How to Get Your Helicopter License and Become a Helicopter Pilot (Step By Step)

How to Get Your Helicopter License and Become a Helicopter Pilot (Step By Step)

Zachary Franklin |

Are you passionate about the sky, freedom and helicopter flight? With over 31,000 civilian helicopter pilots in the United States alone, this high-flying career is increasingly becoming a popular choice.

This blog post unravels the steps to earning your wings as a licensed helicopter pilot. Let's get started and bring your dream of soaring through the sky to reality!

Key Takeaways

  • To be eligible for a helicopter license, you must be at least 17 years old, obtain an FAA medical certificate, and pass an FAA written and oral exam.
  • The steps to getting your helicopter license include obtaining a student pilot certificate and medical certificate, completing ground school, logging the minimum flight time required by the FAA, passing the written exam, and passing the check ride.
  • Obtaining a helicopter license requires both financial investment in flight school fees and fuel costs as well as a significant time commitment depending on the type of license you are pursuing.

Eligibility Requirements for a Helicopter License

To be eligible for a helicopter license, you must be at least 17 years old, obtain an FAA medical certificate, and pass an FAA written and oral exam.


Be at least 17 years of age

Aspiring helicopter pilots need to meet the age threshold. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all private pilot applicants to be at least 17 years old. This requirement ensures that you have acquired sufficient maturity to handle the challenges of flying a helicopter safely and effectively.

The same rule applies if you want to go solo for your private helicopter license. However, interestingly, flight schools can start training students as young as sixteen. So, even though you can't get your license until seventeen, there's no harm in being pro-active and starting the learning process a year early!

Obtain an FAA medical certificate

Securing an FAA medical certificate is a crucial step in getting your helicopter license. This certification confirms that you are physically and mentally fit to operate an aircraft.

You begin the process by scheduling an appointment with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), who conducts a comprehensive health check up.

The AME examines your vision, hearing, mental health, and overall physical condition before issuing a certification. It's important to note that the type of medical certificate required can vary depending on specific helicopter pilot requirements – be it private or commercial licensing.

The rigorous checks ensure safety, not just for the pilots but also for passengers and crews onboard.

Pass an FAA written and oral exam

Cracking the FAA written and oral exam stands as a significant milestone on your path to becoming a certified helicopter pilot. First, you'll need to demonstrate your knowledge of aviation rules, navigation practices, safety procedures and more through a stringent written examination.

Your preparation for this should ideally involve rigorous study sessions at ground school or through an approved flight training program. Following this, you'll need to navigate an in-depth oral test focused on real-life scenarios that could occur during flights.

This tests your ability to make sound decisions under pressure. Both exams require thorough preparation and complete understanding of helicopter operations if success is the goal.

Steps To Getting Your Helicopter License

To obtain your helicopter license, you need to follow a few important steps.

Obtain a student pilot certificate and medical certificate

To start your journey towards obtaining a helicopter license, the first step is to obtain a student pilot certificate and medical certificate. The student pilot certificate allows you to begin your flight training, while the medical certificate ensures that you are physically fit to fly.

These certificates are essential requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for anyone aspiring to become a helicopter pilot. Remember, it's important to meet these eligibility requirements before proceeding with any further steps in your helicopter pilot training.

Complete ground school

To obtain a helicopter license, one of the important steps is to complete ground school. This phase of training involves learning about the theory and principles of flying a helicopter.

In ground school, aspiring pilots study subjects such as aerodynamics, weather patterns, navigation techniques, and regulations. It provides the necessary knowledge foundation for safe and successful flight operations.

During this time, students also learn how to read aviation charts, interpret weather forecasts, and understand airspace rules. Ground school plays a crucial role in preparing pilots for their written exam and check ride by equipping them with essential theoretical knowledge.

Log the minimum flight time

To obtain a helicopter license, it is crucial to log the minimum flight time required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This typically involves flying at least 40 hours, including 20 hours of flight training with an instructor and 3 hours of solo flight time.

The purpose of logging these hours is to ensure that you have gained enough practical experience and confidence in operating a helicopter. It's important to note that the specific requirements may vary depending on the type of license you are pursuing, so it's recommended to check with your flight school or the FAA for accurate information.

Pass the written exam

To obtain a helicopter license, you'll need to pass the written exam administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This exam tests your knowledge of various topics related to helicopter operation and safety.

You will be assessed on areas such as airspace rules, weather conditions, navigation procedures, emergency protocols, and aircraft systems. It's crucial to study diligently and understand these concepts thoroughly in order to successfully pass the written exam.

By demonstrating your knowledge through this exam, you'll prove that you have a solid understanding of key aviation principles essential for safe helicopter flying.

Pass the check ride

To obtain your helicopter license, you will need to pass the check ride. During this examination, an FAA-designated examiner will evaluate your skills and knowledge as a pilot. You must demonstrate proficiency in various flight maneuvers and emergency procedures.

The examiner will also assess your understanding of aviation regulations and safety protocols. It is crucial to be well-prepared for the check ride by practicing regularly and studying all relevant materials.

Remember that passing the check ride is an important milestone towards becoming a certified helicopter pilot.

Cost and Time Involved in Obtaining Helicopter License

Obtaining a helicopter license requires both time and financial investment.



Obtaining a helicopter license involves certain costs that aspiring pilots should be aware of. The total cost can vary depending on factors such as flight school fees, fuel costs, and the number of flight hours required by the FAA.

It is essential to consider these expenses when planning for your helicopter pilot training journey. Keep in mind that the overall cost will be influenced by whether you pursue a private or commercial helicopter license, so it's important to clarify which type you intend to obtain with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Breaking Down the Costs of a Helicopter License

Pilot Certificate Total Cost
Private Helicopter Pilot $23,000
Commercial Helicopter Pilot $42,000 to $48,000
Certified Flight Instructor  $38,000 to $70,000

The First Step: Private Pilot License (PPL)

Imagine your private license as your ticket to the world of professional aviation. According to our friends at PilotTeacher, you're looking at around 60 hours and $23,000 to grab hold of your Helicopter Private Pilot Certificate. Here's how that breaks down:

  • Flight training: $20,000
  • Examinations: $1,150
  • Ground study training: $1,200
  • Extras (think headset, books, flight training materials): $400-$500

But hold on, suggests the cost for a PPL can be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. So, the final cost? It'll depend on where and how you train.

Climbing Higher: Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

Once you've got your PPL, you might want to start making some money from your flying skills. Enter the CPL. estimates that you'll need an extra $18,000 to $20,000 to get the training and hours required for a CPL. Upper Limit Aviation sings a similar tune, putting a CPL at an additional $30,000-$33,000 on top of the PPL. So we're talking a total of $42,000-$48,000.

Going the Extra Mile: Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Rating

Maybe you're not just content with flying. Maybe you want to teach others how to touch the sky. For that, you'll need a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating. PilotMall suggests setting aside between $38,000 and $70,000 for this.

The Fine Print: Additional Costs

But wait, there's more. There are other costs that can pilot their way into your budget. Things like the rate for the helicopter and the flight instructor, which can vary based on the specific aircraft flown and the school's rates (PilotTeacher). Plus, you've got to consider costs for written tests, aircraft rentals, simulator rentals, and the fee for the Designated Pilot Examiner, which aren't included in the estimates above (FlyHAA).

Easing the Financial Load: Financing Options

Here's the good news. Most flight schools let you pay as you go for your training, which can help take some weight off your wallet. There are also other possibilities like third-party financing options, government programs, and college degree options to help you fund your dream (FlyHAA).

Remember, these costs are estimates, and the actual figures will vary based on different factors. It's always a good idea to get in touch with the flight schools you're eyeing to get a more accurate estimate. So, ready to take off?

How Long Will it Take To Get Your Helicopter License?

Obtaining a helicopter license requires a significant investment of time. The duration of the process can vary depending on factors such as individual progress and the flight school you choose.

It is important to check with your specific flight school for accurate information regarding the timeline. Private helicopter license requirements usually involve logging at least 40 hours of flight time, including 20 hours with an instructor and 3 hours flying solo.

Commercial licenses may require additional training and flight hours. Keep in mind that each type of license has its own set of requirements, so it's crucial to clarify your intended license type when considering the time commitment involved in becoming a certified helicopter pilot.

Your Dream Helicopter Flight Career is Just a Few Steps Away

In conclusion, obtaining a helicopter license requires meeting the eligibility requirements set by the FAA, completing ground school and flight training, and passing written and practical exams.

It is important to consider the cost and time involved in this process. With dedication, commitment, and proper training, you can embark on an exciting journey as a certified helicopter pilot.


Q: What type of pilot license do I need to fly a helicopter?

A: To fly a helicopter, you will need to obtain a helicopter pilot license. This license is specifically designed for operating helicopters and is different from a fixed-wing pilot license.

Q: What are the requirements to obtain a helicopter license?

A: To obtain a helicopter license, you must be at least 17 years old, hold a valid medical certificate, complete the required flight training hours, pass written and practical exams, and meet other specific requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Q: How many flight hours do I need to qualify for a helicopter license?

A: The FAA requires a minimum of 40 total flight hours for a Private Pilot Helicopter License. This includes both solo and instructor-led flights, as well as cross-country flying.

Q: Can I use my fixed-wing pilot's license to fly helicopters?

A: No, flying helicopters requires a separate license specifically for rotary-wing aircraft. While having experience with fixed-wing aircraft may provide some advantages in terms of general aviation knowledge, you will still need additional training and examinations specific to helicopters.

Q: How long does it take to get a helicopter license?

A: The time it takes to obtain your helicopter license can vary depending on various factors such as your availability for training and weather conditions but on average, it may take around 6-12 months or more of consistent training and practice to meet the necessary requirements and gain proficiency in handling helicopters.

Q: Can I become a helicopter pilot with no prior flying experience?

A: Yes, you can become a helicopter pilot even if you have no prior flying experience. Flight schools offer training programs for individuals with no flying experience, allowing them to start from scratch.

Q: Is there an age limit to become a helicopter pilot?

A: There is no upper age limit to become a helicopter pilot. 

Q: What are the different levels of helicopter pilot licenses?

A: The different levels of helicopter pilot licenses include private pilot, commercial pilot, and airline transport pilot. Each license comes with specific privileges and requirements.

Q: How much does it cost to become a helicopter pilot?

A: The cost of becoming a helicopter pilot can vary depending on factors such as the flight school you choose, the number of flight hours required, and additional training fees. On average, you can expect to spend between $20,000 and $40,000.

Q: Can I pursue a career as a helicopter pilot?

A: Absolutely! Becoming a helicopter pilot opens up a wide range of career opportunities, including working as a flight instructor, flying for commercial purposes, or even pursuing a career with an airline.

Q: Can I fly a helicopter on my own after obtaining a pilot license?

A: Yes, once you obtain your pilot license, you will be able to fly a helicopter on your own as long as you adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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