A career flying helicopters can offer a lot of freedom, but be prepared for some hard work

Flying helicopters offers a great deal of freedom compared to fixed-wing operations, according to Brian Kane, Head of Sales and Marketing at Heli Air. “You can fly from more or less anywhere to more or less anywhere. From an airport to a hotel to your own back garden ? if it’s big enough and safe and legal to fly in to,” he says. “It’s a lot quicker, a lot easier and more fun. A lot more fun.”

If you think that flying helicopters might be your dream career, then the first step is to book in for a trial lesson and have a go at operating the controls yourself.

“It’s a proper trial lesson ? not a jolly or a pleasure flight. You will be instructed on what you’re going to do, you’re going to do it and you’ll get a debrief on what you’ve done. After that you’ll have a good feel for helicopter flying and whether you like it or not,” says Brian. “If you do like it, the second recommendation is that you do an experience day with an instructor. You’ll fly between two-and-a-half and three hours across the day, in two or three sessions. I can guarantee by the end of that you’ll know whether you want to be a helicopter pilot or not.”

You’ll be pleased to hear that the time spent on trial, and experience lessons count towards the minimum of 45 hours required to achieve a Private Pilots Licence (PPL (H)), ten of which must be flown solo. The average student takes around fifty hours to complete this initial licence.

The next step towards that dream career is to acquire a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL (H)). After you’ve completed your PPL you will need to pass nine exams, which include Air Law, Meteorology, Human Performance and Limitations, and Navigation. You will also be required to have flown 155 hours of flight time, which will need to include fifty hours as pilot in command and ten hours of cross-country flying. Heli Air currently has nine bases, which form a ‘spine’ up the centre of the country, so students working on their cross-country hours have the advantage of being able to fly between bases.

Brian is also keen to point out the company’s high standard of safety: “We have the one and only IS-BAO award for flight safety in helicopters. Others have it for fixed-wing, but we’re the only one in the world for helicopters.”

Once the exams are passed and your logbook is up to scratch, then you will complete a 35-hour flying course, which includes a five hour night rating. You will find that the CPL (H) course covers similar exercises to the PPL (H), but the flying is of a much higher standard.

It is during this final course that you will decide the direction of your career, Brian says. “You choose whether or not you’re going to go down the flight instructor route or if you go down the ATPL route, which involves getting an instrument rating. An instrument rating then gives you the ability to go and get a job with a company flying to the oil rigs.

“We get a lot of students who want to fly privately, and want to go down the instructor route. We’ll try and employ them.”


Image(s) provided by: