Helicopter pilot - commercial
Operators & Traffic Monitoring

Commercial helicopter pilots fly people, and sometimes cargo to places over land and offshore. The work they do is varied and can include many different types of flight, for example, taking workers to an oil rig, or taking people on sightseeing trips.

Before flying, pilots have to check weather conditions and make sure that all the helicopter's instruments are working properly.

Work Activities

Commercial helicopter pilots fly people, and sometimes cargo, to places over land and also offshore. The work they do is varied and can include:

  • Taking workers to and from an oil rig.
  • Surveying work; flying over areas to help professionals with seismic surveying.
  • Police work; for example, helping catch criminals in a car chase situation.
  • Taking people on short pleasure trips, or taking business or sports people to and from their destinations.
  • Taking people to hospital when there is an emergency situation.

Inside the helicopter's cockpit, there is a control panel showing things like altitude, the speed you are travelling, and the petrol level. It looks a bit like a car's dashboard, just a lot more complicated. The pilot will need to check that everything in the cockpit is working properly before take-off.

Before take-off for longer flights, helicopter pilots have to produce a flight plan. This plan will include a route for the journey and also details of what height they should be flying at, for example. Weather conditions will also need to be checked.

Also, before taking off, helicopter pilots usually need to get clearance from an air traffic controller (ATCO). There are some occasions when a pilot is unable to get clearance, for example, some places where helicopters take off do not have any air traffic control. In this situation, the pilot will need to contact an ATCO once they are in the air.

Once the flight has started, pilots are responsible for the safety of all passengers and need to keep them informed of any changes to the flight conditions.

Before landing at an airport, pilots need to get clearance from air traffic control. Once the flight is over, pilots have to write a report giving details of any problems during the journey.

Many helicopters are piloted by one person, but some larger ones will have a captain and a co-pilot. The cockpit of a helicopter is often quite small, and will also be very noisy. Pilots might sometimes be asked to fly in dangerous conditions. It may be necessary to stay away from home for short periods of time.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of helicopter pilots include:

  • Firms involved in offshore support operations to the oil/gas industry.
  • Police and emergency services.
  • Commercial airlines.
  • Large corporations, for example, flying executive parties.
  • Firms involved in transporting cargo or in land survey operations.
  • Firms in the leisure and tourism industry.
  • Flying Training Organisations (instructor posts).

Helicopter pilots work from airports throughout the UK.

Opportunities for UK trained pilots also occur with foreign airlines.


Entry requirements for different courses vary so it is important to check with individual universities.

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