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Home > Blog > How Hard Is It To Fly A Helicopter

How Hard is it to Fly a Helicopter?

Posted 03 Nov 2022

Fly a Helicopter

Read on for more information on flying a helicopter, how hard it is, how it compares to flying an aeroplane, and much more.

If you have dreams of becoming a pilot, it is important for you to understand that there is more to aviation than just standard aeroplanes. You have the option of flying various other aircraft, such as microlights, gliders, as well as helicopters.

It is necessary that you decide which aircraft is best suited to your needs and preferences before you jump into training because each type of aircraft comes with its own set of unique rules and training procedures. You cannot fly an aeroplane on a helicopter licence or vice versa, since both require very different methods of operation and thus require separate training.

Read on for more information on flying a helicopter, how hard it is, how it compares to flying an aeroplane, and much more:



If you are a fan of action movies and see yourself engaged in work such as that of rescue pilots, you may be interested in learning how to fly a helicopter as opposed to an aeroplane.

There are many differences between aeroplanes and helicopters. While helicopters are smaller, fly at lower altitudes, and are better-suited to reaching hard-to-access locations, aeroplanes are the choice aircraft for those who wish to fly at higher altitudes and undertake longer flights.

Which type of aircraft is better is not a question that has a straightforward answer. Each type of aircraft comes out on top in some categories and not in others. Which aircraft is the best for you depends on your own unique set of requirements.

Generally speaking, it is understood that helicopters are harder to operate as compared to standard light aircraft. While a pilot may be able to undertake long flights in a standard aeroplane and not be all too tired at the end of it, just a few hours of flying a helicopter may be exhausting for some.

There are many reasons for this, the main one being that helicopters require more active effort to fly, whereas once an aeroplane reaches a cruising altitude, things are pretty much reliant on autopilot.

While flying a helicopter is more physically demanding and challenging, it is highly rewarding. If you have a passion for flying and are willing to dedicate your time and finances to learning how to fly, then you will find helicopter flying enjoyable.

It is important to know what to expect when making a commitment to something new. This article details what challenges you may have to face when learning to fly a helicopter and who this type of aircraft is best-suited to in order to help you make your decision about whether to choose aeroplane or helicopter training.



Once you have decided that you would like to become a pilot, the next step should be to specify which type of aircraft you would like to fly. A pilot licence is not a one-size-fits-all. You will have to make a decision about which aircraft is best suited to your needs.

Having an aeroplane licence does not mean you can automatically fly a helicopter or vice versa. In fact, it isn’t even necessary that you will find the transition from aeroplanes to helicopters easier if you have a licence for the latter since both aircraft are governed by different rules and they require a unique set of skills to operate.

When choosing an aircraft, you will most likely have the choice between a light aircraft, such as the standard types available through Sherburn’s fleet, a microlight, which is a smaller type of light aircraft, gliders (both powered and otherwise), and helicopters.

Which aeroplane is best for you depends on what you wish you do as a pilot. In order to make the decision, you should be well-informed about the pros and cons of each type of aircraft. This will help you make the right decision.

However, keep in mind that there is no limitation to the types of aircraft that you can learn to fly. So long as you have the time and money to invest in different types of training, you can get a helicopter licence as well as any other type you wish to add to your resume.



 Aeroplanes and helicopters are as different as motorcars and motorbikes. You will need to understand the rules and regulations that govern both types of aircraft and what the different modes of operation are.

While a car and motorbike both can be driven on the road, they are fundamentally different in how they are operated. The same applies to aeroplanes and helicopters. Helicopters are generally more difficult to operate as compared to aeroplanes and are thus more expensive to learn how to fly.

However, there are many benefits to helicopter flying. You fly at lower altitudes, which allows for better views, and the fact that they can turn easily and remain stationary in the air makes them ideal for jobs such as those in the police force, search and rescue teams, as well as tour operators.

If you are a recreational pilot, it will make more sense to get an aeroplane licence, given how they are the choice aircraft of most hobbyists. However, there is no rule that says hobbyists cannot fly a helicopter, and if you have the required funds, it will be a highly rewarding experience.



Compared to standard light aircraft, helicopters are a bit riskier to fly. This is mainly due to the fact that they require more skill when operating.

As opposed to aeroplanes, which are fixed-wing and only require active engagement during take-off, landing, and ascent and descent, helicopters require a pilot to be actively engaged in flying throughout the flight.

Aeroplanes are generally more stable due to the fixed-wing component, while helicopters come with some instability due to the rotors that allow them to fly. A pilot must be skilled in order to ensure a smooth flight and constantly needs to be engaged in keeping the helicopter stable.

In comparison, once an aeroplane has reached a cruising altitude and steady speed, the pilot can relax and allow the aeroplane to continue flying straight without much input. The higher altitude at which the aeroplane operates also means that there are not as many obstructions in the aeroplane’s path, which makes collisions unlikely.

When it comes to helicopters, they fly at a lower altitude. While this is beneficial when it comes to getting close to landmarks and getting good views, it is more likely that the helicopter may encounter obstacles along the way.

Regardless, as long as the pilot knows what they are doing and have the necessary training required to operate a helicopter, it is safe to fly. All it requires is some patience and hard work on the part of the pilot when it comes to training.



Due to the higher level of skill required and the complexity of the controls, helicopter lessons are generally more expensive than aeroplane lessons. Maintenance of the helicopter also comes with a higher price tag due to the more complicated nature of the aircraft.

Since the helicopter is not as stable as the aeroplane, it is also more likely to sustain damage during flights. This can lead to higher maintenance costs. However, if you ensure that you are flying the helicopter correctly and safely and not flying into bad weather, you can minimise wear and tear and lower the workshop bills.

 Also, while helicopter lessons are more expensive than aeroplane lessons, if you are looking to make a career as a helicopter pilot, you can rest assured that the lessons are a great investment. Due to the highly-skilled nature of the job, helicopter pilots are in high demand and you can relax knowing you will be able to make back much of the money you invest into learning how to fly a helicopter.

Not just helicopters, aeroplane pilots are also in demand, with the air travel industry always on the lookout for skilled pilots to join their workforce.



The financial investment and level of difficulty may make many people turn away from helicopter lessons, but you should know that learning how to fly a helicopter is highly rewarding. Being able to fly a helicopter after putting in the time and effort to learn make it a highly pleasurable experience, and there are many factors that may make helicopters the aircraft of choice for a pilot.


Ability to reach difficult locations

One of the biggest advantages of flying a helicopter is that it can be flown into locations that a standard aeroplane cannot reach. Helicopters are relatively smaller and can easily be turned. This means they are more convenient when you are trying to access narrow areas.

The flying altitude of the helicopter is also lower, which means you are closer to buildings. These features of helicopters make them perfect for relief efforts or search and rescue operations. Unlike an aeroplane, a helicopter can also remain stationary in the air. This is important when lifting objects, such as people who are trapped, off the ground.

An aeroplane, on the other hand, must keep moving forward in order to stay in the air. It cannot stop midway, as that would mean the aeroplane will have to land. The lower flying altitude also makes helicopters great for sightseeing, with many companies employing helicopter pilots to fly passengers around attractions.


Diverse job descriptions

The world of helicopter flying is very diverse and creative, and you can find jobs in a multitude of industries. You can work with security forces, the military, hospitals, tour organisations, and cargo services, or be privately employed by people who wish to be transported via helicopter.


The fun of flying a helicopter

 Apart from the utility of flying a helicopter, they are also incredibly fun to fly. Once you have mastered the controls of the aircraft, you can truly enjoy the experience. The views are incredible and the thrill of flying a helicopter is unique.



Since helicopters can turn easily and can also remain stationary in the air, they are far more flexible to fly. Unlike aeroplanes, they do not require long landing and take-off strips and can easily land or take off from anywhere, even from the tops of buildings! When it comes to flexibility, helicopters win out.



 Just like you would need a pilot licence to operate an aeroplane, you will need to do the same for helicopters. There are two main types of helicopter licences. The first is the Private Pilot Licence - Helicopter, and the second is the Commercial Pilot Licence - Helicopter.


Private Pilot Licence (H)

The PPL(H) is simply a private pilot’s licence for helicopters and is the starting point for anyone looking to fly this type of aircraft.

Just like the PPL-Aeroplane, the PPL-Helicopter requires 45 hours of total flight time as well as a series of theoretical exams that you will have to clear in order to be able to get your pilot licence. A Class 2 medical certificate is also necessary.

It also includes a Radiotelephony licence and 10 hours of solo flying time, of which 5 have to be navigation. There are also theoretical exams that you need to successfully clear.


Commercial Pilot Licence (H)

If you wish to fly in a professional capacity, you will need to either opt for or upgrade to the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) - Helicopter. This requires more hours of training and a Class 1 medical certificate, which is more stringent than the Class 2.

It includes 20 hours of visual flying and 10 hours of instrument flying, with an emphasis on more accurate navigation and greater handling skill. There is also a focus on decision-making, as well as threat and error management skills.

Most candidates are also required to complete 5 hours of night training in addition to the 30-hour course – unless you already hold the night rating.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

The flying club is home to a diverse community of pilots and highly-trained CFIs dedicated to making sure you have a great learning experience. Located within Sherburn’s airfield, Hields Aviation provides pilots with the opportunity to fly helicopters in a safe, fun, and welcoming environment.

Hields offers training in the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) for helicopters as well as light aircraft. It also offers helicopter flight experiences for those of you who wish to experience the thrill of flying an aeroplane without making the commitment to training.

With 30+ years in helicopter flying, it provides a range of helicopter services including charter/brokerage, experience flights, aerial filming/photography, and pilot training. With a friendly team of instructors and years of experience in the industry, the helicopter school alone has logged over 35,000 flying hours! From a simple cost-effective Robinson R44 to the luxury 5-seater Bell 505 Jet Ranger, Hields Aviation’s helicopter fleet has something for everyone.

Whether you’re thinking of learning how to fly a helicopter, hiring from our helicopter fleet, or fancy a flight experience across Yorkshire, our facility at Sherburn is here to welcome you! You get the chance to meet new friends and experience the nature of a real family business. Our airfield facilities include the ability to carry out all the syllabus on the field and we even have our own dedicated helicopter circuits.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on helicopter flying!


Photo by Victor B. on Unsplash 



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