If you’re interested in flying helicopters, you no doubt want to know how long it takes to get a helicopter license.

It takes between 2 and 12 months of full-time training to obtain a helicopter pilot license, depending on which license you choose.

There are a few different types of helicopter licenses, including private and commercial licenses.

Private helicopter licenses are the easiest to get and take the least time, but they can’t be used for financial compensation.

Commercial pilot licenses take longer to obtain, but they’re used for professional purposes, so you can be paid for your services.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Helicopter License? 

A private helicopter pilot license takes between 2 and 4 months of full-time training, while a commercial helicopter pilot certificate takes between 4 and 10 months on average to obtain. 

Private Pilot Helicopter License (PPL-H) 

Prerequisites

  • You must be at least 17 years old. 
  • You must pass a Class III Pilot Medical Exam from an FAA certified examiner.
  • You must have basic English Language fluency and literacy. 

Written Exam

You must complete aeronautical knowledge training in 13 areas, including radio communication procedures, preflight procedures, aviation regulations, navigational assessments, and other flight-related operations.

Next, you must complete an FAA written exam. 

Flight Hours

  • You must complete 35 hours (Part 141) or 40 hours (Part 61) of flight time, including 30 hours of flight instruction.
  • You must have completed 3 hours of cross-country flight training in a helicopter. 
  • You must complete 3 hours of flight training for your practical test within 60 days before your test.
  • You must complete 10 hours of solo flight time
  • You must complete 3 hours of cross-country time; one cross-country flight of 100 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points and one segment of the flight being a straight-line distance of at least 25 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing location
  • Three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower are also required

Checkride

You must pass a checkride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE).

How Long it Takes

Including ground school and flight training, it will take you 60-70 hours on average to obtain a private pilot license.  

Privileges

The PPL-H license permits you to fly helicopters with passengers, but you may not do so professionally. At most, you can share operating expenses with passengers. 

Commercial Pilot Helicopter License (CPL-H) 

Prerequisites

  • You must be at least 18 years old. 
  • You must be literate and fluent in the English language.
  • You must have a private pilot license.
  • You must pass a Class II Pilot Medical Exam from an FAA certified examiner.

Written Exam

You must pass a written test given by the FAA.

Flight Hours

You must have a minimum of 150 flight hours as a pilot, which include the following:

  • 100 flight hours in powered aircraft, with 50 of those flight hours in helicopters. 
  • 100 flight hours as pilot-in-command, which must have a minimum of 35 helicopter flight hours, 10 flight hours of cross-country flight time, and 20 hours of training in operational areas.
  • 10 hours of instrument training in an aircraft.
  • One cross-country flight of at least 2 hours in a helicopter in day VFR conditions, consisting of a total straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure.
  • The same as above, but under night VFR conditions.
  • 3 hours of flight training in preparation for the practical test in a helicopter, which must have been performed within 60 days preceding the date of the test in order to take the checkride.
  • 10 hours of solo flight time in a helicopter, which includes one cross-country flight with landings at a minimum of three points, with one segment consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure, and 10 takeoffs and 10 landings under night VFR conditions.

Checkride

You must pass a checkride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE).

How Long it Takes

On average, you must complete at least 40 hours of helicopter flight training and 10 hours of ground instruction. 

This can take 8-10 months.

Privileges

The CPL-H license allows you to become a professional civilian helicopter pilot.

With a CPL-H, you can fly helicopters with passengers and receive financial compensation. 

IFR rating (Instrument Flight Rules) 

Prerequisites

  • You must hold at least hold a private pilot license that has an aircraft category and class rating, which also applies to the instrument rating you want. 
  • You must be fluent and literate in the English Language. 

Written Exam

The written exam covers specialist areas, including Air Law, Flight performance, and Meteorology.

Flight Hours

You must have a minimum of 50 flight hours of cross-country flight as the pilot-in-command, of which at least 10 hours must be in helicopters for an instrument-helicopter rating. 

You must complete 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time, which must include the following: 

  • A minimum of 15 hours of instrument flight training with an authorized instructor in the desired aircraft category. 
  • A minimum of 3 hours of instrument training related to the instrument rating you seek from your authorized instructor for preparing for your practical test within 60 days before the test. 

Checkride

You must pass a checkride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE).

How Long it Takes

On average, it takes 40 hours of dual flight instruction and 25 hours of ground instruction. 

Privileges

The IFR rating permits you to fly aircraft subject to their in-cockpit instruments.

This means that you can fly in reduced visibility conditions, such as in cloudy weather. 

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Helicopter License? 

It can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $80,000 to obtain a helicopter license depending on the type of certification you want to obtain.

  • A private helicopter license costs between $12,000 to $15,000 for training and testing, depending on the school you enroll in.
  • A commercial helicopter license can cost between $40,000 – $60,000.

Factors That Affect How Fast You Can Get a Helicopter License 

The following factors affect how quickly you can get a helicopter license: 

  • The type of license you want. 
  • Your own learning pace. 
  • The training structure you choose, i.e. modular vs integrated. 
  • The school you choose. 
  • The aircraft you rent. 

Can You Make Money With a Private Helicopter Pilot License?

You are not allowed to make money with a private helicopter license.

You can only receive money to share operating expenses.

Is Flying a Helicopter Harder than a Plane? 

Generally, helicopters are more difficult to fly than planes because of their design.

Helicopters are also more dangerous to fly, with helicopter crashes being as high as 35% more common than plane crashes. 

The National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) reports that the accident rate during instructional flights among helicopter pilots is higher than that of plane pilots: 12.69 accidents per 100,000 hours vs 6.08 accidents per 100,000 hours. 

In conclusion, it takes anywhere between 2 and 12 months to obtain a helicopter license, depending on the license you choose and how quickly it takes you to learn everything you need to know.

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