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What you need to know before choosing a flight school

You have decided to join in the fun of the aviation world! Now you are researching helicopter flight schools and institutions and what you would need to do to become a helicopter pilot (also see blogpost How to become a helicopter pilot)

The good news is you DO NOT need any previous experience to become a helicopter pilot. All you need is a big dose of enthusiasm, a passion for making flying a career and to pass your FAA Medical exam. Then you need to train and gain your certifications and licenses.

You should do plenty of research before you decide which flight school is best for you. Then contact them to see if they can take you onboard as a student as most flying schools have limited spots. Don't forget to ask them a lot of questions! I am sure you want to know as much as possible before you commit yourself.

You will also have to decide if you will attend a flight school or a university. While you don't need an actual degree in order to earn your pilot's license, an associate's or a bachelor's degree will set you above the competition and help you land higher-paying jobs. By attending a flight school that is attached to a university, you might also be eligible for financial aid, scholarships and student loans. This might help you finance your studies, but keep in mind if you do go for a degree, it will take you 2-4 years to get, compared to flight school that will take as long as it takes you to get the necessary certifications to get your licenses.

The most basic certifications are the private helicopter license, the commercial helicopter license and an instrument rating.

Once you have earned these licenses and built up 200 flight hours, you can choose to enter the workforce and start earning money, or you can earn other certifications and build your hours and resume. If you stop with just these three licenses, it may be more difficult to find a job, since you won't be as qualified or as experienced as those competing for jobs.

Most students then go on to get their certified flight instructor and certified flight instructor and instrument. With these certifications you can get a job working as a flight instructor. This will help you build up your flight hours and earn some money.

Ideally you should do as much advanced training as possible to be more qualified to fly and to set yourself above the competition.

Some advanced training you could get include:

  • Turbine transition

  • External load (longline etc.)

  • Mountain operations

  • Night vision goggles

  • ATPL

When looking at a flight school, you should keep all these options in mind and make sure that they are able to offer you the training you need.

Have a look at our list of Helicopter Flight Schools here and see more options on our Instagram page as well.

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