Overview of Helicopter Pilot Training and Testing

A former officer in the Swiss military and a successful investment manager based in California, Hans Overturf pursues a variety of hobbies in his spare time. Hans Overturf particularly enjoys flying helicopters.

Though helicopter training is available to those with no flying experience, the course work differs as compared to those who already have an airplane certificate. Individuals with no previous flying experience must undergo at least 20 hours of instruction and an additional 20 hours of practice before taking their test flight (also known as a checkride). However, most students need additional time to prepare and spend about 45 hours alongside a certified instructor for a total of 65 hours.

Before their checkride, students must pass a computerized exam with a score of 70 or better. Subsequently, an experienced examiner will administer an oral and flight test that can last up to three hours. The exam covers “Practical Test Standards,” but students should be ready to cover other topics as well.

Those who already possess fixed-wing certificates and wish to fly helicopters will add a category to their certificate. Regulations do not consider them ‘student pilots’ and the FAA imposes far less stringent restrictions on them. Nevertheless, due to the differences between fixed- and rotary-wing flight, most fixed-wing pilots spend about 55 hours to properly augment their flight training.


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