For many people, learning how to fly is a lifelong dream. However, for those who are unable to get into flight school or become a commercial/private pilot, getting one’s helicopter licence is arguably the next best thing. In Australia, pilots have access to two types of permits: commercial and personal. Indeed, this brief article will provide a step by step process on how to get a helicopter licence in Australia, along with useful advice on getting through the application as smoothly as possible.

Commercial helicopter licence

If you are interested in becoming a pilot for commercial reasons (i.e. as a career), you’ll need a commercial permit. The requirements to be a commercial flyer are more extensive than becoming a private pilot, primarily because you’ll be responsible for transporting public members. Here are some of the critical steps (outlined by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) one needs to fulfill to be eligible for commercial authorisation:

  • A minimum of 125 hours of flight experience (as per the guidelines of the CASA-approved training criteria)
    • Note: The 125 hours benchmark can be reduced to 105 if the last 30 hours of training are completed within 90 days, and the permit is completed on two aircraft types (with a minimum of 20 hours on each aircraft)
  • A Class 1 Aviation Medical Certificate
  • A demonstration of sufficient knowledge in seven theoretical examinations
  • Successfully pass a practical flight test

Private helicopter licence

Man getting his helicopter licence

On the other hand, getting your private aviation certificate is less strenuous. People who wish to fly for pleasure and take on passengers for no financial reward should pursue a personal helicopter licence. Indeed, this permit will ensure that you can pass any Australian-registered aircraft, as long as you adhere to the following prescriptions:

  • Complete a minimum 50 hours of practical flight experience (as per the CASA syllabus)
  • Complete a Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate
  • Demonstrate that you have adequate knowledge and expertise in a theoretical examination
  • Pass your practical flight examination

Examination tips and advice

There is no doubt that aviation is an incredibly complicated profession. Studying the operation and safe use of aircraft requires many hours of practice, studying and hands-on experience. Before you hit the cockpit, you’ll need to spend a few hours with your head in the books. There’s a range of units of study you’ll need to complete to receive your helicopter licence, including the following:

  • Human Factors
  • Basic Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Pre-Certificate Air Legislation
  • Pre-Solo Air Legislation
  • Flight Radiotelephone Operator

Each of the above subjects varies in difficult; however, thankfully the exams are usually multiple-choice. Before sitting the exams, we recommend you commit several hours of study to each unit. If you’re unsure about the course’s specific elements, you can always reach out to your instructor.

It is also important to remember that each exam requires a pass mark of 80% (so scraping a 52 is still a fail mark, unfortunately). It also means you can’t simply bluff your way through the course and hope for a slim pass. It will help if you put in the study time to ensure you recall everything covered in the class. Moreover, you’ll need to do more than recall information. You’ll need to show that you can apply this information to different scenarios and concepts, regardless of whether you’re applying for a commercial or private helicopter licence.

So, there’s a lot that goes into getting your helicopter licence. Regardless of whether you’re going for a commercial or private permit, you need to fulfill the prescriptions outlined by the CASA. Remember to study hard for all the theoretical tests, since this will put you in a better position for the course’s practical component.