If you’re wondering how hard it is to fly a helicopter, you may be surprised to know that it isn’t actually that hard.
On an introductory flight, your instructor will talk you through what all the controls do and then give you actual control of the helicopter.
Most people have no problem maintaining basic control of the helicopter almost immediately.
What is actually hard about flying a helicopter isn’t forward flight, but hovering.
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4 Factors That Influence How Hard It Is to Fly a Helicopter
Hovering – The Hardest Part of Flying a Helicopter
Hovering can take quite a lot of time for most people to learn.
This is because the controls are quite sensitive and require a certain level of multitasking.
It can be quite challenging for a student helicopter pilot to get a helicopter to hover in place as a helicopter has a tendency to move around, and requires constant correcting inputs with the cyclic stick
Just like learning how to ride a bike when you were a kid, once you get the hang of it, knowing how to hover and fly a helicopter will always stay with you.
The quality of flight instruction can play an important role in determining just how easy or hard it is to fly a helicopter.
As it’s common for flight schools to hire their recent graduates, sometimes the quality of instruction can be mixed, especially when compared to a helicopter pilot who been flying and teaching for years.
This occurs because working as a flight instructor is usually an introductory job that is taken in order to build up the experience and flight hours required to qualify for higher-paying helicopter pilot jobs.
If the only times you fly a helicopter are on beautiful, sunny days where you can see nothing but blue skies in the distance, it can be easier to learn how to fly.
This is because you won’t have to deal with things like low visibility, turbulence, and crosswinds.
Learning to fly a helicopter in Arizona or California can be easier and quicker than in many other locations in the USA.
Great weather means that you won’t have to deal with the elements mentioned above, and there is also less chance of lessons getting canceled, which can be a very frustrating thing to deal with.
It’s Harder to Fly a Helicopter than a Plane
People who have flown both in any capacity – from just a couple of hours to over a hundred hours – will generally say that a helicopter is harder to fly.
This is largely due to the unique characteristic of how a helicopter is able to hover, which makes the aircraft unstable.
Additionally, the fact that the helicopter rotor is horizontal, and the rotor has long blades that apply a lot of torque to the fuselage, both make flying a helicopter more challenging than flying a plane.
Anyone Can Learn How to Fly a Helicopter
Anyone who is willing to put the time and effort in can learn how to fly a helicopter.
Flying a helicopter isn’t reserved for exceptionally coordinated or smart people, the average person can learn to fly a helicopter just fine.
However, in order to be eligible for a pilot license, you must be able to pass a medical exam that is administered by an FAA medical examiner.
This person will test your vision, hearing, ENT, pulse, blood pressure, and see if you suffer from any disqualifying conditions.
In other words, provided you’re in good health, are willing to put in the effort, and have the funds and time to learn, you can learn how to fly a helicopter.
Note that there is also no age requirement for learning to fly a helicopter.
You can begin training at any age, but you must be 16 years old or older to fly the helicopter solo, and 17 to be eligible for a Private Pilot’s license.
How Long It Takes to Learn to Fly a Helicopter
How long it takes to learn to fly a helicopter can vary depending on several factors.
A good measure of how long it takes, though, is to see what the requirements for a private pilot license are.
To be eligible for a PPL, a pilot must have logged 30 hours of “dual” flight instruction and 10 hours of “solo” flight; 3 hours of dual cross-country flight training; 3 hours of dual nighttime flying; one 75 nautical-mile cross-country Solo flight with one 25 nautical-mile “leg”; at least 3 hours of Cross-Country Solo flight; and 3 Solo Take-offs and Landings at an Airport with an Operating Control Tower.
If you fly part-time, 3-5 hours a week, it can take 6-8 months to obtain a Private Pilot Helicopter License.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.