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How to get your helicopter licence

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A rewarding career where no two days are ever the same, a job as a helicopter pilot can be challenging and not always as glamorous as people may think.

There are, however, many reasons to consider flying helicopters for a living:

  • It’s a development from flying aeroplanes
  • It’s the ideal career for aircraft enthusiasts
  • It’s a varied, challenging career
  • You’re likely to be able to travel extensively
  • It’s a rewarding career, particularly if you fly in the armed forces or ambulance service

If you decide it is the career for you, there are a number of necessary requirements and steps to follow before you can qualify.


How do you become a helicopter pilot?

In order to train to become a helicopter pilot, you will need to be aged 18 or over. You will also need to hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

In order to qualify for a CPL training course, you will need to:

  • Hold GCSEs in English, Maths and Science, grades A* – C
  • Pass the required skills tests
  • Pass a thorough medical assessment
  • Hold a minimum of 155 hours flying time

If you already hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), you may be required to hold less than 155 hours flying time when training for a CPL.

Skills required to become a helicopter pilot  

In order to become a helicopter pilot, you will need a set of key skills and aptitudes including:

  • Excellent spatial awareness
  • Excellent hand-to-eye co-ordination
  • Strong concentration skills
  • The ability to remain calm in a crisis
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Sound judgement

What will your job as a helicopter pilot involve?

As well as flying the helicopter itself, you will also be responsible for:

  • Filing flight plans with the relevant authorities
  • Communicating with air traffic control
  • Checking weather conditions and any airspace restrictions on your planned flight path
  • Carrying out safety checks prior to take off, during the flight and post-flight
  • Working out the aircraft’s fuel requirements for your trip
  • Calculating the maximum load capacity of the helicopter for the flight
  • Checking the helicopter and all its instruments are functioning properly
  • Completing the flight log and any necessary paperwork post-flight

Depending on the size of the helicopter, you may fly alone or as part of a larger team of co-pilots.

How much does it cost to get your helicopter licence?

Qualifying for a CPL can be costly, with the number of flight hours, plus the written and practical examinations, soon adding up.

You will need to pay for your licence yourself, unless you study for the qualification as a member of the armed forces, in which case they may contribute to or fully fund the cost of the training.  

Careers as a helicopter pilot

Once you have obtained your Commercial Pilot Licence and qualified as a helicopter pilot, there are a number of career paths open to you, including:

Once you have the necessary experience, you could combine flying with training other prospective helicopter pilots.

How much could I earn as a helicopter pilot?

Your salary would depend on a number of factors, including your location, where you work – whether for a private company or within the armed forces – and your experience.

As a guide:

  • A newly qualified helicopter pilot could expect to earn in the region of £25,000
  • An experienced helicopter pilot could expect to earn in the region of £45,000

You may be paid an additional allowance for an necessary overnight stays, or flying to certain areas deemed inhospitable.

The best way to travel around Britain

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From London to Land’s End, Edinburgh to Essex, Cambridge to Cardiff, there’s so much to see on the island we call Great Britain. While it’s true that towns in the UK are not that far apart compared to other much larger countries, seeing all the UK has to offer means travelling – and plenty of it.

By car, you can cover the entirety of the United Kingdom within a matter of days, with the length of the country a mere 874 miles – roughly the distance between New York and Chicago. However, given our complex setup of A roads, motorways and dual carriageways, this may not be your favoured mode of transport. Likewise, our train network is often the source of much frustration due to delays and regular, lengthy maintenance work.

From luxury travel to budget adventures, our guide to the best ways to travel around Britain may just inspire you to spend your next holiday on a staycation.   

The best ways to travel around Britain on a budget

If you are on a budget, one of the best ways to travel around Britain is by car.

Travel by car

If you don’t own your own car, you should be able to rent a vehicle for between £200 – £600 per week, depending which model you choose.

You’ll then have complete freedom to travel wherever and whenever you wish, without having to rely on trains, buses or taxis.

As a point of reference, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Brighton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth are all less than three hours’ drive from London – traffic allowing of course! – whereas the north of England lies around five hours away. Driving up to Scotland from London can also be done in a day, with the UK’s most northerly point, John O’ Groats, reachable in around twelve hours.

What’s more, some of Britain’s motorways can be serenely picturesque places on which to drive, with the M6 snaking up through the bucolic Midlands, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.

Travel by train

If you cannot drive or you prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery as you travel, consider travelling around Britain by train. With no additional costs such as parking and additional fuel, the train is a budget-friendly choice, in as much as you can pre-determine the cost.

However, there is a downside to train travel in Britain, as we are renowned for having some of the most expensive rail fares in all of Europe. A ticket from London to Bristol might set you back around £100 during peak travel hours, for example. However, if you book well in advance and are flexible in when you travel, you should be able to find a ticket that doesn’t cost a small fortune.

If you plan on seeing a lot of the UK by train, it’s worth investing in a rail pass, which will soon pay for itself.

Travel by bike

If you like to travel under your own steam, why not explore the UK by bike? While we’re not suggesting you cycle onto the M25, a scenic tour around some of Britain’s most famous landmarks and landscapes is a unique way to explore our island.

The best ways to travel around Britain in luxury

If money is no object or you want to blow the budget for a special occasion, why not travel around Britain in luxury?

Travel by canal boat

If you are looking for a truly unique experience, choose to travel across the country on a canal boat. This mode of transport has seen an increase in popularity over the last few years and considering Britain’s abundance of picturesque canals, are a surprisingly efficient way to get around, if not a little slow.

A quintessentially English pastime, canal boating is a charming way to discover a quieter side of the country, albeit a fairly costly one.

Travel by helicopter

If you’re looking for something a little more luxurious, consider a private helicopter tour. What better way to see the UK than from the sky? The unique perspective afforded by a flight in a helicopter means that you get an experience like none other, as well as knowing that you can squeeze in maximum visits into shorter timeframes.  Why not take a helicopter ride around Surrey or explore the beautifully scenic south coast.

London from the air, for example, is unparalleled, as you take in Big Ben, The London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and more from above.

Why is it best to take a private helicopter tour in the summer?

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Seeing the sights from the sky is an unforgettable experience, as you will have a unique perspective that you just don’t get on the ground. London landmarks such as the London Eye, Big Ben and the Shard are all even more breathtaking when you see them from above.

A bird’s eye view is the best way to see the city skyline, but when is the best time to take a private helicopter tour?

helicopter - sun

Do the seasons impact on a helicopter flight?

While it is possible to experience a helicopter flight throughout most of the year, weather conditions should always be taken into consideration when you are choosing when to take your tour.

Winter brings the risk of ice and snow, as well as strong winds and rain, all of which pose a safety risk and may result in a flight being postponed.

Spring and summer are generally a safer bet when planning a private helicopter tour, as the weather is more likely to be clear. However, as we are all aware, there is no guarantee it won’t rain, even in the middle of summer! There is also the possibility of a summer storm, which would prevent your flight from taking off.

Autumn is a popular choice for private helicopter tours, as whilst the weather may not be particularly warm, the views should be good thanks to the clear skies. Beautiful Autumn scenery and turning leaves also make for striking photographs, with less likelihood of glare spoiling your shot.

Why should I choose to fly in the summer?

Whilst the weather conditions are the primary reason why summer is the best time to take a private helicopter flight, with a better chance of good flying weather and less risk of your flight being postponed or cancelled, there are also other benefits of flying in the summer months:

  • Good views – a clear summer’s day provides the perfect backdrop for you to see the sights through your tour, reducing the risk of clouds obscuring your view  
  • Ambient temperature – it can get cold in the cabin of a helicopter, even more so during the cooler autumn and winter months. Leave your coat and gloves at home and choose to fly during the summer, when a long sleeved jacket should be the only outer layer you need to keep you comfortable during your flight
  • Reduced turbulence – if you are nervous of taking a flight in a private helicopter, flying during the summer months should reduce the risk of any bumpiness, for a smoother, more enjoyable flight

Bear in mind that spring and summer are typically the busiest times of year for private helicopter tours, so ensure you book ahead as early as possible so you can fly on your chosen day.

If you are planning to take a helicopter flight during your holiday, it’s a good idea to book for the beginning of your stay, in the event that you may have to reschedule due to inclement weather.

What time of day should I fly?

Whilst the season is important, the time of day is also key when you are planning a private helicopter tour.

Flying early in the morning may result in a smoother flight but if you wish to take photographs, an afternoon tour may be better as you will not be shooting directly into the sun and any early morning fog or mist should have cleared, giving you the best possible view.

If you’re unsure of when to book your flight, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to answer any questions or help with any queries you may have.

Support London’s Air Ambulance

We are delighted to support London’s Air Ambulance, helping to extend the reach of their lifesaving missions across London. The London Helicopter will match your donation to double its impact.