Here’s How to Become a Helicopter Pilot (Professional Guide)

Here’s how to become a helicopter pilot. Helicopter pilots operate in a variety of sectors, from disaster relief to tourist excursions. Some pilots pursue flying as a pastime or as a mode of transportation, while others pursue careers as commercial pilots. A career as a helicopter pilot can be both challenging and rewarding.

how to become a helicopter pilot

What does a helicopter pilot do?

Helicopter pilots work in a wide range of sectors, serving both private people and business enterprises. Pilots can work as taxi drivers, join the military, or train as flight instructors.

Helicopter pilots are employed in the following industries:

  • Medical assistance in an emergency (emergency medical services).
  • Officers of the law.
  • Transportation for Agriculture Executives.
  • Firefighting.
  • Rescue and search operations.
  • Sightseeing and flight instruction.
  • Certified flight instructor.

Once you can fly helicopters, many opportunities present themselves. Multiple industries employ helicopter pilots with the proper helicopter pilot’s license.

Helicopter pilot average salary

In the United States, the typical income for a helicopter pilot varies depending on whether the pilot has a private or commercial license. In the United States, the average income for a helicopter pilot is $78,108 per year.

how to become a helicopter pilot

How to become a helicopter pilot

Before becoming a helicopter pilot, several requirements must be met. To obtain a private pilot license, a commercial helicopter pilot, for example, must first pass all exams. To earn a pilot’s license, pilots must pass written and flight examinations, log the appropriate amount of flight hours and achieve comparable experience according to work requirements.

Follow these five steps if you wish to pursue a profession as a helicopter pilot:

Get a medical exam

Pilot applicants must pass a medical test before enrolling in school or a flight training program to ensure that their mental and physical health will not interfere with flying. A physician who has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration must conduct the examination.

Doctors will look for health issues that might prevent you from getting a license, such as:

  • Problems with the heart
  • Disorders of the mind
  • Drug abuse history
  • Consciousness lapses
  • Hearing problems or circumstances
  • Color vision impairments or difficulties are two examples of vision impairments or issues. Obtain a degree or enroll in a flying school.

Earn a degree or attend flight school

Unless you want to fly a helicopter for fun, you might consider getting a degree. An associate or bachelor’s degree in math, physics, or aeronautical engineering is required by most helicopter pilot employment. Some universities that offer aviation programs also assist with the licensing process.

Because the curriculum focuses exclusively on what it takes to become a pilot, attending a flight school can be a faster route to licensure. This involves sufficient flight experience as well as written, oral, and pilot exam preparation. Student pilots perform take-off and landing techniques while studying helicopter controls. Pilots first learn on simulators, then with the help of an instructor. When the instructor determines that the student is ready, solo flights are conducted.

how to become a helicopter pilot

Secure financial aid

For people interested in becoming pilots, several flying schools and private firms provide loans, such as the Career Training Loan. Some trade associations can provide chances for training, education, or scholarships. Candidates who do not want to go to school might join the military, which provides training and license in return for service. If you already have a fixed-wing pilot’s license, you can apply for a rotorcraft license as an add-on, which can lower your flight hours required.

how to become a helicopter pilot

Obtain the proper licenses

Helicopter pilots must first get a private license before moving on to a commercial license. Some pilots aspire to be Airline Transport Pilots, the FAA’s highest honor. Practice tests for all licenses are accessible on the FAA website. Individuals must be 17 years old to qualify for a private license, despite the fact that a 16-year-old can acquire certification. Daytime and nighttime flying hours, as well as dual and solo excursions, are all required for licensing.

Obtaining a private license

Pilots must meet the following requirements in order to obtain a private license:

  • You must be at least 17 years old to participate.
  • Pass the FAA written exam.
  • Log Flight time is 40 hours.

Once you meet the requirements, in order to receive the private helicopter pilot certificate, you must do the following.

how to become a helicopter pilot

The 40-hour flying duration includes:

  • 10 hours of solo flying.
  • Three hours of cross-country flying with a partner (teacher).
  • Flight time is three hours during the day and three hours at night.
  • Cross-country solo flight for three hours.
  • One cross-country flight of 75 nautical miles.
  • Three solo takeoffs and landings are possible.

After obtaining a private helicopter pilot license, pilots can broaden their career possibilities by furthering their education and training to acquire a commercial helicopter pilot license.

License for commercial use

Candidates must meet the following requirements in order to get a commercial helicopter license:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to participate.
  • Having a private pilot’s license is a must.
  • Medical certificate issued by the FAA.
  • Ground teaching in its entirety.
  • Pass the FAA’s written, oral, and practical examinations.
  • Complete one dual cross-country flight after 20 hours of dual flying instruction.
  • Complete one cross-country flight by yourself.
  • Complete 100 hours as pilot-in-command after 10 hours of instrument training and 10 hours of solo flight training.

Take the private license exam (private helicopter license)

The commercial pilot’s exam consists of 30-50 questions, and passing requires a score of at least 70%. Answering questions like recognizing the operations and elements of an aircraft, as well as executing maneuvers like resolving a crisis or explaining simple points of procedure, are all part of the flying exam. Planning and performing a short flight with the instructor beside the student pilot is part of the flying test. If an error is made, the instructor can tell the pilot to restart the exam or retry a portion of it.

Pilot for a commercial airline

Pilots with the ATP qualification have a better chance of landing a job. This qualification necessitates significant flying experience and is usually obtained after a few years of commercial piloting experience.

Candidates must meet the following requirements to become an ATP:

  • Have a commercial pilot’s license or the equivalent.
  • Have a rating for your instrument.
  • To be eligible, you must be at least 23 years old.

Obtain 1,200 hours of flight time, including 500 hours of cross-country flying, 100 hours of nighttime flying with at least 15 hours in helicopters, 200 hours of flight time in helicopters with at least 75 hours as pilot-in-command, and 75 hours of instrument time, 50 of which were completed in-flight with at least 25 hours in helicopters.

Update your resume

A pilot’s resume should include how many flying hours they have, the aircraft they are familiar with, and any honors they have received during flight school. Some flight schools can supply pilots with résumé templates that incorporate all relevant flying and training details.

Common questions

The following are some frequently asked questions regarding becoming a helicopter pilot:

What math skills do helicopter pilots need?

When piloting rotorcraft, pilots must utilize a variety of arithmetic abilities. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus are all common topics. Students can enroll in college math programs or study independently using books or study aids designed particularly for pilots.

How much will education cost?

Becoming a helicopter pilot is an expensive endeavor. A residential license will cost between $10,000 and $15,000, and a business license will cost between $18,000 and $20,000. The cost of flight time training is usually $200 for a dual hour and $160 for a solo hour. Written examinations range in price from $200 to $500, while flight exams are around $500.

Should I attend flight school instead of college?

In lieu of regular college, helicopter pilot applicants might attend flight school. Scholarships or career possibilities as flight instructors can be available through flying schools. Flight schools provide the extra benefit of allowing students to earn both a degree and a pilot’s license at the same time.

What is the training and work like?

Helicopter pilots’ initial employment is usually as a flying teacher at a training school. This allows you to earn money while gaining valuable flight experience. Flight instructing is a fun and difficult way to improve your airmanship and aeronautical knowledge. The first job pilots typically receive is a role as a flight instructor.

Is it possible to get a private pilot’s license without a high school diploma?

To enroll in flight school, you must have at least a GED certificate.

how to become a helicopter pilot

What is an instrument rating?

Pilots with an instrument rating are able to fly in low visibility conditions. Instrument meteorological conditions, or IMC, is another name for this grade. Pilots must have at least 40 hours of instrument flying time and 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilots in charge to be considered.

What can I expect from helicopter pilot training?

Prepare to finish your studies and meet all training requirements once you begin.


Pilots must continue to fly in order to improve their abilities since they will deteriorate if not trained on a regular basis. Pilots must keep up to current on flying procedures and regulations, and they can be evaluated on a regular basis.


Depending on how frequently you can complete flying training, you can get a private license in roughly three months. Pilots often fly two to three times a week, in addition to classroom preparation. Pilots can maintain their skill competence and build on prior lessons via classroom and flying instruction. Pilots can overcome learning plateaus or assist where they are having difficulty by taking sufficient time to study.

how to become a helicopter pilot

Favorite Resources

Our favorite resources are included below.

Job interview resources

Resume and cover letter resources

Job search resources

free interview question and answer full guide

Interview Question and Answer Guide (PDF)

Download our full interview preparation guide. Complete with common interview questions and example answers. Free download. No email required.

Download PDF