FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
While learning more about flight school, there are several questions future students run into. We’ve created this page in hopes to expand your knowledge on the process of becoming a pilot, and also to explain what makes us different from most flight schools. If you have questions in addition to what you find here on this page, please contact us.
What are the steps to becoming a Pilot?
The first step is obtaining your PRIVATE certificate for an aircraft Category of Rotorcraft and Class of Helicopter. This allows you to fly a helicopter for personal use, carry passengers, rent helicopters, etc. as long as you are not “compensated”. Even having your friends pay for the fuel in exchange for a flight can be considered compensation.
In order to fly for hire, you will need your COMMERCIAL. This is what allows you to be “hired” as a pilot and receive compensation.
Most companies hiring pilots today will want you to have your INSTRUMENT. The Instrument rating trains you to fly into the clouds, or situations when there is no visual reference to the ground. Although most helicopters are not certified to actually fly in Instrument conditions, having the skills to do so helps pilots survive flying into bad weather conditions. This is called Inadvertent Instrument Metrological Conditions (IIMC) and is one or the leading causes of all general aviation accidents.
The vast majority of helicopter companies require 1000 hours of flight experience. The most common way of obtaining this experience is to become a flight instructor and get paid to teach other new pilots. This requires a Certified Flight Instructor rating (CFI).
In order to train other pilots to obtain their Instrument rating, a second instructor qualification is required which is the Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument (CFII).
Finally, the highest level of pilot certification is the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. Very few companies require this level of certification but it does make you more marketable for competitive jobs. According to the Rotorcraft Pro 2018-2019 Salary Report, pilots who hold an ATP make approximately $10,000 to $15,000 a year more. You can read more information on this Salary Report here.
Part 61 vs Part 141? Which type school is right of me?
There are two types of flight schools, those that operate under FAA Part 61 regulations and those that operate under FAA Part 141. There are good reasons to choose one or the other…
Both Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools require students to meet the same standard of performance and knowledge. They take the exact same written and flight exams for each certificate.
Part 61 flight schools provide more flexibility and do not have a specified number of hours and lessons covering each topic. They do not require a minimum number of hours for ground school, and you can use external resources to help save money. If you are disciplined, and have the ability to self-study, you can complete a Part 61 school faster and spend less money.
Part 141 Flight Schools are required to teach to an FAA pre-approved course syllabus and each lesson must follow the schedule exactly. It provides a more structured environment and is set up along the lines of a university or other degree-oriented program. This will take longer, and generally cost more, but there is one big advantage. If you are ex-military and have VA educational benefits, those funds can only be used in a Part 141 school towards the Commercial, Instrument, or CFI ratings. VA funds cannot be used towards the Private certificate since that does not allow you to secure a job. For this reason, many military veterans will secure their Private ratings with a Part 61 school, then attend a 141 school to utilize their VA funds for a Commercial rating.
What do you mean by “Real World” flight training?
Most flight schools are operated as a business, with the goal of making money by helping student pilots obtain their pilots license. As most helicopter jobs require at least 1000 hours of Pilot in Command (PIC) experience, most pilots obtain their Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) ratings around 200 hours then teach other students in order to build their time up to the 1000 hr mark. The problem is that almost every helicopter sector is looking for “real world” experience that is simply not taught by flight schools because those skills are not required in order to pass the FAA checkride. The Utility and Fire Fighting sector is looking for long line experience, the EMS sector is looking for significant night time and previous NVG experience, the Powerline sector is looking for low level wire environment experience, and any operator servicing areas with mountain terrain is looking for high altitude and mountain experience, etc. It’s truly the old chicken and egg dilemma…. Can’t get a job without experience…. Can’t get experience without a job.
Almost every flight school and Operator out there will admit that this “GAP” exists, but most flight schools are unable to bridge the gap due to lack of experienced instructors, additional risks, more costly, and most use the R22 for training.
Magnum Copters was created specifically with the intention of helping to bridge the GAP between obtaining your pilots license and having at least an entry level knowledge in the “Real World” flight skills operators are looking for.
How is Magnum Copters able to provide this “Real World” flight training?
- The additional power and stability provided by the R44 platform is required in order to safely train most of these skill sets. Magnum Copters is operated by the owners of Trinity Aviation which is an authorized dealer for MD Helicopters. By utilizing the same management team, HR department, Office space, Aircraft Hangar, etc the Magnum Copters Flight School business has very low overhead, allowing it to operate the R44 helicopter at almost the same price as the R22.
- The Chief Pilot at Magnum Copters has been flying for over 25 years with the last 10 spent flying light, medium, and heavy helicopters. He has experience flying in many of the industry sectors including Fire Fighting, Offshore Oil & Gas, Utility, Powerline Construction, Heli-skiing, Tours, EMS, Agricultural applications, and Aerial Filming. He has held Chief Pilot, Company Instructor, and FAA Check Airman and Safety Director positions helping him understand first-hand what skill sets are needed with newly hired pilots. With just under 6,000 hours of flight time, he has the ability to safely instruct new pilots in the basics of these mission specific skill sets.
- By acquiring these entry-level skill sets as a student of Magnum Copters, those pilots who are hired as CFI’s at Magnum Copters will continue to gain experience by teaching those same skills to the next set of student pilots. Pilots going into the industry with 1,000 hours of experience including these “Real World” training areas will have a significantly better chance of securing jobs over someone who has simply been training other students in the R22 to meet the FAA testing minimums.
What are the requirements for a Pilot’s License?
Each license/rating requires a written exam and an FAA Practical check ride in the aircraft.
Below are FAA minimum requirements for each:
Private: 40 hours of flight experience including:
20 hours of flight instruction
3 hours of Cross Country
3 hours of Night
10 hours of Solo
Instrument: 15 hours of Cross Country
Commercial: 150 hours flight hours consisting of at least:
100 hours in powered aircraft
50 hours in helicopters
10 hours Cross Country in helicopters
20 hours training in specific areas
CFI: Typically 10 hours training in left seat
CFII: Typically 10 hours training in left seat
Why does Magnum Copters train in the Robinson R-44?
The most popular helicopters for flight training are the Robinson R-22 and the R-44. The R-22 has two seats, a 4-cylinder carbureted engine, and can carry 389 lbs for the pilot, passenger, and standard fuel. The R-44 is its big brother with 4 seats, a 6-cylinder fuel injected engine and can carry 818 lbs with standard fuel. Many flight schools utilize the R-22 because it is less expensive, but we feel the R-44 is worth the additional cost for several reasons…
#1 is Safety: The R-22 has a very light weight (low inertia) rotor system which allows it to fly with a smaller, less powerful engine. The downside is the response time required to take corrective action for emergency procedures can be less than 2 seconds. The R-44 has a similar rotor system, but the additional weight/mass provides more reaction time for the pilot/student to respond to these critical system failures, making it a safer training platform.
In addition, The R-22 engine has a carburetor which is susceptible to carburetor-icing in temperatures below 70oF and high humidity. If carburetor heat is not applied correctly, it can result in an engine failure. This has been a common cause of accidents in the R-22 over the years. The R-44 engine is fuel injected, which eliminates this potential hazard.
#2 is faster learning: The light weight rotor system on the R-22 is extremely sensitive and requires additional time for pilots to learn to fly without over-controlling. The R-44 is more stable and easier to fly. Students starting in the R-44 typically require much less time to learn to hover, perform auto-rotations, solo, etc. This further reduces the gap in training cost between the R-22 and the R-44.
#3 is real world flight training experience: The R-22 is a great single pilot platform for appropriately trained pilots. However, its commercial use in the real world is extremely limited outside of flight training. The R-44 however has substantial real-world commercial applications including Law Enforcement, Tours, Photo flights, Powerline patrols, light weight external load applications, and News gathering. Most pilots that learn in the R-22 will find it very difficult to secure one of these jobs compared to someone who completed their training in the R-44.
Why choose Magnum Copters?
There is a massive pilot shortage in the industry today and that’s forecasted to continue for the next 8-10 years. It’s not because there’s a lack of “certificated” pilots, but because there’s a lack of “qualified” pilots. Magnum Copters is focused not only on obtaining your license, but helping pilots start a career by incorporating real world training such as vertical reference, external load, turbine transition (MD 500), mountain flying, platform landings, and wire environment training. We also help students with resume boosting and mock interviews because our goal is to help students succeed after receiving their certificates.
Airplane vs Helicopter? Which is better?
Flying an airplane is Awesome. Flying a helicopter is Double Awesome! They can go up, down, sideways, backwards, hover, land just about anywhere… and the list goes on. What many people don’t understand is the big difference in careers between the airplane and helicopter industries. Most airline jobs are highly structured. They generally operate under FAA Part 121 or 135 regulations. You typically take off from the same airport(s), engage the auto-pilot, watch the gauges for a few hours, then land at the same airport(s). Helicopter jobs on the other hand are highly diversified depending on whether you are flying EMS, Tours, doing utility work, fire-fighting, heli-skiing, etc. We fly low and see more, and almost every flight and every day is something new and different.
If you can’t decide which route is best for you, we highly encourage you to take a $99 introductory flight. Then do the same thing with a fixed wing flight school. In either case it will be some of the best money you’ve ever spent and will almost certainly help you decide which path is best for you…….. Awesome……. Or Double Awesome!
How long will it take?
Ultimately, that depends on your level of dedication. If you work daily at building flight time and attending ground school, you can complete the private through CFII ratings within 6 months. If you are considering only a Private rating or add-on, it can be done in two to three months. What inevitably takes much longer and costs more is when students train intermittently or take extended periods of time off between lessons. Rather than moving forward each flight, they end up spending both time and money getting back to where they were on the previous lesson.