Becoming a helicopter pilot requires a very particular set of skills. In many ways the operations are very different from those of a private-charter fixed-wing aircraft.
Let’s take a look at the special skills required by a helicopter pilot:
Qualifications and experience
To obtain a private helicopter licence, pilots need to successfully complete a minimum of 45 hours training, accompanied by seven written exams and practical skills tests.
In order to upgrade to a commercial licence, helicopter pilots need 185 hours training and to pass 15 written exams and practical tests. However, many helicopter charter providers demand a minimum of 500–1,500 hours of flight time.
Pilots servicing the oil and gas industries only require 200 hours of flight training. However, they have to supplement this with an instrument rating, which is among the toughest tests in aviation.
Key traits of a private charter helicopter pilot
Personality-wise, private charter helicopter pilots are very similar to fixed-wing pilots. Here are a few key traits you should look out for:
• Adaptable – Pilots must be able to meet the demands of their clients, even if circumstances change unexpectedly.
• Organised – Private charter helicopter pilots need to be punctual, organised and able to abide by the specific rules that govern helicopter flight, such as avoiding the flow of fixed-wing traffic.
• Communicative – Pilots must be able to communicate clearly and build up a rapport with clients. They must also provide safety briefings, flight updates and answer clients’ questions.
• Discrete – Passengers are often celebrities and HNW individuals who require discretion.
Differences between rotary and fixed-wing CVA operations:
While their key traits may be similar, the day-to-day operations of rotary and fixed-wing CVA pilots are very different.
One of the key operational differences between fixed-wing and rotary aircraft is that helicopters are much more versatile.
While a plane requires a runway, a helicopter can land almost anywhere. VIP helicopters can operate in a broad range of locations that have helipads, including inner city rooftops, hotels, superyachts and more.
This level of versatility means that refueling and ad-hoc maintenance for a rotary aircraft need to be managed differently from a fixed-wing operation. Whereas a VIP plane can fly into Farnborough and undergo some quick maintenance activity while the owner goes into London, a helicopter cannot be attended to in this way if it is sitting on a hotel roof or the back of yacht!
Chartered helicopters primarily fly shorter, more frequent journeys than their fixed-wing equivalents.
Rotary pilots must be prepared for a degree of spontaneity within their day-to-day operations, as sometimes clients will wish to travel immediately and with little-to-no notice. Generally speaking, fixed-wing flights are scheduled in advance, and are usually not altered at short notice.
Rotary aircraft are arguably harder to fly than fixed-wing, and undoubtedly more susceptible to the elements. Pilots have to be able to recognise and accommodate risk, potentially by arranging travel by another means where necessary.
Where on planes there are multiple members of crew, for helicopters there is usually just one – the pilot. They are responsible for all aspects of the journey, so must be adept at everything from flying the craft to delivering the safety briefing. Therefore the ability to operate independently is key.
Normally, CVA helicopter pilots do not have access to ground crew, so will have to arrange their own maintenance checks and refuelling in-between flights.
Your CVA helicopter pilot candidate should encompass all these qualities and be able to facilitate all these operational requirements.
Find talented and motivated private charter helicopter pilots with all the skills needed to look after your VIP clients by calling on AeroProfessional, the aviation recruitment experts.