Commercial Pilot License

Your commercial pilot license allows you to carry cargo or passengers for compensation or for hire. In short, your commercial pilot license allows you to work as a professional helicopter pilot!
Professional helicopter pilot flying over water


The FAA standards of required knowledge and flight experience are much higher for your commercial pilot license than for your private pilot license.
  • Read, write, understand, and speak English
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold a Private Pilot License
  • Hold a current FAA 3rd class Medical Certificate
  • Pass an FAA Commercial Knowledge Test
  • Complete 150 hours of flight time
  • Complete a minimum of 100 hours of PIC time with at least 35 hours PIC in helicopters
  • Pass the FAA Practical Exam

Questions about getting your commercial pilot license? Check out our FAQ!

There are all kinds of jobs out there for helicopter pilots right now that are located in all parts of the country and the world. Some examples of careers for helicopter pilots are corporate transportation, search and rescue, EMS, police, fire fighting, ENG (Electronic News Gathering), etc.

When choosing to fly helicopters for your career, you can expect to start off as an instructor. Instructing usually lasts for about a year with an income of $30,000 to $35,000. Ultimately, depending on the field you want to get into, a salary of $80,000 up to and over $100,000 is obtainable.

No, a college degree is not necessary. While flight training, you focus all of your educational time on how to fly and on course material that is relevant to the flying environment. However, having a college degree is not a detriment to obtaining a flying job either; a few flight departments consider it a benefit.

The private pilot’s license typically takes 2-6 months depending on the student’s availability and learning curve. The Commercial license can take up to a year and the CFI usually 2 months. From no experience to a Certified Flight Instructor takes on average 1 ½ to 2 years, at which time you’re employable.

The required hours for employment are based on what you are interested in doing. For most tour/sightseeing jobs or offshore oil transportation the minimum is 1000 hours. This will take about one year from the point you finish your training. From there 2000 to 3000 hours can get you into EMS, ENG or corporate transportation.

While having both ratings on your resume may help you obtain a job with certain companies, there is by no means a requirement to be airplane rated to advance as a helicopter pilot.

Generally, no. The costs will even out most of the time because you will need to learn new maneuvers and procedures that are different from flying an airplane. It’s actually easier to transition to an airplane from a helicopter than the other way around. With that said, we have many graduates of our program that did have their airplane rating first, and we always welcome add-on rating students.

As long as you can correct your vision to 20/20 or near 20/20 with glasses or contact lenses, you can obtain a medical. Some examples of what will prevent you are diabetes that requires insulin, coronary heart disease, or certain mental conditions.

In most cases, no, but there will be more scrutiny placed on you during your medical and your flight exam. Typically a DWI or DUI does not prevent you from flying a helicopter.

Helicopters are sensitive to weight and balance. The R22 can carry up to 240 pounds per seat, but we recommend being no more than 220 pounds. The R44 can carry up to 300 pounds per seat; again we recommend that the passenger/student weigh no more than 260 pounds. These numbers are based on fuel, balance, flight time, etc.

We recommend 3 days a week, roughly 2 hours a day. We suggest that if the student is not able to keep that pace that they fly once a week at a minimum to maintain proficiency. In addition to actually flying and receiving ground training, self study and time to absorb your experiences between lessons is an essential part of the learning process.

Typically the flight school carries insurance that covers you, however, they may require you to obtain aircraft damage insurance or deductible insurance to cover the cost of damages incurred up to the deductible.

Not sure if the pilot life is for you? Try an intro flight!