Helicopter Flight School and College Information
Helicopter pilots are highly skilled individuals who complete many hours of training to earn their licenses. Potential pilots typically attend helicopter flight training school, although it's also possible to become a helicopter pilot while serving in the military.
How to Select a Helicopter Flight School
Becoming a helicopter pilot requires time, energy and money. Training depends on the student's career goal of being an instructor or private or commercial pilot.
Summary of Important Considerations
- Education options
- School accreditation and certification
- Safety record
- Financial aid
A college degree is not required for becoming a helicopter pilot; however, many employers view a degree as a welcome plus. Some schools offer partnerships with colleges and universities that allow students to work toward a degree in aviation while completing their flight studies.
School Accreditation and Certification
Potential pilots can ensure that a flight school is worth its cost by inquiring about the credentials and experience of the flight instructors; by getting to know the school's goals, programs and record of success; and by checking its accreditation status with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Students may also wish to learn whether a school is certified under Part 61 or Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Part 141 schools are held to more rigidly structured training standards by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Although earning a helicopter pilot license is generally safe, accidents do happen. Many schools have a safety record that demonstrates their commitment to sound flying principles. To learn more about a school's safety strategy, including upkeep of equipment and safety regulations, students may wish to speak with the school's lead mechanic.
According to the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association, obtaining a private pilot license can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 (www.autorotate.com). To hit their true earning potential, most helicopter pilots need to become Certified Flight Instructors.
Reaching this goal can cost an additional $28,000 to $35,000 and is still not a guarantee of a job. Because of these stringent financial requirements, some schools offer financial aid, loans and fixed tuition guarantees.
Helicopter Flight Program Overviews
Private Helicopter Pilot License
Earning a private pilot license is the basis of all future helicopter flight training. This license, which may be obtained after 35 hours of flight time, allows an individual to legally operate a helicopter for private use. Students must obtain a third class FAA medical certificate before enrolling in any license program. In the private pilot program, students gain experience in:
- Solo training
- Check ride
Commercial Helicopter Pilot License
Once a student has earned their private pilot license, they are eligible to train for a commercial pilot license. For this license, the minimum amount of needed flight time is increased to 150 hours, and students must obtain a second class FAA medical certificate. Prospective commercial pilots take courses such as:
- Ground school
- Dual instruction
Certified Flight Instructor Rating
In addition to demonstrating advanced helicopter flying skills, potential Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) must learn to instruct others competently and comfortably while in the air. Many pilots, even those who do not wish to work as instructors, become CFIs in order to secure jobs more easily. The coursework in a flight instructor program may include:
- Lesson plan preparation
- Post-flight briefing
- Ground school
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