So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a private pilot’s helicopter licence or PPL(H). Good for you; you’ll have a great time learning to fly a helicopter.
But there are some decisions to be made, and the first one is where to learn.
People are often tempted to go to their nearest flying school, the cheapest one, or the one where they had a trial lesson.
These may be good places to learn to fly a helicopter, but perhaps you should do some research first.
After all, when buying a house, car, or even a washing machine you don’t simply take the first one you see (or not often); you look around.
So why not do the same thing with a helicopter school.
Here are the main points you should consider:
Large or Small Airfield?
If you learn at a flying school at a large airport, you will learn all about dealing with Air Traffic Control (ATC), obeying instructions, and all the other paraphernalia associated with large airport manoeuvres. It is all very useful stuff in the longer term, especially if you might want to fly in that sort of environment. On the other hand, you may also spend a lot of time waiting for other aircraft and for permission from ATC, and this could increase costs for you.
At a smaller airfield, your instructor may be freer to do any exercise with you as and when he or she wants. You will also learn to make your own decisions rather than having ATC make them for you. However, it might take longer for you to learn about some aspects of aviation related to large airports, and you might find it quite frightening the first time you fly into such an airport.
Some helicopter schools do not use an airport at all. This is fine, as helicopters don’t actually need runways. However, you will need to learn about airfield procedures, and it could take you longer in such a situation. Also, consider the extra costs involved in flying to airports for this sort of practice.