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Have you ever wondered whether you have what it takes to learn how to fly a helicopter? If you fancy becoming a pilot-in-training, wonder no more - we've done our research and put together everything you need to know.

From mastering controls to understanding the aircraft's capabilities and limitations, where to book flying lessons and more, this short guide will have you well on your way to soaring across the skies. All you need is an expert instructor, a keen eye for detail and, of course, a helicopter!

Learning the Helicopter Controls

Just like riding a bike or driving a car, the first thing to do when learning how to fly a helicopter is to get to grips with what you're working with! Before even thinking of taking off, you'll want to familiarise yourself with the helicopter's components and controls so you know exactly where everything is and which button or lever does what.

Each individual helicopter will have its own operating handbook so be sure to study that from front to back cover and have an in depth discussion with your instructor or co-pilot to ensure you feel comfortable and in full control of the aircraft.

For example, you'll want to locate the ‘collective', a level mounted on the floor of the helicopter to the left of the pilot's seat which is used to make changes to the angle of the main rotor blades. The collective also features a ‘throttle' at the top of the lever, a control which dictates the power of the engine and the amount of speed given to the rotor while in flight. Other important components to learn would include controls such as the ‘cyclic' (found directly in front of the pilot which allows you to navigate the helicopter in any direction) and the ‘tail rotor' (a component controlled by the two ‘anti-torque' pedals on the cabin floor which allow the pilot to turn the helicopter 360 degrees.

The information above is just a snippet of the elements you would need to revise and master before flying a helicopter. As you can tell, flying these incredible aircrafts takes a lot of multitasking, coordination and dexterity so it's vital you do your homework!

Understanding the Helicopter's Capabilities and Limitations

While you may be hungry to get up in the air and learn some new skills above the clouds, it's essential to understand what a helicopter actually can and cannot do. For example, in your first few flights you may think you really need to be applying lots of pressure and movement to controls in order to navigate the aircraft, when in reality, you may only need to use the smallest amounts of force to get the helicopter moving in the way you want it to.

In fact, most accidents occur in flight when the pilot ‘over controls' the helicopter and the rotor system gets overloaded by too many commands or when the pilot attempts to control the aircraft in a way that requires more lift and power than what the helicopter can physically provide. This can make the aircraft swing back and forth, becoming increasingly unsteady and dangerous.

It's also important to note how high your helicopter can fly too. Most turbine-engined aircrafts can fly as high as 20,000 to 25,000 feet, however they will usually fly at much more comfortable altitudes of 10,000 feet where conditions are optimal. As a helicopter hovers higher into the atmosphere, the air becomes a lot thinner, meaning the blades have to work a lot harder in order to provide adequate lift and, as such, the aircraft's overall stability becomes much less effective as the rotor struggles to generate power.

In extreme cases where the machine flies far too high, the helicopter will begin to vibrate and rattle quite violently under the strain of severe turbulence and critically compromise the aircraft. So, for both your safety and others', make sure you know exactly what the capabilities and limitations are of your helicopter before lift off - safety first!

Learn How to Fly a Helicopter

Are you a budding pilot who can't wait another second to take to the skies? Or do you know a special someone who is itching to dip their toes into the world of aviation and feel the thrill of flight? No matter whether you're treating yourself to the ride of a lifetime or spoiling your favourite flying enthusiast with the gift of flight, look no further than our incredible range of unforgettable helicopter flying lessons.

Helicopter lessons available on the Buyagift site take place in a two or four-seater training aircraft with dual controls and typically last anywhere between 25 and 60 minutes, depending on the package you choose. Available at a number of locations across the UK, each experience involves a detailed and in depth safety briefing with a fully-qualified professional instructor who will also run you through basic helicopter dynamics before you jet off above the clouds to ensure you feel in control and confident at all times.

Learning Basic Manoeuvres

Now you've become one with the aircraft and feel in control, it's time to learn some basic skills under the expert guidance of a qualified instructor. And while it may sound obvious, the first manoeuvre you need to master is how to perform a perfect take off!

How to Take Off

  • Open the throttle gradually until the operating RPM is achieved.
  • Slowly pull up the collective and as the pitch increases, apply light pressure to the left pedal. Continue pulling the collective and pressing down on the left pedal, adjusting if the helicopter starts to turn in any one particular direction.
  • Now the aircraft has lift, continue working the collective and left pedal while simultaneously using the cyclic to keep the helicopter level as you leave the ground. Push forward very gently to give some forward movement.
  • At this point, the aircraft may shudder and attempt to tip upwards. To counterbalance this, push the cyclic forward a little further to continue travelling forward. You will need to keep using the cyclic in this fashion to adjust and correct the flight path of the helicopter as you complete take off, especially as the rotor blade lift starts to come into full effect.
  • With the helicopter now in the air, you can pull back on the forward pressure applied to the cyclic to allow the aircraft to climb and gain momentum. From here on out you will only need to use the collective and cyclic controls to complete manoeuvres - the pedals can now be used to control and trim the helicopter.

How to Hover

  • Under the guidance of a trained professional, you will learn how to hover by finding the perfect balance between the collective, cyclic and tail rotor components.
  • Your instructor will use a dual control system to operate the aircraft to allow you to practise with each of the above controls one at a time, before progressing to using them in combination.
  • Hovering is a difficult skill to master as helicopter controls have a time lag between when you adjust them and the aircraft's reaction to that instruction, so you'll need to be patient and learn to anticipate how long this time lag could be!

How to Climb and Descend

  • In order to climb higher into the air, you need to pull up on the collective gradually - being sure to factor in any time lag and keeping an eye on the vertical speed indicator (VSI) and ensuring not to exceed the yellow limit of the torque gauge on the dashboard.
  • While the helicopter is able to settle itself when ascending, you will also need to counterbalance the increased engine torque with your pedals. You can also keep your vertical speed steady by continually adjusting your pressure on the collective or you can also use your cyclic to apply some gentle fine tuning.
  • Your pilot operating handbook will contain information about how much speed to use when climbing and descending - but your most valuable resource here will again be your instructor.
  • To descend, all you need to do is reverse the actions you took when climbing. Gradually decrease your pressure and slowly drop the collective to encourage the helicopter's nose to angle downwards. This will decrease the aircraft's lift and you'll begin to descend as a result.
  • As before, the helicopter will settle itself as you begin to ascend so don't be tempted to pull the nose of the aircraft up. You'll also need to watch the VSI gauge once more to ensure you are keeping your vertical speed at a safe and constant - descending a helicopter should be a slow and steady process!

How to Land

  • Always keep your landing target area in sight. This will normally be on the pilot's right hand side so you may need to adjust your trim to accommodate this.
  • When you are within close range of your landing site - around 0.5km away - you'll want to be around 200-500ft above the ground or any nearby obstacles.
  • Be conscious of your airspeed as you continue to descend. Your instructor will let you know how many knots you should be aiming for and vertical speed can easily be adjusted by applying the correct amount of pressure on the collective control.
  • When approaching the edge of the landing site, gradually decrease air speed again to around 20 knots and continue moving the helicopter forward as it's very difficult to land from a hovering state.
  • Once over the landing area, you can gently reduce the collective and arm the parking brake. Then, ease the cyclic control back to reduce your forward motion and the slightly forward again to level out the altitude of the aircraft. All the while you will need to be keeping your rate of descent as low as it can be by continually adjusting and correcting the collective.
  • Touch down! Now back on the ground, ensure the parking brake is armed and engaged, reduce all power and give your expert instructor a well deserved high five!

Searching the Skies for More Helicopter Thrills?

Whether you want to enjoy a passenger flight like no other or take control of the reins yourself, our curated selection of once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flying experiences are just the ticket! From sightseeing tours with a glass of bubbly to one-on-one flying lessons, prepare for take off and get ready to experience the world below from a whole new perspective.