Building a career as a helicopter pilot
PUBLISHED: 16:14 22 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:14 22 January 2014
A career as a helicopter pilot can be incredibly rewarding, but it's important to understand that training for a licence is by no means an easy task
To fly is heavenly, to hover is divine - a memorable statement that is well known to most helicopter pilots. I personally believe that working as a commercial helicopter pilot is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. However, trying to train for a commercial helicopter licence whist in a full-time job - which must not only cover everyday expenses, but also fund the training needed - is a massive task. There is help and impartial advice available, but a good understanding of the long road ahead is worth its weight in gold. The modular route, described below, is the friendliest in terms of time and flexibility for a working person to use.
The first hurdle is the PPL (H). The quality of your PPL training will decide if you have a long or short career flying helicopters. Over the last thirty years I have seen the PPL standards increase immeasurably. You must appreciate that the 45 hours of training is a minimum requirement and most people will take at least sixty hours to achieve a good pass on the skills test.
Next is the hour building to 155 hours. An instructor should give you guidance with plenty of well planned exercises and accurate navigation flights in order to help you achieve CPL standards. During this time most people also study at home for the written exams. The flexibility of how many you can take at each sitting and the number of sittings available - plus the high standard of material from ground training organisations - normally means that the success rate is very high.
The 35-hour CPL modular course will pair you with a strict instructor, who will sharpen your skills and prepare you for the world of safe public transport operations and commercial attitudes. Most people complete the course in the minimum hours, especially if they have had good guidance whilst hour building.
Once you pass the CPL skills test you will need to decide which career route you want to go down. Broadly speaking there are two. Firstly you can do a Multi Engine type rating and the IR course. You will normally find a job as First Officer with a large operation quite quickly. It could be in the UK flying to oil platforms or abroad doing similar work. Either way the demand for pilots is growing quickly, especially in the emerging nations.
The other route is to stay on the aircraft you have done your training on and develop your skills to become an instructor. You will need to build your hours to 250 and complete the thirty-hour instructor course. Drumming safety into budding pilots is a never-ending job and it rubs off on your own flying as well. Even if you move onto larger aircraft, as you approach the magic age of sixty you may want to carry on flying. Instruction is the only way of maintaining a regular income into the later years of your divine career. Best of luck.