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How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

Updated on July 7, 2015

If you enjoy the idea of flying aircraft for a living, then why not entertain the idea and really jump into a career! Just imagine flying in the sky, with the perfect view of everything down below. You are one with the birds and the sky; it can be a very rewarding job!

You have made it here because you would like to know how to become a helicopter pilot. You will probably need to know about the education and training needed, about finding a job, and the salary one may earn while flying helicopters for a living.


Education and Training

Although it would be nice to just jump into a helicopter and fly one flawlessly without first learning how to become a helicopter pilot, it’s just not possible. First, you will need to take a course to earn your license, which is the Rotorcraft-Helicopter Private Pilot Rating, and then you will need to go on to earn your Commercial Pilot Rating.

Rotorcraft-Helicopter Private Pilot Rating and your Commercial Pilot Rating can be obtained by attending a designated school. You can find a school by searching the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) website here. Start by finding schools near you to see if they offer what you need.

The amount of time it takes you to obtain your licenses all depends on how often you fly. You will likely pay per hour for the airtime, and the minimum airtime requirement for your private license is 40 hours, and it can be more depending on how you fly. Of course, it’s more hours to be able to fly a commercial helicopter--150 minimum hours in with x amount of hours in a few specific areas. As you can imagine, this can get pretty pricey as flight instruction rates average around $250/hour, which brings me to my next point: Scholarships and grants.

Financial aid

You, like many college students, do not have the funds to go to school, so looking into getting scholarships or grants may be well worth your time. The FAA provides a section about this on their website here. You may also check with your bank or other financial institution for loans to help with funding school. If you are looking into a specific school, ask them about financial aid and see if they have any available resources or ideas.


Finding a Job

When it comes to all things aviation, there is always a bunch of options available. Once you have learned how to become a helicopter pilot, the two areas you’ll typically run into are military and civilian.

For military: Your best bet is to meet with the armed forces to learn about any opportunities that may be available to you. Expect to need a 4 year degree in order to enter any kind of military aviation training, and expect a wait. There are many people in line to fill such few spots, so it also helps to first obtain a Private Helicopter Rating first.

Being a military helicopter pilot, some of the opportunities that could be available to you include combat, search-and-rescue, military transportation,materials transportation, and general patrol.

For civilian: If you are opting against joining any armed forces, then you are probably interested in other opportunities. Some civilian jobs include emergency hospital transportation, aerial spraying, transporting heavy materials, news, firefighting, private transportation, or you can even become an instructor yourself to teach others how to live up to their highest dreams!

Although the amount of jobs available might not be abundant, the sooner you receive your certifications, the quicker you can begin applying for the positions that are out there. Good news for you, as it is stated on that the job opportunities are expected to grow by 11% over between 2010 and 2020!


According to, a helicopter pilot can make anywhere from $50,000 to upwards of around $130,000 with the average being approximately $70,000.

Having experience will earn you a higher salary, but you have to start somewhere! That’s a pretty comfortable salary, unless you have wracked up bunches of loans in order to pay for the school. Over time, of course, it would pay off, especially if you are happy with what you are doing for a living.

Think about how awesome it would be to actually be able to say that you make a living as a helicopter pilot! When someone asks how you are, you’ll honestly be able to say with a smile, “living the dream!”

How to: Fly a Helicopter


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