Radiotelephony For Helicopter Pilots

Helicopter HeadsetUpdated on 2nd February, 2017

One of the most intimidating things a student has to do when learning to fly is learning how to talk on the radio. When you first start flying you soon realise that the quality of the sound from the radio is actually very poor. The language is totally different from what you have been used to and there are lots of numbers that are confusing.

Standard Phraseology

As aviation developed over the last century, it became apparent that air traffic controllers needed to be able to communicate with pilots from all over the world. English was established as the common language for aviation around the world. For a pilot whose native language is not English, is was sometimes difficult for them to understand air traffic instructions. Read backs to controllers were non standard and there was very little regulation.

After a horrific accident involving two aeroplanes in Tenerife caused by a misunderstanding of instructions; it was decided to introduce standard phraseology for radiotelephony around the world. During your training you will be taught standard phraseology. Small talk and non essential talking on the radio is frowned upon and should be avoided. You will occasionally hear pilots or air traffic controllers make mistakes or use non-standard phraseology but you should never be tempted to copy them.


You will eventually be able to predict what the air traffic controller will say to you (almost word for word). To make life easier for you, here are a few tips about using the radio:

  • Think about when you are going to need to make your next radio call
  • Ensure that you have the correct frequency dialed into the radio
  • Check that the volume is set correctly
  • Rehearse what you are going to say before transmitting on the radio
  • Keep communication as brief as practical (other pilots may be waiting on you to finish transmitting)


Once you understand telephony through experience, you will be comfortable talking on the radio. It is important that you do not let controllers bully you into doing something you do not want to do. Always remember that air traffic controllers are there to help you. You must have the confidence to talk to them. Tell them what you want to do. Then let them figure out how they are going to accommodate you. If they refuse to let you transit their airspace – ask them what the traffic is. If there is no traffic to affect you then they have no reason not to let you transit.

I will be writing more on this subject later as it is a personal favourite of mine.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

EASA Type Ratings

Updated on 2nd February 2017

Why Get a Type Rating?

Type RatingSo you have a PPL(H) and you want to try something different. For most pilots, getting another type on their license is one of the first things they will do. Having probably completed their training on a two seat helicopter, they now want to carry more passengers and luggage. Larger helicopters will probably have a faster cruise speed and so traveling time is reduced. But what is involved in getting a type rating?

If you are getting your first Robinson R22 or Robinson R44 type rating, then you will have to do a minimum of 5 hours flying during your type rating course. If you already hold a type rating on another type of helicopter then you will still need to do a minimum of 5 hours flying on your type rating course.

Your first piston engine type rating will require you to fly a minimum of 5 hours during the course. If your type rating has expired and you need to renew it, the amount of training will depend on your experience, how long the rating has lapsed and your aptitude.

If a type rating has lapsed, the pilot shall take refresher training at an Approved Training Organisation (ATO). The amount of refresher training needed will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the ATO, taking into account the following factors:

  1. The experience of the applicant. To determine this, the Head of Training will examine the pilot’s logbook.
  2. The complexity of the aircraft.
  3. The amount of time lapsed since the expiry of the validity period of the rating.

The amount of training needed to reach the desired level of proficiency will increase with the time lapsed. In some cases, after evaluating the pilot, and when the time lapsed is very limited (less than 3 months), the training organisation may even determine that no further refresher training is necessary. When determining the needs of the pilot, the following items can be taken into consideration:

  1. Expiry shorter than 3 months: No supplementary requirements.
  2. Expiry longer than 3 months but shorter than 1 year: A minimum of 2 training sessions.
  3. Expiry longer than 1 year but shorter than 3 years: A minimum of 3 training sessions in which the most important malfunctions in the available systems are covered.
  4. Expiry longer than 3 years: The pilot should again undergo the training required for the initial issue of the rating or for the training required for the ‘additional type issue’, according to other valid ratings held.

Once the training organisation has determined the needs of the pilot, it will develop an individual training programme that will be based on the initial training for the issue of the rating and focus on the aspects where the pilot has shown the greatest needs.

Approved Training Organizations (ATO)

All training for type ratings must be undertaken at a training school approved for type rating training. These schools are called Approved Training Organisations (ATO).

You can check with your country’s Authority to find out which training organisations can do the specific type rating courses.

How Long?

If you are doing a type rating course that only requires 5 hours of flying, you can expect to spend the first day in the classroom and learning all about the systems of the helicopter. This will normally end with a technical written examination on the specific helicopter type.

The following two days will normally be spent doing the flying part of the course. The flying does not have to be done right away. You can do this at your convenience but if you have the time and the money, I would advise doing it all together.

When your flying training is complete, your instructor will sign a course completion certificate and an application can be made for you to be tested by an examiner.

The Flight Test

The flight test will normally take between 45 minutes and 1 hour. It is a test of your general handling. There is no navigation as such but you will be required to fly away from the airfield and return to it and do all the radiotelephony. The flight test tolerances are the same as the PPL skills test. You will have to demonstrate proficiency in all of the general handling manoeuvres and complete some simulated IFR manoeuvres.

Make sure you know the emergency procedures off by heart as you will definitely be asked most (if not all) of them.


To keep your rating current, you must do a License Proficiency Check (LPC) each year. This can be completed up to 90 days before it is due to expire and if you pass it, it will be valid for another year after it is due to expire. You must have completed at least 2 hours flying (dual or solo) in the previous 12 months before doing the LPC.

If the rating has expired then you will have to renew the rating (see above).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Common Helicopter Training Mistakes

R44 Cockpit

Updated on 14th February, 2017

When you first start learning to fly a helicopter, you soon realize that it is not as easy as it looks. Students make common training mistakes. Your instructor seems to do everything so effortlessly and moves the helicopter sometimes as if by mental control, as the flight controls do not appear to move.

Flying is not a natural thing for us to do. We are land animals. Being in the air takes a little getting used to. Everything looks different. It is noisy and sometimes it is hot and uncomfortable. It is very easy for us to become distracted from flying the aircraft.

Two of the biggest helicopter training mistakes that new students make are:

  1. Not looking outside enough
  2. Over-controlling on the flight controls

It is vital that you look well ahead of the helicopter during flight. If you start to stare at the instruments, the helicopter attitude will change very quickly and you will not notice it until quite late. In forward flight you should try to look at the horizon and keep it lined up on the same relative position on the windscreen. The horizon will appear to be a certain distance below the rotor disc or it may appear to line up with a dead bug on the windscreen. If you can keep the horizon in this same relative position by moving the cyclic control, then the helicopter will stay in level flight.

We normally spend about 75% of our time looking outside. The remaining time is spent checking our flight instruments and our engine instruments. Looking outside has the added advantage of letting us spot other aircraft in the vicinity and thereby reducing the risk of an in flight collision.

When we are hovering, it is very important not to look at the ground just in front of the helicopter. As in forward flight, we should be looking well ahead. I tend to look at something at least 30m away and even at the horizon and I try to keep the horizon (or whatever I am looking at) at the same relative position on the windscreen – just as we do in forward flight. If you focus your vision too close to the helicopter, it is extremely difficult to determine if the helicopter is drifting or yawing and this leads to incorrect control inputs. By looking well ahead, you will see any movement of the helicopter much earlier and therefore you will be able to correct this movement earlier – which makes flying the helicopter easier.

The other common mistake is over-controlling. There is a slight delay between moving the cyclic and the aircraft subsequently reacting to your input. This delay is normally less than one second but it is enough to make life difficult for you. When you move the cyclic, always pause for a second before you move it again otherwise you will be over-controlling. Move and hold. Also remember that the cyclic is an extremely sensitive control. A small movement on the cyclic has a very large effect on the helicopter. Therefore it is vital that you never make a large input to this control during forward flight. Larger movements may be acceptable during hovering but your instructor will advise you on that.

If you can manage to overcome the urge to look inside and stare at the instruments (or look to close to the helicopter during hovering), and you can move the cyclic without over-controlling, you are well on the way to flying the helicopter and have made a big step forward in your training.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

PPL(H) Requirements

Updated on 3rd March, 2017


Anyone thinking of starting training for the Private Pilots’ Licence (PPL) should be aware that there are some requirements to be met.

  1. There is no minimum age but many schools will have their own minimum age requirements.
  2. The minimum age to go solo for a PPL in Europe is 16 years old.
  3. The minimum age that you can actually obtain your PPL(H) licence in Europe is 17 years old.
  4. Before going solo in Ireland, you must have a Class 1 or a Class 2 medical certificate (issued by approved medical examiners).
  5. Before going solo you must achieve a minimum of Level 4 proficiency in an English language test. (This is required before going solo and there are no exceptions to this rule).
  6. You must pass 9 EASA (multiple choice) ground exams during the course of your training.

A Class 1 medical is required if you intend to become a commercial licence. If you only intend to get a PPL(H), then you only require a Class 2 medical which is much cheaper and a lot easier to get. I would advise anyone thinking of training to get their medical done early as it would be very disappointing to have completed 10 hours flying only to find out that you have a medical problem that would prevent you from completing your training.

The PPL(H) syllabus states that you must fly a minimum of 45 hours before doing your flight test. Realistically, you will require 55 to 65 hours training (some people require more – some require less). This figure varies a lot depending on the individual, age and frequency of training.

Of the 45 hours minimum requirement, you will have to fly 10 hours solo and 5 of these solo hours will be solo navigation. You can fly more than one type of helicopter during your training but before doing your flight test, you must have flown at least 35 hours (inc. 10 hours solo) on the type of helicopter you are going to use for the flight test.

Of the 45 hours minimum requirement, you will have to fly with an instructor by sole reference to the instruments. This means that you cannot see outside as you will be wearing a hood or other apparatus to restrict your vision to inside the helicopter only.

All of this information is available on a document called Part-FCL but it is not an easy document to read. It is part of the Basic Regulation Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of 20/02/2008 and a copy of this is available on the EASA website. Click Here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email