Helicopter Flight School and College Information

Dec 09, 2019

Helicopter pilots are highly skilled individuals who complete many hours of training to earn their licenses. Potential pilots typically attend helicopter flight training school, although it's also possible to become a helicopter pilot while serving in the military.

Becoming a helicopter pilot requires time, energy and money. Training depends on whether the student's career goal is to be an instructor or private or commercial pilot. Some schools offer partnerships with colleges and universities that allow students to work toward a degree in aviation while completing their flight studies.

Schools with Helicopter Flight Programs

Tuition and fees for each of these programs are for one academic year, as of 2015-2016. They may not include additional costs typical of helicopter training programs, such as aircraft rental costs and examination fees.

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition and Fees*
Upper Limit Aviation Salt Lake City, UT <2-year, Private $55/hour-$1,875/hour, depending on the aircraft
Southern Utah University Cedar City, UT 4-year, Public $6,770 in-state
$20,586 out-of-state
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach, FL 4-year, Private $9,360
University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND 4-year, Public $8,695 in-state
$20,758 out-of-state
Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO 4-year, Private $43,884
Aims Community College Greeley, CO 2-year, Public $1,835 in-district
$2,756 in-state
$10,424 out-of-state
University of Nevada - Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV 4-year, Public $7,985 in-state
$23,132 out-of-state
Central Oregon Community College Bend, OR 2-year, Public $3,951 in-district
$5,373 in-state
$10,575 out-of-state
Portland Community College Portland, OR 2-year, Public $4,340 in-state, $9,200 out-of-state

Source: *NCES College Navigator

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when looking for helicopter flight schools:

  • Potential pilots can ensure that a flight school is worth its cost by inquiring about the credentials and experience of the flight instructors; by getting to know the school's goals, programs and record of success; and by checking its accreditation status with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
  • Students may also wish to learn whether a school is certified under Part 61 or Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations; part 141 schools are held to more rigidly structured training standards by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • To learn more about a school's safety strategy, including upkeep of equipment and safety regulations, students may wish to speak with the school's lead mechanic.
  • Because of the stringent financial requirements to obtain a private pilot license and Certified Flight Instructor credential, some schools offer financial aid, loans and fixed tuition guarantees.

Private Helicopter Pilot License

Earning a private pilot license is the basis of all future helicopter flight training. This license, which may be obtained after 35 hours of flight time, allows an individual to legally operate a helicopter for private use. Students must obtain a third class FAA medical certificate before enrolling in any license program.

Commercial Helicopter Pilot License

Once a student has earned their private pilot license, they are eligible to train for a commercial pilot license. For this license, the minimum amount of needed flight time is increased to 150 hours, and students must obtain a second class FAA medical certificate.

Certified Flight Instructor Rating

In addition to demonstrating advanced helicopter flying skills, potential Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) must learn to instruct others competently and comfortably while in the air. Many pilots, even those who do not wish to work as instructors, become CFIs in order to secure jobs more easily.

In summary, helicopter flight school programs provide training for a wide variety of careers, all of which are based on either private or commercial flying. These programs can be expensive and time consuming, but there are many ways to assess their quality such as researching the schools' certification status, its safety regulations, and how its fleet is maintained.

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