Training To Become A Helicopter Pilot


If you want to become a helicopter pilot then the road ahead can be a long one. However, if you approach the training in a motivated and patient manner then it is possible to obtain your helicopter licence within a relatively short time-frame. Many companies and external organisations are now offering ‘trial’ flight packages where you will have the opportunity to take the controls of a helicopter. Because learning to fly a helicopter can be an expensive process, we strongly recommend that you take up one of the trial flights first to ensure that it is something you really want to do.


Of course, learning to fly a helicopter does not just have to be for recreational purposes. Demand for qualified and experienced helicopter pilots are on the increase and you can earn a salary upwards of £80,000 per annum for doing a job that you love. Before you decide whether or not to become a helicopter pilot, let’s fist of all take a look at the type of training you will need to undergo in order to obtain your licence.


Before you can become a Helicopter Pilot you will need to obtain a licence. There are three main types of pilot licence:

Private Pilot’s Licence PPL (HELICOPTER) — A PPL (H) enables you to fly light aircraft in visual conditions for leisure purposes, but not for hire or reward. To obtain a PPL (H) you need to have a minimum of 45 hours flying time under your belt. This type of licence is ideal for those people who are interested in flying helicopters for leisure purposes only. Once you have the PPL (H), you must fly a minimum of two hours per year on each type of helicopter you are rated on, including a short flight test. You can hire a helicopter and fly locally, visit other airfields, or even land away at a hotel.

Commercial Pilot’s Licence CPL (H) — A CPL (H) enables you to earn money as the pilot of a single-crew aircraft, for example by flying freight or sightseeing tours. You can also work as a PPL flying instructor once you have undertaken an instruction course.

Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence ATPL (H) — The ATPL (H) Licence is necessary for piloting two crew helicopters. In order to obtain an ATPL (H) you will need to complete a programme of training at a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved centre. The ATPL (H) training incorporates a minimum requirement of 195 hours flight training, with a minimum of 750 hours ground studies training. The course also includes training in multi-crew operation of multi-pilot helicopters. To gain the ATPL (H) licence, candidates must sit further examinations and take another skill test.

The PPL (H) Training Course

The aim of the PPL (H) course is to:

. Enable students to pass all the exams and tests required in order to gain the licence.

. To provide students with the skills and knowledge required to develop as a helicopter pilot.

Learning to fly a helicopter is an amazing experience. It is fun, exciting and provides you with a sense of freedom you will seldom sense anywhere else. With the increasing problem of traffic congestion more and more people are choosing to train as a helicopter pilot. Flying a helicopter is not too difficult but it is important that you take a trial lesson first of all in order to see if its for you. You do not want to embark on an expensive training course if it something that you decide to stop doing after a few lessons.

Learning to fly the helicopter is the most fun part of the PPL (H) course but it is imperative that you study hard at ground school. Ground school will give you the essential knowledge and information to help you fly your helicopter safely and competently. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) specifies what must be included in the PPL (H) course.

There are essentially two main elements to the course:

. The Flying Training Course

. The Ground School

PPL (H) course lessons are normally conducted over a 2 hour period which includes one hour of flying the helicopter and one hour of pre- and post – flight briefings. During the pre-flight briefing you will be informed as to the nature of the flight and its purpose including relevant safety information. Once the flight is complete, the post-flight briefing will discuss in detail your performance during the flight to help you to improve for the next lesson.

Flight Training

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) stipulates that the flight training course must include at least 45 hours of flying training, all of which has to be supervised by a qualified helicopter flying instructor. The 45 hours flying must include the following:

. 25 hours must be dual instruction given by a helicopter flying instructor.

. 10 hours must be supervised solo flying

Solo Flying

During the solo flight there must be at least five hours cross- country, including a cross country flight where you land at least 185km away from the base airfield. During this flight at least two full stop landings at separate airfields must be made. In order to gain maximum progress it is advisable that you fly regularly and try to avoid missing lessons. During the PPL (H) course you will have to complete a total of 27 Air Exercises which are listed as follows:

1 a – Familiarisation with the Helicopter

1 b — Emergency procedures

2 — Preparation for and action after flight

3 — Air experience

4 — Effects of controls

5— Power and attitude changes

6a — Straight and level

6b — Climbing

6c — Descending

6d — Turning

7— Basic autorotations

8a — Hovering

8b — Hover taxying, spot turns

8c — Hovering, taxying emergencies

9— Take-off and landing

10— TransWons from hover to climb and approach to hover

11 a—Circuit, approach and landing

11 b — steep and limited power approaches and landings

11 c — Circuit emergency procedures

12— First solo

13— Sideways and backwards hover manoeuvring

14— Spot turns

15— Hover-out-of-ground-effect (HOGE), vortex ring

16 Simulated engine-off landings

17— Advanced autorotations

18 — Practice forced landings

19 — Steep turns

20— Transitions

21 — Quick stops

22a — Navigation — departure and arrival

22b — Navigation at low heights and reduced visibility

Basic Helicopter Flying

During this part of the PPL (H) course you will learn to control the helicopter during forward flight, the turn, the climb, descents, the hover and how to take off and land. You will also learn to fly the helicopter without engine power, this is known as Autorotation.

Advanced Exercises, including Practical Navigation

During this stage of the course you will build on your basic flying skills where you will be taught to carry out advanced techniques such as where you would need to land safely in areas which are confined or difficult to access. Autorotation skills must be developed so that you can safely land the helicopter if your engine was to fail or malfunction.

Flying Test

At the end of the PPL (H) training course you will take a General Fight Test (GFT). This will be taken by a qualified examiner. The main aim of the GFT is to see whether you can fly the helicopter safely and competently.

Ground School

During ground school you will learn the important aspects of flying a helicopter both safely and competently. It is a legal requirement that you undertake training and examination in the following areas:

. Navigation

. Meteorology

. Aircraft (General and Type)

. Aviation Law

. Human Performance/ Limitations

The cost of a trial lesson will vary greatly depending on the airfield or lesson provider. As a general rule the following rates are a useful indication of how much it will cost you:

30 minutes – £145

40 minutes – £179

60 minutes- £250

(Prices are often subject to change due to fuel prices etc)

See here to learn about how to become a pilot.