You’re a Flight Sim Champ. But Now It’s Time To Learn To Fly a Real Helicopter!

  • Pilot a helicopter
  • Instruction from a qualified helicopter pilot
  • Dual controls
  • Typically in a Robinson R22 Beta (or similar)
  • Flight time counts towards a helicopter pilot’s licence
  • Fly from nine locations across England and Scotland
  • £225 for a whopping 30 minutes!
Helicopter In Flight

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So you’ve mastered a remote-controlled chopper and watched all 79 episodes of Airwolf (twice). You’ve been on a helicopter ride or two and you’ve exhausted Wikipedia on the finer points of rotorcraft engineering. Yep? In that case, you’re ready to learn how to fly a helicopter. It’s a pretty A-list thing to do – and that ‘A’ stands for ‘Annoyingly Difficult’. This isn’t for the faint-hearted, which is why most A-listers hire a pilot to do it. However if you love a great challenge, and we mean a GREAT challenge, this will probably be the single most memorable and exciting thing you will ever do. Second to earning your own chopper licence, of course. There’s nothing quite like having a whirring, bladed beast at your fingertips while you get to grips with the finer points of pitch, thrust, tilt and lift. The sky’s the limit in this awesome experience which is chopper-full of unforgettable fun.

It’s nothing like the choppers in Apocalypse Now, just in case you were planning to turn up in full combat gear, chewing a matchstick and blasting Ride of the Valkyries from your smartphone.

In this awesome hands-on experience you’ll get to give helicopter flying a whirl and try your hand at piloting a real chopper. An actual chopper – not the miniature one with an aerial you got for Christmas, or the one you’ve been flying over and over in your head when you should be working. You’ll sit next to a qualified pilot and run through the ins and outs of how to fly a helicopter, and then you’ll actually take over the controls yourself. Don’t worry, it’s dual controls so you won’t be left completely to your own devices. They’re not that daft.

First things first, on arrival at the airfield you’ll undergo a briefing, which will give you all the necessary info on safety, how helicopters work, what to expect, why you shouldn’t try to high-five the pilot mid-hover, and so on. Then it’s into your chopper to buckle your seat-belt, get your headphones on, find a comfy spot, have a nervous wriggle, and you’re ready to begin. Your pilot will walk you through all the controls (just the ones you need to know – they don’t want to blow your mind), and you’ll learn on-the-spot how to handle the craft and use the controls. Of course you can communicate with each other all the way through the flight, so you can ask as many questions as you like. You might even get the chance to try some clever techniques, like turning or hovering. It’s pretty exhilarating stuff.

Of course if you get there and decide that you really don’t want to fly the helicopter, you can always just sit in the co-pilot’s seat and enjoy the scenery instead. It’s fine, you shouldn’t feel like a cop-out. No, really.

Participants need to be less than 17 stone in weight and under 6ft 4inches. Any taller and you’ll be flying with an awkward slump and your head cocked to one side which, let’s be honest, doesn’t sound like fun.

These experiences typically last for around 30 minutes, unless otherwise stated. Flying time is usually classed as engines-on to engines-off, so in a 30-minute flight your actual airborne time would usually be around 25 minutes. Training helicopters are dual-controlled so the pilot can quickly regain control of the craft should you spontaneously burst into song, doze off, or fly into a panic.

If the weather turns sour, your lesson may be postponed and an alternative date offered. This doesn’t happen very often but it’s worth checking with the venue before you set off if you’re in any doubt. And on the subject of dates, make sure you book your preferred slot as early as possible to avoid disappointment. There’s no point phoning up the day before. Ideally you should give several weeks’ notice – sometimes more, if you’re planning to fly during popular times.

Remember that this lesson counts as flying time towards an actual helicopter flying licence, so keep Christmas and your birthday in mind, and start sweet-talking everyone you know.

This experience is available in numerous locations around the UK, so you can pick the one that’s closest to you. Or, pick the prettiest. After all you’ll get to enjoy a bird’s eye view (when you’re not trying to fly) so you might as well make the most of it.
When you learn to fly a helicopter, whether you’re a first-timer or a shaky novice, you’ll normally be in a Robinson R22 Beta or something similar. The R22 is a two-bladed, lightweight single-engine craft that’s typically used for lessons and is a great piece of kit from which to learn the ins and outs of whirlybird flight. Note: it’s nothing like the choppers in Apocalypse Now, just in case you were planning to turn up in full combat gear, chewing a matchstick and blasting Ride of the Valkyries from your smartphone. In a word: don’t.

Q&As You Never Really Asked

How long will I fly the helicopter for?
Unless otherwise stated, most experiences last for around 30 minutes. However that won’t all be spent in the air and some of that time will be based on the ground, running through the controls or staring blankly at the instructor. You’ll also have extra time for a pre-flight briefing, and a quick debrief afterwards. The post-flight debrief is usually little more than a wide-eyed grin at the instructor and a vague “that was awwwwwwesome…”

What if I lose control?
Don’t worry, the instructors have thought about that. It’s pretty much No.1 in the ‘How to Teach Flying to Dummies’ rulebook. There are loads of safety precautions in place and the helicopters are dual-controlled, just like in a driving lesson, so your instructor will take control if you start doing jazz hands mid-flight.

Can I try hovering?
Most helicopter lessons cover all sorts of different techniques, and some are focused specifically on hovering. So there’s usually a chance to give it a go. It’s pretty difficult but definitely worth a shot – and if you master it you’ll score some serious brownie points with your instructor.

What if I’ve never been in a helicopter before?
It helps if you at least know what a helicopter looks like. But you don’t have to have been in a helicopter to try your hand at flying, though this experience is a great place to start. This chopper challenge is designed for anyone who wants to have a go and the instructors really know their stuff, so they can help pretty much anyone to fly a chopper.

Buy Your Vouchers

To be able to book your helicopter pilot lesson flight on a specific date and time you first need an experience day voucher (how it works). You can buy these from who sell vouchers for the following locations:

  • Aberdeen, Grampian
  • Blackpool, Lancashire
  • Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
  • Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Glenrothes, Fife
  • Leicester, Leicestershire
  • Leominster, Herefordshire
  • Lichfield, Staffordshire
  • Manston, Kent

£225 per person (30 minutes flight time)

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