How to Start a Career as a Helicopter Pilot

Helicopter Pilot

Are you interested in becoming a helicopter pilot? There are only 4,374 in the United States, so there is strong demand for new ones. There are different paths that you can take to get the education that you need to fly a helicopter. After you have completed your coursework, training and exams, you will have a number of job opportunities.

There are a lot of benefits of becoming a pilot, whether you are flying a helicopter or other aircraft. The BLS estimates that the average salary of a pilot is over $130,000 a year, which is a great opportunity. You don’t need a college degree, but you will need to meet certain training requirements and meet the necessary physical standards. 

Learning to Become a Helicopter Pilot

You can learn to become a helicopter pilot through flight school or the military. There are 151 helicopter flight schools in the United States, so aspiring helicopter pilots have plenty of opportunities to find a course that will help them meet the requirements. 

Regardless of the path that you take, you will need to pass the Private Pilot-Helicopter (PRH) or Airline Transport Pilot Helicopter (ATH) exams. In order to do this, there are two ways that you can prepare: a private helicopter pilot school or through a public institution like the Armed Forces.

Becoming a Helicopter Pilot through a Private School

Aviation schools are training centers that provide courses for future pilot. They cover both theoretical coursework and flight training.

You can take different types of courses in flight school, which vary depending on the type of pilot that you want to be. Obviously, if you intend to become a helicopter pilot, then you will take courses that focus on flying a helicopter. Some of the details are described below.

Private pilot

This is a short course, which includes about flight training and it can cost you between $4,000 and $15,000, depending on the type of aircraft that you intend to fly and license that you want to receive. You may need to pay more depending on the type of license you want, since various licenses have different flight experience requirements. For example, if you want a Private Pilot License then you only need 40 hours of flight training. On the other hand, if you want an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, then you will need up to 1,500 hours of flight training.  The course may be more expensive depending on the number of flight hours that you need. 

When you take this course, you will be taught how to fly single-engine airplanes and simple helicopters. All of the training will be conducted in good weather conditions. If you meet the minimum standards, then you will qualify for a license to be a private pilot, but you will not be eligible for a paid job as a pilot. The course will be useful if you want to rent a small helicopter from time to time for a personal trip. 

If you would like to become a commercial airline pilot, then you will need to take the more intensive course and receive the mandatory 1,500 hours of flight training. You will also need to take additional courses to learn more about the nuances of commercial aircrafts, including the following:

  • Aviation Legislation and ATC Procedures.
  • Structures, Systems and Engines.
  • Instrumentation.
  • Weight and Centering
  • Performances.
  • Flight Planning.
  • Human factor.
  • Meteorology.
  • Navigation.
  • Radio navigation.
  • Operational procedures.
  • Principles of flight.
  • VFR communications.
  • IFR communications.

Becoming a Helicopter Pilot through the Armed Forces

You can also get your license through the air force, army or navy. The requirements are stricter and you will have to enlist, but the process is much cheaper if you meet all the standards. The requirements are also revised periodically, so you will need to monitor them closely. For example, the age limit used to be 23 years old, but nowadays the maximum age to start training as a pilot in the military is 28.5 years old. 

There used to be a stronger focus on academic coursework and students were required to take classes in various subjects such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and English. They also had to undergo intermediate level physical tests and pass a physical exam. They were also required to have nearly perfect eyesight. 

Some of these standards have become more lax in recent years and some subjects have been eliminated in the entrance exams, although participants are still necessary to pass the medical examination. Students are also no longer required to have 20/20 vision. You can be eligible with a vision of 20/30 or better. These standards are still stricter than they are in the private sector, where you only need a vision of 20/40 without corrective lenses. However, you will be required to wear glasses to make sure it is 20/20, regardless of which route you take.