How does a civilian learn to fly a helicopter?

The title says it all

I am 38 years old, and I want to learn to cly a helicopter. How do I go about doing this?

A quick search shows heaps of helicopter flying training schools in Australia. There must be hundreds of them in the USA. Aren’t there any local ones in your state?

Helicopters fly on money. Be sure you bring a lot…

(Bolding mine)

Cly huh? Is that a Freudian slip prehaps?

Crash + Fly = Cly

Me thinks maybe you should pick up another hobby. :smiley:
Seriously though. I’ve tried those flight simulators on my computer. I couldn’t fly one of those things to save my life.

Civilian helicopter pilot checking in. (Though I’m currently caffeine-deprived, so who can say how this will turn out?)

You learn to fly helicopters the same way you learn to fly airplanes: You go to a flight school.

The first thing you need to do is get your 3rd Class Medical Certificate, which is also your student pilot certificate. You get that from an Airman’s Medical Examiner, which is a doctor that is certified to conduct the exams and who does the FAA paperwork. You will need a minimum of 40 hours of flying time; 20 dual, and 20 solo. Most people will take 50 or 60 hours. Once your instructor feels you are ready you will have a check ride with an FAA examiner or examiner designee, who will also give you an oral exam. You’ll also need ground school, and you’ll need to pass a written test within 24 months prior to your check ride.

Most people just go to the local helicopter FBO and start training. The FBO will offer both air and ground instruction. But ground instruction through them may be expensive. I learned in fixed-wing first, and I took a ground school course at a local community college for $50. Since I already had a private pilot certificate, I didn’t have to take another written test for helicopters. You can also take ground school as a ‘correspondence course’ – a video-based programme that you can buy from King Schools or Sporty’s Pilot Shop. I recommend picking up So You Want To Fly Helicopters, which is basically a video presentation of the FAA helicopter handbook (which you’ll also need to have). You’ll take a computer-based written test at your local FBO.

Practical training is straightforward. You’ll learn to fly straight and level, how to hover, how to maneuver in a hover, take-offs, patterns, landings, emergency procedures, navigation, and so on. You pay by the hour, so you don’t have to plunk down five figures all at once. Most places will give you a small price break for buying ‘block time’; i.e., putting $2,000 or $2,500 down at a time.

Another option would be to go to one of the helicopter schools that advertise in aviation magazines. I know there’s one in Concord, CA (near San Francisco), and Florida seems to be a popular area for them as well. They will take you from zero-time through your Private certificate – or higher, if you wish. But for a price. I haven’t looked into them, since I got my ticket the traditional way. Not sure how much they charge, nor of the quality of their instruction. But I’m sure they have a payment plan of some sort, and their instruction must meet FAA standards. My instructors, who had a vested interest in people not going to a large school of course, emphasised safety above all and opined that they take a greater interest in training safe, capable pilots than a large school would. Take it for what it’s worth. Ultimately, you must be a safe pilot. Going to a large school may get you your license more quickly since you’ll be flying most days. Going to the local FBO may take you six months or a year depending on how often you fly (you should fly at least once a week – twice a week would be better) and you can spread your payments over that time.

To echo GusNSpot: ‘What makes a helicopter fly?’ ‘Money. Lots and lots of money.’ Most places use Robinson R-22s, which will run you about $200/hour or more with an instructor. A Schweizer 300CB will run a little more, since they’re more expensive to operate.

Smaller operations may use a Bell-47, Enstrom, Hiller, or whatever. The Schweizer is nice because it has a ‘real’ cyclic stick instead of the Robbo’s T-bar. It also has electric trim, as opposed to the R-22’s two-position bungee knob. And they have more room. But I’d suggest training in a Robbo. ‘If you can fly an R-22 you can fly anything!’ Here’s an anecdote: I was at MCAS El Toro talking to a Super Sea Stallion pilot. ‘You fly a Robinson? :eek: Those things scare the hell out of me. Too squirrelly.’ A friend of his, a Sea Cobra pilot, joined the conversation and said, ‘You fly a Robinson? Great helicopter! Very nimble!’ All helicopters are inherently unstable, but the Robinson does seem to require better technique. When I first went up in a Schweizer the instructor said, ‘I can tell you learned on a Robinson. You anticipate very well.’ I think Robinsons are better trainers because they require a little more work to fly. They feel more like a sports car to me, compared to a Schweizer. (Though I still like the roominess of the latter’s cockpit, the ‘real’ cyclic, and the electric trim.)

I did a Yahoo search on helecopter flight school Louisiana and came up with a bunch of hits.

For example, here’s a helecopter flight school in Jeanerette, Louisiana

The site has a PDF that had lots of info.
I have no idea if it is still current (especially considering Katrina), but here’s what it said regarding prices:

FAA written test fee: 80.00
Examiner’s checkride fee: 200.00
Ground School: 720.00
Helecopter dual instruction (50 hours @ 200.00): 10,000.00
Helecopter solo flight time (10 hours @ 200.00): 2,000.00
Checkride flight time: 400.00

Total course price with advance payment: 13,400.00

No, no, no, Johnny… Helicopters fly because they’re so ugly the ground repels them! :smiley:


That’s it! Short-field landings at dawn! :stuck_out_tongue:

No, helicopters don’t fly… they beat the air into submission.