How Much Does a Helicopter License Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  September 13, 2018

Those who want to fly the great blue skies have the option of getting a helicopter license.  While this license is going to be different than a pilot license, it is going to have the same type of training needs such as a certain amount of hours that must be logged and tests that need to be passed.

Helicopter Tour by Tapestry Dude, on Flickr
Helicopter Tour” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Tapestry Dude

How much does a helicopter license cost?

The costs depend on which certificate you need and the school you choose.  This is a hard question to answer since it will vary from school to school and how many hours you need to become endorsed to take your final test.  On average, to successfully become a private pilot using a R22, the costs should be between $12,000 to $17,000.  This is for the private license only and won’t include any training after.  When pricing it per lesson, plan on spending about $250 to $375 per lesson.  Each lesson will add about an hour or two to your log.

What's neededHow much time?Cost
R22 time40 hours~$200/hr x 40 = $8,000
Flight Instructor Time25 hours~$50/hr x 25 = $1,250
SuppliesKit to study$350
Ground School10 hours$50 x 10 = $500
Total(These are estimates and you may need more hours. Plan on adding about 10 more hours to this to be safe)$10,100 (lower end)

The next step after the private helicopter license is the commercial pilot rating.  In order to get here, however, you will need a total of 150 hours.  If you were to meet the minimum requirements during your private license schooling at 40 hours, you would still need an additional 110 hours.  At $200 per hour, this would be an additional $22,000 to add to the costs noted below.  This rating will allow you to be paid and will allow you to fly passengers in a single-engine helicopter.  To complete this training, it will cost about $6,000 to $9,000.  Again, this will depend on how man hours you need.  Refer to the chart below.

What's neededHow much time?Cost
R22 flying time20 hours$200/hr x 20 hours = $4,000
Flight instructor time10 hours$50/hr x 10 hours = $500
Classroom material$300
Ground School10 hours$50/hr x 10 hours = $500
Total(This is the price at a minimum, and again, it's best to add at least 10 hours at $200/hr to this price)$4,300 (low end)

If you want to receive solo hours, without having to pay for them, the best way to do this is by instructing.  You will need to receive your certified flight instructor rating and this will usually cost about $11,000 to $14,000 to acquire.  The costs are broken down below:

What's neededHow much time?Cost
Dual time in R2225 hours25 hours x $200 = $5,000
Ground school40 hours40 hours x $50 = $2,000
Pre & post flights with instructor10 hours10 hours x $50 = $500
Total(this will be on the lower end)$7,500

NOTE:  All of the prices noted above won’t include the written exams or any additional hours you may need to successfully pass.

Instrument ratings can cost $12,000 for commercial and about $2,000 for a certified flight instructor.

The Hillsboro Aero Academy, for instance, charges about $14,130 for the private pilot certificate and $34,011 for the commercial pilot certificate without an instrument rating.

Helicopter license overview

Most helicopter pilots will follow this path:  student, private, commercial and certified flight instructor.  Many pilots will often receive their instrument rating in between their private and commercial rating.

The first step in getting your helicopter license is by passing the private helicopter license portion.  This will allow you to fly a fixed-wing helicopter on your own with family and friends.  You will, however, be prohibited from transporting cargo or paying passengers.  You may be able to ride for a charitable event.

A private license will require 40 hours of aeronautical experience.  This will include 20 hours of training with an instructor, 10 hours of solo flight time and three hours cross country.  It will also require three takeoffs and landings at an airport with a control tower and three hours of night training on a trip over 50 miles.  These are the minimum requirements, and most pilots need more than this in order to qualify since an instructor has to endorse you based on your skill.  The average helicopter pilot needs about 50 hours before they take their test.

A commercial license will require pilots have 150 hours at a minimum with 100 as pilot in command.

The average lesson will last about one to two hours and will include ground instruction and instruction while flying in the skies.

What are the extra costs?

Registration fees

Registration fees may apply and can be around $100 to $200.

Supplies

Supplies, as well as books, are going to be necessary for the classroom training.  Supplies and books will cost anywhere from $300 to $700.  Jeppesen learning materials, a kit commonly found at training centers, will cost about $300 for all the materials.

Ground school

Ground schools can cost about $40 to $60 hours and you will need about 10 hours of training, bringing the total to $400 to $600.

FAA exams

A final exam and knowledge test will be required by the FAA.  These exams, as well as the flight test, are going to cost around $450 to $700 total.  The FAA knowledge test will cost about $150, while the check ride will cost around $500.

Simulators

To log more hours, many schools offer a flight simulator where a student can fly as if he or she was flying in a helicopter.  This can cost about $100 per hour.  A helicopter will have to be rented if you don’t use a simulator.  To rent a helicopter, it will cost anywhere from $150 to $600 per hour.  This will all depend on the type of helicopter you want.  A R22, for example, can cost $250 per hour, while an R44 can cost $500 per hour.   On top of renting a helicopter, if the student is still in the training period, an instructor will be required to fly and he or she will charge an hourly rate.

Medical certificate

A medical certificate will cost about $100 to $200.

Housing

Housing, if you need it, will need to be planned for.  Some school do offer housing options nearby or you can rent an apartment if need be.

Headset

Renting a headset, if you don’t have one, can cost $5 to $15.

Tips to know

In order to receive your private helicopter license, you must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 17 years old, endorsed by an instructor, pass a written knowledge test, meet flying time requirements, pass a practical test and hold a medical clearance.  There is no age requirement to start training, though.

To fly solo, you will need to receive a medical certificate.

Most professional helicopter jobs will ask you have a minimum of at least 1,000 hours and the most common way to receive these hours are by becoming a certified flight instructor (CFI).  Instructing allows you to teach other students while receiving your hours while training them.  To become a CFI, you will need a minimum of 200 hours.

How can I save money?

Shop around since flight schools are going to vary greatly in pricing.  It’s always best to check with at least three schools before making your decisions.  Don’t just pick out the closest school or cheapest one.  You will want to do a number of things such as talking with the instructor, checking the safety rating, looking at the graduation rates, and if job placement opportunities are available — the placement rate.  Copters.com does a good job showing you what you should look for in a school.

When coming down to purchasing learning materials, consider purchasing used books via websites, such as Amazon and eBay.

Many schools offer financing options for those who can’t pay the costs up front.

Those who have been in the military may be able to use their GI bill.  Talk to the the school to explore your options.


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