Converting from fixed wing to rotary

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

If you’re tempted to make the leap from fixed wing to rotary, we’re certain you’ll have a huge amount of fun getting to grips with this uniquely exciting form of flying. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in gaining a PPL(H) when you’re used to flying planes.

Learning to fly helicopters after flying fixed wing

You’ve got a great head start with your fixed wing experience – particularly when it comes to aspects such as RT and navigation. In other respects, there are lots of new things to learn as you get used to a different set of controls (cyclic for direction, collective for up and down and pedals for yaw – it’s a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time!), manoeuvres and emergency procedures. 

From your first attempt at hovering to the moment you master advanced autorotations, learning to fly a helicopter is a challenging experience that will stretch you in ways an aeroplane won’t have done. But when the day comes that you can enjoy flying out from Kemble to a nice lunch spot like Lucknam Park, we think you’ll agree that the hard work was worth it!

PPL(A) to PPL(H) – what’s involved?

To gain a helicopter licence as an existing fixed wing pilot, you’ll need:


Hours – normally 45, including 10 hours’ solo, but the CAA says: “If you hold a pilot’s licence for another type of aircraft, except balloons, you will be credited with 10% of your total flight time as PIC up to a maximum of 6 hours.” (You’ll probably actually need longer than 45 hours though, so keep that in mind when budgeting!)

Solo qualifying cross country – 100 nautical miles with two landings at other airfields.

Exams – bad news! Five of these are different from fixed wing, so you’ll need to sit them again. These are Operational Procedures, Navigation, Principles of Flight, Aircraft General Knowledge and Flight Planning and Performance.

Once you’ve completed the PPL(H) course you’ll take a skills test, just as you did for fixed wing.

Maintaining your licence

You’ll need to complete a minimum of two hours a year plus an annual proficiency check with an examiner to keep your licence valid. Licences in the rotary world are a little different from fixed wing in that you’ll only be licenced to fly the type of helicopter you learned on (Cabri G2, for example). If you want to fly other types (such as our R44), you’ll need to do a type rating course (normally five hours) for each type and keep in mind that the validity requirements we mentioned above are per type, not per licence.

Convert from fixed wing to rotary with Voler Aviation

If you’d like to embark on the thrilling journey that is learning to fly a helicopter, our instruction prices start at £360 per hour and we do all our training here at our Cotswold Airport base. Give us a call on 01285 339025 and let’s get your first lesson booked in!