Why difference in Commercial Requirements

3 Replies

Why difference in Commercial Requirements

Posted by Richard Campbell on Jun 8, 2018 8:57 am

We were discussing the requirements for new pilots to get enough time to get to the airlines and other jobs.  A a newly minted helo pilot after years of fixed wing flying, I was surprised to learn that only 150 hours are required to get a Commercial Helicopter license versus 250 hours for a Commercial Airplane.  Why the big difference?  Why can I work safely with only 150 hours in a helo, but have to get 250 hours in an airplane.  And I can tell you that now that I think experince in a helo is lot more important.  (Even more surprising, because of my f/w time, I would only need 35 hrs helo PIC to get my Commercial Helo.)  So if 150 hrs is enough, why not make it 150 for airplanes?  This would make it easier for young pilots to start working.  Anybody know the history on this?

Re: Why difference in Commercial Requirements

Posted by Ronald Levy on Jun 8, 2018 6:24 pm

First and foremost, the fact that reducing requirements would make it easier for young pilots to start working is of no interest to the FAA, whose charter is safety, not employment.  Any argument on that basis is a non-starter.

As for the 150 vs 250 for helo vs airplane, I imagine it's because flying a helo is more demanding over the length of most flights than flying an airplane.  With that in mind, I suspect they feel that you get more experience in an hour of flying a helo than you do in flying an airplane.

Re: Why difference in Commercial Requirements

Posted by Michael Gwinn on Jun 11, 2018 7:28 am

I have experience in both as I'm currently a DPE for both airplanes and helicopters.  There are several factors for the difference in hour requirements between airplanes and helicopters.  One is the based on the typical flight.  A helicopter usually flies for about 1 - 2 hours since most just don't carry enough fuel to fly longer.  Airplanes can easily fly 3-4 hours.  Now maybe they don't but they can.  So a typical helicopter is doing the basic flying tasks of takeoffs and landings more often that an airplane (or could be).  Note that cross county for a helicopter is 25 miles vs. 50 for an airplane. Available fuel and lower speeds justified the reduced distance although the days of the 60 knot Bell 47 are mostly past and modern helicopters easily match the speed of training airplanes.  Finally cost is an issue and the FAA and industry both have a vote.  Helicopters just cost a lot more to fly and maintain.  So arbitrarily matching the hours would drive up the cost of a rating.  In my opinion, helicopter training requirements are long overdue for a review.  Modern helicopters have better performance but the one factor that hasn't changed is $$$$.

Re: Why difference in Commercial Requirements

Posted by Ronald Levy on Jun 11, 2018 6:40 pm

Michael Gwinn:
Finally cost is an issue and the FAA and industry both have a vote.  Helicopters just cost a lot more to fly and maintain.  So arbitrarily matching the hours would drive up the cost of a rating.

While your other points are valid, aircraft operating cost is not by itself an issue for the FAA in setting the minimum aeronautical experience requirements for the various certificates and ratings.  The FAA's concern on this is strictly safety.