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Obtaining ratings and flight time cheaply

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The following info I had posted on "Rotary Forum.com" in the past, the information may be of particular importance to aspiring Helicopter pilots.-



As a general rule if you have any plans to fly more than one type of aircraft, it would be an advantage to pursue your Private Pilot's License rather than Sport Pilot if you presently hold no ratings. The cost is only slightly more initially but can save you LOTS OF CASH in the long run. Lets say that you want to get your Airplane, Gyroplane and Helicopter Private License. If you get your Airplane (fixed wing) Private first, (which is what I would recommend since you have quite a few hours toward the rating) then adding your Gyroplane Private would probably require about 20 to 25 hours of Dual/Solo time. Maybe less but for this discussion, let's say 25 hours. Once you obtain the Gyroplane Private then the addition of your Helicopter Private would require only enough training for the endorsement of your Instructor and then passing your checkride, THERE IS NO HOUR REQUIREMENT. Let say about 20 hours. Your total cost for the addition of your Gyro and Helo Private ratings would be about $7825 (25x$125=$3125 + 20x$235=4700) If you get your Sport Pilot - gyro and then decide to get your helo private then you don't get any "credit" for the rating and would have to complete the full 40 hours of Helo training which would cost about $10,000 by itself. You end up with 2 Private Ratings (Gyro and Helo) for less than the cost of the Helo alone!! Looking at it that way, you get your gyro rating for free and still save about $2200. How about you decide to become a Commercial Pilot and that point. The easiest way to do it is to obtain your Commercial Gyro, that will cost you about another $3125 (worst case scenario) 25 x $125. You have to have 25 hours PIC in a gyro, during this 25 hours you can complete your required night flight and cross country time. Now that you have your Commercial Gyro Rating, all that is required for the Commercial Helicopter Rating is the endorsement of your Instructor and Pass your Checkride. Shouldn't take more than 10 hours = $2350. At this point you have spent about about $13,300. If you decided to pursue your Commercial Helicopter Rating by itself it would cost about $30,000. Want to save even more money in the long run? Then get your Private Gyro then Commercial Gyro, skip the Helo Private and pursue the Commercial Helicopter Rating which again would require only the endorsement of your instructor and pass your checkride. Say 20 hours in the Helo. This will cost you about $10,950 total, which is about 1/3 of what the "stand alone" Commercial Helo Rating by itself would cost you. But you end up with a Commercial Gyro and Commercial Helo Ratings and an extra $20,000 in your pocket. If you own a two place gyro then your cost would be even less!! Hey, I'm just getting started!!! If you obtain your Gyro CFI then the addition of your Helo CFI once again requires the endorsement of your Instructor and Pass your checkride. You are required to have 15 hours of Helo PIC time prior to your checkride. The addition of your Gyro CFI should cost about $1250, and the Helo CFI should cost about $4000. At this point you have spent about $16,200, you have both your Gyro CFI and Helo CFI.

Now that you have a plan, get going!!!!!!!

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Exactly.....All insurance is written for "Helicopter" time, not total "Rotorcraft" time. The guy is also assuming all the helicopter ratings can be attained in a minimal amount of time.


Besides, good luck finding a gyrocopter DPE. There's less than a dozen of them in the US. The head of the STL FSDO used to be the only guy in the midwest that could give gyrocopter rides, and he just took a job in DC.

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There is no problem with getting a DPE to do your checkride in a gyroplane in the Midwest. There is one in Little Rock , AR. He is an FAA employee. You simply contact the FSDO, within 30 days of the request, they will supply you with the examiner at no cost!! Everyone of my past students has obtained there Gyroplane checkrides in this manner at no cost. Both Private and Commercial checkrides. I posted some additional information on obtaining Ratings at minimal cost on JustHelicopters, rather than re-post it here, I'll let those interested take a look at those posts.


One of those posts explains that 61.129 does not apply if adding a Helicopter rating to an existing Gyroplane rating, reference 61.63. This would be a class addition to an existing category which would require only the endorsement of your instructor and pass your checkride.

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That, and the poster has no idea what the rules for a comm helicopter pilot are. 55 hours are $13K according to his $235/hr price, and that doesn't include anything else.


55 hours of helicopter time aren't going to get you much, and few people will do it in that time.


Perhaps he is pulling our leg, if so, I don't get the joke. If he is serious, then he doesn't know what he is talking about.

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Its not a joke. Again, I posted info on Justhelicopters.com concerning this, take a look. I not sure what 55 hours you are referring to in the above post.


Ok, fair enough...


For what it is worth, posting something on Justhelicopters.com doesn't mean much, that place is a mess (at least in the original forum)


The 55 hours is the requirement to obtain a commercial pilot certificate in a helicopter, if you're doing it as a straight add-on.


No matter how much time you have in anything else, you'll have to do 20 hours of dual and 35 hours of solo time to do a commercial add-on.


If you look at 61.129© you'll see this.


55 hours of helicopter time isn't cheap, and it isn't easy to do it in that time because you only have 20 hours of dual instruction to get it done in, very few people can do that.

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FAR 61.63 Appies not 61.129, see the following section of 61.63-



© Additional class rating. Any person who applies for an additional class rating to be added on a pilot certificate:


(1) Must have an endorsement in his or her logbook or training record from an authorized instructor and that endorsement must attest that the applicant has been found competent in the aeronautical knowledge areas appropriate to the pilot certificate for the aircraft class rating sought;


(2) Must have an endorsement in his or her logbook or training record from an authorized instructor, and that endorsement must attest that the applicant has been found proficient in the areas of operation appropriate to the pilot certificate for the aircraft class rating sought;


(3) Must pass the required practical test that is appropriate to the pilot certificate for the aircraft class rating sought;


(4) Need not meet the specified training time requirements prescribed by this part that apply to the pilot certificate for the aircraft class rating sought unless the person holds a lighter-than-air category rating with a balloon class rating and is seeking an airship class rating and


(5) Need not take an additional knowledge test, provided the applicant holds an airplane, rotorcraft, powered-lift, or airship rating at that pilot certificate level.





Most people do not realize that this is possible because they have no experience with the process.

The purpose of the post was to illustrate how someone could obtain their ratings at a reduced cost. There really is no debate on whether it is possible. IT IS , END OF DEBATE.

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Maybe I was a slow learner, but there was no way I was to take a commercial check ride at 55 hours. Not too mention the fact that you still need 200 hours to instruct in a Robinson, and those 200 hours have to be in helicopters. Let's not forget that most pilots first job is working as a flight instructor, and by far the most common training helicopter is the R22...

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FAR 61.63 Appies not 61.129, see the following section of 61.63-


Ahh yes, you are correct. That is what I get for having this conversation without a FAR/AIM handy.


Ok, so your example is technically correct.


The purpose of the post was to illustrate how someone could obtain their ratings at a reduced cost. There really is no debate on whether it is possible. IT IS , END OF DEBATE.


It is on paper, but it won't be in real life. It just isn't possible to master those skills in the hours you're talking about, so it really is a moot point.


You are however, correct that on paper, it is possible.


To do what you're suggesting is that you'll end up with, what, 20 hours in helicopters? You're going to have a hard time hovering, much less doing autos to commercial standards at 20 hours.


I just want everyone else reading this to not get any delusions of grandeur in thinking that they can become a commercial pilot and CFI in helicopters for $16K, it just isn't going to happen.


The whole thing reads as if someone read through the FARs and pieced together a cheap way to do this, without any understanding of what it really takes. I've taught quite a few people how to fly in both airplanes and helicopters, and even add-ons rarely are done in the minimums. Flying may not be rocket science, but it isn't THAT easy either.


Fly Safe!

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I obtained my Commercial Helicopter rating with 29 hours of Helicopter time. I then bought a helo and obtained hours with crop pollenation, bird chasing, aerial photography. Then I obtained my CFI- Helo, I instruct in my own helicopter. I have since obtained the required hours in a Bell 206 (at $155/hr) and a Hughes 369 (at $62.50/hr) to instruct in those. I have mentioned several different ways to obtain your flight time at a reduced rate. It is quite possible with a little effort, and imagination to do it. My total net cost on all my helicopter ratings has been about $20,000. Most of that was spent renting Helos before I owned my own. I should get the $20k back over the next couple years with money generated by crop pollenation and instructing.


I was able to obtain the ratings with fewer hours because prior to obtaining my Helicopter ratings, I had my Gyroplane Commercial and CFI. Thus, the Helicopter ratings were an addition of a "class" to an exting "Category" SEE FAR 61.63


I instruct in a Brantly, due to the reduced cost of the aircraft, I charge about half what most people charge. I could charge a lot more but I dont. I am lucky enough that I am not dependent on making a sizable profit, I do it mostly to raise interest in aviation, and it's a "hell of a lot of fun". Needless to say I have plenty of students, I wish I had more time to spend instructing.

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Where did you find turbine time for those prices?


Boot- you have not been paying attention!


The 206 turbine time can be had flying traffic, the 369 time I have no clue. Maybe the depreciation cost difference between what he bought a ship for, and what he sold it for, divided by the number of hours he put on it ????

Edited by Goldy
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Have a student that has access to a 369 for the price of the fuel, split the fuel cost with him. The 206 time was flying traffic.


You will find that the more exposure you have to the helicopter industry, the more opportunities you will have to obtain hours. When you really need the hours, they are hard to get. Then after you have a bunch and don't need them, they get easier.

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  • 4 months later...

I didn't read all these things here now, but I knew this for many years.

This year I decided to go and do it. and I did.

just over 25 hours in a Gyro, and 15 in R-22, and I got it. Commercial.. (and CFI Gyro on the way).

My friend did it too with Total time of 170 or so....

My cost was less then $8,000.... for 3 ratings.....

So it can be done now, 2009.... :-)

By the way, you don't need 25 hours PIC in a Gyro, only 10.... but I did 15 so I can do

CFI Gyro add-on...


Stand by for the stories of my next ratings.... IFR and CFII and CFI....

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Dear Copterdoctor, I applaud you for posting some alternatives to a course/path of training and money saving solutions! It can be done by some and even if it takes a little longer than minimum times, it still is a big savings monetarily. Having said that, I ask where does it get you experience wise? Back in the 80's we had descriptions of the 2 most dangerous helicopter pilots. The second most dangerous was the 50 hour Commercial rated pilot via additional category path. The MOST dangerous was this same guy that then did the 10 hours or so and was CFI-RH and training new students!


Everyone reading this(especially new comers) should understand that the quality of the training you receive will be dependent on the experience of the CFI providing that training. If I just purchased my B206 and want a CFI to train me in it, what quality of training will I receive from someone that has 5 hours in the Traffic Copter? How many emergency procedures have they done while flying traffic? Do they even know how to correctly operate a turbine engine in normal ops let alone training situations?


New CFI-RH's, be realistic, getting 5 hours so you can teach in an Make/Model should be 5 hours of training about the helo preparing you to be PIC, NOT 5 hours of flying the helo in a non-training specific environment. It should include ground instruction from a knowledgable CFI with experience in the Make/Model. That CFI should know that you are then going to teach in this Make/Model and they should give you Instruction accordingly, pointing out every training tip/situation to you.


I do not approve or disapprove of CD's recommendations to attain ratings. But please prepare yourself experience wise in any aircraft that you are going to train someone in. CFI's have a responsibility to be prepared to give high quality instruction and protect the student at all times.


Everyone stay safe, fly safe and provide quality instruction! Mike

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