The magic of flying a helicopter! This could be you flying this two-seat Robinson R22
Learn To Fly Guide

Learn to fly: How much does a helicopter licence cost?

In part two of our series on the cost of gaining a Private Pilot’s Licence, we take a closer look at the rotary winged variety – gaining a PPL(H)

How much does it cost to obtain your private helicopter pilot licence? Let’s put it this way: how long is a piece of string? The amount of money you need to pay until you’re able to call yourself a helicopter pilot depends on lots of things, making it nearly impossible to give an average sum.

The bad news: it’s more expensive than flying fixed-wing aircraft. A lot more expensive. The good news: it’s less than the average yearly UK household budget. There’s a small dedicated private helicopter flyers group in the UK and you can be a part of it.

Let’s break it down step by step. Costs of a PPL(H) can be divided into:

  • Flight training
  •  Ground exams
  •  Skills test
  •  Class 2 Medical
  •  Licence application
  •  Equipment

Rotary flight training

This is where most of your money goes. You’ll need a minimum 45 hours of flight training, including at least 25 hours of dual time and at least 10 hours of supervised solo time. Those are the minimum requirements set by the CAA.

Is 45 a realistic amount? Definitely not

So, budget for 45 x what flight training costs per hour = the cost of your flight training? No, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Chances you’ll only need 45 hours to obtain your PPL(H) are actually pretty close to zero. The UK national average is somewhere between 60 and 90 hours. Some do it in less, but there are also people who need more than 100 hours.

Bob Gorman, CFI at EBG Helicopters explains, “We target 60, but make it clear that even that will require regular attendance and a clear commitment to learning all elements of the course from the outset.” That’s not to say it’s completely impossible to do it in the minimum time required. Gorman added, “We do currently have someone on track for 45 hours, but he’s a fixed-wing A320 pilot with 2,250 hours already under his belt at age 25.”

Seeing as it’s extremely likely you’ll need more than 45 hours, some schools choose to offer so-called PPL-packages consisting of 60 hours of flight training. Others divide their packages in blocks of 10 or 25 and most offer pay-as-you-go helicopter flight training per hour.

Most pilots going for their helicopter PPL need around 60 hours of flying lessons, rather than the minimum of 45 hours in type course syllabus

What does an hour of helicopter flight training cost?

What’s the price of an hour of helicopter flight training? This, of course, depends on the flying school. Mostly though, it depends on the type of helicopter you’re training in. Most helicopter flight schools use the Robinson R22, which is the cheapest.

Want to train in a four-seater rather than a two-seater? Be prepared to save up a whole lot more. An hour of flight training in an R44 will at least be £150 more expensive than an hour’s lesson in an R22. That’s, if you’d need 60 hours to get your PPL(H), a difference of at least £9,000….

Some examples: at Heliflight UK prices are £350 plus VAT for an hour’s training in the R22, £395 plus VAT in a Cabri G2, and £500 plus VAT in an R44. 

At Thurston Helicopters training prices per hour are £338 plus VAT in an R22 and £508 plus VAT in an R44. 

At Whizzard Helicopters it’s £370 plus VAT for an hour of dual instruction in an R22, £555 plus VAT in an R44, and £850 plus VAT in a Bell 206 JetRanger. 

Yorkshire Helicopters only offers training in the R44, at £440 plus VAT an hour. All the above-mentioned schools offer discounts for prepaid blocks of 10 lessons. Some schools (also) offer training in an R66, a Bell 505 JetRanger X, an AS350 (Single Squirrel) and/or a Schweizer 300.

The choice of helicopter obviously depends on what the flight school is offering. However, it also depends on your own build. The R22 for example, has a maximum pilot height of 6ft2in (1.88m) and a max seat weight of 240lb (which is 17 stone (108kg)).

Also, the total pilot and passenger weight is 400lb, meaning that if you weigh 235lb, you’d have to find a very light instructor to be able to learn on the R22… With a maximum pilot weight of 266lb (which is 19 stone (120kg)) and a maximum pilot height of 6ft6in (1.98m), the Cabri G2 isn’t suitable either if you’re particularly tall and/or heavy.

Don’t forget to double-check what exactly is included in the hourly training rate – and when the clock starts ticking. Is it when you lift off, aka lift to land? Or is the time taken to start up and shut down included in the hour? Is it based on Datcon readings (rotors turning)?

The difference between skids off to skids on time and warming up to cooling down time can easily be five to 10 minutes per lesson, which does add up over the course of training.

And what about the pre- and post-flight briefing? This is especially worth checking with schools that divide their flight training into a price for helicopter rental and a price for instruction. 

AH Helicopter Services, for example, offers flight training in a Schweizer 300C for £340 per hour plus VAT, plus instructor costs of £200 per half day session (no VAT). In that half day, you can fly as much as practicable.

Add on: landing fees

Got your hourly rate all clear? Then let’s see what else you might need to pay during training. Such as landing fees (also called airfield fees or sorties fees). At most helicopter flight schools, these fees are already included in the costs of flight training. However, in some cases they’re charged separately. Do realise that even if all landings are included at your chosen heliport, you’ll still have to do some land aways for your cross-country flying that will probably have a fee.

Landing fees vary depending on the airport. Some examples: City Airport (Manchester Barton) charges £30 for non-based helicopters for up to 90 minutes of circuit/hover training. Redhill Aerodrome’s landing fee is £46.20 for a single-engine helicopter, whereas its airfield training sessions cost £23.10.

Brighton City Airport’s helicopter fees start at £25.80 per training sortie and £23.40 per landing. Manston Gateway Heliport charges a landing fee of £25 plus VAT for a single-engine helicopter. However, this fee is waived if you purchase Jet A-1. At Fairoaks, landing fees for an R22 are £19.

Better save up before landing at the London Heliport; with a landing fee of £355 it’s probably the UK’s most expensive heliport.

One of the best bits about helicopters? They can land almost anywhere – on the beach, in your garden, next to a country hotel, outside your local pub. Or, to put it more correctly: in a helicopter you’re not restricted to landing at airports. This means that during your training you’ll also do some off-airfield landings. Most private helicopter sites are free, however, some establishments charge landing fees. During your flight training your instructor will know this. Once you’ve got your PPL(H), make sure to check beforehand.  

Stick to the two-seat R22 for the PPL(H) course. Moving up to the bigger four-seat R44 will add up to another £9,000 to a 60-hour course! However, once you have your licence, the R44 is a more useful aircraft

Fuel surcharges

Because of the rise of fuel prices in the last few years, some flight schools are adding a separate fuel surcharge to their rates. This depends on the school and aircraft and is usually done per hour. Hoff Aviation, for example, currently has added a fuel supplement of £15 plus VAT to its hourly rate.
Since they depend on the fuel prices, fuel surcharges are subjected to change. Instead of adding a fuel surcharge, some flight schools have just increased their hourly rates to make the numbers work.

Don’t forget VAT!

Last, but certainly not least, make sure if the price you’re quoted is including or excluding VAT. Contrary to the fixed-wing world, where VAT is always included in the flight training prices, in the rotary world this isn’t the case.

That’s because most students learning to fly a helicopter do this for a career, instead of flying for fun. When it’s work-related, in some cases your company can claim back the VAT on your training expenses (do check with the HMRC first). When you’re flying for fun though, this unfortunately isn’t the case.

For private pilots, VAT not being included in the flight training prices means you’ll need to add on an extra 20%. If this is the case, it must be clearly indicated. There’ll either be the words ‘plus VAT’ right next to the price, or a line somewhere at the bottom of the page, stating that ‘All prices are subject to VAT’. In other words: your training will cost you 20% more than the numbers you see here. Or: getting your PPL(H) is actually a fifth more expensive than what it seems at first sight…

Long story short: When asking for the price of helicopter flight training, check exactly what is and what isn’t included in the hourly price you’re quoted. In the UK, rates for flight training are almost always so-called ‘wet rates’ (including fuel), but once you’ve got your PPL(H) and are renting a helicopter, don’t forget to check if the rental rate is indeed a wet one, and not a ‘dry rate’ (excluding fuel).

Ground exams

In order to obtain your PPL(H), you’ll need to pass nine theoretical exams (Air Law, Aircraft General Knowledge, Communications, Flight Performance and Planning, Human Performance, Meteorology, Navigation, Operational Procedures, and Principles of Flight) with at least a 75% pass mark. These are official CAA exams; however, this doesn’t mean each flight school charges the same.

AH Helicopter Services only charges the CAA fees of £11 per exam for those who learn to fly with them. They’re the exception though; at most flight schools, costs will be between £40 and £50 per exam. Some examples Heliflight UK and JK Helicopter Training both charge £30 plus VAT plus the CAA fees of £11 per exam, at EBG Helicopters it’s £50 plus VAT per exam.  

Study materials

How much does it cost getting ready for these exams? That depends on how you learn the PPL theory – through self-study or groundschool. Self-studying at home is the cheapest option, especially if you learn from textbooks you’ve managed to buy second-hand or borrow from your flight school.

There’s also a lot of material available online to help you prepare for the exams, ranging from e-books to training software with question banks and mock exams. Some self-directed study courses charge a one-time fee, others work with monthly online subscriptions. Costs of getting exam-ready by yourself range from absolutely zero (if you can borrow all the material you need) to more than £400 for fancy distance learning packages.


Many flight schools offer in-person ground school tuition where you study in a classroom-like environment with an instructor. This is either included in the training or charged separately. Elstree Helicopters for example, offers a mentoring scheme and bi-weekly virtual evening ground school sessions, which are included in its training packages.

When charged separately, an hour of instruction is usually £45 to £60 plus VAT. Some examples: Arcus Helicopters offers tuition at £50 per hour plus VAT. Whizzard helicopters offers ground instruction for £55 an hour plus VAT, and at Tiger Helicopters it’s £60.


For a PPL(H) you’ll need a Flight Radio Telephony Operator’s Licence (FROTL) to show you know your way around radio communication. Prices of the FRTOL exam aren’t the same at every flight school. Usually though, it’s around £150-£200.

Some schools include exam preparation. Central Helicopters for example charges £225 plus VAT for the FROTL exam, including half a day of groundschool.

Make sure you apply for your FROTL at the same time as your PPL. If not, the CAA will charge you £79 for the initial issue of the FRTOL.

Skills test

The cost of the skills test is made up by the examiners fee and the helicopter hire. The examiners fee varies from CAA examiner to CAA examiner, but is usually somewhere in the range of £350. The helicopter hire depends on the hourly rental rate of your flying school and the time you need the helicopter for. Usually, the flying part of the skills test takes around two hours.

Medical examination

For a PPL(H), you’ll need a Class 2 Medical certificate issued by a CAA Aero Medical Examiner (AME). Each AME sets their own fee, so the cost of this depends on the doctor you choose. Usually, it’s between £150 and £250.

Licence application

The fee the CAA charges for the initial issue of a pilot licence is £202. Make sure you apply for your FRTOL at the same time as your PPL because in that case, the FRTOL application is free. If you don’t, CAA will charge another £79 for the initial issue of the FRTOL.


What supplies do you need during your PPL(H) training? A logbook, headset, timepiece, iPad, helicopter knee pad, sunglasses, flight bag, high vis jacket, protractor, NM scale map ruler, Flight Computer (aka Whizz Wheel), an up-to-date quarter mil chart, some apps and pilot log pads. That’s about the basics for a private helicopter pilot.

How much does this equipment cost? That depends. You can buy a decent headset for £150, but you can also splurge and spend £1,500 – or even more – on a superb one. Same goes for the rest of the gear.

There are special helicopter pilot starter packs including all or most of the above-mentioned things. Sometimes, club membership will include a logbook, and if you book ground school, this usually includes all the materials you’ll need for navigation.

To save money on equipment, buy only the supplies that are necessary for your flight training and/or buy second hand. Some flight schools will let you borrow (part of) their equipment for the duration of your training.

Why is it so expensive?

Learning to fly a helicopter isn’t exactly a budget-friendly activity. Compared to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are more complex and thus more expensive to operate. That’s why, compared to a PPL(A), obtaining your PPL(H) can easily cost double the amount.

The high costs are one of the main reasons why there aren’t many private helicopter pilots. For most students, flying a helicopter will be a career, and the PPL(H) merely a stepping stone on the road to getting their CPL(H) or ATPL(H). (Hence why in the rotary world prices often are displayed excluding VAT).

Five to ten years ago, it was still possible to get your PPL for £20,000. Now, not so much (unless you’re a real quick learner). 

Unfortunately, it’s likely training will only get more expensive in the future due to high inflation. Robert Cummings of Cutting Edge Helicopters in Northern Ireland, one of the few helicopter flight schools which already includes VAT in its prices as ‘it’s easier for the private customer’, says the cost-of-living crisis means its current prices will need to be reviewed and increased. “Fuel prices are significantly higher than they were a year ago, as are insurances, airport fees/charges, electricity/oil, staffing, etc., etc.”

In light of the fact that obtaining your PPL(H) is a significant financial investment, is it worth comparing the options at different flying schools to save money? Definitely! Before booking the entire course elsewhere though, add up all your expenses. The helicopter school at the other end of the country might be £50 cheaper per lesson, but is it still better value when you take all the travel time and petrol and/or accommodation costs into account?

Last, but not least, don’t let £50 difference in the grand total decide where you’re going. Instead, aim for the school that feels right for you and the instructor you’ve got a click with. More important than the price, is that you enjoy your flight training.

This is why some pilots absolutely love flying helicopters!

What does a PPL(H) cost for real? Five examples

Let’s assume you need 65 hours for your entire PPL(H) course, including your skills test. During this training, you’ll spend £250 on away landings. You choose to self-study and pay £200 for learning materials. You pass all exams on the first attempt. You want to have your own headset and manage to get some decent flying equipment together for £300. The AME charges you £200 for a Class 2 medical and the examiner fee is £350 (unless these things are priced differently at the flight school). It takes you a year until you ask the CAA to issue your PPL and FRTOL.

What does this cost at different flying schools?

Central Helicopters, Nottingham 

Flight training in an R22
65 x £295 plus VAT £19,175 plus VAT = £23,010
away landings: £250
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £360 plus VAT = £432
FRTOL: £225 plus VAT = £270
Skills test examiner fee: £375 plus VAT = £450
Class 2 Medical: £180
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £ 25,294 

Cutting Edge Helicopters, Northern Ireland

Flight training in an R22
65 x £335: £21,775
away landings: £250
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £405
FRTOL: £300
Skills test examiner fee: £350
Class 2 Medical: £195
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £23,977 

Heliflight UK, Gloucestershire

Flight training in an R22
65 x £350 plus VAT £22,750 plus VAT = £27,300
away landings: £250
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £423
FRTOL: £150 plus VAT = £180
Skills test examiner fee: £350 plus VAT = £420
Class 2 Medical: £200
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £29,475

Tiger Helicopters, Herefordshire 

Flight training in an R22
65 x £400 plus VAT £26,000 plus VAT = £31,200
away landings: £250
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £360 plus VAT = £432
FRTOL: £250
Skills test examiner fee: £300 plus VAT = £360
Class 2 Medical: £250
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £33,444

Hoff Aviation, Surrey

Flight training in an R22
65 x £335 plus VAT £21,775 plus VAT = £26,130
fuel supplement of 65 x £15 plus VAT £975 plus VAT = £1,170
away landings: £250
Learning materials: £200
Ground exams: £405 plus VAT = £486
FRTOL: £120
Skills test examiner fee: £350
Class 2 Medical: £250
Licence application: £202
Equipment: £300

Total cost: £29,458

Want to do it a bit cheaper? Five tips to reduce the cost of your PPL(H):

 1. Fly regularly so you don’t need to repeat lessons

Newly learned skills fade quickly and since flight training makes for a huge part of the total cost of your PPL(H), this is where you can save some serious money.

Helicopter pilot and FLYER contributor, Rachel Ramsay, who obtained her PPL(H) with HeliAir back in 2018, advises: “Make sure you fly as often as possible so you don’t have to spend more time recapping each time. The muscle memory takes time to build, and it won’t help you if you only train sporadically.”

2. Buy smart

Pay-as-you-go or package deal? That depends on your situation and personal preference. If you have the money and know for sure you want to obtain your PPL(H) at that particular flying school, paying upfront saves you quite a bit of money. Most helicopter flying schools offer discounts for prepaid blocks of 10 hours of flight training.

While some people love this package deal option, others either don’t have the savings or don’t like the idea of paying upfront for flight training. Paying after each lesson leaves you the option to switch flying schools if things don’t work out.

3. Choose a more basic helicopter

Some flight schools offer a choice of helicopter. The smaller, lighter, and less advanced the aircraft, the less you’ll be paying for flight training. Budget wise, the R22 is the way to go.

However, if you’re planning to take family and friends flying after obtaining your PPL(H), it’s advisable to also get some experience in a four-seater. Remember that at least 35 of the 45 hours of flight instruction have to be completed on the same type of helicopter used for the skills test. 

4. Get a scholarship

Disclaimer: most helicopter scholarships are geared towards pilots wanting to make a career flying helicopters. If this is something you might be interested in, it’s definitely worth checking Helicentre Aviation as it offers several scholarships a year. The RAeC has flying bursaries as well.

5. Buy a helicopter

Yes, you read that correctly: buy your own helicopter. David Monks, Chairman of the Helicopter Club of Great Britain, says, “The cheapest way to learn is to buy a helicopter, do your training, and sell the helicopter. You will probably be in profit when you sell. Robinson products increase by inflation every January without fail…”

For those who can’t gather the funds to buy a helicopter, Monks also has some advice, “Alternatively, get a part-time job at a training school and bag the odd hour through positioning flights which could be free because someone else is paying or discounted to incentivise.”


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