How Long Does It Take To Get Helicopter License

The journey to becoming a professional helicopter pilot is an exciting and rewarding experience. At Hillsboro Heli Academy, we provide the necessary tools and guidance to ensure our students are adequately prepared for success. You should first know what's included in our Professional Pilot Program. Our comprehensive Professional Pilot Program covers all aspects of flight training, from Private Pilot to Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor ratings ensuring that you have the knowledge and confidence to make it in your aviation career. Thousands of helicopter pilots from over 50 countries have chosen us to help them pursue their dream of flight.

If you are interested in training to become a professional helicopter pilot, this article will break down the timeline from day one to the license in hand, giving you clear steps and what to expect along the way. 


Overview of Helicopter License Types 

Before we dive into the timeline and factors affecting obtaining Helicopter Licenses, we'll briefly overview each license type to understand the hour requirements and the purpose of each. 

- Private Pilot Certificate 

- Instrument Rating (IR) 

- Commercial Pilot Certificate 

- Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) 

Private Pilot Certificate

Earning your Private Pilot Certificate for helicopters is a big step toward the skies. It allows you to fly helicopters privately, without compensation, and it's the first license aspiring pilots obtain. 

To get started, HAA requires that you be at least 18 years old and able to read, speak, write, and understand English. You'll need a minimum of 35 hours of ground training and 35 flight hours as mandated by the FAA; however, most students average closer to 50-60 hours before they're ready for their check ride. A full-time student who devotes 5-6 hours a week to activities can expect to complete them in approximately 5 months, on average. 

The private pilot course includes both ground school — where you learn about helicopter mechanics, navigation, weather patterns, and more — and hands-on flight training under the guidance of a certified instructor. 

As part of your preparation for becoming a licensed pilot, you must also pass a written exam that tests your knowledge of various aspects of helicopter flying skills. After meeting all these requirements, including passing both written and practical exams — which include an oral test and demonstrating your flying abilities during an actual flight with an examiner — you can proudly call yourself a private helicopter pilot! 

Instrument Rating 

An Instrument Rating is a crucial step for helicopter pilots who want to fly under a broader range of weather conditions using flight instruments. This certification means they're able to navigate through fog, clouds, and heavy rain, where visibility outside the cockpit is significantly reduced or non-existent. 

The training sharpens skills in using navigation systems, understanding FAA regulations for helicopter license operations during poor visibility, and managing the aircraft without relying on visual cues. 

Earning an Instrument Rating involves additional flight hours requirement beyond what's needed for a Private Pilot Certificate. Pilots must master the art of flying by instruments alone, which includes interpreting information from devices such as altimeters and GPS accurately. 

The FAA has set a minimum of 35 hours of flight and 30 hours of ground training for those who are seeking an Instrument Rating under Part 141 regulations. However, it's important to keep in mind that each person learns at a different rate. 

They'll also have to pass written exams and demonstrate their proficiency during a check ride with an examiner. This enhanced capability opens up more opportunities for helicopter pilot career prospects because it qualifies them to fly in almost all types of weather conditions, making them highly adaptable aviators. 

Commercial Pilot Certificate

To get your Commercial Pilot Certificate for helicopters, you'll need to step up the game from a Private Pilot Certificate. It's designed for those looking for hire and compensation, whether it's ferrying passengers or delivering cargo. 

For this License, a minimum of 30 hours of ground training and 150 total flight hours is required, which includes solo flights and specific maneuvers to obtain a Commercial License. If you do five activities weekly, it should take three to four months to gain more expertise in complex maneuvers. 

Securing a commercial pilot certificate takes dedication and more complex training than the private license. You'll tackle advanced navigation programs, master emergency procedures, and hone your pilot decision-making skills. 

The focus is on becoming adept at handling helicopters in various commercial operations under FAA regulations. Once you pass the rigorous written exam and demonstrate your flying proficiency during the check ride with an examiner, this license will open doors to helicopter pilot job opportunities with potential earnings that reflect your enhanced skill level. 

Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) 

A Certified Flight Instructor plays a crucial role in helicopter pilot training. They guide students through both ground school and flight training, ensuring that they have a thorough understanding of aerodynamics, aviation regulations, and the specific requirements for obtaining their helicopter license. 

The FAA minimum for a Part 141 CFI rating is 40 hours of ground training and 25 hours of flight training. To become an instructor in a Robinson R22, you need 200 hours of total time in a helicopter. 

CFIs provide valuable mentorship and support as students progress through the process of earning their private or commercial pilot certificate. Their expertise is essential in helping students develop the necessary skills to become safe and competent helicopter pilots. 

Additionally, CFIs are responsible for evaluating their student's progress and readiness for written exams and check rides required for certification. As experienced professionals, they not only impart technical knowledge but also instill confidence in aspiring helicopter pilots to navigate various flying scenarios effectively. 

Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) 

The Certified Flight Instructor Instrument Rating gives you a competitive edge in hours-building because it allows you to provide instrument training as a CFI. The number of hours required 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. This additional rating will help you stand out from other candidates when you're looking for a job, and it will give you the ability to offer more in-depth training that other candidates may not be able to offer. 


Factors Affecting the Time Required to Obtain a Helicopter License 

Now that we've outlined each helicopter license type, let's look at the factors that affect the time required to obtain each license. Factors such as full-time or part-time training, prior aviation experience, availability of flight instructors, and individual learning pace can all affect the time it takes to obtain a helicopter license. 

Full-time vs. Part-time Training 

Full-time training typically allows for a more concentrated and immersive learning experience. With consistent practice, students may progress through the flight training curriculum at a faster pace while remaining proficient. 

This can result in meeting the required flight hours and passing exams within a shorter timeframe compared to part-time training or not keeping up with five training activities a week.  

Part-time training typically allows for a more flexible schedule. However, the training pace will take longer and ultimately could cost more in the long run due to having to not maintain proficiency in the training curriculum. 

We strongly suggest that if you want to become a professional pilot flying for search and rescue missions, carrying passengers, or urgent rescue operations, you should make a full-time commitment to learning how to fly helicopters. Choosing a comprehensive helicopter training program will help you build the necessary abilities and log the required flight hours with the FAA quickly, setting you up for a successful aviation career. 

Individual Learning Pace 

Your speed of learning plays a significant role in the time it takes to obtain a helicopter license. Some individuals may grasp concepts and skills more quickly, while others may require additional time to understand and master each aspect of flying a helicopter. 

The learning pace can be affected by various factors such as prior experience with aviation, comfort level with flight maneuvers, and comprehension of theoretical concepts. 

Additionally, personal commitments and availability for training sessions can influence the duration needed to complete the required flight hours and ground school. It's important to recognize that every aspiring pilot has their own unique learning curve when pursuing a helicopter license. 

Understanding The Process of Obtaining a Helicopter License 

Eligibility Requirements 

To obtain a helicopter license, the FAA requires individuals must be at least 17 years old and hold a valid FAA medical certificate. However, at Hillsboro Heli Academy, students must be 18 years old to begin flight training.  

Medical Exams 

Those looking to begin a career in aviation must pass a medical exam conducted by an aviation medical examiner (AME). The AME evaluates the candidate's overall health, vision, hearing, and mental fitness to ensure they meet the necessary standards set by the FAA. 

The medical certification process involves providing a detailed medical history, undergoing a physical examination, and additional tests or procedures. Once cleared by the AME, candidates receive a medical certificate that corresponds to their chosen pilot license level. 

An FAA Medical is essential for obtaining any type of helicopter pilot license, and if accepted into our Professional Pilot Program, a first-class or a second-class medical is required before your orientation date. 

Ground Lessons 

Ground training is an essential component of obtaining a helicopter license. During this phase, students learn the theoretical aspects of aviation, including aerodynamics, flight instruments, weather patterns, and navigation techniques. 

Additionally, the ground school covers aviation regulations and protocols required by the aviation authority. It provides aspiring pilots with a solid foundation of knowledge before they start their practical flight training. At HHA, you will have one-on-one training with your instructor to finish ground lessons. 

Flight Training  

After completing ground lessons in helicopter training, the transition to flight lessons marks the hands-on practical phase of learning. This dynamic stage involves applying theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting, where aspiring pilots undertake a series of practical exercises tailored to the specific license they are pursuing.  

Whether working towards a Private Pilot Certificate, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, or certified flight instructor designation, students engage in flight training to accumulate the requisite hours mandated by the FAA.  

These lessons encompass a diverse range of skills, including takeoffs, landings, navigation, emergency procedures, and specialized maneuvers. Under the guidance of experienced instructors, students gain valuable hands-on experience, honing their abilities to navigate, operate, and ensure the safety of helicopters in various flight scenarios.  

Flight training is a pivotal phase that bridges theory with practical application, shaping individuals into skilled and competent helicopter pilots.  

Written Exam and Check Ride 

Before obtaining a helicopter license, pilots must pass a written exam and check ride. The written exam evaluates their knowledge of aviation regulations, navigation, weather patterns, and aircraft operation. 

Following successful completion of the written test, aspiring pilots then undergo a check ride with an examiner. During this practical evaluation, they demonstrate their flying skills and understanding of flight procedures to ensure they meet the necessary standards set by aviation authorities. 

Completing the written exam and check ride marks significant milestones in acquiring a helicopter license. These assessments rigorously assess pilots' theoretical knowledge and practical abilities under real-world flying conditions in preparation for piloting helicopters professionally. 

How Long Does It Typically Take to Get A Helicopter License? 

The Professional Pilot Program at Hillsboro Heli Academy can be finished in 12-15 months if you commit to full-time studies and take part in 5 activities each week. Our one-on-one teaching style allows you to learn and progress at your speed so you can determine the total length of the program. 

Private Pilot: It is typically estimated that it takes 50-60 hours to finish the training; however, we can't guarantee a set amount of time for completion as people learn at different speeds. If an individual is studying full-time, devoting 5-6 hours to their coursework every week, it could take approximately three months to finish. 

Instrument: The FAA requires 35 hours of flight training and 30 hours of ground training for an Instrument Rating. To stay on track and develop your instrument-based abilities throughout this program, it is recommended to commit to five weekly assignments. 

Commercial Pilot: The Federal Aviation Administration requires 30 hours of ground instruction and 150 total hours in the helicopter for a Commercial Pilot Certificate. If five courses are attended each week, it should take the average person three to four months to develop their more advanced flying skills. 

Certified Flight Instructor: The Federal Aviation Administration requires a minimum of 40 hours of ground instruction and 25 hours of flight instruction to earn a Part 141 CFI Rating. 

Certified Flight Instructor Instrument: The amount of time it takes to achieve this rating depends on the individual's skill level on their instrument. Typically, it only takes two to four weeks of preparation before the student is ready to take their CFII check ride. 


Understanding the time it takes to obtain a helicopter license is crucial for aspiring pilots. Factors such as training schedule, prior experience, and individual learning pace play significant roles in determining the duration. 

We hope this post has helped give you a clear understanding of the helicopter training process and requirements to help you plan effectively and achieve your goal of becoming a skilled helicopter pilot. 

Next Step For Your Career 

If you are ready to take the next steps toward a career as a helicopter pilot, we encourage you to reach out to our admissions team to help you get started. Fill out our inquiry form to get detailed information about our training programs. Our admissions team is here to guide you through every step and answer any questions you might have. Your dream of flying is closer than you think.