Exploring Types of Helicopters Commonly Used for Flight Training

Embarking on the journey to become a helicopter pilot is an exhilarating adventure filled with new experiences and challenges. One key aspect of this journey is selecting the right helicopter for flight training. In this blog post, we’ll explore the types of helicopters commonly used for flight training, discussing four popular options and their advantages and disadvantages, helping you make an informed decision on your path to conquering the skies.

Key Takeaways

  • Four popular helicopters for flight training are the Robinson R22, Robinson R44, Schweizer 269/300 and Guimbal Cabri G2.
  • When choosing a flight school for helicopter training consider the instructors’ experience, career requirements as well as safety records and the reputation of the school.

Popular Helicopters for Flight Training

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Four helicopters are predominantly used for flight training:

  1. Robinson R22
  2. Robinson R44
  3. Schweizer 269/300
  4. Guimbal Cabri G2

Each of these helicopters offers unique advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the characteristics of these helicopters will help you choose the right one for your training needs and ultimately enhance your flying experience.

Beginning your journey as a helicopter pilot, considerations like weight limits and helicopter controls are crucial when choosing a training helicopter. The upcoming sections will give a detailed analysis of each of these popular training helicopters, equipping you with the necessary information to choose the best aircraft for your flight training.

Robinson R22

The Robinson R22 is a popular choice among training helicopters due to its affordability and widespread use in flight schools. Its lightweight design makes it a cost-effective option for aspiring helicopter pilots. However, the R22 comes with some limitations, such as a limited cabin size and weight restrictions, which can make it less suitable for certain training scenarios. 

In addition to its affordability, the R22 features an innovative T-bar design for the cyclic control, as opposed to the more conventional placement directly in front of the pilot in other helicopter which aids in sensitivity and controllability. While this unique design sets the R22 apart, it also requires extra training and adaptation may require some getting used to for pilots transitioning from other helicopter types. 

Despite these drawbacks the R22 remains a popular and economical choice for many pilots pursuing a career as a professional helicopter pilot. 

Like many helicopters, the R22 does have pilot weight limits that should be considered when choosing the right training helicopter. 

Also, as it's the most widely used helicopter for training, if your plan is to work as a flight instructor, which the majority of commercial pilots do to build hours, you will need to consider having R22 time. The FAA's SFAR 73 regulation requires that in order to instruct in an R22, the pilot must have at least 50 hours in that aircraft model in addition to 200 total helicopter flight hours. This is another important factor to consider when determining which aircraft would be the best fit for your training.  

Robinson R44

The Robinson R44, a larger 4-seat helicopter, offers a more spacious training environment for pilots. This increased stability makes it a suitable option for advanced flight training such as external load training.

However, the R44 comes with higher rental fees, making it a less suitable option for all training scenarios, especially for those on a tight budget. With an hourly rental rate of about $550, on average, without a flight instructor, the R44 may not be the most cost-efficient option for training.

Schweizer 269/300

Another popular option for flight training is the Schweizer 269/300. This economical and comfortable training helicopter offers a spacious cabin, making it suitable for taller and wider students who may find the R22’s cabin too cramped. This additional space does come with a cost that is more than the R22 but less than the R44.  The Schweizer 269/300 also boasts stable and predictable flight characteristics, making it an attractive choice for pilots in training. 

Despite its advantages, the Schweizer 269/300 has some limitations, such as a low velocity VNE and restricted range, which may not be ideal for intense training scenarios or pilots who require a more agile helicopter. There are also less of these aircraft used at flight training schools so they can be more difficult to locate for training as well as a job teaching in one.  

Guimbal Cabri G2

The Guimbal Cabri G2 is a newer designed helicopter specifically for training purposes. It boasts technical features making it an attractive option for pilots who value modern technology. The G2 is equipped with a three-bladed semi-articulated main rotor and a shrouded tail rotor, powered by a reciprocating engine, offering a smooth and stable flight experience.

However, the G2 comes with a higher rental cost compared to other training helicopters, which may be a deterrent for some pilots on a budget. It is also not as widely used at most schools which means when you go to work as an instructor, you will need to remain flying this type of helicopter as you don't meet the SFAR 73 requirements.

Advanced Training Options for Helicopter Pilots

In addition to mastering the basics of helicopter flight, pilots can also pursue advanced training options to enhance their skills and employability. These advanced training courses include:

  • Turbine transition
  • Night vision goggle
  • External load
  • Mountain operations training

The following training is most often provided with employers and it’s valuable to consider when choosing a job that will help train you towards your ultimate helicopter career job. 

The upcoming sections will delve into these advanced training options, discussing their benefits for helicopter pilots in more depth.

Turbine Transition Training

Turbine transition training provides pilots with the skills and knowledge necessary to safely and proficiently operate turbine helicopter, specifically turbine-powered helicopters. This training is essential for pilots pursuing careers in air ambulance services, aerial firefighting, or other demanding fields that require the use of turbine-powered helicopters.

This training is usually offered by your first employer who operate turbine aircraft. 

The most crucial action for a new pilot is accumulating flight hours. Turbine transition training offers the following benefits:

  • Equips pilots with the skills to operate more advanced helicopters
  • Helps pilots build valuable flight experience
  • Opens up new job opportunities

Night Vision Goggle Training

Night vision goggle training equips pilots with the skills to use night vision goggles mounted on a helmet to enable flying a helicopter during nighttime. This training is particularly beneficial for pilots pursuing careers in search and rescue or emergency operations, where the ability to fly safely in the dark is crucial.

External Load and Mountain Operations

External load and mountain operations training courses are specialized programs designed to enhance pilots’ external load operations and mountain flying skills, providing increased versatility and proficiency. Pilots seeking careers in aerial firefighting, emergency services, cargo transportation, or other related fields can greatly benefit from this training, as it equips them with the skills necessary to safely and effectively manage additional weight and balance shifts associated with external loading.

Mountain operations training involves acquiring the skills needed to safely and correctly pilot a helicopter through mountainous terrain and canyons. Even if a pilot has no plans to fly through mountains in their job, gaining familiarity with mountain operations can increase their overall piloting proficiency, making them a more versatile and skilled pilot.

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Choosing the Right Flight School for Helicopter Training

Selecting the right flight school for helicopter training is a critical step in becoming a successful helicopter pilot. A high-quality flight school can provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to excel in your chosen career.

This section offers guidance on selecting the ideal flight school for your helicopter training, factoring in aspects such as the instructors’ experience, available resources and equipment, and the safety records and reputation of the institution.

Researching Available Options

Before choosing a flight school, thorough research and comparison of the available options are key to finding the best fit for your individual needs. Consider factors such as:

  • The type of helicopter utilized
  • The cost and duration of the program
  • The availability of instructors
  • Graduation and job placement rates
  • Industry connections and partnerships

When assessing different flight schools, don’t be afraid to ask questions and gather as much information as possible about each flight school. This will help you make an informed decision and ensure that you receive the best possible training for your specific goals and needs.

Keep in mind, the time you invest in researching available options can help you save money and avoid potential frustrations in the future.

Evaluating Instructors and Resources

The experience of the school and the quality of the instructors, as well as the resources and equipment available at a flight school, play a significant role in determining the quality of your training experience. When evaluating schools, consider the flight instructors' training background, knowledge of the aircraft, and commitment to safety. Additionally, assess the ability for on-site maintenance, access to spare parts, and other essential equipment when evaluating resources.

A successful training experience also hinges on a comprehensive and well-structured curriculum. Prioritize flight schools that provide rotorcraft training certified by the FAA and hold a Part 141 certificate. By carefully evaluating instructors, resources, and curriculum, you can ensure that you receive the highest quality training possible.

Considering Safety and Reputation

A flight school’s safety record and reputation in the industry are important factors to consider when making your decision. Here are some steps to assess the school’s safety record and reputation:

  1. Consider the safety standards, safety program, and culture of the school and the aircraft used for training.
  2. Evaluate the number of successful graduates from the school.
  3. Research the school’s standing in the industry to gauge its reputation.

By choosing a flight school with a strong safety record and a solid reputation, you can ensure that you receive top-notch training that will set you up for success in your future career as a helicopter pilot. Keep in mind, the time and effort you invest in researching and selecting the right flight school contributes to your future success as a helicopter pilot.


In conclusion, becoming a helicopter pilot is an exciting and challenging journey that requires careful consideration of factors such as choosing the right helicopter for training, safety systems and quality, and selecting the best flight school. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of popular training helicopters, exploring advanced training options, and carefully evaluating flight schools, you will be well on your way to a successful and rewarding career as a helicopter pilot. Remember, the sky’s the limit!

Frequently Asked Questions

What advanced training options are available for helicopter pilots?

Helicopter pilots can receive advanced training such as turbine transition, night vision goggle, external load, and mountain operations.

How do I choose the right flight school for helicopter training?

When selecting a flight school for helicopter training, ensure the institution has quality instructors, well-maintained resources and equipment, and a reputable safety record.