This week we chat to helicopter pilot Lauren Francis about how she obtained her licence to fly helicopters.
What qualifications do you have?
I hold a commercial helicopter licence which allows me to fly for revenue.
How many years of studying and training did it take before you started working?
I studied at 43 Air School in Port Alfred. It took me one full year to obtain my private pilot licence. I could have done it sooner but I struggled a bit with the theory. While completing my commercial licence, I worked with the company I studied with and this took me two years. During this period, I was faced with constantly changing schools due to the schools closing down.
Where have you worked?
I have worked at Westline Aviation as part of their administration. I have also worked at Helicopter Charter and Training. I also had a Netstar contract.
What made you decide on a career in flying?
I applied at 43 Air School and the opportunity presented itself. I had initially applied to university but the air school responded to my application first, so I went with them.
What are some of the negative aspects of this career path?
The field is narrow because there isn’t much need for helicopters nowadays, because there are drones that can do the work that helicopters could do in the past. It is also very costly, as there are constant renewals of licences and other legal requirements that are expensive. There are also fewer helicopter-specific schools.
How do licences for a helicopter and plane differ?
The theory is more or less the same for both licences. The difference comes in with the legal requirements, the technical aspects and general aircraft technicalities.
What advice would you offer someone who is interested in pursuing a career as a pilot?
I say go for it if it was what you truly love, but make sure it is going to be your career. It is a costly career and requires passion, so you have to be committed. I would also suggest going into fixed-wing training because that field offers more opportunities.
Helicopter Pilot Training courses are available at the following institutions:
Border Aviation Club
43 Air School
Helicopter Pilot Training Centre.