Helicopter Pilot Kaiwhakarere Toparere

Helicopter pilots fly helicopters to transport people, spread fertiliser and bait, or provide air rescue and ambulance services. 

Helicopter pilots may do some or all of the following:

  • prepare and check flight plans
  • do preflight checks of weather, equipment and the helicopter
  • calculate the amount of fuel needed for flights, and refuel the helicopter
  • explain flight and safety details to passengers
  • control the helicopter on the ground and in the air

Specialised helicopter pilots may also:

  • provide a commentary to tourists during scenic flights 
  • apply fertiliser, bait or other chemicals to farmland or conservation areas
  • work with other emergency services (such as hospitals or search and rescue services)
  • muster animals such as sheep, horses or cattle
  • carry and dump large buckets of water to put out fires.

Physical Requirements

Helicopter pilots need to have:

  • good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • good reflexes and co-ordination
  • a good level of fitness and health (to pass a medical exam every year).

Useful Experience

Useful experience for helicopter pilots includes:

  • experience in the industry you want to fly in, for example, for rescue helicopter work experience as a medic
  • flying experience
  • customer service roles
  • engineering or mechanical work.

Personal Qualities

Helicopter pilots need to be:

  • responsible
  • good at planning, thinking logically and following procedures
  • excellent at working under pressure
  • able to make quick, sound decisions
  • good leaders
  • skilled communicators
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
  • resilient.


Helicopter pilots need to have:

  • excellent flying skills
  • knowledge of flight theory and flight planning
  • skill in interpreting flight plans, weather and navigation data
  • understanding of civil aviation laws
  • knowledge of helicopter mechanics.


Helicopter pilots:

  • may work regular business hours, or weekends, or do on-call work
  • work in conditions that are often noisy, and can include hazards such as bad weather or smoke
  • may travel nationally or internationally for work.

Subject Recommendations

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a helicopter pilot, but NCEA Level 3 English, maths, physics and computing are useful.

Related Courses

Helicopter Pilots can earn around $42K-$45K per year.

Pay for helicopter pilots varies depending on skills, experience and the type of work they do.

  • Entry-level helicopter often work part time and may start on about $20 an hour or $42,000 a year.
  • Helicopter pilots with three to five years' experience can earn between $45,000 and $80,000.
  • Senior helicopter pilots can earn $100,000 to $180,000 or more.

Source: Aviation New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, May 2020.

Helicopter pilots may progress to set up their own business, move into safety manager or operations manager roles, or become flying instructors.

Helicopter pilots may specialise in a number of roles, including:

Agricultural Helicopter Pilot
Agricultural helicopter pilots apply agricultural chemicals or fertiliser, flying close to the ground.
Air Force/Navy Helicopter Pilot
Air Force/Navy helicopter pilots fly military helicopters. 
Charter Helicopter Pilot
Charter helicopter pilots work in oil and gas, tourism and forestry areas.
Firefighter Helicopter Pilot
Firefighter helicopter pilots put out large fires, dropping water from buckets they carry.
Mustering Helicopter Pilot
Mustering helicopter pilots round up animals such as sheep and horses.
Rescue Helicopter Pilot
Rescue helicopter pilots work with search and rescue services and fly people to hospital. 

Years Of Training

>2 years of training usually required.

Commercial helicopter pilots

To become a commercial helicopter pilot you need to have a Commercial Pilot Licence - Helicopter, also known as CPL(H). To get this you need to:

  • hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL)
  • complete at least 200 hours of flying
  • pass a Class 1 medical exam, written exams, an English language test, and a flying test
  • satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority's fit and proper person requirements,

You can gain your CPL(H) as part of completing a New Zealand Diploma in Aviation - Aeroplane and Helicopter (Level 6) with strands in airline preparation and flight instruction.

You need to pass the ADAPT pre-pilot screening test and attend a selection interview first.

Flying instructors

As well as a CPL(H), flying instructors need a Flight Instructor Rating (C Category).

Military helicopter pilots

To become a military helicopter pilot, you need to join the navy or airforce and complete their training. 

Helicopter Pilot