Training FAQs

Is it hard to learn to fly a helicopter?
Everything is difficult if you can’t do it!! Learning to fly is a big step in anyone’s life and sometimes it is very hard to make that decision to go ahead with it. It does take commitment as learning to fly is not just about the physical act of flying but also about some theory study and passing exams.No previous flying experience is necessary when learning to fly a helicopter; the only requirement is that you are able to pass a medical exam to ensure you are fit to fly. This should be done early on – before too much flying has been completed. It also has to be done prior to one’s first solo flight, i.e. after about 15 to 20 hours flying.

Where do I start?

We recommend you take a 30 minute trial lesson during which you will be shown most of the exercises and tasks involved in obtaining a license. You will get to fly a lot of this flight yourself and not only will it help you decide if you want to go ahead or not, it does count towards your final total of hours required for the license. During this flight with one of our instructors you will be shown (by way of dual controls) how to fly the helicopter yourself.

What is involved in the training to get a PPL Private Pilot License?
This requires a minimum of 50 hours of flight training.
20 hours learning general basic helicopter exercises.
30 hours of the compulsory advanced exercises on mountainous terrain, cross country flying and including a minimum of 15 hours solo.

Students can complete, in addition to the 50 hours, non compulsory ratings such as sling, night flying, and type ratings.

In conjunction with the flight training, six theory exams have to be passed. The six subjects are Aviation Law and Regulations, Meteorology, Navigation, Helicopter Principles of Flight and Technology, Flight Radio Terminology and Procedures, and Human Factors.

In addition, on completion of your training and to have your license issued, you must complete a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Fit and Proper Person (FPP) application to receive a helicopter licence in New Zealand. For this you will need:

  • A Police or Justice Department/Ministry report of any criminal convictions you may have (if you have no convictions, then a report that states this).
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of identity

How often should I fly when training?

Ideally one should fly as often as one can, say 5 days a week, as ‘currency’ is the key factor in achieving the end goal efficiently. However, as this is not always possible, once a week is better than once a month and so on.

What’s involved in the training to get a CPL Commercial pilot license?
This requires a minimum of 150 hours of flight training, which includes a compulsory minimum of 35 hours dual instruction and 35 hours of solo flight time. The extra 100 hours required over and above the 50 hour PPLH requirement is taken up with additional advanced training on such exercises as mountainous terrain, sling load operations, type ratings as well as some practical ‘in the field’ flying.

As with the PPL(H), six examinations in separate subjects must be passed: Aviation Law and Regulations, Meteorology, Navigation, Helicopter Principles of Flight, Helicopter Technology, Flight Radio Terminology and Procedures and Human Factors.

Helicopter Principles of Flight and Helicopter Technology are two separate exams in the Commercial License as opposed to one for the Private License.

As with the PPL(H) you must have completed a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Fit and Proper Person (FPP) application to receive a helicopter license in New Zealand. However, if you have a current FPP from your PPL issue (valid for 2 years) you do not need to go through the full process.

 

What is your Advanced Mountain Training course?
Wanaka Helicopters offers a unique Certificate in Advanced Mountain Flight for helicopters. The Certificate in Advanced Mountain Flight – Helicopters is a NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) approved and accredited course and is an addition to PPL and CPL license training.

The South Island is the only part of the country that has mountains of considerable magnitude. Advanced Mountain Training starts with a general familiarisation in the mountains and learning to cope with unusual horizons and illusions and mountain top landing techniques. The next step is operations in sloping valley situations, landings in more confined spaces and gullies and on knobs and benches on the sides of mountains, progressing to high altitude operations, where power margins are severely diminished and techniques are learnt to be able to safely operate, land and takeoff with very low power margins.

How long do the courses take?

This is up to you and your instructor. It can be done in a few months, or some people spread it over a year or more. Ideally one should fly as often as one can, say 5 days a week, as ‘currency’ is the key factor in achieving the end goal efficiently. However, as this is not always possible, once a week is better than once a month and so on. How much each person does is usually determined by the individuals budget, time constraints etc.

What theory exams do I need to sit?
The six PPL exam subjects are Aviation Law and Regulations, Meteorology, Navigation, Helicopter Principles of Flight and Technology, Flight Radio Terminology and Procedures, and Human Factors.

For CPL, six examinations in separate subjects must be passed: Aviation Law and Regulations, Meteorology, Navigation, Helicopter Principles of Flight, Helicopter Technology, Flight Radio Terminology and Procedures and Human Factors.

Helicopter Principles of Flight and Helicopter Technology are two separate exams in the Commercial License as opposed to one for the Private License.

 

What happens when I get my Commercial Pilot License?
Once you obtain your Commercial License you are able to work for hire and reward within New Zealand and in some overseas countries. Your NZ flying hours can be used towards any license conversions in other countries.

How much flying do I have to do each year after obtaining a license?

The answer is basically none, as your license is a lifetime license. However there is what’s called a currency requirement which means that before you can take passengers you have to complete 3 takes offs and landings every 3 months. Every 2 years you have to complete a Biennial Flight Review with an instructor to make sure you are up to the standard of the license you hold. Some overseas countries require more than this, especially UK and Europe.

Does previous fixed wing experience reduce the requirements for helicopter licenses?
A student already holding a fixed wing license can reduce the PPL 50 hour requirement by as much as 10 hours under the following system. Half of one’s fixed wing ‘pilot in command’ time, flown within the proceeding 12 months (to a maximum of 10 hours) can be accredited.

A student already holding a fixed wing license can reduce the CPL 150 hours by as much as 70 hours, under the following system. Half of one’s fixed wing ‘pilot in command’ (P in C) time, flown within the proceeding 12 months (to a maximum of 50 hours) can be credited towards the helicopter license. If those P in C hours have been flown on Commercial Operations (i.e. you are an operating commercial fixed wing pilot) then an additional 20 hours can be credited, taking the maximum to 70 hours. If a student is a current holder of a CPL(A), only Helicopter Principles of Flight and Helicopter Technology examinations have to be passed.

Is it hard to get employment once I have my commercial license?

The job market is cyclical. There is no substitute for experience but enthusiasm and attitude go a long way to bridging the gap. Your skills as a helicopter pilot are not going to be the only assets you have to offer a prospective employer. All employers in any field will want someone that is multi-skilled so don’t downplay your existing talents! You may have to be willing to travel away from home in search of anything that will afford you a ‘foot in the door’ of someone’s hangar. The rewards are fantastic in the end.