A Complete Guide on How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

So you want to be a helicopter pilot.

Helicopters are one of the most remarkable forms of transportation out there.  Being a helicopter pilot takes a lot of time, money, skill and dedication.  If you don’t have all of those; I suggest you find another career.  Being a helicopter pilot is a fun and exciting career.

  As a helicopter pilot, there are many different types of jobs available, here are a few;   Helicopter flight instructor, test pilot, fire fighter, offshore support, law enforcement, agriculture, pipeline and utility support, executive transport, sightseeing, fishing, emergency medical services, search and rescue, logging, cargo lift, news media, photography, aerial surveying, forestry, game control, traffic reporting and more.

Salary levels vary greatly by industry.  Typically a commercial helicopter pilot will make anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on your total helicopter flight time and your experience.  Commercial Helicopter Pilots can easily make over $100,000 a year with the right helicopter company.  So if you’re really interested in becoming a helicopter pilot for recreation or as a career, please read the following steps:

Step 1

You need to make sure that you will like flying in a helicopter before you start your helicopter lessons.  Flying a helicopter is much different then flying an airplane.  Most helicopter training schools offer introductory helicopter flight (also called trial helicopter lessons).   A typical helicopter introductory flight will cost you anywhere from $99 to $200, depending on your location, and will last about half an hour or more.  This time will also count toward your helicopter pilot’s license.  Call your local helicopter school to schedule your introductory flight.

Step 2

You need to do some research on helicopter flight schools. Click here for United States Helicopter School Locations .  Research all the flight schools in your area.  Here are a couple things to look at.

  • Cost of helicopter training and financial aid options
  • What types of helicopters are used for training?
  • What kind of availability do the instructors and helicopters have?
  • Instructor credentials-How many hours do the helicopter instructors have?
  • How long has the helicopter school been in operation?
  • What are the Insurance requirements?
  • How many hours does the typical student take to get the helicopter Pilot License?

Step 3

Check to see if you have the requirements to start your helicopter training.  You can start your helicopter training at any age.  You can solo the helicopter at 16 years of age and then get your private pilot helicopter license at 17 years or age.

Eligibility requirements for your Student Pilot’s Certificate: (you do not need a student pilot’s certificate to take helicopter flying lessons, you only need it once you’re ready to solo the helicopter):

  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • You must be able to read, speak and understand English
  • You must hold at least a current third-class medical certificate.

You will also need a FAA medical certificate before you solo.  You will get this medical certificate from a designated FAA Medical Examiner, not your family doctor.  There are three classes of medical certificates:

  • First Class Medical: Required for airline transport pilots; good for six months
  • Second Class Medical: Required for commercial pilots; good for 12 months
  • Third class medical: Required for private and student pilots; a second class medical certificate becomes a third class medical certificate after 12 months


Step 4


Work toward your first license the Private Pilot Helicopter License.   With the private pilot helicopter license you will be able to fly a helicopter any time you want, go anywhere you want and fly with anyone you want.  You just can’t get paid for it.  The minimum amount of hours required by the FAA to get your Private Pilot Helicopter License is 40 hours of helicopter flight time.  The national average is about 60 hours of helicopter flight time.   Here are a few other requirements:

FAA Part 61 Helicopter Private Pilot Certification Requirements

For a Helicopter Rating:

  • Dual: 20 hours of helicopter flight training with an instructor on the Private Pilot areas of operation that includes:
  • 3  hours of cross-country flight training in a helicopter
  • 3  hours of night flight training in a helicopter, that includes at least
  • 1 cross-country flight of over 50 nautical miles total distance; and
  • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings with each involving a flight in the traffic pattern.
  • 3 hours of flight training in a helicopter within the preceding 60 days prior to the practical test.
  • Solo: 10 hours of solo flying in a helicopter on the Private Pilot areas of operation, that includes:
  • 3  hours of solo cross-country flying;
  • 1  solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total  distance with 3 points and one segment of at least 25 nautical miles between takeoff and landing; and
  • 3  takeoffs and landings at a controlled airport

 The private pilot helicopter test consists of a written test (taken on a computer), oral test (one on one with a FAA Designated Examiner) and finally your flight test (also with a FAA Designated Examiner).  Once you pass all three tests in that order, you will be a new licensed helicopter pilot.   If you want to get paid for flying a helicopter you will have to go onto the fifth step.


Step 6

Now you will have to build more helicopter time.  Most pilots decide to get their flight instructors certificate so that you can teach other students, build your hours and get paid for it.

Well I hope that this helped you in some way.  If you are looking for more information feel free to visit flighttrainingforum.com or flightschoollist.com