Helicopter Licence Training FAQ’s

What do I have to do BEFORE I can begin my actual Helicopter licence ?
NOTHING! There are NO prerequisites. You can begin your helicopter licence TODAY! We offer a special introductory helicopter training flight, so that you can try helicopter flying (hands-on) with no obligation. You can begin at any age, when you can reach the flight controls and there is no upper age limit. You must be 16 years old to fly the helicopter solo (by yourself), 17 to get a Helicopter Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) and 18 years old to get a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL).

How many hours of Helicopter training does it take to get my licence?
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires a minimum of 50 hours of total flight time in the aircraft at an Approved Training Organisation; including at least 35 hours of dual instruction with a Certified Flight Instructor, and 15 hours of solo flight (by yourself, after proper training). Most people take a little longer to learn to control the aircraft well enough to pass the CAA “practical” flight test. The national average is about 50-65 hours.

How long a period of time will it take to earn my helicopter licence?
That depends more on your schedule, budget, and personal effort than anything else. We at BAC Helicopters “tailor” a helicopter training program around an individual student’s personal and business schedule. If you can study and fly full-time, it may only take a matter of weeks to complete an “accelerated” helicopter training program. You should try to fly at least twice a week to make good steady progress. If you train less often it will usually take more hours in the long run to get your licence.

Is a helicopter easier to learn to fly than an aeroplane?
Initially, it’s more difficult to learn to control a helicopter. Helicopters are less stable (but not less safe) than aeroplanes. But once you learn to master the controls of the helicopter, it becomes instinctive. Then, like riding a bicycle, you can control the helicopter almost without thinking.

After I earn my helicopter licence, what kinds of helicopters can I fly?
You can legally fly ANY type of helicopter, including turbine (jet) engine-powered helicopters or multi-engine helicopters up to a gross weight of 12,500 lbs, provided you have completed the required ground and air training for each new type of helicopter. The flight controls work the same in EVERY type and size of helicopter. Often insurance companies will require a certain number of hours of experience before you can act as solo Pilot-in-Command of certain types of aircraft.

Is flying helicopters dangerous?
No, not for a properly trained pilot who exercises good judgement. If you encounter bad weather or have a mechanical problem, you can land a helicopter safely almost anywhere within a minute or two. Most helicopter accidents happen due to poor pilot judgement or “pilot error”: flying too low and hitting wires or other obstacles, or continuing to fly in bad weather or limited visibility (like fog). These accidents are totally avoidable by flying prudently.

What kind of flying missions do helicopter pilots perform?
Helicopters do things no other aircraft or vehicle can even think of doing. Jobs for pilots include: Helicopter training, Law Enforcement (Police), Fire Fighting, News Gathering, Vehicle Tracking Operations, Traffic Reporting, Heavy-Lift Work, Crop Spraying, Offshore Oil Rig Transport, Search-and-Rescue, Air-Ambulance, Charter, Sightseeing, Aerial photography & Filming, and Business Transportation. Helicopter Careers

What does it take to become a professional helicopter pilot?
As with any professional lifetime career, it takes time to build enough flight experience to become employable. You first need to earn your Commercial Pilot’s license, then you need to “build time” to be employable for high end, high skill jobs. The subject is somewhat complicated, so call us to discuss the path to becoming a career helicopter pilot. In the future, though, the job market is very good for skilled helicopter pilots.

Are there any minimum formal educational requirements to become a helicopter pilot?
There are NO CAA minimum formal educational requirements to become a civilian helicopter pilot. The CAA does require, however, that you are able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language well enough to pass the CAA written examinations and the practical radio exam. Some basic math ability is also required to calculate helicopter weight and balance and flight planning questions.

Helicopter Licence

What subjects are required for the PPL?
CAA exam subjects:
The following subjects need to be written in order to complete your PPL in South Africa. The exams may be completed online through a CAA registered exam testing facility. Alternatively, the exams may be written at the CAA offices in Midrand, Johannesburg. The minimum pass-mark for the below list of CAA exams is 75%. It is also worth mentioning that all PPL exams are multiple-choice.
• Air Law
• Navigation
• Meteorology
• Principles of Flight
• Flight performance and planning
• Human performance
• Engine and Airframes
• Restricted Radio Licence (Not written through SACAA)

Can ANYONE learn to fly a helicopter?
Most healthy people with correctable eyesight, normal hand-eye coordination, no major health issues, proper motivation, and average or above-average intelligence can be trained to fly a helicopter. There are no restrictions regarding sex, race, religion, marital status, schooling or nationality. Some exceptions are people with severe motion-sickness problems, certain physical or mental handicaps, or an extreme fear of flying (some fear of flying is normal). A fear of heights is NOT a problem; believe it or not, many pilots are afraid of heights.

Are there specific height or weight requirements to become a pilot?
The CAA does not set minimum or maximum height or weight requirements for flying any aircraft. However, you must be tall enough to reach the flight controls and not too tall to fit into the cockpit comfortably. Each type of helicopter has a minimum solo weight and a maximum seat weight that is specified by the manufacturer to ensure that Centre of Gravity limits are not exceeded. To train in the Robinson RH22 (2-seater) helicopter, your weight should not be greater than 108kgs/240lbs; to train in the Robinson RH44 (4-seater) helicopter, it should not be greater than 136kgs/300lbs.

Why is it more expensive to fly helicopters than aeroplanes?
First of all, helicopters are more expensive to buy than aeroplanes of similar size and capacity. They are also more complex and consequently more expensive to insure and maintain; there are more moving parts (like main and tail rotor gearboxes) to service. On a typical helicopter, however, most major components have a “timed life,” or time-between-overhaul (TBO). For example, the main rotor blades on a helicopter have to be replaced every couple of thousands of hours of flight time. Each new blade can cost thousands of US dollars. It will typically cost about twice as much to fly a small helicopter per hour than a small aeroplane.
Can I claim VAT back on my flying training? Yes, as long as you are paying from a VAT registered entity. To calculate this, subtract 14% on the quoted figures. For example that’s more than R 22,000.00 back on your PPL and R 77,000.00 back on your CPL.

Is Fuel included in the cost estimate?
BAC Helicopters all quotes include fuel. As fuel price fluctuations occur regularly throughout the year, BAC will endeavor to absorb these costs to keep the training costs the same or provide students with a timeous indication of a change in pricing. Beware of flying school quotes that do not include a fuel surcharge as these figures might prove misleading when calculating a final cost estimate. How much does it cost to become a pilot in South Africa?

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