How Hard Is It To Be A Helicopter Pilot?

It’s far more difficult than you hope it will be and nowhere near as easy as some flight schools promise that it will be.

Learning to fly a helicopter (rotary-wing aircraft)  is much harder than learning to fly an airplane (fixed-wing aircraft) as the way they fly is completely different, and mastering the controls of a helicopter involves learning a completely different set of skills.  

The principles of flight that rotary-wing aircraft are governed by are far more complex and involving than those that control fixed-winged flight and in order to fly a helicopter, a prospective pilot needs to learn and fully understand them.

How Hard Is It To Be A Helicopter Pilot

The controls are also more intricate and unlike an airplane, a helicopter pilot doesn’t have the luxury of relying on an autopilot system and unless they’re flying an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) equipped chopper, they have to remain in constant control of their aircraft.

In order to become a helicopter pilot, you’ll need at least forty-five hours of training and flight tuition and will need to pass at least seven written examinations.

When you’ve completed both, you’ll get your pilot’s license, but if you want to fly for a living, you’ll need to log hundreds of hours of flying time before most employers will even consider hiring you to fly for them.

Experience and ability matter, and in order to add both to your resume, you’ll need to find a way to get those hours under your belt, which is usually expensive and time-consuming. 

Do You Need A College Degree To Be A Helicopter Pilot?

You don’t need a degree to learn to fly a helicopter and become a licensed pilot, but if you want to fly a helicopter for a living, and find employment as a pilot it might be beneficial to do so.

A lot of employers require their pilots to have degrees in either engineering or science-based subjects like physics or mathematics, and if you do have a degree in any of these subjects it’ll exponentially increase your chances of finding a job as a chopper pilot. 

However, if you don’t have a degree, you could always follow the other option that’s open to anyone who wants to learn to fly a helicopter, and you could attend a flight school instead.

Helicopter Pilot

Flight schools are geared toward teaching you everything that you’ll need to know in order to fly a helicopter and will help to guide you through everything that you’ll need to know in order to pass the written exams and apply the principles of flight to the everyday requirements of life as a helicopter pilot.

They’ll teach you to fly in a simulator, and once your instructors are satisfied that you’re ready, you’ll learn to fly in the real world on accompanied flights in a helicopter.

But you’ll only be allowed to fly solo when your instructors think you’re able to do so.

While it’s a much quicker route to earning your helicopter pilot license and doesn’t involve going to college for three years to earn a degree that you might not want or have any other need for, it can be almost as expensive as college is and can leave you with a similarly large debt. 

And it’s also worth remembering that trying to get a loan for flight school is far more arduous than getting a loan for college is. 

What Education Is Needed To Become A Helicopter Pilot? 

The level of education that you need to become a helicopter pilot depends entirely on what you plan to do with your life as a pilot after you qualify and earn your license.  

If you only want to fly for personal reasons and your own pleasure and enjoyment, then as long as you can understand and conquer the basic principles of flight that you’ll need in order to take to the air in a helicopter, then you’ll be able to fly regardless of your level of education. 

But, with the aviation industry becoming ever more competitive, and with more military-trained pilots seeking employment after they’ve finished their service, the competition for any, and all, jobs as a helicopter pilot is becoming increasingly fierce.

Most employers will insist that you have a degree that is somehow related to flight (engineering, science, or maths) and won’t even look at your resume if it doesn’t have a college listed on it. 

Even if you’ve attended flight school and put the hours behind the stick in, if you want to fly professionally, the only way you’ll really be able to do so, is if you have a degree. 

Becoming a helicopter pilot is one of the many careers that, regardless of whatever else you might have heard, really does require you to have a degree. 

Is Becoming A Helicopter Pilot Worth It?

That all depends on your definition of “worth it” and what becoming a pilot means to you. On a purely personal level, as a career and a job, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Instead of sitting behind a desk for the next forty years, punching numbers for a nameless corporation, you’ll get to soar through the skies and, if you work for one of the emergency services who employ helicopter pilots, you’ll also become a first responder, help other people, and will almost certainly save more lives than you’ll ever be able to remember. 

From a financial perspective, though whether or not being a helicopter pilot is worth it is solely dependent on how much you’d like to earn.

In two thousand and nineteen, the Office of Statistics reported that the lowest-paid helicopter pilots earned just under forty thousand dollars per year, while the highest-paid pilots earned close to one hundred and eighty thousand dollars per annum.

As amounts go, the former is respectable and the latter is more than desirable, which means that we’d have to admit that yes, it absolutely is worth it to become a helicopter pilot. 

Can Anyone Learn To Fly A Helicopter?

Providing that they have the right level of education or enough financial means to pay for flight school, then yes, anyone can learn to become a helicopter pilot.

There are no height requirements, no gender restrictions, and learning to fly a helicopter isn’t hindered by any of the other boundaries that society insists on placing on so many of the available job and career opportunities.

If you want to fly a helicopter and have either the money or education or both, to learn how to fly, then you can become a helicopter pilot.   

The only things that might stop you from fulfilling your dreams are continental medical conditions that’ll prevent you from passing the medical tests and examinations that you’ll need to take, color blindness, or eyesight issues. But if none of those things are an issue, you'll be able to take the skies the same way as any other prospective helicopter pilot can.  

Can You Fly A Helicopter Without A Licence? 

As long as you’ve learned how to fly a helicopter, then yes you can fly one without a license. But you won’t be able to legally fly without a license, and if you try to fly solo without a license you could end up facing some serious prison time.  

Without a license you won’t be able to get insurance, you won't be able to file a flight plan with the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) and you won’t be able to find employment as a pilot.

So yes, you can fly a helicopter without a license, but you’d have to be crazy to attempt to do so.  

How Many Hours A Week Does A Helicopter Pilot Fly? 

The amount of time that a helicopter pilot can fly during a week is governed strictly by the number of hours that they’re allowed to fly before they need to rest and how many hours of rest they need before they can fly again.   

FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) regulations state that a helicopter pilot can fly for up to fourteen hours a day, but needs ten hours of rest after they have done so.

So, theoretically, and as long as they were following the FAA rules to the letter, a helicopter pilot could fly up to ninety-eight hours a week.   

While they could, legally, file that many hours of flight time every week, no sane helicopter pilot would even attempt to do so.

Most pilots wouldn’t even think about flying more than sixty hours a week as they wouldn’t want to endanger their own life or the lives of their passengers and colleagues.