Learning to fly a helicopter is a challenging but rewarding pastime. Obtaining your licence provides an enormous sense of accomplishment and can even lead to a career. It can also provide a sense of liberation, expanding your social and recreational horizons.
Imagine being able to to make your way to any town or city UK without having to worry about traffic conditions, train times or having to spend hours going through airport security. Or being able to take friends or family across the channel to France or Belgium at a moment’s notice, enjoying spectacular views all along the way.
Successful completion of a course of helicopter pilot training provides you with additional transportation options far beyond those available with other vehicles. Unlike fixed wing aircraft, which require an airport or airfield, helicopters are far more flexible. From hotel gardens and racecourses to city-centre heli-pads and areas of private land, the possibilities are almost endless.
If you want to get an idea of what it’s like to fly one of these machines before you commit to a course of helicopter pilot training, you can take a trial lesson. You can start training from the age of 14 and fly solo from 16, although you won’t actually be able to gain a licence until you are at least 17. So long as you meet all the medical requirements, there is no upper age limit.
To obtain your private pilot’s licence for a helicopter, you need to log a minimum of 45 hours of flying, ten of which need to be solo. There are also seven written examinations that you will need to sit. Once you obtain your licence, you will be able to hire (or purchase) a helicopter to use for business or pleasure.
How long it takes to learn to fly a helicopter depends on how much time you have available to learn. Those students who are able to take lessons every day can expect to obtain their licence in four to six weeks. Regardless of how much time you have available, the time of year you choose to learn is also a factor, as flying is only possible when weather conditions are ideal.
In order to maintain your flying credentials, you will need to get behind the controls of a helicopter a minimum of two hours each month. That said, most companies that hire aircraft have a rule that, unless you have flown in the previous 30 days, you first need to take a brief ‘check’ flight with one of their instructors before taking a helicopter out on your own.
If you want to take your flying to the next stage, you can undertake additional training to convert your private licence into a commercial one, allowing you to fly larger and more advanced helicopters and even turn your hobby into a prestigious and exciting career.
Alice Aires is an aviation writer who contributes regularly to a range of flight-related magazines, websites and blogs. Fascinated with flying ever since she was a child, she has also worked as a commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor. Click here if you would like more information on learning to fly a helicopter.