There are two basic types of helicopter training programs: those that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and those that are not. FAA-approved schools are also often referred to as Part 141 schools, while non-approved schools are called Part 61 schools. Part 141 schools meet standards defined by the FAA. Often, Part 61 schools also meet these rigorous standards, but choose not to seek FAA-certification.
The biggest difference between these two types of schools is the number of hours required for certification. Part 141 programs offer certification in 35 hours, while Part 61 programs require a minimum of 40 hours. Because of the longer training requirement, Part 61 schools tend to offer classes at a slower pace and are often a good option for part-time students.
While most helicopter pilot training programs lead to certification, associate and bachelor degree options are available for students at some schools. Ianga Air offers an associate and bachelor degree in aviation flight, where much of the coursework can be completed online. Sky Helicopters and Utah Valley State College have partnered to offer the associate of applied science, associate of science, and bachelor of science degrees in aviation. All degree programs also require the completion of a commercial pilot certificate.
To fly solo during training, a student must first get an FAA Student Certificate. Eligibility requirements for the student certificate include a third-class medical certificate and a minimum age of 16.
After completing training, students are eligible for commercial and private helicopter pilot certificates. Requirements for the private helicopter pilot certificate include a current FAA medical certificate, 10 hours of solo flying, 40 hours of flight time, and passing scores on the FAA written knowledge exam, oral exam, and practical flight test.
Requirements for the commercial certificate include a current FAA medical certificate, current private pilot certificate, 100 hours as Pilot in Command, 150 hours of flight time, and passing the FAA written commercial knowledge exam and an oral and practical FAA flight test.