What’s needed to become a helicopter pilot?

There are no specific academic qualifications required prior to commencing training. There are however a number of things that you will need, to complete your training.

  1. Decide what type of licence you wish to get
  2. Work ethic: Becoming a helicopter pilot requires a lot of work and dedication
  3. Aviation Reference Number (ARN)
  4. Aviation Security Identity Card (ASIC)
  5. Medical examination
  6. Theory
  7. Flight training
  8. Flight test
  9. Finding your first job

What type of licence do you need?

Firstly, you'll need to decide whether you want to go for a Private or Commercial Licence. The Private Helicopter Licence allows you to fly with passengers for recreational or business purposes, but you cannot be paid for your services. A Commercial Helicopter Licence allows you to charge for your services and be employed as a pilot.

Aviation Reference Number (ARN)

Once you have made the big decision to become a helicopter pilot, the first thing you will need to do is obtain an Aviation Reference Number. A student pilots’ licence is NO LONGER required. This is normally a relatively straight forward procedure but can take a little while to process. Your ARN is another name for your pilot licence number and will remain with you for the rest of your flying career.

Suitable proof of identification will be required, and you will need to submit the ARN Application Forms. These forms are available from the CASA website (www.casa.gov.au) http://www.casa.gov.au/wcmswr/_assets/main/manuals/regulate/fcl/form1162.pdf

These forms are also available from Commercial Helicopters. It’s important to read the application instructions very carefully and contact Commercial Helicopters if you need assistance.

What is an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC)

Depending on where you plan to take your career and your flying, you will need an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC). An ASIC is required if you frequently access secure areas of a Security Controlled Airport that has Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations. Armidale is considered a Security Controlled Airport, and having an ASIC is also required when submitting your final licence applications. The ASIC application involves a security check and the forms are also available from the CASA website:


These forms are also available from Fleet Helicopters

Isn't the cost of a helicopter licence exorbitant?

The cost of the average CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) is approx. $60 000, which does sound high, however, consider the following:

  1. The average University degree costs up to $50 000 and takes 3 years.
  2. An intensive CPL course is approx. 6 months, meaning you are out in the industry earning money in your chosen profession in 6 months two and a half years earlier than if you undertake University degree.

There are many institutions willing to offer student loans for helicopter training so there may be no need for upfront payments

Do you need a Medical Examination?

Before going solo, you will need to pass a medical examination with a Doctor nominated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). An ARN is required before you undergo your medical.

Although it is a thorough examination, most people who are fit and healthy have no problems in gaining a pass. For a Private Pilot, this medical must be renewed every four years (if you are under 40) or 2 years (if you are over 40), while for Commercial Pilots it must be renewed annually.

For your closest approved Medical Officer call Commercial Helicopters or view the CASA web page. http://services.casa.gov.au/avmed/dame_search/default.asp . Please note that costs vary between practitioners, regions, cities and states. For more in-depth information about what is involved in, and required by a medical, check out http://services.casa.gov.au/avmed/default.asp

Should you consider combining Helicopter and Aeroplane training?

This is a very common question and the answer may depend on the following:

  • Career aspirations
  • Homebase and proximity to training organisations
  • Financial situation
  • Timeframe available for training

As you can see, this can be a very personal choice and our advice often reflects this. We suggest contacting our instructors to discuss this directly, so we can provide a personal assessment of your best options. Should you wish to include aeroplane training in your plans, we have close links with a local and well-regarded aeroplane school. We can assist in structuring a training plan that will combine the best of both worlds.