Starting helicopter pilot training is an exciting time no matter what level of licence you train for. If you’re looking to start a career as a helicopter pilot, you’ll need to consider which licence you’ll need and which helicopter pilot training route you are going to go down, integrated or modular.
As a ground school, we offer both CPL(H) and ATPL(H) training, we get asked a lot of questions about helicopter pilot training.
We’ve put together this guide of our most frequently asked questions to help you understand your training.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this guide, please get in contact with our training team using the contact form.
What’s the difference between helicopter pilot licences?
Once you know you want to become a helicopter pilot, you’ll need to decide if you want to fly commercially or just for pleasure, as this will decide which type of licence you should be aiming for. The three helicopter pilot licences are PPL(H), CPL(H) and ATPL(H), below is an overview of each licence to give you an idea of which one is right for you.
A Private Pilot Licence or PPL(H), allows the licence holder to act as pilot in command (PIC) or co-pilot for non-commercial purposes.
This licence is for those who wish to fly for pleasure and do not intend on flying helicopters to earn money.
As part of your PPL(H) training, you’ll need to complete 45 hours of flight training and pass 9 theory exams.
If you choose to study for a commercial licence via the modular training route, a PPL licence is a prerequisite to starting either a CPL(H) or ATPL(H) training or course.
A Commercial Pilot Licence or CPL(H), allows the licence holder to act as pilot in command (PIC) or co-pilot for any operations except for commercial air transport.
This licence is for those who are aiming to gain a job as a helicopter pilot for non-commercial purposes. Potential job roles for holders of a CPL(H) licence include search and rescue, air ambulance, and helicopter flight instructor (after addition rating).
As part of your CPL(H) training, you’ll need to complete 135 hours of flight training (for modular training), and have passed the 13 CPL(H) theory exams.
For further information about CPL(H) theory training, visit our CPL(H) theory training page.
An Airline Transport Pilot Licence or ATPL(H), allows the licence holder all the privileges of a CPL(H) holder plus the ability to act as pilot in command (PIC) of aircraft engaged in commercial air transport.
This licence is the highest level of helicopter pilot licence and is required if you wish to have all options available to you at the end of your training.
In order to apply for your ATPL(H) licence, you’ll need to have a minimum of 1000 hours of flight time and have passed the 13 ATPL(H) theory exams. If you would like the opportunity to hold an instrument rating you will be required to sit the exams at ATPL(H)/IR level.
For further information about ATPL(H) theory training, visit our ATPL(H) theory training page.
How much does helicopter pilot training cost?
This will depend on several factors including which licence you are looking to gain, which route you use to train (for CPL or ATPL), where you train, and extra costs related to your training such as accommodation and travel.
PPL(H) training usually costs around £20,000 to £35,000+ for the flight training hours, exams and theory tuition. For PPL(H) exams, many students use question banks, such as BGSonline, to help them revise and prepare for their exams.
CPL(H) and ATPL(H) training can cost anywhere from £50,000 to £100,000+ from start to finish.
Do I need to get a medical certificate before starting helicopter pilot training?
Yes, for any helicopter licence you will need a medical certificate in order for your licence to be valid. We recommend getting the relevant medical certificate before you start your training to ensure you are medically fit enough to become a pilot.
For your PPL(H) licence, you will need to hold a Class 2 Medical Certificate.
For either a CPL(H) or ATPL(H), you will need a Class 1 Medical Certificate.
How long does helicopter pilot training take?
This will depend on which training route you choose and how much time you have to dedicate to your helicopter pilot training.
PPL(H) flight and theory training can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months, depending on how much time you dedicate to your studies.
For the integrated study route, you can gain either a CPL or ATPL from 12 months during full-time study.
Modular study means you can work towards your licence in your spare time you have and can spread out your training (and the training costs) over years, so you could potentially get your CPL/ATPL licence in as little as 12 months with full-time study to a few years with part-time study. This means you can study and build your flight hours around your work, family and other commitments.
Do I have to attend ground school?
For PPL, there is no formal requirement to attend a ground school but some students choose to attend one to consolidate their learning in a classroom environment with an instructor.
For both CPL and ATPL licences, students are required to study an approved theory course.
If you’re looking to gain either your CPL(H) or ATPL(H) via the modular training route, Bristol Groundschool offers both CPL(A) and ATPL(A) theory courses that can be purchased by module to help spread the cost.
- Access to our pilot theory training software ATPdigital
- Live weekly subject-based webinars with our instructors (which count towards your live tuition requirement)
- Three revision weeks to consolidate your knowledge before your exams
- A free 18 subscription to BGS Webinar Library with over 200 hours of webinars to watch on-demand
- A free 12 month subscription to question bank, BGSonline
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