How do I become a commercial or private helicopter pilot?

Fecha de publicación: 10/07/2023
Fecha de modificación: 21/03/2024

If you are interested in the world of aviation, have you ever wondered how to become a helicopter pilot and what are the necessary requirements to obtain a license to fly these aircraft? 

Flying a helicopter, in addition to it being a great responsibility, just like flying any other aircraft, is an exhilarating adventure and a wonderful profession for those who love heights. The sensation when flying a helicopter is much like that of being suspended in midair and offers an exceptional experience; each day will bring a different adventure with new landscapes to enjoy. 

Let us tell you about the courses we offer to get to fly helicopters! 

What do I have to study to fly a helicopter? 

To be able to pilot a helicopter you need to obtain a pilot license, whether it be private (PPL), commercial (CPL), or an airline transport pilot license (ATPL), which you can acquire by taking a helicopter pilot course. 

 

Training, which will be divided into various phases, must include a section solely devoted to the basic theory of which you will take official exams before entering the practical phase of the course. You will then accumulate flight hours, the more hours, the more qualified and trained you will be to take the role as pilot in command (PIC) of a helicopter. 

In general, a helicopter pilot course includes a flight program that is composed of real flight time in a helicopter and/or a synthetic flight trainer. Whatever is learned in the air will then be reinforced with a simulator formation program, with which you will learn to fly helicopters with exclusive reference to cockpit instruments and to operate the aircraft as you would in real life. 

Types of helicopter pilot licenses 

There are three different types of licenses that you can get to fly a helicopter. Obtaining one or the other will depend on the objectives and path you wish to follow in the piloting world. 

Private Pilot License (PPL):

Becoming a helicopter pilot doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to work for remuneration, since with a PPL license you are only authorized to fly for leisure or as a hobby, without dedicating yourself to it on a professional level. 

 

 

Commercial Pilot License (CPL):

This is the title you need if you wish to work as a professional helicopter pilot, while also being able to carry passengers, which the PPL would not allow you to do. However, you must not forget that this license has certain limitations, as it is only valid for single-pilot helicopters of no more than 4,000 kg. 

 

 

Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL):

This is the most complete and complex license to fly a helicopter. Being ATPL-licensed will allow you to fly aircraft exceeding 4,000 kg. 

Requirements to become a helicopter pilot. 

Among the main requirements to take training and then become a helicopter pilot are the following: 

  • Having obtained a High School or Baccalaureate Diploma: otherwise, a specific mathematics and physics exam must be taken and passed. 
  • Be at least 18 when taking the practical exam. As for the PPL, it is valid at 17 years of age. 
  • Class I medical examination: Composed of various physical tests, including ophthalmology and hearing, an electrocardiogram, and a blood test to monitor numerous parameters, as required by COPAC (Colegio Oficial de Pilotos de la Aviación Comercial). Afterwards, and depending on the pilot’s age, the certificate must be revalidated periodically. Under the age of 60 it is revalidated annually while over 60 (or for single-pilot operations 40) this is done every six months. 
  • Class II medical examination: This applies to PPL students and pilots. This certificate is not as restrictive as Class I, but the pilot must still be physically and mentally fit to be able to make use of the privileges the license offers. 
  • Knowledge of the English language: According to COPAC, the pilot must speak English at a level that allows them to seamlessly carry out daily flight operations, especially during stressful and emergency situations. Therefore, and even though some flight schools do not require a certain level of English, speaking English fluently is valued before starting your training. 

How much do helicopter pilots get paid? 

The salary of a helicopter pilot in Spain is very dependent on the company, the job, or your amount of flight experience, hence why it can vary greatly. The working conditions can also be hugely different and depend on a wide range of factors, which is why it is complicated to answer this question with a specific salary. 

In general, and quite probably being imprecise, a captain can earn anywhere from 50,000€ to 80,000€ before taxes and including salary and diets. Copilots, also considering that this is very dependent on many factors, around 60% to 80% of the mentioned amounts. 

Outside of Spain, in Europe or the US for example, a helicopter pilot may even earn up to double the salary mentioned above. 

 

Discover how you can become a commercial or private helicopter pilot
Discover how you can become a commercial or private helicopter pilot

 

What type of subjects are there for the helicopter pilot license? 

The theory program that you will face to obtain one of the three mentioned licenses can include the study of subjects such as air law, flight planning, meteorology, navigation, operational procedures, or VFR+IFR communications, amongst others. 

Choose the school that suits you best. 

At European Flyers, we offer you three ways to take helicopter pilot courses: integrated courses, modular courses, and online courses, all while adapting to your schedule and specific needs. Get to know our school, its working philosophies, and its professionals; we are the only European flight training center of reference in the training of helicopter, airplane, and drone pilots. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information. 

We can help you achieve your dream, and don’t forget, a pilot never stops learning! 

What professional opportunities can a helicopter pilot opt for? 

Piloting these types of aircraft means a great deal of responsibility, and there is demand for helicopter pilots in a vast number of sectors, primarily governmental and rescue. 

A good helicopter pilot may have access to jobs such as: 

  • Firefighting 
  • Armed forces (Police, Civil Guard…) 
  • Maritime rescue 
  • Land rescue 
  • Mountain rescue 
  • Surveillance pilot in private or public companies 
  • Passenger transport 
  • Sanitary or health emergency transport 
  • Intercontinental private transport 
  • Flight instructor at flight schools 

Most of the options and jobs can apply either to the private sector or the public sector, being also applicable to not only Spanish territory, but also abroad. 

Additionally, if you only wish to obtain the helicopter pilot license for private flying, you can also make use of such for entertainment and leisure activities.