basic introduction to the parts of a helicopter and how they work. You also get to fly with an instructor for about half an hour. The discovery flight is normally a short flight just around the airport. If you are savvy enough to point the way and you don’t live very far away from the airport, you could even ask the instructor to fly over your house.

You’ll need to find a school that teaches flying in order to buy a discovery flight in a helicopter. These schools aren’t usually the local high school or recreation center. A school that teaches flying can be found at your local airport. You are likely familiar with the international airport near you; these are the airports where airlines operate. In some cases international airports are too busy for learning to fly, but many flight schools do operate from these airports. Flight training also happens at local airports, which are likely closer to you. An online search for airports near your city will reveal the small local airports in your area. You can also use this (av-info.faa.gov/PilotSchool.asp) search engine on the Federal Aviation Administration website to find the address of flight schools in your state.

Once you find the flight school nearest you, simply walk in for a visit. Be sure to visit the flight school before buying the discovery flight. You’ll want to see the aircraft and meet at least one instructor. Though appointments aren’t typically required, you may want to call and make an appointment with the school. This will ensure you don’t have to wait around to talk to someone once you get there. In addition, it helps the school be prepared for your visit.

If you like what you see, ask to schedule a discovery flight. The cost should be anywhere from one hundred to two hundred dollars if the school has smaller aircraft. You’ll be charged for the aircraft hourly operating expenses as well as the flight instructor hourly fee. The aircraft cost can be negotiable if you are willing to reduce the time you spend in the air. Consider paying for half an hour instead of an hour in the air if you are strapped for cash. The instructor hourly rate is likely not negotiable. You’ll be charged for the amount of time you spend with the instructor whether on the ground or in the air. Be prepared to pay the bill for the discovery flight prior to takeoff or immediately upon returning to the airport from your flight.

If the flight is enjoyable, you may want to consider scheduling your first lesson immediately. You’ll be required to verify your citizenship prior to starting training with two forms of identification. Generally, you’ll need your instructor to teach you for twenty or so hours before you are ready to go it alone. Before your instructor gives you permission to fly alone in the helicopter, he’ll check your abilities to ensure you can fly a helicopter alone safely.

All pilots must also complete a medical evaluation. Before you can fly by yourself you’ll need to visit an aeromedical doctor to get a certificate stating you are healthy enough to fly. The doctor will check your vision to be sure you can differentiate between a red and green light and have 20/40 vision or better, with glasses if you need them. The doctor will speak to you from across the room at a conversational volume to find out if you can hear well enough to fly. You’ll also need to provide a urine sample for basic testing. Neurologic, mental, diabetic, and cardiovascular conditions may require a more extensive review by your doctor.

As you can see, the first steps for getting into the cockpit are pretty simple. Most people qualify to start training immediately. Find a school near you and schedule a visit and a discovery flight. If you like it, sign up for training. And don’t worry too much: a pilot medical evaluation for a pilot in training is far from intimidating.

So, now that you know the first steps on how to become a helicopter pilot, what are you waiting for? Get started today!

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