How To Become a Helicopter Pilot For High School Grads

Apr 15, 2024

As a recent or soon-to-be grad, you’re exploring your career options. Aviation seems enticing and promising — so you want to know more about how to become a helicopter pilot.

Good news. Becoming a helicopter pilot is definitely an achievable goal and professional prospects are great!

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • How to become a helicopter pilot
  • Job outlook and salaries for helicopter careers
  • Where to look for more information about all things rotorcraft 

Getting Started with Helicopter Training

Your first step is charting a course through flight school and on to certification.

Certification Pathway for Helicopter Pilots

Going from total novice to private pilot is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to complete the necessary educational components, pass mandatory testing and exams, and successfully meet other standard requirements. 

To get your private helicopter pilot license, you must:

  • Complete ground school
  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Get a medical clearance certificate
  • Have at least a student pilot license
  • Pass your written tests and checkride
  • Get approval from your flight instructor
  • Be able to read, write, and speak in English
  • Accrue at least 40 hours of flight time

If you’ve set your sights on a commercial license or advanced endorsements, you’ll have to complete additional training and flight hours. 

Helicopter Training Programs at Pureflight

While you should do your research to find a flight program that suits your particular requirements, allow us to tell you about Pureflight and our helicopter flight school. If nothing else, it’ll give you an idea of what a gold-standard program looks like and what to expect as a student pilot.

We offer customized training plans so that you get the education you want on a timeline that fits your needs. With our dedicated training facilities, state-of-the-art fleet, and certified flight instructors you can get your private pilot license, commercial certification, and/or instrument ratings on your own terms.

Our programs are open to qualified applicants over the age of 16.

Unique Aspects of Flying in Oregon

Current and aspiring pilots love training in this region.

The area boasts a range of geographical and infrastructural features and microclimates — all which add challenge and interest to a training regimen. Oregon can provide you with a diverse and distinctive learning environment that can broaden your skills and experience.

However, the flip side of the coin is that there are certain things to consider when piloting a helicopter around here. This quick run-down sums it up.

Local Considerations for Helicopter Pilots

When flying an aircraft in this part of Oregon, the factors below can impact visibility, maneuverability, and flight plans.

  • Topography. We have mountains, forests, dunes, valleys, ocean. Geologic and floralogic treasures abound!
  • Climate. You can encounter different, extreme, and rapidly changing weather conditions — like wind, rain, fog, and major temperature swings — in the span of just a few miles or minutes. Patterns can change greatly from season to season as well. The Pacific northwest can get wild!
  • Infrastructure. You may come across dams, powerlines, highways, and other human-made systems and facilities. Places like airports and military bases will have special rules (e.g., restricted airspace).
  • Natural phenomena. The Pacific northwest has had volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and other severe events. Every year, we have a tense wildfire season.
  • Wildlife. Oregon is blessed with incredible biodiversity. But all this animal life means you need to watch out for bird strikes, especially near water or during times of migration.

Training in these conditions will give you an edge. Consulting with local pilots can help you acclimate to the particularities of flying in Oregon. Piloting here — with the right blend of training and knowledge — is safe and exhilarating!

Path to Helicopter Piloting for High School Grads

Financing Your Training

Becoming a helicopter pilot is an investment in your future. It is not a path to pursue without first thinking through practical aspects like costs and how you’re going to pay for your education.

The cost of your flight training program depends on which school you attend and the nature of the program you do. However, you should know that getting (and having) your helicopter license is significantly more expensive than an airplane pilot’s certification. Flight school tuition and fees alone start at around $18,000 for a helicopter training program.

Fortunately, you may not need to shoulder all of the costs. Many organizations offer scholarship and grant opportunities. Flight schools often provide payment plans. This is all to say you have lots of options for financing your dream of operating that whirlybird.

Career Prospects in Helicopter Aviation

You won’t be a student forever. The glorious day will come when you’ve finished training, satisfied all the testing and certification requirements, and have your chopper license in hand.

Now what?

If you’d like to be more than a recreational pilot, there are plenty of career roles related to being a helicopter pilot. You can be a commercial pilot, toting cargo or ferrying passengers around. But, you can also do tangential jobs like being a flight instructor, managing airport operation, or selling aircraft.

Helicopter pilots and technicians are needed in both the public (i.e., civic and military) and private (i.e., corporate and commercial) sectors. Countless industries — from tourism and emergency services to law enforcement and energy — employ helicopter pilots. The demand is high and there’s currently a pilot shortage.

Not only are the prospects of you finding a rewarding career sky high, you can also expect impressive compensation. Helicopter pilot jobs pay way more than the average salary, frequently garner bonuses, and are often accompanied by generous perks and benefits packages.

Here are a few numbers to mull over. They illustrate how attractive and lucrative being a pilot could be. According to Zippia and Boeing:

  • Jobs for helicopter pilots is projected to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028.
  • Experts predict more than 7,500 new helicopter pilot jobs within the next 10 years.
  • Between 2019-2038, the worldwide demand for helicopter pilots and technicians will be 61K and 44K, respectively.
  • Entry-level helicopter pilot salary averages $62K/year in the US. The average salary for all helicopter pilots across all experience levels is $89K/year. (Tack on expected tips, bonuses, etc. to get an idea of total compensation.)
  • Salaries for helicopter pilots have gone up a whopping 21% in the past 5 years.

Path to Helicopter Piloting for High School Grads (1)

Preparation Tips for High School Students

Did you know that you don’t have to wait until after high school to begin your journey to becoming a helicopter pilot? You can start your flight training before you graduate.

Taking classes that support your aviation aspirations will help you hit the ground running when you get to flight school. In fact, high school can be a great time and place to embark on developing leadership and communication skills and getting a solid foundation in math and science.

But, your early efforts aren’t limited to books and classrooms. There are tons of ways you can get up in the air and gain practical knowledge and experience operating aircraft.

Additional Resources

Take this opportunity to learn more about this field. Here are some resources to get you started.

From High School to High Flying with Pureflight

We know finishing school and going out into the world is a momentous period in your life. If you want to learn to fly a helicopter and pursue a career in aviation, we can help you make the transition. Pureflight has the top-rated flight instruction and support you need to become a confident pilot with a bright future. Contact us today to take the next step!