Learning To Fly A Helicopter Vs. Flying A Plane: Why The Programs Are Different

When you look at flight training programs, it should not surprise you that getting a license to fly helicopters is a very different program from flying a plane. Some people tend to think that there is no difference at all, since you have controls and gauges just like in a plane, but the very nature of a helicopter is what makes this program separate and unique. Here is what separates helicopter flight training programs from plane flight training programs:

Straight up Take-off

Helicopters have an advantage over planes. They can take off from the helipad in a nearly vertical line. They already have the speed they need to lift into the air, and do not require a runway to get up enough speed. It is as simple as flipping the rotor switches and waiting for the rotors to create enough upward lift. That, in itself, is very different from creating enough lift and thrust under a plane to push the plane into the air.

"Joystick" Controls

Controlling the forward, side to side, and reverse movement of a helicopter is a lot like controlling a video game. You have a stick lever that looks and feels a lot like a joystick. Planes have half-wheels that have to be pushed down or pulled back, and you cannot put a plane in reverse, ever. If you already have a license to fly a plane, it takes a lot of getting used to fly a helicopter and feel it moving backward when you first attempt to fly it in reverse. While there would not be many opportunities or reasons for flying in reverse, it will still be part of your exam to obtain your helicopter pilot's license.

Learning to "Hover"

Planes cannot really hover. They can stay in the air and make little circles to prevent themselves from falling to the ground, but it is nothing like the hovering maneuver of helicopters. Since hovering is necessary to the landing of a helicopter, especially on a very small helipad, you will learn and practice this quite a bit in your helicopter flight training (and not in your plane training).

Emergency Landings

Finally, the emergency landings made by planes and by helicopters are vastly different. A plane provides some protection between you and the trees or the ground. A helicopter does not. You are right there, face to face with the windshield of a copter, and you can be ejected and sliced to ribbons at any time. Your flight training for a helicopter license will teach you how to emergency land these machines, as well as when and how to bail out of a helicopter that is headed for destruction. That is something you would never do while flying a plane.