Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common questions about helicopter pilot training

General Questions

  • Do I have to be an airplane pilot before I can learn to fly helicopters?

    NO, absolutely NOT! There are many helicopter pilots who have never touched the controls in an airplane and have no interest in learning to fly airplanes.

  • What do I have to do BEFORE I can begin my actual flight training in the helicopter?

    NOTHING! There are NO prerequisites. You can begin training in the helicopter TODAY! We offer a special introductory training lesson flights so you can try helicopter flying (hands-on) with no obligation. You can begin at any age when you can reach the flight controls. There is no upper age limit. You must be 16 years old to fly the helicopter solo (by yourself), 17 to get a Private Pilot's license and 18 years old to get a Commercial Pilot's (and Flight Instructor's) license. At Midwest, we have trained pilots (male and female) from 13 years old into their 70's.

  • How many hours of flight training does it take to get my helicopter license?

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a minimum of 40 hours of total flight time in the aircraft, including at least 20 hours of dual instruction (with a Certified Flight Instructor, or "CFI") and 10 hours of solo flight (by yourself, after proper training). Most people take a little longer to learn to control the aircraft well enough to pass the FAA "practical" flight test. The national average is about 50-60 hours. Be very suspicious if any flight school tells you anything different. Note: Pilots with airplane training need 10 fewer hours to obtain an "Add-On" rating.

  • How long a period of time will it take to earn my helicopter license?

    That depends more on your schedule, budget, and personal effort than anything else. Most flight schools like Midwest "tailor" a flight training program around an individual student's personal and business schedule. If you can study and fly full-time, it might only take a matter of weeks to complete an "accelerated" flight training program. You should try to fly at least twice a week to make good steady progress. If you train less often it will usually take more hours in the long run to get your license. But you still have to meet the 40-hour requirement in the aircraft.

  • Is a helicopter easier to learn to fly than an airplane?

    Initially, it's more difficult to learn to control a helicopter. Helicopters are less stable (but not less safe) than airplanes. But once you learn to master the controls of the helicopter, it becomes instinctive. Then, like riding a bicycle, you can control the helicopter almost without thinking.

  • After I earn my helicopter license, what kinds of helicopters can I fly?

    You can legally fly ANY type of helicopter, including turbine (jet) engine-powered helicopters or multi-engine helicopters up to a gross weight of 12,500 lbs. (Only a few VERY LARGE helicopters weigh more than that limit). The flight controls work the same in EVERY type and size of helicopter. To safely fly a different size or type of helicopter, however, will usually require some additional training in that aircraft. Often insurance companies will require a certain number of hours of experience before you can act as solo Pilot-in-Command of different sizes or types of aircraft.

  • Can we train in the winter, too?

    You bet! We train year-round, all 365 days. There a very few days in the year that we CAN'T fly. The helicopter has an excellent cabin heater. Only high winds, storms, or fog will ground us temporarily.

  • I've heard I have to take a flight physical. When? And what does that involve?

    Yes, but not when you begin dual flight instructions, only before you are trained and ready to fly the helicopter solo. The physical is very quick and easy. It consists of a eye test (like the driver's license test) and a very simple physical exam from an FAA-trained doctor, called an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Unlike in the military, there are VERY FEW medical (or eyesight) conditions that will prevent you from getting a civilian pilot's license. Call or e-Mail us if you have any questions about the medical requirements, or we can refer you to a FAA-approved doctor. The Private Pilot Physical is good for two or three years, depending on your age. See more medical questions and answers in our section on 'Medical Questions' on this FAQ page. Click on "Go Back to Top of Page" below to get to that section.

  • Do I have to take a written FAA pilot test at some time?

    Yes, but only before you take the FAA flight test (or "checkride") towards the end of your training program. You can begin training today and learn the material for the written test (called a "knowledge test" as you go along. The more you understand about the helicopter, however, the faster you will master flying the aircraft, so we encourage students to work on studying for the written test as soon as possible.

  • Is flying helicopters dangerous?

    No, not for a properly trained pilot who exercises good judgment. If you encounter bad weather or have a mechanical problem, you can land a helicopter safely almost anywhere within a minute or two. Most helicopter accidents happen due to poor pilot judgment (or "pilot error": flying too low and hitting wires (or other obstacles) or continuing to fly in bad weather or limited visibility (like fog). These accidents are totally avoidable by flying prudently.

  • If the engine quits, does the helicopter fall from the sky like a rock?

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! A helicopter can "glide" with power off using a technique called an "autorotation". As the helicopter descends, the air moving up through the rotor blades causes them to turn, providing lift, which allows the helicopter to come down at a constant rate, almost like a parachute. Part of your helicopter training will involve learning to perform autorotations. However, real engine failures in properly-maintained, FAA-certified helicopters like the Robinson R-22 or R-44 are extremely rare.

  • Can I land the helicopter anywhere I want to?

    Almost anywhere, with some common-sense and legal limitations. The FAA is most concerned about safety. They prohibit landing an any area where your landing would represent a "hazard" to persons or property on the ground. However, if you have a property owner's permission, the area is safe, and there are no local ordinances against landing, you may land most anywhere.

  • What kind of flying missions do helicopter pilots perform?

    Helicopters do things no other aircraft or vehicle can even think of doing. Jobs for pilots include: Pilot training, law enforcement (DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Local and State Police), fire fighting, news gathering, military operations, traffic reporting, heavy-lift work, crop spraying, offshore oil rig transport, search-and-rescue, air-ambulance hospital work, sightseeing, aerial photography, and business transportation.

  • What's it take to become a professional helicopter pilot?

    As with any professional lifetime career, it takes time to build enough flight experience to become employable. You first need to earn your Commercial Pilot's license, then you need to "build time" to be employable. The subject is somewhat complicated, so call us to discuss the path to becoming a career helicopter pilot. In the future, though, the job market is very good for helicopter pilots.

  • Are there any minimum formal educational requirements to become a helicopter pilot?

    There are NO FAA minimum formal educational requirements to become a civilian helicopter pilot. The FAA does require, however, that you are able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. So you must be able to read well enough to pass the FAA written "knowledge" test(s). Some simple math ability is also required to figure out helicopter weight and balance and flight planning questions. So you don't even need a grade school education as long as you can learn to answer the questions on the FAA written "knowledge" tests.

  • Does Midwest accept students from foreign countries?

    Sorry, but we are NOT able to accept foreign students at this time.

  • Does Midwest offer helicopter instrument flight training?

    Yes. Midwest Aeronautical proudly offers pilot training toward a helicopter instrument rating and/or helicopter Certified Flight Instructor instrument rating (CFII). Our beautiful, low time R44 instrument trainer, N600SR, is equipped with state-of-the-art instrument rated avionics including vertical card compass, ELT & touch-screen GPS.

    Bear in mind that more and more professional helicopter piloting jobs DO REQUIRE a helicopter instrument rating. Note: a pilot is NOT REQUIRED to hold a helicopter instrument rating to become a helicopter Flight Instructor (CFI), however. (Note: A pilot IS required to hold an instrument rating in an airplane to become an airplane Flight Instructor).

  • Is Midwest an FAA Part 141 or Part 61 flight school?

    Midwest operates as an independent flight school under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). Because we choose not to operate under Part 141 of the Regulations, we are NOT approved to issue educational visas to foreign students or to accept advanced students with G.I. Bill or Veteran's Benefits at this time.

  • Can ANYONE learn to fly a helicopter?

    Most healthy people with correctable eyesight, normal hand-eye coordination, no major health issues, proper motivation, and average or above-average intelligence can be trained to fly a helicopter. Some learn quicker than others. Some exceptions are people with severe motion-sickness problems, certain physical or mental handicaps, or an extreme fear of flying (some fear of flying is normal). A fear of heights is NOT a problem; believe it or not, many pilots are afraid of heights.

Age, Physical & Medical Questions

  • Do I have to pass the required FAA Medical exam BEFORE I can begin my flight training?

    No. You can begin dual flight instruction BEFORE you take the FAA Medical. You must take and pass the medical before you are trained and authorized by your flight instructor to fly the helicopter solo (that is, by yourself). The physical is very quick and easy. It consists of a eye test (like the driver's license test) and a very simple physical exam from an FAA-trained doctor, called an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Unlike in the military, there are VERY FEW medical (or eyesight) conditions that will prevent you from getting a civilian pilot's license. If you have a serious medical condition that you believe MIGHT prevent you from obtaining an FAA Medical, you should consult with an a FAA-approved doctor (called an AME, or Aviation Medical Examiner) BEFORE you begin Flight Training. The Private Pilot Physical is good for two or three years, depending on your age. You can find the names of local AMEs on the FAA's website. There is a link to that site at the end of this FAQ section on medical questions.

  • Can my personal physician administer the FAA Medical exam?

    Not unless he or she is authorized by the FAA to do so. Doctors who CAN issue FAA Medicals are called Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) and have received special FAA training on the medical requirements for pilots, how to interpret the regulations, how to complete the proper paperwork, etc. There are about 5000 AMEs in the U.S. Check with your doctor to see if he or she is an AME.

  • What are the eyesight (and color vision) requirements for becoming a helicopter pilot?

    In general, your vision must be CORRECTABLE (with glasses, contacts, or surgery or a combination of these) to 20/40 for a Private Pilot Certificate and to 20/20 for a Commercial or Flight Instructor's Certificate (with no other major vision problems or diseases). Surgery or Lasik surgery is acceptable, as long as the surgery is successful and there are no complications that negatively affect your vision and you can pass the normal FAA Medical Exam. Partial color-blindness is not a major impediment. Pilots can be granted a medical waiver if they can distinguish the colors (red, green and white) of an FAA tower "light gun" used to signal pilot without radio communications working.

  • Are there minimum or maximum height or weight requirements to become a pilot?

    The FAA does not set minimum or maximum height or weight requirements for flying any aircraft. However, you must be tall enough to reach the flight controls and not too tall to fit in the cockpit. To train in the Robinson R-22 (2 place) helicopter, your weight should not be significantly over 240lbs; to train in the Robinson R-44 (4-place) helicopter, it should not be significantly over 300 lbs.

  • Are there minimum or maximum age requirements for obtaining a pilot's license?

    You can begin training at any age when you are tall enough reach the flight controls. There is no upper age limit. You must be 16 years old or older to fly the helicopter solo (by yourself), 17 to get a Private Pilot's license and 18 years old to get a Commercial Pilot's (and Flight Instructor's license. At Midwest Aeronautical, we have trained pilots (male and female) from 13 years old into their 70's.

  • What kinds of medical problems might prevent me from obtaining the required medical certificate?

    There are very few medical problems that will keep you from obtaining at least a Private Pilot's license. Serious medical conditions such as diabetes, a history of heart disease, any condition that might cause you to lose consciousness or have seizures might make it very difficult to get and/or keep a valid FAA Medical Certificate. Requirements for a Commercial Pilot's license are somewhat more strict than for a Private certificate. Taking certain medications might also affect your ability to get an FAA Medical. We at Midwest are NOT doctors or experts on the Medical Regulations. If you have any specific questions about medical requirements, we suggest you contact or see an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) in your area. We strongly suggest you find a Senior and very experienced AME if you have a serious medical condition. Most AMEs will do everything they can to help you get and keep a valid Medical Certificate. Many are pilots themselves. You can find local AMEs on the FAA's website. The link is shown below. Good luck!

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Testimonials

  • Charlie Duchek and his staff are the best possible choice I could have made for helicopter flight training. Safety is emphasized throughout and Charlie has the gift of being able to teach all the skills you need to become a proficient, safe, confident helicopter pilot. There is a certain magical feeling to flying helicopters that Charlie and his group are able to impart to all their students. I am a 55 year old jeweler who was fortunate enough to find Charlie, his skills and his patience. I would recommend him to all those who care to "share the magic."

    Roger Doyle - Past Helicopter Student
  • Charlie and his staff are the best group of instructors I have ever come across.The aircraft are the cleanest and best maintained I have seen. They always take the time to explain a question in clear understandable language.

    Chuck Talent - Past Helicopter Student
  • The process of picking the right flight school is the most important decision you will make regarding your flight training. Midwest's instructors are extremely knowledgeable and professional, and really care about your progress toward your certificate. I am 100% satisfied with the training I received from Midwest. Whether it is for a career or personal enjoyment, Midwest can help make your dreams of helicopter flying a reality. I would recommend them to anyone.

    Chad Boyd - Past Helicopter Student
Midwest Aeronautical Robinson R44 N600SR
Our Aircraft

Gorgeous, Low-Time R44 Training Ship

Midwest offers pilot training in a beautiful Robinson R44 Raven I helicopter. Recently overhauled and equipped with state-of-the-art avionics.

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Charlie Duchek with Bell 407 jet helicopter
About Us

The Most Experienced CFI in St. Louis

Chief Pilot Charlie Duchek is the area's most experienced flight instructor in various makes and models of piston-powered helicopters.

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Competitive Training Rates

Our training rates in the R44 are competitive with what other flight schools charge for training in a two-seat R22 helicopter.

R44 Dual Instruction
(Private Pilot, Commercial & CFI Training)
$395/hour
R44 Dual Instrument Instruction
(Instrument & CFII Training)
$425/hour
NEW! R44 Introductory Training Flight
1-hour Discounted Demo Flight
only $349
Classroom Instruction
(Ground School & Checkride Preparation)
$40/hour

Compare to $500-$600 per hour elsewhere