Helicopter pilots fly single- and multi-engined helicopters for business, leisure or emergency services.
Salary range: £15,000 to £45,000
How to become a helicopter pilot
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- specialist courses run by private training organisations
You could do a university degree in air transport or aviation, which includes helicopter pilot training with an approved flight training organisation.
To start a course, you’ll need:
- A levels or equivalent qualifications
- a minimum of a Class 2 medical certificate
- to be over 18
You’ll need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot’s Licence. If you wish, you can apply for the Class 1 certificate before your course starts.
As well as standard university fees, you will need to fund the flight training part of your course. Universities can advise you about this.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You can apply to join a course with a flight training organisation to get your Commercial Pilot Licence CPL(H). You’ll need the CPL(H) to fly helicopters commercially.
To get onto a training course, you’ll need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths, and science
- to pass skills tests and a thorough medical assessment
- a minimum of 155 hours’ flying time
The number of flying hours needed may be lower for trained aeroplane pilots.
As a first step, you could train for a Private Pilot’s Licence PPL(H) which allows you to fly for personal use and build up your flying hours. The flight training school would assess your skills, and could ask you to take some pre-course training to prove that you have the level of ability and skills needed for commercial training.
Training is expensive and you’ll usually have to fund it yourself.
If you’re thinking of a career as a helicopter pilot, it’s strongly recommended that you consider taking a pilot Aptitude Assessment before you start training.
You could also take a trial lesson with a flight school to make sure this is the right career for you.
Professional and industry bodies
You could join the The Honourable Company of Air Pilots, for professional development, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
You can find out more about becoming a helicopter pilot from:
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- the ability to operate and control equipment
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
- customer service skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- the ability to work well with others
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- excellent verbal communication skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
- be over 18 years of age
- pass the Civil Aviation Authority medical before you can take a course – the medical includes tests on your fitness, hearing and vision
You’ll need to meet certain nationality rules to apply. All jobs are open to British nationals and many are also open to Commonwealth citizens.
What you’ll do
On a day-to-day basis your duties would include:
- checking weather conditions and airspace restrictions along your planned route
- filing flight plans with authorities
- working out fuel requirements and maximum load
- checking the helicopter’s equipment and instruments
- carrying out safety checks
- gaining clearance from air traffic control
- during flights, using instruments to navigate, control height and speed, and communicate with air traffic controllers.
- after landing, completing paperwork before preparing for the next flight
You could work on an aircraft or at an airport.
Your working environment may be at height and you’ll travel often.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could combine flying with ground duties, recruitment or training.
You could also start your own business providing recreational flights or freight services, or become a flying instructor.