To fly a helicopter, you must hold a private, commercial or airline transport helicopter pilot license. A private license permits you to fly for recreational purposes only, whereas a commercial or airline transport license enables you to be employed as a pilot. (An airline transport license is only necessary when flying larger helicopters that require two pilots).
Several helicopter types are commonly used for initial training. We use the most popular training helicopter worldwide, the Robinson R22. The Robinson R22 is a reliable, economical two seater piston helicopter which allows a student to develop good basic flying skills, and makes the transition to larger helicopters relatively easy.
Students will generally begin their flight training and ground school at the same time. It is an advantage if you can begin self study before arriving, but not necessary. Subjects covered in groundschool include Canadian Aviation Regulations, Aerodynamics and Theory of Flight, Meteorology, Airframes, Engines and Systems, Flight Instruments, Radio and Electronic Theory, Navigation, Flight Operations, Licensing Requirements, and human factors including pilot decision-making. At the end of the course is a 100 question Transport Canada exam.
Flight training consists of one to two flights a day, also with a Transport Canada flight test at the end, based on the Transport Canada Flight Training Manual
Commercial helicopter operators (and their clients) are continually demanding higher and higher levels of pilot experience. This has the effect of leaving the newly qualified commercial pilot, often well short of the number of hours required to walk straight into a flying job with most commercial operators.
You must be prepared to begin your flying career not as a pilot, but as someone who helps with the helicopter operation, by working with maintenance staff, assisting other pilots by working as ground crew, working in the hangar, or maybe just sweeping the floor. Personally visit as many helicopter operators as you can before you train, to determine the type of work they do, and to get an idea of employment prospects upon course completion.
Employment as a pilot in the helicopter industry usually means working in remote areas, sometimes for extended periods of time. Expect at least two or three years of this type of flying before other opportunities may come your way.
When a new pilot has successfully gained employment they will most likely receive relatively low pay. Normally you will not make as much as it cost for your training in the first year.
Coast Helicopter has former students flying in many different parts of Canada for companies such as Cougar Helicopters, Canadian Helicopters, Talon Helicopters, Yellowhead Helicopters, Helijet, Lakelse Air and Quantum Helicopters amongst others. In most cases these former students all began their flying careers after persevering to get that first job, and being willing to go wherever that first job was, and working on the ground first.
Helicopter flying can be a very enjoyable and rewarding career for someone that is willing to put in the effort. Aviation can be a daunting industry when first looking in from the outside. Feel free to email or call to discuss any questions that you have.
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