The Helicopter Private Pilot’s License Course


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You’ve decided to learn to fly a helicopter – are you ready for the course? Image by Helen Krasner

So you’ve decided to learn to fly a helicopter.

You have done a little research, and hopefully found the school at which you want to train – and maybe you’ve even had a trial lesson and picked out the instructor you prefer.

Now you are ready to start actually pursuing your PPL(H).

So what does the helicopter private pilot’s license course actually involve? Not just flying exercises, but also ground rules and even an oral exam! You’ll have an instructor to help you get ready, but don’t wait too long between lessons or you’ll end up spending more time reviewing what you need to know.

The PPL(H) Flying Exercises

The details may vary slightly in different countries, but not a great deal, a the same things need to be learned. In the UK, the course is divided into 27 exercises, as follows:

Exercise 1: Familiarisation with the Aircraft

Exercise 2: Preparation for Flight and Post-Flight Actions

Exercise 3: Air Experience Flight

Exercise 4: Effects of Controls

Exercise 5: Attitude and Power Changes

Exercise 6: Level Flight, Climbing, Descending, and Turns

Exercise 7: Basic Autorotations

Exercise 8: Hovering 

Exercise 9: Take-Offs and Landings

Exercise 10: Transitions

Exercise 11: Circuits

Exercise 12: First Solo

Exercise 13: Sideways and Backwards Flight

Exercise 14: Spot Turns

Exercise 15: Vortex Ring Recovery

Exercise 16: Engine off Landings

Exercise 17: Advanced Autorotations

Exercise 18: Forced Landings

Exercise 19: Steep Turns

Exercise 20: Precision Transitions

Exercise 21: Quick Stops

Exercise 22: Navigation

Exercise 23: Advanced Take-Offs, Landings, and Transitions

Exercise 24: Sloping Ground Landings

Exercise 25: Limited Power Operations

Exercise 26: Confined Area Operations

Exercise 27: Instrument Flying

Helicopter Flight Course

Instructors teach each student individually, and the details will depend to a large extent on your own progress and how often you can have lessons. Some people do the PPL(H) almost full time over a period of about a month. Others fit it in around work or study, and may only have one lesson a week, or even one a fortnight… less often than this is possible, but it does mean that you will forget a lot between lessons and need to recap. Flying schools can usually fit around any variations in the student’s schedule.

Helicopter PPL(H) Ground Exams

In addition to the flight training, you will also have to pass written or ‘ground’ exams in the following subjects: Air Law and Operational procedures, Helicopter Principles of Flight, Navigation, Meteorology, Radio Telephony, Human Performance and Limitations, and Flight Planning. There is also a radio telephony oral exam. All these exams are multiple choice.

 Students typically study the ground exams on their own, but it is sometimes possible to go on a separate course, for those who prefer to do this. In Europe, there is talk of some formal training becoming compulsory in the future.

Skills Test for Helicopter License

When you’ve completed all your flying lessons, and passed your ground exams, you will undertake a Skills Test with an examiner. When you pass – and you will – you will be awarded the Helicopter Private Pilot’s License. This is a time for celebration!

However, you should remember that a PPL(H) is the beginning, not the end… and is often called a license to learn!

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