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How to Convert from Fixed Wing to Helicopter

If you're a fixed-wing pilot who's ever dreamed of soaring to new heights in a helicopter, you're not alone. Helicopters are incredibly versatile aircraft that can be used for a wide range of missions, from law enforcement and search and rescue to aerial photography and videography.


But before you can take to the skies in a helicopter, there are a few things you need to do. Converting from fixed-wing to helicopter flying can be a challenging process, but it's also incredibly rewarding.



Commercial Pilot License Add-On


If you already hold a commercial pilot license in a fixed-wing aircraft, you can earn a commercial pilot add-on rating for helicopters. This rating allows you to fly helicopters for hire.


Requirements


To earn a commercial pilot add-on rating for helicopters, you must:

  • Hold a commercial pilot license in a fixed-wing aircraft

  • Have at least 250 hours of total flight time, including at least 100 hours in powered aircraft (e.g., fixed-wing, etc.)

  • Pass a written exam and practical test


Training


Most commercial pilot add-on rating programs for helicopter pilots take between 50 and 70 hours of flight time to complete. The training typically includes:

  • Emergency procedures training

  • Training on the areas of operation listed in FAR 61.127(b)(3)

  • Instrument flight training

  • Solo flight training


Checkride


Once you have completed your training, you will need to pass a checkride with an FAA examiner. The checkride will evaluate your knowledge of helicopter aerodynamics, regulations, and flight planning, as well as your flying skills.


Benefits


Earning a commercial pilot add-on rating for helicopters can open up many new career opportunities for you. Helicopter pilots are in high demand in a variety of industries, including:


  • Law enforcement

  • Search and rescue

  • Aerial photography and videography

  • Corporate aviation

  • Medical transport


Instrument Rating Add-On


If you already hold a commercial pilot license with an instrument rating in a fixed-wing aircraft, you can earn an instrument rating add-on for helicopters. This rating allows you to fly helicopters in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).


Conclusion


Converting from fixed-wing to helicopter flying can be a challenging but rewarding experience. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goal of becoming a commercial helicopter pilot or instrument-rated helicopter pilot.


Additional tips for fixed-wing pilots


  • Get as much flight experience as possible. The more flight experience you have, the better prepared you will be for the conversion process.

  • Study helicopter flight dynamics. This will help you to understand the differences between fixed-wing and helicopter flying.

  • Get a flight simulator. A flight simulator can be a great way to practice your helicopter flying skills without having to risk your life or your wallet.

  • Find a mentor. A mentor is a more experienced helicopter pilot who can help you with the conversion process.


With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to becoming a commercial helicopter pilot or instrument-rated helicopter pilot and soaring to new heights!

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