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Helicopter LicenseWhich Helicopter License and Ratings Will You Need?
By Kyle Garrett
Before starting your helicopter license training in the USA, aspiring pilots must first get an airman medical certificate from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated medical examiner. The medical exam is to ensure you're in good health, have good hearing, have 20/20 corrected or uncorrected vision, and don't have any other impairments that could prevent you from operating a rotorcraft. During training, you'll need to have a third class medical, but to fly as a commercial pilot, you must maintain a first or second class medical.
Next, as a minimum, helicopter pilots must earn both a private pilot license and a commercial pilot license. Many people choose to earn their private in airplanes because it can save some money. If you go this route, you'll still need to take helicopter-specific training, testing, and check rides to earn your rotorcraft category private pilot license. To earn a commercial pilot license, you need to have a minimum of 250 flight hours and be eighteen years old, so you'll need to build up flight hours after your private pilot license. Learn about helicopter pilot training.
Transitioning to CFI
After earning the commercial helicopter license, many helicopter pilots go on to get their certified flight instructor (CFI) certificate. With the CFI in hand, you'll be eligible to get a job as a flight instructor either at the school you attended or in your local area. A job as a flight instructor allows you to build up the hours you need, and get paid in doing so, to move on to your next helicopter pilot job.
Helicopter Pilot Specialty Training
Specialty training for helicopter pilots usually includes turbine transition training. Since many helicopters flown for hire are turbine engine powered, most pilots need specialized training on normal procedures, systems, and emergency procedures. You can expect 10 hours of ground training and 10 hours of flight training in your turbine transition course. Pilots flying large helicopters having a certified gross takeoff weight exceeding 12,500 lbs. will also be required to earn a type rating for that specific rotorcraft. Additional specialized training after earning your helicopter license can include high-altitude training, long-line / external load training, NVG (night vision goggles), and Part 135 tour operations.
Helicopter Pilot Currency
Helicopter pilots must also keep their licenses current by taking a bi-annual flight review with a CFI, and may be required to take recurrent training and FAA check rides depending on the type of operation in which they work. Learn more about helicopter pilot jobs.
More Helicopter Pilot Career And Training Info
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- Five Things To Consider Before Starting Helicopter Lessons
- Helicopter Pilot Careers
- Helicopter Pilot Training
- Helicopter Pilot Salary
- Helicopter Pilot Licenses and Ratings
- Helicopter Pilot Jobs
- Get the Most From Your Helicopter Flight School Experience
- Helicopter Schools - Three Ways to Maximize Your Training
- Helicopter Schools - Five Things to Consider
GI-Bill® and Veterans Benefits for Helicopter Pilot Training
Helicopter Financial Aid & Scholarship Links
- HelicopterScholarships.com - Helicopter training for UK pilots
- AOPA Online - AOPA Air Safety Foundation Scholarships
- EEA Young Eagles - Scholarships and Internships
- The Ninety-Nines, Inc. - Chapter & Section Scholarships
- Landings: Scholarships
- Helicopter Scholarships - Whirly Girls
- Vertical Flight Foundation - Scholarships
- Northeast Helicopters - Helicopter Training Scholarships
- Helicopter Foundation International - Scholarships
- Griffin Helicopters (UK) - Dennis Kenyon Jr Scholarship
- Aero Club of New England - Scholarships
- University Aviation Association - UAA Scholarships