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!