There’s no doubt that being a helicopter pilot is seen as glamorous and dashing, with more than a hint of exclusivity and bravura. If you’re considering your first career move or are looking to retrain to pursue a job in these areas, we tell you what you need to know.
You’ll need a lot of determination and persistence for this career. Training is, naturally, extensive and can be expensive. Helicopters are incredibly complex machines and safety is at the heart of all training. Look for a flying school that is registered with or approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and which offer students the Joint Aviation Authority (JAA)’s Private Pilot’s Licence.
It’s recommended that you start with some basic helicopter lessons in order that you get the feel of flying and to determine whether it’s really the career for you. A minimum of 45 hours’ training is required before you can be issued with a private licence and there are also 7 written exams to complete, as well as practical skills tests. You will then need to build up 185 hours of self-flying before you can apply for a commercial licence. This involves more study and further exams and practical tests.
Training can be expensive, but the cost of helicopter lessons is falling in real terms. Unless you are lucky enough to procure corporate sponsorship for your training, you will have to fund it yourself. It can cost up to 10,000 to gain your Private Pilot’s Licence almost 45,000 for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, the cost of which can be spread over a period of time or as a more intensive training programme.
2. Employment Prospects
Experience is everything when it comes to gaining employment in this area. Most newly-qualified helicopter pilots start by offering their services to ‘position’ helicopters, which simply means getting them from their current location to a workshop for routine maintenance. It’s a good entry point from which to build up the necessary 1,000 hours of flying time you’ll need to secure a more permanent position.
Once you’ve built up your hours, there are a variety of roles that you can consider. The North Sea Oil Industry, for example, requires commercial pilots to ferry workers to and from the. Private helicopter pilots can procure work carrying rock stars, politicians, industrialists, premiership footballers and the like to exclusive destinations in the UK and worldwide. There is also the film and TV industry to consider, as well as flying for the emergency services or perhaps you might like the more relaxed approach of the tourism industry.
If you feel that you wish to have a career in this sector, make sure you get sound advice in the first instance. Reputable companies such as Central helicopters will offer you advice and information on all aspects of training and career prospects so you can be sure it’s what you want, from the outset.
Maria John writes regularly on career choices for a range of recruitment websites and blogs. She has many years’ experience in the aviation recruitment sector and has noted the rise in cost-effective helicopter pilot training available from companies such as Central helicopters, which enable people to establish careers they find fulfilling.