How Long Does Helicopter Pilot Training Take?

So, you’ve decided you’re interested in a helicopter career. Like you, prospective helicopter pilots from around the world took interest in Hillsboro Heli Academy and chose us to help them pursue their dream of flying. They all started at the same position asking, how do I become a helicopter pilot? How long will helicopter training take to complete.

While there are many factors to consider when choosing to begin pursuing your dream of becoming a helicopter pilot, let’s focus on the duration of time it will take before you can begin that first commercial job you’ve always dreamed about.


How Long Does Helicopter Pilot Training Take?
The duration of a helicopter training program will vary from school to school, but at Hillsboro Heli Academy you can complete our Professional Pilot Program in 12-15 months if you are a full-time student, participating in at least five activities per week. An activity would either be a ground lesson, simulator lesson, or actual flight. Having at least one of these, or a mix of these scheduled five times a week will keep you a full-time participant in helicopter training. At our school, you will complete ground and flight lessons one-on-one with your instructor so you can set a pace that allows you to complete the courses on your timeline.

Now let's break this timeline down, what exactly will you be doing for 12-15 months? The Helicopter Professional Pilot Program is developed with multiple courses to help students obtain their Private Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot Certificate, and Certified Flight Instructor Rating to get them set to fly into the field. Let’s focus on each course and see how long it takes to train for each of these pilot ratings.

The First License in your Training: The Private Pilot Certificate
The first step in helicopter training is starting on your Private Pilot Certificate. This certificate lets you fly helicopters recreationally and for fun. The private pilot course is the first building block training for the professional pilot program. The FAA minimum hour requirement for a Private Pilot Certificate is 35 hours of ground training and 35 hours of flight training. Most students complete their training in 50-60 hours, but we can’t guarantee a specific minimum for completion—everyone learns at a different rate. Looking at the average completion time, a full-time student that commits themselves to 5-6 activities per week translates to about three months. This part of the training is the first step introducing students to basic flight maneuvers, aeronautical decision making and flying solo for the first time. This course may take the longest, as it is the first stepping stone of helicopter training, and it will teach you the fundamentals you’ll use throughout your career.

As fun as recreational flying may be, if you are striving for a commercial helicopter job as a career -- as we recommend -- you would have to continue on through the Commercial Pilot Certificate.

Training for Flight in Low Visibility Conditions: The Instrument Rating
The next three months would be spent on introducing yourself and building your instrument skills. The weather in the Pacific Northwest brings a great variety of weather conditions allowing students hands-on experience in the cockpit with conditions that necessitate the helicopter instrument rating. Looking at the hours required for an Instrument Rating, the FAA requires 35 hours of flight training and 30 hours of ground training. Keeping five scheduled activities a week will help you stay on track and expand your instrument-based skills during this course.

Turning Pro: The Commercial Pilot Certificate
The Commercial Pilot Certificate is the certification that gets you paid. Recreational flying is fun, but if you want to dive into the career of being a helicopter pilot; learning the advanced maneuvers and skills a commercial pilot needs will set you up to be ready for your first job. The FAA minimum requirement for a Commercial Pilot Certificate is 30 hours of ground training and 115 of helicopter flight training. At least 20 of those hours must be completed with a flight instructor, but the actual amount of time spent on dual training will depend on any extra training modules you choose. This would mean if you’ve kept up five activities per-week and continue to do so, an average of three or four months would be spent on expanding your advanced maneuver skills.

Preparing to Teach at a Helicopter Flight School: Certified Flight Instructor and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument
Once you have your Commercial Pilot Certificate, you technically have the skills necessary to launch your career. However, most entry-level jobs in a helicopter career do require at least 1,000 to 1,500 hours flown to be qualified for the job. At Hillsboro Heli Academy, we offer an opportunity to apply to be a Certified Flight Instructor after completing the Professional Pilot Program. This gives students their first pilot job, and a chance to gain hours and advance your skills in the time between completing the program and moving onto a commercial job. For this reason, we offer a Certified Flight Instructor Rating to expand students' knowledge not only on helicopter flight training but learn in depth while training others how to become a helicopter pilot. You must complete this CFI rating in order to gain employment, at Hillsboro or any other school, as a Certified Flight Instructor.

The FAA minimum requirement for Part 141 CFI Rating is 40 hours of ground training and 25 hours of flight training. Generally, the flight time for the CFI is the difference between your flight time on earning a Commercial Pilot Certificate and 200 hours of total time, which is required for those who want to instruct in a Robinson R22.

An additional rating we offer is the Certified Flight Instructor Instrument add-on. This additional rating gives you a competitive edge in hours-building because it allows you to provide instrument training as a CFI. The number of hours to obtain this rating will depend on your instrument proficiency. Usually training only takes about two weeks to a month before a student is confident and their skills are strong enough for their CFII check ride.

 We hope this helps clarify the duration of helicopter training courses and what’s needed to begin your career as a professional helicopter pilot. If you have additional questions, please contact our admissions team at