Flying is one of the most exhilarating and unforgettable experiences a person can have, and the idea of pursuing it as a career or hobby is tempting. But while you might have the desire to fly, perhaps working as an airplane pilot leaves you cold. Or maybe, if you already pursue flight as a hobby, you’re looking for a more unique challenge. In that case, consider the helicopter. Long-time helicopter pilots can testify to the freedom, fun, and beauty of flying a whirlybird. Here are some tips for aspiring helicopter pilots.
Note: USM doesn’t offer an aviation program, but there are several aviation schools in the southern Maine region.
Do You Have the Right Stuff?
If anyone could be a helicopter pilot, we’d be up to our necks in them. But there are basic qualifications every potential pilot must possess. To have a commercial license, you must be at least 18 years old. You must be able to read, write, and speak English—the international language for aviation communications as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). You must also pass an FAA medical exam. Also, if you don’t learn how to fly a helicopter in the military, your education is going to cost you a pretty penny. Be prepared to bone up on math and science as well.
Ask the Experts…and Keep Asking
Learning to fly is a big undertaking. Before you sign on for lessons, speak with experienced pilots about their experiences. Plenty of social media sites, forums, and other websites provide the opportunity to chat online with working pilots, certified flight instructors, and other experienced individuals. Take the time to ask them questions and pick their brains about what to expect from training and more. You’ll receive even more tips for aspiring helicopter pilots from ones who have already seen it all.
Stop by the library, engage your favorite search engine, or shop online for books specifically about flying helicopters. More have been published than you might imagine, covering the basics of taking off and flying, to careers as a helicopter pilot, to specific ways to deal with emergencies. If there’s a question you haven’t had answered online, you’re sure to find it in a comprehensive book written by an experienced pilot.
Off You Go, into the Wild Blue Yonder, but Not Alone
The surest way to see if helicopters are for you is to go up in one—with an experienced pilot, of course! The easiest way, naturally, is to sign up for a helicopter tour. Most major metropolitan areas offer numerous opportunities to see your city by air, with costs usually running about $150 to $200 per person. A discovery flight is another, nonpassive option. You’ll pay a fee and be taken up into the air by an experienced pilot, then basic control of the flight is handed over to you. There’s no better way to get a feeling for flight!