What to Expect
Flight Training – What to expect
Flying helicopters is a privilege that only a few get to experience and enjoy. If you are an adventurous soul with good self-discipline, a love of being outdoors and ready for a new challenge, then learning to fly is right up your alley. The most common characteristics required by helicopter pilots can be summarised as follows:
Proficiency in the English language, written and spoken
The language of aviation world-wide is English, so a good grasp of the English language is a necessity for both the practical and theoretical sides of flying.
Good health both physical and mental
All pilots undergo regular medicals (6 month to 24 month intervals depending on age and licence held) in order to monitor their fitness for flying. Medical problems or ill health can result in a pilot being grounded until fitness is restored. The required fitness level is not extreme and an active person who exercises a couple of times a week and avoids an excessive diet will have no trouble remaining flying fit.
No drug or alcohol dependency
Certain medical conditions like epilepsy, diabetes or colour-blindness and any indication of mental instability or drug/alcohol dependency will preclude a person from flying completely.
Good balance and hand-eye co-ordination
Helicopter flying involves a good deal of physical hand-eye co-ordination, balance and a high level of multi-tasking. Most people learn this with practice, but the ability to drive, ride a bicycle, motorbike or horse, skate, surf, paddle, sail or ski will be a definite advantage in this respect.
Perform well under pressure & ability to multi-task
The cockpit of a helicopter is an extremely busy area; the pilot operates the aircraft using both hands and both feet, monitors the engine temperatures and pressures, maintains the desired speed, height and heading, assesses terrain and weather conditions and communicates clearly and accurately on the radio while constantly looking out for conflicting traffic. The ability to stay calm and focused under pressure and to multi-task effectively is an essential skill to be mastered.
The examinations for both the private and commercial licence are fairly difficult and require a 75% pass mark. The student must have the drive and discipline to put in a large amount of study time above and beyond the lectures he/she may attend.
Aptitude for maths and science
Maths and Physical Science play a large role in the study of Aerodynamics, Navigation, Flight Planning and Engine & Airframes. Whilst it is not a pre-requisite to have a Matric pass in these subjects, it is important to have a keen interest or aptitude. Maths at the Private pilot level is fairly straightforward, but does become a good deal more complicated at Commercial level.
Outgoing personality/ team player
The general rule, Knowledge is Power, applies perfectly to learning to fly. The more you know, the greater your ability to anticipate a situation which lessens your chances of being taken unaware and reduces the likelihood of finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
Because knowledge comes with experience, it is so important to talk to other pilots constantly and to listen and share experiences without being shy or embarrassed to ask questions. Everybody within the helicopter training organisation is there to help to create the very best pilots.