Getting Started…

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How much does Helicopter Training cost?

The legal minimum amount of time it takes to earn your first helicopter or airplane rating is 40 hours of flying, although it generally takes most people between 60 to 80 hours to obtain their license, which is called a “private pilot” certificate. Flight lessons are charged only when the helicopter is running, much like a taxi cab. A portion of that cost is for the helicopter, and the other portion goes to the instructor. There are also ground lessons required, which is just the student and instructor working not in an aircraft, but in a classroom environment (on the “ground”), going through all of the theory pertaining to everything a pilot needs to know in order fly safely, professionaly and attain a license.

Most flight schools have different aircraft rental rates depending on the method of payment you choose. If you pay seperately for each flight, it is one price. A “block” rate is where you buy a block of flight hours (usually 10 hours) and get a discounted rate. There is also the flight instructor cost, which is a seperate cost, and is generally between $50 and $85 per hour. Ground lessons are non flying lessons of study, with the instructor on the ground and not in the air. The cost for “ground” is simply a fee for the instructor, and does not involve any aircraft rental.

Most aircraft rates are “wet” rates, which means the rental price includes the price of fuel. Some flight schools use “dry” rates and the renter pays for fuel separately, although that is inconvenient and not as common. Based on the ever-changing cost of fuel, insurance and aircraft operation, the total amount that it costs to earn a private helicopter license varies.

Here is a very general approximation of the range of aircraft rental rates not including instructor:


$240 per hour

Hughes 300

$300 per hour

Bell 47

$275 per hour


$325 per hour

Jet Ranger

$950 per hour

Hughes 500

$1000 per hour

What might I need to buy?

  • Log Book
  • Helicopter operators manual
  • Helicopter training book
  • Test Prep book (for written test)
  • E6B (aviation slide rule)
  • Plotter (aviation ruler)
  • Headsets (Optional)

What do I need to do to get my license

  • Lessons: Ground lessons (for the theory), Flight lessons (for flying)
  • Tests to take: – Written test (if not already fixed wing pilot) – Practical test (Check Ride), consisting of an extensive oral exam and about 1 hour flight exam
  • Flight Requirements:PRIVATE PILOT Must be 17 or over; Read, write, speak, understand English; Log book endorsement for ground instruction; Flight proficiency sign off (61.107)

EXPERIENCE – 40 hrs Flight Time – 20 hrs Dual (flight training) – 10 hrs Solo in helicopter DUAL TRAINING 3 hrs X country dual (training) in a helicopter (day or night) 3 hrs flight test preparation in a helicopter within 60 days 3 hrs night dual in a helicopter that includes: 1 night X country over 50 miles total distance dual; 10 takeoffs & landings at an airport to a full stop, each landing involving a traffic pattern SOLO 10 hours solo which includes: 3 hours of X country; 1 X country solo 75 miles total distance landing at 3 points, one phase with a 25 NM straight line; 3 take off and landings to full stop@ airport with operating tower (with flight in traffic pattern in between) COMMERCIAL PILOT Must be 18 or over; Read, write, speak, understand English; Aeronautical knowledge endorsement (16.125); Sign off for practical test; Must have at least private pilots license (Not necessarily helicopter) EXPERIENCE – 150 hrs flight time as a pilot – 100 hrs in powered aircraft – 100 hrs PIC flight time – 50 hrs in helicopter – 35 hrs PIC helicopter – 20 hrs hrs dual (training) – 10 Solo in helicopter DUAL TRAINING 20 hrs dual. Must include: 1 dual x-country at least 2 hours day vfr, more than 50 nm from point of departure (in helicopter); 1 dual x-country at least 2 hours night vfr, more than 50 nm from point of departure (in helicopter); 10 instrument training in aircraft (helicopter or airplane); 3 hrs test prep SOLO 10 hrs solo in helicopter including: 1 X country with at least one leg 50 nm straight line with landings at minimum of 3 points; 5 hrs night VFR with 10 take offs and landings w/en route phase in between

What is the best helicopter to train in?

All helicopters have a slightly different feel, but they are all fun to fly. The cost of the helicopter and the size of the student usually play a factor in what type of helicopter is used for training. The smallest but most inexpensive model is the Robinson R-22, but it is not appropriate for anyone tall, wide or heavy.

Piston Engines


One of the more popular aircraft because it is usually the least expensive. Also, because it is relatively small, the controls are very sensitive and responsive, quite similar to driving a sports car, versus a school bus. This sensitivity can help a new helicopter pilot get a good feel for flying, since even the most minute control input induced by the pilot is instantly apparent by the motion of the helicopter. It is however quite small, so someone tall or big might not be confortable in a somewhat confined space.

Hughes/Scweitzer 300

Bigger and roomier than the R22. It is probably $30 to $40 more per hour than an R22. It can sit three across if needed, so it is a good choice for someone bigger and/taller or if you just don’t want to be cramped. In reference to how it is to fly, it is a bit more stable in a hover for the novice, making it a little easier to learn to hover. It does not have an automatic governor like the R22 does, which means that the throttle is manipulated manually. This is more difficult at first, but will give you the skill to fly many other helicopters that don’t have an automatic governing of the throttle.

Bell 47

A classic helicopter. It is the first one ever certified to carry passengers, and is well known as the M.A.S.H helicopter used in the Korean war. It is roomy, the controls are hydraulically assisted, making the control inputs very light. This aircraft also does not have a throttle governor, and requires manual control of the throttle. It is a great ship to learn to fly in, but they are somewhat scarce and harder to find one to train in, in the Los Angeles area.


This helicopter is roomy (sits three across) but a bit heavy on the controls, and also has no automatic governor for the throttle control.


Now used mostly for crop dusting and agricultural work. There are many different models, but they are harder to come by unless you live in farm country. The Hiller is also a bit heavy on the controls, and also has no automatic governor for the throttle control.

Turbine Engines

Jet Ranger

Unlike the other previously mentioned, this is a turbine helicopter, with all the comforts and amenities (and price) of an executive transport. It seats four, two in front and two in back. Both cyclic and collective is hydraulically assisted, making the controls feather-touch sensitive. There is a governing system on the throttle, so the throttle is set and never touched during flight.

Hughes 500

A very fast and maneuverable turbine helicopter. It is the perfect “personal transport” to have fun and get somewhere in a hurry. It seats four (2 front, 2 in back) The availability of these is a bit more scarce than a Jet Ranger because they are somewhat more confined in the back seats and aren’t used as much in executive charter. They are however used in many police and other services that require a fast maneuverable ship.

Where can I take lessons?

Flight lessons at JAZZ PILOT HELICOPTER TRAINING are located in Los Angeles, California, within the San Fernando Valley area at: Van Nuys airport, Burbank airport, Whiteman airport, and also Santa Monica airport, El Monte airport. The local climate in Southern California is ideal for flying, rarely creating any down time for students.

Do I need a ground school?

The FAA does not require an official ground school, but they do require you to pass an extensive written test before you can receive your license. There are two ways that you can do your ground study. The first option is to study using your own books and/or computer software, supplemented with regular ground lessons with your instructor. The second option is to enroll in an official ground school course which are given at colleges and some flight schools. Which method you choose is based on your schedule and individual preference.

Do I need to be an airplane pilot first before I fly helicopters?

No, airplanes and helicopters are very different and there is no need to fly airplanes first. Even though airplane pilots start their helicopter lessons with a greater amount of aviation knowledge, in certain cases, sometimes it is more difficult for them to learn to fly the helicopter since they have many ingrained airplane habits that are difficult to break.

When and how often should I fly?

When just starting out, generally the best amount to fly is two to three times a week. If you don’t fly often enough, you spend a great deal of time (and money) of every lesson reviewing the previous lesson. If you fly too much, you don’t have time for the learning and “muscle memory” to sink in. (In addition to all of the new information your brain must learn, the skill of flying involves “muscle memory”. Your body has to learn the feel, and what type of control inputs to expect, and a day or two between lessons is beneficial.

Are helicopters more difficult to fly then airplanes?

Yes, definitely.  But the challenge is exactly what makes it more rewarding once you can conquer the skill of flying a helicopter. Helicopters can do much more than a fixed wing, therefore you have more controls to manipulate. But, once you master the skill, it will become second nature. Flying a helicopter is like playing the drums: It takes lots of coordination and practice before you get the beat!

Going Further…

Will I have to pass any type of written tests?

Yes. If you are a first time pilot, you will need to pass a fairly extensive FAA written test. You also must take a much shorter and less intense written test given informally by your instructor.

Will I have to pass a flight test?

Yes. That’s the final and most important part of your training. It is officially called a practical test, but usually referred to as a check ride. You would do your check ride with an FAA examiner, or an FAA designated examiner. It consists of an oral exam and a flight exam given by the examiner. It will take 3 to 5 hours and costs around $450 with a designated examiner, or it’s free if you go directly to the FAA and use one of their examiners. If you fail the test, you can try again after a some retraining, but your instructor should make sure you’re over-prepared the first time to avoid the added time, money, stress and  inconvenience of a failure.

After getting my license will I be able to fly other types of helicopters?

Yes. A helicopter license allows you to fly any type of helicopter up to 12,500 pounds without any additional license or ratings. You will need minimal training and a “checkout” with an instructor for each type you fly, but this is an informal procedure up to the flight school or flight instructor, the FAA is not involved.

If I’m already a rated airplane pilot, what is involved in attaining my helicopter license?

If you already have a fixed wing certificate, you will not be required to take any written tests at all. You do still need to take a flight test (checkride) the same as you did in the airplane. Any fixed wing rating that you have would be considered an “add-on” rating, which makes the final checkride a bit easier.

What helicopter ratings are available?

The helicopter ratings available are all similar to those for the airplane. There is a private, commercial, instrument, flight instructor, instrument instructor and ATP. As stated in the previous point, any ratings that you already have in fixed wing would be considered “add-on” ratings for helicopter. The tasks required during the checkride will be less involved than those of a first time rating.

Further still…

After I get my license will I be able to rent the flight schools helicopters for pleasure flying?

Yes, you can rent the helicopter for all sorts of recreations: such as picnicking, camping or overnight visits at other airports. You only pay for the helicopter for the time the engine is running and not for time on the ground. (There is usually 3 hour flying minimum to have the aircraft for more than 8 hours). The one exception is that most Jet or turbine aircraft may have restrictions on students soloing due to insurance requirements.