CAREER PILOT GUIDE - Colorado Heliops
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Become a Helicopter Pilot!

You will find that helicopters are one of the most remarkable forms of transportation out there.  Being a helicopter Pilot takes a lot of time, skill and dedication.

There are many different types of jobs available as a Helicopter Pilot such as: Flight instructor, Test Pilot, Fire fighter, Offshore oil rig Pilot, Law enforcement, Agriculture, Pipeline and survey Pilot, Air charter Pilot, Sightseeing, Fishing and fish spotting Pilot, Emergency medical services Pilot, Search and rescue, Logging and long line Pilot, Cargo lift, News media, Photography, and Aerial surveying are a few of the areas Helicopter Pilots work in.


Helicopter Pilots salaries vary greatly by industry, location and type of helicopter flown.  Typically a commercial helicopter Pilot will make anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on your flight time and experience. Commercial Helicopter Pilots with enough experience can easily make over $100,000 a year. Depending on the company and the type of equipment used. So, if you’re really interested in becoming a career helicopter Pilot, please read the following steps:

Lets briefly go through the steps you will take to become a Commercial Helicopter Pilot
Phase 1

You need to make sure that you will like flying in a helicopter before you start your helicopter lessons.  Flying a helicopter is much different then flying an airplane.  Most helicopter training schools offer an introductory helicopter flight.  At Heli-ops the cost of an introductory discovery flight starts at $200, depending on the aircraft flown, and will last about half an hour or more.  This time will also count toward your helicopter Pilot’s license.

Call us to schedule your introductory flight.

Phase 2

You need to do some research on helicopter flight schools.  Research all the flight schools that suit your needs and wants- don’t just look at Colorado Heli-Ops.

Here are a couple things we suggest from our experience:

  1. Cost of helicopter training and financial aid options
  2. What types of helicopters are used for training?
  3. What kind of availability do the instructors and helicopters have?
  4. Instructor credentials, ie how many hours do the helicopter instructors have?
  5. What are the Insurance requirements?
  6. How many hours does the typical student take to get the helicopter Pilot License?
  7. Are there any hidden charges like fuel surcharges?
Phase 3

Do you have the basic requirements to start your helicopter training?

You can start your helicopter training at any age.  You can only solo the helicopter at 16 years of age and then get your private Pilot helicopter license at 17 years of age.

Eligibility requirements for your Student Pilot’s Certificate: (you do not need a student Pilot’s certificate to take helicopter flying lessons, you only need it once you’re ready to solo the helicopter):

  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • You must be able to read, speak and understand English
  • You must hold at least a current third-class medical certificate.

You will also need an FAA medical certificate before you solo.  You will get this medical certificate from a designated FAA Medical Examiner, not your family doctor.

There are three classes of medical certificates:

  1. First Class Medical: Required for Airline Transport Pilots; good for 6 months if you are over 40, 12 months if you are under 40.
  2. Second Class Medical: Required for Commercial Pilots; good for 12 months.
  3. Third class medical: Required for private and student Pilots; this certificate is valid for 24 months if the holder is over 40, and 60 months is the holder is under 40.
Phase 4

Start on your first license the Private Pilot Helicopter License. With the private Pilot helicopter license you will be able to fly a helicopter any time you want, go anywhere you want and fly with anyone you want- you just can’t get paid for it.  The minimum amount of hours required by the FAA to get your Private Pilot Helicopter License is 40 hours of helicopter flight time; the national average is about 60 hours of helicopter flight time. Here are a few other requirements:

FAA Part 61 Helicopter Private Pilot Certification Requirements

For a Helicopter Rating:

Dual flight training of 20 hours helicopter flight training with an instructor on the Private Pilot areas of operation that includes:

  • 3  hours of cross-country flight training in a helicopter
  • 3  hours of night flight training in a helicopter, that includes at least:
    • 1 cross-country flight of over 50 nautical miles total distance; and
    • 10 takeoffs and 10 landings with each involving a flight in the traffic pattern
    • 3hours of flight training in a helicopter within the preceding 60 days prior to the practical test.
  • Solo: 10 hours of solo flying in a helicopter on the Private Pilot areas of operation, that includes:
    • 3 hours of solo cross-country flying;
    • 1 solo cross-country flight of at least 75 nautical miles total distance with 3 points and one segment of at least 25 nautical miles between takeoff and landing; and
    • 3 takeoffs and landings at a controlled airport

The private Pilot helicopter test consists of a written test (taken on a computer), oral test (one on one with an FAA Designated Examiner) and finally your flight test (also with an FAA Designated Examiner).  Once you pass all three tests in that order, you will be a licensed helicopter Pilot.   If you want to get paid for flying a helicopter you will have to complete the fifth step.

Phase 5

You will now need to build your helicopter flight hours to become a Commercial Helicopter Pilot. You will need to accumulate at least 150 hours of helicopter flight time to be eligible to obtain your Commercial Helicopter License.  If you plan on getting a job flying helicopters, you will need the commercial license- you cannot fly for hire without it.

During this time most people attain an Instrument Rating. This rating increases your experience, knowledge and skill level exponentially. An instrument rating allows you to complete a flight in less than perfect weather conditions.

Phase 6

By this phase you will have the required hours to become a Commercial Pilot. Other qualifications are Class 1 or 2 FAA Pilots Medical Certification as discussed earlier.

FAA Part 61 Commercial Helicopter Pilot Requirements

Total Helicopter Flight Time: 150 hours of flight time as a helicopter Pilot that consists of at least:

  • 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in helicopters.
  • 100 hours of Pilot in command flight time, that includes at least:
    • 35 hours in helicopters; and 10 hours in cross-country flying in helicopters
    • Dual: 20 hours of flight training on the Commercial Pilot areas of operation that includes at least 10 hours of instrument training in an aircraft;
    • 1 cross-country of 2 hours in a helicopter in day VFR conditions of a total straight line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the departure point;
    • 1 cross-country of 2 hours in a helicopter in night VFR conditions of a total straight line distance of more than 3 hours of flight training in a helicopter within the preceding 60 days prior to the practical test.
  • Solo: 10 hours of solo flying in a helicopter on the Commercial Pilot areas of operation, that includes at least:
    • One cross-country flight with 3 points of landings of a straight line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from original departure point; and
    • 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings at a controlled airport
Phase 7

During this phase you will build more helicopter time by working on advanced maneuvers in preparation to instruct others. Most Pilots decide to get their flight instructors certificate so that they can teach other students in order to build hours and gain experience while getting paid for it.

Search for a job, click here to see some of the jobs out in the market place right now.

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