For those who dream of flying, I can't imagine a better career than a helicopter pilot. The sense of freedom just flying forward, backward, left, or right any time you want is a wonderful sensation. The question is, how does one learn to fly a helicopter?

No one will tell you that it is easy or cheap to learn the complex skill of becoming a pilot, however, for those who are willing to make it happen, here are some helpful tips to make the process easier and cheaper.

First, let's discuss the basic curriculum for getting your pilots license.

Step 1. Private course: This is where the rubber meets the road, time for school. You will need 40 hours of flight time, ten of which are solo and 70 hours of ground school. You will have to pass a written test, oral test, and flight test sanctioned by the FAA. Most flight schools use the Robinson-22 and 44

Step 2. Commercial course: This course requires 110 hours of flight time, ten of which are in the Robinson-44 and 125 hours of ground school. The same arsenal of tests is given for this level as well. Once you have completed the commercial program, technically, you are hire-able. The reality is that you will often need at least five hundred hours on up to one thousand hours of flight time before most companies will hire you

Step 3. This is dependent on you: This is where you ask yourself where you would like to go from here. If you have specific job goals like fire department or police, then you should have a game plan laid out based on the advice of those people. If you just want to become hire-able in any field, then you will probably simply want to build up your hours.

We are now at the point where we need to talk about saving some money and considering some short cuts. Building hours for the sake of building hours is extraordinarily expensive. It can cost as much as two hundred dollars an hour to use a helicopter for the sake of building time. Based on the flight hour examples above you will only have 150 hours built up so far, not enough to get any good jobs.

The way to save money is to become a flight instructor. To get your commercial flight instructor rating one and two you will need the following; forty hours of ground school and twenty hours of flight time. The reason you want to do this is for the following.

1. You will need two hundred hours to operate several different aircraft anyway, so any extra flight time you get in, the better off you will be.

2. Wouldn't you rather get paid to fly helicopters and help others rather than pay for flight hours at two hundred dollars per hour?

3. You can have a great time, get to know people in the industry, and continue to build as many hours as you want. To get to the point of having plenty of hours to obtain your dream job instead of just getting enough to get any old helicopter pilot job, this is a much better strategy.

Another thing you can do to save a little money is to go for a package deal. It's cheaper to go for it all at once then to piece it out, in most cases. In order to become more hire-able you may want to consider getting your instrument rating as well. It will build up even more hours and make you a better helicopter pilot as well. Also keep in mind that the example above was just that, an example. Many people take a lot longer to complete all of the courses and some schools vary in their requirements.

The FAA will have its minimum requirements regardless but beyond that, the variables are with the school. Even though you may not always save money or enough money, there are still ways to become a helicopter pilot. You could get a loan, although they are few and far between. The interest rates may also be higher due to the risk involved in the industry itself and the fact that these types of loans are so rare.

There really aren't many grants that I am aware of except one. An organization called the whirly girls offers a grant I believe. The grant is only for those who already have obtained their private pilots license.

The only other thing I can think of in this area is that maybe a company you work for or are going to work for can help you. Perhaps if you worked for an oil company they would pay for you to get a pilots license or an upgrade. I have heard of the rare occasion were a police officer became an officer-pilot paid for by the department but I would not count on these rare scenarios.

The last tip I have is that you might want to consider getting your training in the military. I'm not saying I advocate the military per say but you could theoretically be trained for free. There are some things to know before going to the recruiter. You will be an officer in the military and you will have all of those responsibilities. You may not get accepted into any pilot training program. You will be committed to your time in the military no matter what your pilot status, so take this little bit of exotic wisdom and make sure you ready for that level of commitment.

Once you become a pilot, the world can be you oyster. There are so many job opportunities but just like any job, they aren't always perfect. You need to be prepared to work any hours and any days of the year, at least until you have the seniority and experience to make your own schedule. Having said all this, there isn't too many jobs out there that can beat being a helicopter pilot.