Characteristics of a Great Helicopter Pilot

Characteristics of a Great Helicopter Pilot

Becoming a pilot is so much fun. You get to fly in the air like a bird. However, becoming a pilot is not a piece of cake. You have to learn the very difficult mechanism of a helicopter or an airplane. More than this technical knowledge there are certain traits that you are expected to have as a good and reliable pilot. What are these traits? In this post, you shall learn what are the most important characteristics of a pilot. If you have these traits and an interest in aviation, then this might be the career path for you. If not, you always have a chance to improve your skills and knowledge at a flight school and become better prepared for a career as a pilot.

You may be familiar with the many aspects involved with driving a car, such as the laws and driving techniques that keep yourself and other drivers safe. The same goes for other types of transportation, whether it be via land, sea, or air. Perhaps the most difficult vehicle to operate out of all transportation methods, however, is aircraft. Specifically, piloting a helicopter. With less stability than an airplane and an ability to maneuver in every direction, helicopters demand certain traits from the people who control them. Here are some characteristics of a great helicopter pilot.

Attentive and Aware

Helicopters require a pilot that pays attention to multiple details while being able to evaluate the conditions at any given moment. As a result, pilots must have solid situational awareness. This means that they need to be actively conscious of the helicopter’s systems, outside environmental conditions, helicopter’s spatial position, and time while in the air. Losing sight of any component of situational awareness can quickly lead to disaster should the pilot go off course or encounter unexpected obstructions or adverse weather. Being attentive are aware are important characteristics of a helicopter pilot.


Helicopter pilots must also be in constant contact with air traffic controllers during flight. The ability to communicate effectively is pivotal, as the pilot should be able to relay information on the state of their surroundings and their helicopter while also listening to the controller. Directions from the air traffic controllers keep the pilot safe, as they inform the pilot of other aircraft nearby, the weather, and when and where to land. They can also help the pilot in the case of an emergency. Pilots must, therefore, listen well in addition to speaking clearly. This is a skill that is practiced intensely during flight training as it's crucial in all operations.

Controlled Mind

With the risks ever-present when flying a helicopter, a pilot should have a strong, controlled mindset that anchors them firmly no matter what circumstances they come across. When unanticipated incidents occur, they need to stay calm to maintain their full faculties and continue to pilot in the best manner possible. The ability to stay in command takes a fair bit of confidence, but they should also balance this with measured carefulness. Becoming too self-assured can lead to oversights in judgment and endanger the pilot and others. Knowing how to react in a variety of situations while staying calm is key which is why several emergency situations are simulated or practiced during your flight training.


Helicopter pilots may be called on to perform variety of missions and operations which can both excite and challenge the pilot. These missions can mean that the specifics of operation change, such as the landing location or days of operation. It’s important to be flexible when working as a helicopter pilot as there will inevitably be changes that are beyond your control. The most important thing is completing the mission safely and that may require adjustments in the plan so remaining flexible is key.

There can also be changes in schedule, and you often work longer weeks especially during busier seasons. It can also mean moving to a certain base of operations for a while in order to complete the mission. Many pilots relocate for a job and then travel home on their off days. This kind of schedule requires flexibility and someone who can adapt to changes. Therefore, it’s important to consider the lifestyle of a pilot when deciding whether or now to pursue this career path.

Remaining Calm Under Pressure

With demands for completing a mission both safely and successfully often weighing heavily on the pilot’s shoulders, it’s important to be able to remain calm under pressure and still be able to rely on your knowledge to make the best decisions.

When you are looking at factors like weather and trying to determine whether you can complete a mission, you must be able to think critically and weigh the options to ensure your mission is safe. It can be tempting to want to please the customer, which is important and talked about in our next section but remaining calm and able to evaluate the situation at hand is critical. Your job as a pilot and the success of the mission depend on your decision-making ability often in stressful situations which is why remaining calm under pressure is a valuable characteristic of a helicopter pilot. 

Focus and Multitasking

In your role as a pilot, you will have numerous potential distractions from customers and other people associated with the operation such as aircraft fuelers or dispatchers, but it’s your job to be able to tune out the distractions to safely complete the mission. You must also be able to decipher which messages are important and need to be addressed and which can wait until later. Your ability to focus and tune out noise is a skill you will learn over time, but it’s an important one to master. This level of focus is key for any successful pilot.

This ability to focus goes hand in hand with the ability to multitask. Pilots must be good multitaskers as there are numerous items that need to be completed before each flight and then during the flight. Pilots must look at everything from the passenger load to weather conditions to aircraft operations. Each of these elements of the flight is crucial and must be given consideration. And these elements, weather in particular, can change quickly after the flight plan has been made and the aircraft has departed on its journey. The pilot must be able to manage all the logistics of the flight in addition to the flight operations which requires quite a bit of multitasking. This is something pilots learn during their training, and it improves with additional piloting experience.

Customer Service

Being a pilot means interacting with customers at various points depending on your job. Many pilots begin their careers as flight instructors where they become the teacher for the student pilots. Providing good customer service is key as most students’ first experience with aviation and learning piloting skills is through their instructor. A good, supportive instructor can make all the difference to a pilot in training. Someone who goes the extra mile to help them learn a difficult concept or spends extra time on a post-flight briefing, can help shape their future perspective on aviation.

As pilots advance in their careers, many fly tour operations or offshore support which means carry many passengers. Not only must the pilot complete the mission safely, but they must also be prepared to answer passenger questions, be friendly and welcoming to those on board, and make sure the customers have an enjoyable experience.

This will be a theme that continues throughout your career as there will always be a customer for every mission that will expect their desired outcome to be achieved. Whether you are placing an air conditioning unit on a new building for the owner or providing aerial support for wildfires for the US Forest Service, there is a customer involved who you must provide excellent service to. People can forget about this aspect of a helicopter pilot’s job as it is different than being an airline pilot with an aircraft full of passengers every day, but there is still a customer to support on these missions, and it’s just as important to make sure they are as pleased with the result as every passenger delivered to their destination by an airline pilot.


Strong teamwork skills are important especially in a multi-crew environment which almost every pilot will experience at some point during their career. Being able to work with other crew and staff to successfully complete a mission is key. Whether it’s communicating with an aircraft fueler about how much fuel is need for the mission or working with your mechanic to make sure he or she understands any problems with the aircraft so they can address it, it’s on you as the pilot to guide this team and make sure every member is working toward the same goal and is being communicated with effectively.

Many people might think that helicopter pilots work on a more individual basis, but they often operate as part of a team with other crew members and maybe even other pilots assisting in the operation. Many operations offer crew resource management (CRM) training for new pilots as its viewed as the foundation for any successful aviation operation. The skills that CRM training highlights are situation awareness, communication skills, teamwork, task allocation, and decision making. The CRM skills are laced throughout this blog in various sections, but they are the focus in this training to ensure pilots have a comprehensive framework for understanding the standard operating procedures.

Strong Aviation Knowledge

This characteristic might seem obvious, but a good helicopter pilot will need to have good knowledge the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) in addition to commercial pilot skills. A good pilot will also be able to do flight planning, weather evaluation, and be able to read maps. These are all skills that are learned during your flight training and provide the foundation for a career as a professional pilot. When selecting a program for your pilot training make sure you are going to a flight school that has experience training professional pilots and has a good reputation in the industry that can help you make connections throughout your career.

Next Steps

If you believe you have what it takes to complete the helicopter training program and you possess the characteristics of a pilot, please contact our team at Hillsboro Heli Academy. You can reach us at or 503-726-3000 to book a meeting or schedule a campus tour. We also host informational webinars every other month that dive into more detail about the training program and the career path. If you would like to attend, you can register here. We have successfully trained professional helicopter pilots from all over the world since 1980, and we look forward to helping you on the path to your piloting career.