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How Much Do Aircraft Hangars Cost to Rent?

Planning to own an airplane or a helicopter? Then one of the first things that may come to mind is where you are going to park it. If building your own hangar is too much of a financial burden then renting an airplane hangar is a great and popular option. However, this leads to another important question, how much will it cost to rent an airplane hangar? 

Aircraft hangar rental can be as little as $200 per month for a small Tee hangar up to several thousand per month for a large hangar to store several private jets and helicopters. The cost to rent an airplane hangar is based on its size. The bigger the hangar, the more it costs.

Most aircraft owners consider the cost to rent an aircraft hangar as one of the most important parts. Aircraft are expensive and keeping them out of the weather not only helps keep the aircraft in better condition but helps prevent corrosion which can be a very costly issue to fix. Therefore, if you are searching for a place to store your aircraft, you have to consider various factors. 

For instance, airplanes and helicopters come in various shapes and sizes, and these two factors will determine the size of the hangar you will need to store the aircraft.  

Size Matters

So, you have bought an airplane, and now you are wondering how big the hangar will need to be. Airplane hangars can be difficult to find if you live out in a very rural area but most municipal airports and rural airstrips have hangers, the challenge is finding a vacant one that fits your aircraft.

If you are looking to purchase a small aircraft then finding a hangar should be relatively easy, it’s when you buy a larger aircraft like a King Air or Pilatus or anything used outside of General Aviation that might be a little tougher to find.

While airplane hangars vary in size, the most common ones have the following dimensions. 

  • Large Airplane Hangars – are around 60 feet wide and 120 feet long
  • Medium Airplane Hangars – are 40 feet wide and 80 feet long
  • Small Airplane Hangars – 20 feet wide and 40 feet long

The size of hangar you rent will totally depend on the type of plane you own. Here is a quick tip to determine the size necessary for the airplane hangar you need to rent.

  • You need to ensure it is tall enough to fit the tail of the airplane of the mast and rotor head of the helicopter
  • You need to ensure it is wide enough to fit the wingspan of the airplane
  • You need to make sure it is deep enough to fit the aircraft prop to tail or blade tip to tail roto tip

Some aircraft can be parked at an angle in the hangar allowing for a slightly smaller hangar to work, but you need to have enough space around the sides of the aircraft to ensure no part of it touches.

‘Hanger Rash’ can lead to some high and unnecessary repair bills!

Also, be aware of any door closing mechanism. Thinking the aircraft just fits, to then hear a crunch or grind as you close the door will instantly get your attention!

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* Helicopter or Airplane: Which is Easier To Fly?

The Cost to Rent an Airplane Hangar

On average, you can expect to spend between $50 and $400 per month when searching to rent an airplane hangar for a general aviation aircraft. The rent is based on the square footage your aircraft will occupy and discounts can be had for long-term rental agreements. Sharing can also work out cheaper.

Types of Hangars and Renting Costs

Here are four typical options for renting a hangar.

Tee Hangar

A Tee hangar is an enclosed structure designed to hold your aircraft in a protected space. This hanger space can accommodate planes of different shapes and sizes. The cost to hire a tee hangar may cost you $148 per month approximately. 

Great for a single aircraft and usually the cheapest type of hanger to rent.

Square Hangar

A square hangar with a space of 1,000 to 1,600 square feet with other amenities will cost you from $350 to $600 per month. 

A great option if you have multiple aircraft or would like to store other items like vehicles, boats or RV’s alongside the aircraft.

Shared Hangar Space

Shared hangar spaces and tie-down rents may vary by the size of your plane. The square foot your plane occupies, the higher the rent. It will approximately cost you between $100 and $500. 

When a few of your flying buddies want to share to help keep costs down a shared hangar space is a great option, or by renting a small area for your aircraft in a larger hangar.

Municipal and Larger International Airports

The typical cost to rent an airplane hangar at municipal and large international airports varies from $460 to $600 per month, excluding taxes. The rent for hangar storage for corporate jets will cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per month, excluding taxes. 

Pitfalls to Avoid when Renting a Hangar

While the aforementioned prices are just an approximation of the cost to rent an aircraft hangar, you must also be aware of certain pitfalls to avoid high rental costs:

Costs During Peak Seasons

If you are looking for just a seasonal hangar then be aware the costs will rise for the peak season, as will the scarcity. Pilots moving to warmer climates for the winter love to bring their aircraft

You must remember that the cost to rent an airplane hangar is slightly higher during peak season due to high demand. However, you can bargain for a discount if you plan to rent a hangar for an extended period. 

First Come, First Served

The hangars usually operate on a first-come, first-served rule. This means you may have spoken to the hangar owner to rent, but the airplane owner first to pay the rent gets the spot. Therefore, do not wait for too long if you are satisfied with the facility and rental cost. 

Do Your Research

Before committing to any rental agreement try and research the owner of the facility beforehand. Head over to the hangars on weekends and speak to the current residents. See if prices get adjusted, contracts broken, who is liable for hangar costs due to damage etc.

Things to Consider Before Renting a Hangar

Remember the following factors as they can make a difference to your rental cost and aircraft maintenance:

Get an Airplane Insurance 

As an airplane owner, you must have comprehensive insurance. This will help you cover damage to the aircraft parked in the hangar. For example, if there is a fire accident in the hangar that causes damage to your aircraft, the insurance cost will cover it.  

Be sure to shop around as policies can vary. Talk to other aircraft owners at the hangar and see who they recommend.

Know the Sublet Rule

Many airplane hangars may allow you to sublet your spot to other airplane owners. This means you can let another friend or a third party pay you the rent for using your spot in the hangar when you are not using it. However, this entirely depends on the discretion of the hangar’s owner and the contract you sign.

For instance, if you rent a hangar at an airport, you must check and confirm the rules on subletting with airport management. If allowed, this can drastically bring down your rental expense as you can easily sublet your space to someone else for $50 to $100 approximately. 

Think of it like an Air B&B for aircraft owners. Out-of-town pilots who wish to spend a night or two could rent your hangar space, especially when it’s thunderstorm season!

Hangars are better than Tie Downs.

Typical Aircraft Tie-Downs – Source: Chris

Hangars are always a better option than tie-downs. Tie-downs are mostly open-air shared spaces leaving your aircraft prone to external elements such as bad weather conditions. On the other hand, hangars keep your plane tucked away safely indoors, protecting it from bad weather or other external damage. 

Tie-Downs are a good option if you are temporarily parking and help to keep the aircraft safe, especially if high winds are forecast. Most airports and airstrips will have an area to tie down your airplane, either with your own tie-down kit or areas provided by the airport.

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Can Helicopters Fly in the Rain?

There’s a lot more to the question, ‘Can Helicopters Fly in the Rain?’, than meets the eye. While your initial thought maybe, of course they can, and that is the correct answer, but there is a alot more to it than you may think!

Rain reducing visibility is the biggest issue helicopter pilots face. Most helicopter pilots rely on being able to see where they’re going at all times, and most helicopters are basic in nature, lacking the sophisticated avionics that allow them to safely fly without sight of the ground.

Because of this, helicopters usually fly lower to the ground than fixed-wing aircraft. Pilots need to be aware of, see, and avoid tall structures like buildings, transmission/communication towers, and electrical wires at all times.

During flight in rain, helicopter pilots may also have to deal with lower cloud ceilings. Not only does the rain reduce how much a pilot can see, but the clouds may force the pilot to fly lower, increasing the risk of flying into terrain or obstacles. Uneven cloud ceilings and pockets of clouds in suspension can really cause problems for pilots, especially when flying in mountain valleys.

This is the cause of most CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) accidents of which nearly all are fatal for the aircraft’s occupants.

When it comes to larger, more complex helicopters, many are equipped with advanced avionics and auto-pilot systems for flying safely in the clouds.

During training, pilots are taught to avoid flying in clouds when temperatures are close to freezing, as inflight icing may occur, which is problematic for the main rotor blades, tail rotor and windshield visibility.

Let’s take a closer look at the various types of inclement weather that helicopters contend with on a regular basis.

How Does Rain Affect a Helicopter?

Rain mainly affects a helicopter by reducing the visibility for the pilot. Most helicopters do not have windshield wipers. High cruise speeds allow the rain to bead off the windshield in flight, but when on approach at slower speeds, rain droplets on the windshield can severely obscure the pilot’s view.

Generally, rain doesn’t pose any operational restrictions on the helicopter itself, but it can cause problems during takeoff and landing when pilots need to be able to see the most.

For helicopters that have the luxury to fly in poor weather and the aircraft is being flown by the auto-flight systems, the pilots are able to utilize benefits like instrument approach procedures and runway lighting systems that airplanes use to help guide the helicopter in safely.

Busy heliports can also employ these procedures and lighting systems to help guide helicopters in during heavy rain and poor visibility conditions.

One type of weather that pilots strive to avoid are thunderstorms, and the extreme conditions that can be associated with them. Torrential rains, hail, downspouts, tornados, straight-line winds, and lightning are not only dangerous to the pilot’s visibility but can also lead to structural damage of the aircraft.

Staying on the ground, turning around or diverting until a severe storm has passed is a general rule-of-thumb for all experienced pilots. Trust me, I did not heed this advice as a junior pilot and it scared the living daylight out of me! Luckily, I was flying to pick up a passenger. When I landed, I advised that we would wait out the storm before taking off again!

The next thing that rain can do to affect a helicopter is when the temperature drops.

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How Does Freezing Rain Affect a Helicopter?

Rain can remain in liquid form well below freezing, and is known as ‘supercooled’. When these water droplets impact an aircraft, they instantly freeze. Prolonged flight in these conditions can allow ice to form, thus deforming the shape of wings and rotors. This reduces the helicopter’s lift-creating ability and increases drag.

The added weight of ice on aircraft surfaces can impede lift and speed, making it difficult, if not impossible, for takeoff or continued flight to be possible.

Flying and ice don’t go well together. As the temperature begins to drop, helicopter pilots have to really be mindful of where they are about to fly, and what they need to do if they encounter freezing rain conditions.

If you’ve ever flown commercially on an airplane during the winter months in the northern half of the U.S. or most anywhere in Canada, you’ve probably at some time had your aircraft deiced prior to departure on wintry days.

Aircraft deicing involves spraying a glycol-based substance on the fuselage, wings, and horizontal stabilizers. It is sprayed on hot, normally at 140-150°F. This deicing removes any build-up of frost and ice, giving the aircraft time to get airborne above the poor weather before the moisture freezes up again. During the climb, any moisture remaining on the aircraft is blown off.

Helicopters, however, do not have the luxury of flying high above the weather and they are almost all prohibited from using any deicing solutions, as it has led to delamination of the main rotor blades via chemical corrosion, over time.

Just like fixed-wing aircraft, icing can lead to extremely dangerous operations for helicopters. It is essential that existing ice be removed before flight, and that steps also be taken to prevent the buildup of ice during flight.

It isn’t just the helicopter blades and windshield that have to be kept clear of ice. The engine air intakes and instrumentation sensors also must be ice-free for a flight to operate safely. A buildup of ice on an engine intake that then breaks off and gets sucked into the engine can and has led to engine flameouts with catastrophic results.

Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter deicing and anti-icing systems are electrical and complex in nature, for those helicopters that have such capabilities aboard. Only the largest, most powerful helicopters have full anti-icing capabilities. Even then, they are limited to how much ice they can accumulate before the pilots must turn around.

The buildup of ice on helicopter rotors during flight makes a physical change to the shape of the rotorblades. Even a small ice buildup will increase drag, requiring more power from the engine/s to turn the rotor blades through the air to maintain flight RPM. At some point, the engine reaches its maximum power that it can deliver and rotor RPM starts to decay – Not good!

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How Do Pilots Avoid Freezing Conditions?

Pilots use aviation weather reports to see where freezing rain conditions may exist or have been reported. They use this crucial information to adjust their planned route. If encountered during flight, pilots will divert around the rain, or if able, fly at a lower altitude where temperatures are above freezing.

The best way to deal with freezing rain and icing conditions is to try to avoid them altogether. Prior to flight, and now inflight, pilots have access to detailed aviation weather reports that often pinpoint areas of known precipitation, which are frequently scattered in nature.

Pilots can also access PIREPs, which are actual pilot reports of recent weather conditions encountered by pilots, both inflight and while on the ground. These are by far the most accurate way of finding locations of freezing rain!

An AW139 Full IFR Certified Helicopter

For example, an IFR-rated pilot with an IFR-equipped helicopter may very well choose not to enter a cloud deck, knowing that freezing temperatures will be encountered by doing so. This is a clear advantage that helicopters have over planes, where they can often fly at a lower altitude or via a different flight route, in order to avoid potentially dangerous conditions.

The last option available to all helicopter pilots when encountering heavy rain or freezing rain is to find an open spot, land, and wait for it to pass. If the pilot is smart, they will have the helicopter’s winter covers on board that will allow the main and tail rotorblades to quickly get covered once on the ground!

Is it Cheaper to Own an Airplane or a Helicopter?

Many people are under the impression that aircraft ownership is only for the very wealthy and depending on the aircraft this can be true. But small, very popular aircraft can be owned and operated for as little as $40/day, or even cheaper if you look into ultralights and kit-built aircraft.

The question arises which is cheaper, owning a helicopter or owning an airplane?

In general, owning an airplane is cheaper than owning a helicopter. Helicopters contain more precision and moving components compared to an airplane making the initial purchase cost, ongoing maintenance costs, insurance costs, and hourly operating costs to be higher. 

Here are some typical costs of similar-sized aircraft:

Cessna 152Cessna 172Robinson R22Robinson R44
Cost NewCeased in 1985$369,000 –
Cost Used$12,000 +$20,000+$50,000+$180,000+
# of Seats2424
Fixed Annual Costs$4,000$9,200$8,700$12,400
Reserve for Overhaul$10-$15/hour$17-$20/hour$70-$80/hour$100-$110hour
Direct Operating Cost$40-$50/hour$60-$70/hour$70-$80/hour$120-$130/hour
Total Operating Cost$80-$150/hour$100-$200/hour$160-$180/hour$240-$260/hour

How Much Does it Cost to Purchase an Aircraft?

A brand new aircraft will always cost a lot more compared to a used aircraft. Most new aircraft owners will also have to pay the initial sales tax and also incur interest on a higher initial purchase price when financed over several years, but they become the only people outside of the factory to have flown that aircraft!

Owning a used aircraft is by far one of the most popular ways to get your own airplane or helicopter. Due to the vast amount of used aircraft on the market, there are great deals to be found and at costs incredibly lower than the price of a new aircraft. Buyers just need to do their due diligence when it comes to researching the component times and maintenance records to ensure the deal they are getting is actually a good deal!

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* Cost To Buy a Helicopter: 15 Most Popular Models

Most Popular Airplanes

Arguably one of the most popular light airplanes to own is the Cessna 172, a four-seat, high-wing airplane. It is the world’s most-produced aircraft that was first built in the 1950s, and it has undergone several upgrades over the decades. 

The most popular model is the C172S, The Cessna Skyhawk. This latest model can range from $369,000 to $438,000 depending on your desired configuration, such as avionics, interior, and paint. 

Cessna 172 Skyhawk – Source: Huhu Uet

While the latest model can seem like a hefty price tag, buying an older model can be affordable as they can go as low as $40,000 to as much as $300,000. 

You can visit Cessna’s website here to find out more about the aircraft and contact a sales representative to estimate your desired configuration for a brand new aircraft.

If you are looking for a smaller, more affordable airplane then the Cessna 152 is another popular model. Introduced in 1977, the main difference is being a two-seater aircraft. 

Cessna stopped producing the 152 model in 1985 to focus more on the 172 but it continues to be one of the most used aircraft for training and personal use. While you cannot buy a brand new Cessna 152, there are many C152s on the market and having a wide price range allows for every budget.

Cessna 152 – Source: MilborneOne

While you can buy a C152 for as low as $12,000, they are often in poor condition and have parts that may be soon due for an overhaul. A decent C152 can be found for around $20,000 and up.

Most Popular Helicopters

For helicopters, the Robinson R44 Raven II is one of the most popular 4-seat helicopters on the market. Being still in production it offers the buyer a choice of brand new from the factory or a healthy selection of used models all over the globe.

Robinson R44 Raven II – Source Bidgee

A brand new Raven II starts around USD$500,000 while a used model can range from USD$180,000 to $450,000.

For more information on the Robinson R44 Raven II please visit the Robinson Helicopter website Here, or configure and price your own Here.

Just like Cessna, the Robinson R22 Beta II is the two-seat alternative. A brand new model starts around USD$320,000, and a used model can range from $50,000 – $300,000.

Robinson R22 Beta II

For more information on the Robinson R22 Beta II please visit the Robinson Helicopter website Here, or configure and price your own Here.

What are Other Expenses that Come with Owning an Aircraft?

No matter which aircraft type you decide to purchase there are additional costs that go along with ownership. Some of the additional costs can vary wildly between aircraft types, while other costs can be similar.

Some of the main costs associated with aircraft ownership are:

  • Hangerage & Parking
  • Landing Fees
  • Fuel Consumption
  • Maintenance and Inspection
  • Insurance
  • Training

Hangerage and Parking

Aircraft are best stored in hangers to keep them out of the weather. Intense sunlight, rain, hail, dust, and high winds can really depreciate the aircraft or cause major damage. The best option is to always house your aircraft indoors between flights.

If you are thinking about purchasing a helicopter they have the added bonus of being able to land on your own property (providing it meets all the requirements for the FAA). If you are looking to purchase an airplane then a runway is needed.

Most municipal airports have hangers available for rent or purchase, you can also rent outdoor and sometimes covered aircraft parking, or you could build your own hanger and/or runway on your own property. 

Depending on whether the aircraft will be parked in a hangar or tied down at a small airport, the fees can range from $50 to $300 per month. There is often no landing fee in small airports, but it is something to be mindful of when looking for hanger space.

Hanger costs are based on the size of the aircraft to fit in it. Most small hangers designed to fit light aircraft can usually accommodate both small helicopters and airplanes.

A Cessna Skyhawk is 27ft long and a wingspan of 36ft whereas a Robinson R44 is 38ft long but is only 7ft wide when the main rotor blades are stowed fore and aft.


Most small aircraft contain piston engines which use AVGAS or Aviation Gas. Aircraft with gas turbine engines use Jet-A fuel.
The engine type the aircraft has will dictate its fuel burn and therefore it’s running cost. Gas turbines consume fuel up to 4x more per hour compared to a piston engine. This can be a big decision decider.

In the US, the price of AVGAS ranges from $6.20-$7.10 per gallon, while Jet-A ranges from $6.24-$7.21 per gallon. Here is a website that shows an updated average price for aviation fuel depending on your area in the US.

Fuel Burn

The bigger the aircraft, the bigger its engine, and thus the higher the fuel consumption will be.

Aircraft Type# of CylindersAverage Fuel BurnAverage Cost per HourAverage Cost to Fill
C15246 GPH$40/hour$169
C172S48 GPH$52/hour$351
Robinson R2248 GPH $52/hour$172
Robinson R44615 GPH $98/hour$303
AVGAS computation is based on May 2022 average price of $6.50 per gallon

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Inspection and Maintenance

There are two types of expenses associated with aircraft maintenance: Fixed and Variable

Fixed costs are spent whether the aircraft is used or not, to maintain airworthiness. To remain airworthy the FAA requires all aircraft in the US to undergo an annual inspection, abide by mandatory airworthiness directives, registration, taxes, and other annual fees.

Variable costs include maintenance based on hours flown per year, part replacement, avionics repair, and other miscellaneous costs. Owners are also advised to save for expensive costs like engine, transmission, or rotor blade overhauls or replacement.

The more an aircraft is flown each year, the more hours the costs get spread across therefore reducing the hourly operating costs:


Fixed and Variable costs each year = $15,000

  • 50 Hours flown each year = $15,000 / 50 = $300/hour
  • 100 Hours flown each year = $15,000 / 100 = $150/hour
  • 300 Hours flown each year = $15,000 / 300 = $50/hour
  • 500 Hours flown each year = $15,000 / 500 = $30/hour

By their nature, helicopters cost far more to maintain than an airplane due to the number of rotating and moving components on the aircraft. The drive train, main rotor system, tail rotor system, and flight control systems all have many more components that an airplane does not have.

These components take longer to inspect and maintain and add additional costs when needing replacement. Due to these factors, the annual maintenance cost of a helicopter increases which must be dispersed over the hourly operating cost.

Typical Annual Maintenance costs:

Cessna 172 Skyhawk: $22/flight hour + $18/ hour reserve of engine/aircraft overhaul

Robinson R44 Raven II: $35/flight hour + $107/ hour reserve of engine/aircraft overhaul

Maintenance costs are wildly different between aircraft. The age, condition, location flown, the number of hours flown and labor costs will all dictate the total cost for the year. Some years the maintenance costs can be minimal while other years an overhaul or unexpected component failure can increase the annual costs to tens of thousands of dollars, especially with a helicopter. 


Insurance can also vary in pricing depending on several factors such as insurance coverage, qualification of a pilot, pilot experience, hours flown, and type of usage the aircraft will be involved in. 

There are two types of insurance: Liability insurance and Hull insurance

  • Liability insurance covers the damage caused such as property and casualties
  • Hull insurance covers damage to the aircraft itself.

Helicopter insurance is more expensive than airplane insurance because helicopters are more expensive to repair due to their complex moving parts; airplanes have a simpler and sturdier design.

Non-qualified pilots, such as student pilots, have a higher insurance rate compared to qualified and experienced pilots because of their lack of experience and higher risk of accidents. A Non-Qualified pilot is a pilot undertaking flight instruction in their aircraft with a qualified flight instructor onboard.

AircraftPilot StatusLiability CoverageLiability and Hull Coverage
C172Non-Qualified Pilot$250-$350$848-$1,400
Qualified Pilot$150-$250$450-$1,100
R44Non-Qualified Pilot$2,516-$3,148$10,138-$14,526
Qualified Pilot$2,187-$2,421$9,690-$11,340
*Insurance Cost Breakdown from BWI Aviation Insurance

Flight Training

To fly any aircraft the owner will need to become a trained and licensed pilot or employ a pilot to fly them to their destinations. Most aircraft owners enjoy flying and will learn to fly as part of the aircraft ownership journey.

There are two ways in which an aircraft owner can become a licensed pilot:

  1. Rent a school aircraft with an instructor
  2. Hire an instructor to teach them in their own aircraft

Learning to fly in your own aircraft works out cheaper but does incur higher insurance premiums while training and the increased risk of aircraft damage during training may deter some owners.

My personal opinion would be to pay a little bit extra and train at the flight school. All the risk is then on their aircraft allowing you to come home to your own aircraft once you have the pilot certificate and some experience.

For most aircraft owners there is one type of pilot certificate that is most applicable – The Private Pilot Certificate.

If you want to fly solely for personal and private use, a Private Pilot License suffices. However, if you want to be paid for your services, you have to upgrade your license to a Commercial Pilot License. If you want to be able to fly at night in remote areas or in poor weather, you will need to have an Instrument Rating added to your pilot certificate

Students often fly the C152 for most of the airplane training and the R22 for helicopter training because it is more affordable than C172 and R44. The additional seats of the C172 and R44 are not required during training and just increase the cost per hour.

Once students have their pilot certificate they can do a few hours in the bigger aircraft with an instructor as a ‘Transition’ style of upgrade.

Due to the higher hourly operating costs of a helicopter, learning to fly a helicopter also costs more than an airplane.

Here are some typical costs of gaining a Private Pilot Certificate:

Total Private Pilot – FW Costs:

FAA Minimum:
40 Hours Total:

  • 30 hours Dual x ($110+$45) = $4,650
  • 10 hours Solo x $110 = $1,100
  • Home-Study Theory Training = $250
  • Medical Examination = $60
  • Written Examination = $150
  • Flight Examination = $500
  • Extras = $500

Total = $7,210

Student Average:
60 hours Total:

  • 50 hours Dual x ($110+$45) = $7,750
  • 10 hours Solo x $110 = $1,100
  • 15 hours One-On-One Ground Training x $45 = $675
  • Home-Study Theory Training = $250
  • Medical Examination = $60
  • Written Examination = $150
  • Flight Examination = $500
  • Extras = $500

Total = $10,985

Total Private Pilot – RW Costs:

FAA Minimum:
40 Hours Total:

  • 30 hours Dual x ($300+$45) = $10,350
  • 10 hours Solo x $300 = $3,000
  • Home-Study Theory Training = $250
  • Medical Examination = $60
  • Written Examination = $150
  • Flight Examination = $950
  • Extras = $500

Total = $15,260

Student Average:
60 hours Total:

  • 50 hours Dual x ($300+$45) = $17,250
  • 10 hours Solo x $300 = $3,000
  • 20 hours One-On-One Ground Training x $45 = $900
  • Home-Study Theory Training = $250
  • Medical Examination = $60
  • Written Examination = $150
  • Flight Examination = $950
  • Extras = $500

Total = $22,560

There are more certificates available to get, especially for airplanes and you can find out more details about those in my dedicated article here:

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot? Every Pilot Certificate

To Finish

Airplanes are far cheaper to purchase, maintain and operate compared to a helicopter of a similar seating capacity. Airplanes require the use of a runway whereas a helicopter can land in confined areas without too much difficulty.

Aircraft ownership is an incredible pleasure and no matter which type of aircraft you chose to own being up in the air is an experience that I wish everyone could have on a regular basis!

Why Do Military Helicopters Fly So Low?

Have you been trying to read peacefully but roaring helicopters flying too low keep distracting you? Are you an irked farmer whose chickens have literally been scared to death by the extremely loud ‘whop-whop’ sounds of these machines? Maybe you’re just an aviation enthusiast who gets fascinated by the amount of detail you can see when a helicopter flies abnormally low.

Military helicopters fly low when training for wartime operations. Flying low allows helicopters to reduce the noise they make and fly under the scan of enemy radar. Flying low is dangerous and takes lots of training and practice. It is this practice that has them flying low in your area.

if your home is in a location that proves the perfect terrain for this type of flight training n you can be unlucky or lucky depending on your love of aviation. Although most military bases try to conduct low-level flight training in designated areas, there may be times when routes take them over your house.

The two main reasons for flying low are:

  1. Detection Avoidance
  2. Surprise Tactics

Let’s take a look at both of these and see how they relate to the helicopters thundering over your home…

How Do Military Helicopters Avoid Detection?

Military helicopters use terrain to absorb the sound made by them. By flying in valleys, rivers, and between trees pilots can reduce how far the sound travels. Low-level flight also keeps helicopters under the scan of enemy radar due to the curvature of the earth and how low the scan can sweep.

The element of surprise is one of the greatest advantages in battle, and because of this military leaders look at every aspect of surprise whether it be stealth materials and technologies, or procedures and tactics to take advantage of the terrain within the theatre of operations.

By far the most common way that military helicopters are detected is by radar. Ground-based enemy radar sites use radio waves to look for approaching aircraft

To better understand how flying low can help evade these systems, let’s look at how these systems work

How Does Radar Work?

Radar is a system used to detect the location, distance and speed of aircraft, ships and other objects using electromagnetic pulses radiated out from the device.

The ground-based equipment sends out short bursts of radio signals in predetermined directions towards the sky. These radio beams hit the metallic surfaces of aircraft and get reflected back to the ground-based radar station, where they are received by the receiver in the radar equipment. These reflected signals are referred to as echos.

The radar system calculates how long it has taken a certain pulse to be received back as an echo. Since the speed of the radio wave is a known constant, the distance of the aircraft from the equipment can be calculated. Direction is determined by the magnetic heading the signal was sent out.

How Do Helicopters Avoid Enemy Radar?

There are two ways for aircraft to avoid enemy radar. Position the aircraft outside of the radar scan or use materials that absorb the radar signals and allow minimal or no radar signal to bounce back to the radar receiver. Depending on the sophistication of the aircraft it may use both techniques.

Radio waves emitted by the Radar are absorbed and reflected by terrain, buildings or obstructions, the lowest beams are those sent parallel to the ground, the rest are sent up into the sky.

As a radar beam travels parallel to the ground from its point of origin, it gets farther away from the ground as the ground continues to dip away from it due to the earth’s curvature. This creates a region below the beam called the ‘Radar Shadow’ which gets bigger as the distance from the radar increases.  Detection of aircraft in the radar shadow region by the radar is virtually impossible.

Military helicopters take advantage of this shadow by using nap-of-the-earth (NOE) navigation, which is sometimes called “flying under the radar”. NOE navigation involves flying as close as possible to the ground. It is this technique that pilots are practicing when flying low around your home.

NOE navigation in the radar shadow region gives a helicopter the advantage of the element of surprise as it can get close enough to the enemy, attack, and flee before the target detects it early enough to counter using Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft Warfare (AAA).

Radar systems depend on a clear line of sight to the helicopter for it to be detected. If the helicopter cannot stay in the shadow the pilots will use the terrain. Radar is unable to penetrate mountainsides, buildings, and dense forest.

The pilots can then use these ‘Obstructions’ to mask themselves from the radar’s line of sight when in radar range by flying through valleys, around hills instead of over them, and even below tree levels where there’s a clear path between them.

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How Do Military Helicopters Use Surprise Tactics?

Military helicopters like the AH-64 Apache and OH-58 Kiowa use radar and imaging systems mounted above the main rotor systems to allow the helicopter to remain hidden while surveying the area. Only a few seconds are needed to scan and capture enemy targets by the radar and imaging systems.

The Longbow Radar mounted above the main rotor system on the AH-64 Apache is capable of tracking up to 128 targets simultaneously and engaging 16 targets at once within a quick 30-second scan. By having the main fuselage of the helicopter hidden behind an obstruction it allows for very effective surprise attacks.

AH-64 Apache with its Lonbow Radar Mounted above the Main Rotor System

To train for this pilots must fly low and fast to their area of observation and find an area to hide and peek. It is during these missions that you may see a helicopter flying really low!

The other type of helicopter with an above rotor system is the OH-58 Kiowa. Unlike the targeting system of the Longbow Radar the Kiowa is a reconnaissance-based helicopter. In its ‘Beach Ball’ is mounted a gyro-stabilized optical camera, thermal imaging camera, and a laser range finder/designator.

OH-58 Kiowa Reconnaissance Helicopter

By staying hidden from sight the pilots can use the Kiowa to provide eyeballs to commanding officers of potential threats out in the theater. Again, the pilots of the Kiowa need to fly in low and fast to avoid detection.

What are the Dangers of Military Helicopters Flying Low?

Flying a military helicopter low dramatically increases the risks of collisions with terrain, towers, cable spans, birds, and trees The reaction to deal with an immediate emergency is very quick and it requires intense practice and concentration. Regular training and known routes reduce risk.

No matter what aircraft a pilot is flying, the closer to the ground they fly, the higher the risks. It is for this reason why the military demands rigorous training for low-level flight for its pilots. Flying low and fast is one thing, doing it in a warzone while trying to remain undetected is a whole other ballgame.

Here are just a few of the common things pilots are trained to be aware of when practicing and operating low-level flight operations:

  • Cable spans are near impossible to spot in the air. Even though military pilots are taught to scan for wires by looking for pylons, it may be too late by the time they spot one. Routes are surveyed for cable spans before being flown at speed for training.
  • Birds generally fly up to 2000 feet, especially when migrating. Contact with a bird anything bigger than a pigeon can cause damage to critical components like the rotor or engine, or come through the windshield injuring the pilot. Low and high-speed birdstrikes are very serious.
  • Low recovery time or little time to initiate a forced/emergency landing in case of emergencies such as power loss or stall
  • Thermal turbulence and mechanical turbulence caused by air blowing against structures such as buildings may lead to momentary loss of control.
  • Windshear can cause a sudden loss in altitude or airspeed which is dangerous at low levels. Microbursts are a type of wind shear that occurs near the ground.
  • Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) – this is the unintentional crashing into terrain with an aircraft that is under positive pilot control. Reduced visibility or momentary pilot distraction are common causes.

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How Do Pilots Know Where to Taxi Around an Airport?

If you have ever sat in the airport terminal and looked out over the vast expanse of grass and concrete you may have wondered how the heck pilots seem to know where to go! At large international airports, it seems like a labyrinth of taxiways and runways and it boggles the mind how every pilot seems to know which way to go. The question is “How do they do that!?”

Pilots use taxi diagrams and real-time, digital moving maps to follow taxiing instructions given to them by the airport’s Ground Controller. Pilots must copy and repeat taxiing instructions verbatim and follow the instructions without deviation to ensure everyone’s safety.

Taxiing is one of the most important things a pilot learns during flight school, and it is critical to safety at an airport, no matter what aircraft they are flying. This article delves deep into just how an aircraft gets from point A to point B at an airport.

Parking to Takeoff

When the pilots are getting ready for departure one of them will call the airport Ground Controller on a prescribed radio frequency. The pilots will inform the Ground Controller of who they are and which gate they are parked at, or…

At very large international airports the pilot will first talk to an Apron Controller who will give them clearance to push back and start engines. Once the engines are started and the pilots are ready to taxi they will then be advised by the Apron Controller to switch radio frequencies to talk to the airport’s Ground Controller.

At this point, the Ground Controller will give the pilot a specific routing to get them to the runway designated for departures at that time.

Landing to Parking

Once an airplane has touched down and has exited the main runway the airport’s Tower Controller will then hand that aircraft off to the airports’ Ground Controller and advise the pilot on which frequency they need to switch to and talk to Ground.

Once communication has been made with the Ground Controller the controller will issue the pilot taxiing instructions on how to get to the apron or gate required. Again, the pilot must listen and repeat this request verbatim and then follow as directed.

A Common Sight at Busy International Airports – Source: Vicuna R

The question now remains, they now know the route to take but how do they know which is the right taxiway?

Every airport has a taxiway and runway diagram and each taxiway map is published online and kept up to date. Pilots have access to both paper and recently, digital copies. This map contains a plethora of information including:

  • Taxiway names
  • Runway numbers
  • Any one-way directions
  • High-incident locations
  • Airport radio frequencies
  • Apron letters
  • Parking areas
  • De-icing areas

The airport map below is for Istanbul Airport, which is one of the largest and busiest airports in Europe. Taxiway names are marked in Black Text on a Yellow Background.

In addition to the taxiing charts, is airport signage. Each taxiway has its own signage that matches the airport diagram. Painted lines and lighting also line each taxiway to help ensure pilots do not take the wrong turn.

As I write this article, a Turkish Airlines, Paris to Istanbul airplane (TK1826) is landing right now. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss the whole taxiing process.

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Using the Taxi Chart 

The airplane has just touched down on runway 34L and is using a high-speed exit to expedite clearing the runway. Once clear of the runway the aircraft is now sat on taxiway A7B (Alpha Seven Bravo).

It is at this point the ground controller will advise them to taxi as follows:

  • TK1826 Taxi A (Alpha)
  • A3 (Alpha Three)
  • E (Echo)
  • Hold Short B1A (Bravo One Alpha)

After taxiing based on the above instructions the airplane is now sitting at a High-Incident area as shown by the Red Circle HS13. The pilot/s now have to advise the Ground Controller they are Holding Short on B1A as they need to cross runway 35L (L stands for Left Runway of 35). At this time the runway is active and this is as far as the ground controller has allowed the pilots to taxi by themselves. This is known as a Clearance Limit.

Once the runway is safe to cross, the ground controller will clear them to cross Runway 35L but Hold Short again on taxiway B1B because of Runway 35R (R stands for Right Runway of 35).

Again, the pilot must inform they are holding short of Runway 35R on B1B when they reach the ‘Hold Short Line’.

An Aircraft ‘Holding Short’ Waiting for Clearance To Enter the Runway – Source: Porta da copa

Crossing any of these Hold Short lines without clearance at best results in a yelling at from the ground controller followed by a fine from the country’s aviation authority to worst, causing a collision with a landing or departing aircraft.

Once it is safe, the ground controller will issue the remaining clearance and taxiing instructions to get the aircraft to the correct apron:

  • TK1826 You are Cleared To Cross Runway 35R
  • Taxi C1 (Charlie One) to Terminal 2
  • Contact Ground 6 on 121.675

Each time an instruction is given the pilot must repeat it back to the controller. This allows the controller to ensure the pilot has heard and understood the instructions which really becomes important when pilots predominantly speak a foreign language.

In modern aircraft, computerized maps show the pilots exactly where they are in real-time which makes taxiing so much easier. For pilots flying private aircraft, private jets or any aircraft that does not have the included avionics, the maps can be accessed using an iPad and an aviation app like Boeing’s Foreflight.

This is a common sight in many aircraft and having personally used Foreflight for many years it truly is a godsend when at an unfamiliar airport!

Alternative Ways to Taxi Around an Airport

If a pilot is unfamiliar with an airport, he or she may request a ‘Progressive Taxi’, which means that taxi instructions are given sequentially by a ground controller who follows the aircraft and is focused on it. Busy ground controllers frown upon this as it can tie them up and distract them. Pilots should have prepared and studied the airport layout prior to arrival.

In rare cases, when fog has blanketed the airport and the visibility drops to near zero some large airports are still able to operate but on a limited schedule. To ensure airplanes can safely taxi around and not collide the airport provides a ‘Follow-Me’ car to get the aircraft around the airport.

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Airport Taxi Infrastructure

Earlier I mentioned how airports have signage, lighting, and painted markings to help pilots navigate around the airport. Each type is designed for a particular purpose:

Taxiway Signs

Just like street signs we use to navigate in our vehicles, the airport is covered in its own ‘Street Signs’. These are known as airport signs and there are six different types:

  1. Mandatory Instruction Signs – These are white text on a red background
    These denote critical areas or prohibited areas. Taxiways that join a runway will have these at the intersection denoting which runway is ahead.
  2. Direction Signs – These are black text on a yellow background with an arrow
    These tell the pilot the direction to get to the labeled taxiway
  3. Information Signs – These have black text on a yellow background
    Used to give pilots information like radio frequencies or noise abatement procedures
  4. Location Signs – These are yellow text on a black background
    These tell the pilot the taxiway they are currently on
  5. Destination Signs – These are black text on a yellow background with an arrow
    These direct the pilots to specific areas like the International Terminal or De-Icing area
  6. Runway Distance Remaining Signs – These are white text on a black background
    These tell the pilot how much runway remains in thousands of feet.

Pilots use these signs to identify where they currently are and the directions they need to turn to be on the correct taxiways assigned by the ground controller. Referencing their airport diagram to the upcoming taxiway signs is how most pilots navigate the taxiway labyrinth.

Taxiway Lighting

At night or in poor visibility conditions pilots can also use the standardized color system of the lights around the airport to help them stay on the right taxiway. All airports have a standard color system depending on where that light is located on the airport property.

Blue Lights – These line the edge of the taxiways to ensure pilots do not taxi off the edge and onto the grass
Green Lights – These run down the center of the taxiway for the pilot to keep the aircraft centered along the taxiway
Flashing Yellow Lights – These denote the Hold Short lines before entering a runway. They flash to get the pilot’s attention

By using these lights in combination with the signs the pilots now know where to go and make sure they stay within the confines of the taxiway when visibility is reduced via darkness or weather.

Taxiway Markings

The last part of the taxiway navigation system is the painted markings on the ground. Paint is an easy way to give pilots information or direction while moving. All taxiways will have a yellow centerline. By keeping the nosewheel of the aircraft on this line it ensures the aircraft stays in the middle of the taxiway and its wings will clear other aircraft and airport obstructions.

Source: Simon_sees

Along the edge of the taxiways are double yellow lines. These will help the pilot to see if they are about to taxi off the concrete and onto the grass by accident.

White on Red signs will be painted just before entering a runway. This ensures the pilot is about to enter onto the correct runway and also which direction they need to turn to be aligned for takeoff.

How Many Helicopters Does the President Use?

It’s well-known that the United States President is regularly transported around the country in a helicopter. “Marine One”, the helicopter designation when the president is flying a helicopter, has become a symbol of the office. It’s almost as famous as “Air Force One”, typically used when the President flies aboard any fixed-wing aircraft of the U.S. Air Force.

How Many Helicopters Does the President of the United States Use?

Typically, the U.S. President will fly in a group of anywhere between two to six identical helicopters. Flying with multiple helicopters in formation allows for security personnel, aides, and guests to accompany the President and disguise which helicopter actually contains the President.

The primary helicopter used by the president at the time of writing is a VH-3D “Sea King”, an older model that joined the fleet in the late 1970s. On occasion, or when heads of state, foreign guests, or when transporting the Vice-President, the VH-60N “White Hawk” is used. This has been the model also used by the Commander-in-Chief since 1989.

A Presidential VH-60 White Hawk – Source: Anna Zvereva

The current Presidential fleet consists of 11 VH-3D and eight VH-60N helicopters.

In 2014, Connecticut-based company Sikorsky Aircraft, owned by Lockheed Martin Corp, was awarded a contract to build the next generation of presidential aircraft – known as the VH-92 model.

The VH-92 program intended to build 23 new helicopters to replace the current fleeting of VH-60N and VH-3Ds. This included 21 operational helicopters, with two others to be used for testing. The program to build these Presidential helicopters had a mission to provide ‘safe, reliable, and timely transportation for the President, Vice President, Foreign Heads of State, and other official parties…’

Despite being declared operational by the U.S. Marine Corps on 28 December 2021, the Pentagon testing office published that the new helicopter is “failing to meet the reliability, availability or maintainability threshold requirements” set for it. This was especially the case in an emergency.

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This appears to be because engineers have struggled to build the necessary ‘Mission Communication System’ (MCS) required for the VH-92. The Presidential helicopters require a very secure degree of connectivity so that the President can communicate in circumstances where immediate decisions are required, but at this time the systems onboard are not up to standard and are still in development.

During President Trump’s administration, an issue with the VH-92 arose while trying land on the white house lawn. The hot gases to the engine exhaust downwash was resulting in a browning of the lawn grass. Design changes to exhaust deflectors, landing procedure and chemical coating for the lawn are also under development.

When travelling oversees, not only does the Presidential Limo ‘The Beast’ make the journey but also the fleet of Presidential helicopters. Using U.S. Airforce C-17 Gloebmasters, the Presidential fleet gets packed up and shipped ahead of the Presidents arrival if rotary transportation is required.

Aircraft, personnel and maintenance equipment are sent ahead to a remote and secured part of a military airbase where the helicopters are unpacked, serviced and readied for the Presidents arrival. Upon completion of the trip the crews of HMX-1 pack it all back on board the C-17’s and either head to the next location of back to Quantico.

If the President is planning multiple stops where the helicopters cannot beat the President to their next location additional crews, helicopters and personnel will be scheduled to play a game of hop-scotch so there is always a HMX-1 crew waiting the the Presidents arrival.

Why Does the President Fly with Multiple Helicopters?

The President normally flies with various decoy helicopters as a protective measure. The helicopters will change positions and adjust their routes to defy would-be attackers. On approach to land, all the helicopters will make the approach and at the last minute, only the Presidential helicopter will land.

VH-3D Presidential Helicopter In Formation to Land

This method of flight is known as the ‘Presidential Shell Game’. This technique is used to disguise the president’s exact whereabouts and confuse potential adversaries. By using decoys the odds of an attack on the exact helicopter the President is in is reduced. The concern that the president would be attacked reached a new height after the 9/11 attacks on various U.S. landmarks.

The helicopters in the Marine One fleet are equipped with impressive military technology in case they need to use it. This includes anti-missile countermeasures, flares, and chaff. Each countermeasure is designed to work against specific ground-to-air or air-to-air threats.

All the flight crews are current Marine Corps pilots with extensive flight time in active operations.

Who Flies the Presidential Helicopters?

Presidential helicopters are flown by pilots from the Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1). They not only fly the President, but also the Vice President, other heads of state, officials of the Department of Defense, and other VIPs as directed by the White House Military Office.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first U.S. President to have been flown by HMX-1 in 1957. He had been away on vacation but was urgently required back in the White House. In order to return, he would have needed to have been driven by a motorcade (a trip that would have taken two hours). So he approved the use of a helicopter and was back in the White House in seven minutes.

From that moment the decision to use helicopters as a transportation method for the President was born and to oversee this task HMX-1 was assembled. Over 800 Marines supervise the Marine One fleet of 19 helicopters which is based in Quantico, Virginia.

Not only does HMX-1 provide the pilots, but they also maintain the aircraft and look after all the logistics involved with any helicopter flight of the HMX-1 fleet.

What Does it Take to Become a Pilot for HMX-1?

Crews of HMX-1 rigorously train for the operation because the task of flying the President is one that must not be undertaken without failure.

Pilots must have served as a helicopter pilot within the Marine Corps for at least 2 years and although there are no minimum flight hour requirements, pilots must show experience in various types of flight missions (Exact details are classified).

VH-92 is the Next Generation of Presidential Helicopters

In addition to flying experience, personality and professionalism each candidate must be able to pass a Yankee White background check before proceeding onto final selection for the Presidential helicopters. ‘Yankee White’ is a name for a highly in-depth background check undertaken for Defense personnel working with the President and Vice President.

Candiates will then be sent to a selection board where only the top candidates will be selected for HMX-1 flight crews.

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How Do Pilots Avoid Jet Lag?

Airline pilots are frequently asked, “How do pilots avoid jet lag?” It’s an important question, considering that the safety of aircraft’s passengers depends on a pilot’s alertness during the flight!

Flying day and night across different time zones and managing jet lag is part and parcel of any pilot’s job. So, how do you cure jet lag if you are a pilot? Well, the answer is that there is no way to avoid jet lag or cure it. You (as a pilot) must learn to manage it, that is all.

Common ways pilots avoid jetlag is staying hydrated, good rest, avoiding caffine and alcohol, excercise or sleeping on the airplane. For long-haul flights airlines use multiple pilots for the flight to allow each pilot to get some rest. The more timezones that are crossed, the worse the jet lag.

Airline pilots are always on the move from one-time zone to another. This comes at the cost of disruption to their circadian rhythm, a repetitive natural and internal process in the human body to regulate the sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours. Here are some of the best ways to combat jet lag.

Tips Pilots Use to Avoid Jet lag

The six tips mentioned below help pilots, and you manage jet lag and its side effects.

1. Stay Hydrated

According to a Harvard Health study, dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag. Therefore, drinking plenty of fluids is one of the best things a pilot does while flying. While water is highly recommended, pilot’s alternate between juices, carbonated beverages, and electrolyte drinks.

Not only is it important for the flight crew to remain hydrated, but also the cabin crew too. For those of you with keen eyes you will notice the crew always have a drink on hand in the vestibule areas of the airplane.

2. Minimize Caffeine Conusmption

While drinking fluids can help maintain hydration levels, drinking caffeine is not the best thing for a pilot. Therefore, pilots try to limit their caffeine intake. Caffine can help keep a pilot awake in the short temr but drinking to much can overstimlutate the brain leading to shakes, overthinking, increased heart rates and possibly poor decision making.

Airplane Coffee is a Staple on Long Flights – Source: Justgrimes

Most pilots soon know how much coffee they can drink during overnight flights or those flights which cross multiple time zones without any adverse effects, however, the more that coffee is consumed, the more the body becomes immune to it.

3. Follow a Healthy Diet Plan

Everyone is well aware of the benefits of eating healthy. You must choose your diet smartly as it will reduce the risk of you developing digestive issues. A well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables will be healthier than one made up of snacks and fat or calorie-loaded food items.

Pilots try to keep body sugar levels to a minimum because they may experience an initial sugar rush, wish can lead to a sugar crash later during the flight. Eating a protein-based diet including some carbohydrates is also a good option and is why pilots usually have the same meals as the first-class passengers!

4. Rest

Following a consistent sleeping pattern or bedtime routine is almost next to impossible for pilots and crew members. This is especially true for those flying into different time zones on a regular basis.

Despite the fact that pilots may be experiencing frequent time changes, it is important for them to get a good night’s sleep, regardless of whether they experience a jet lag or not.

Most flights into different timezones will either return back to the same timezone the smae day or will require an overnight stop before returning back. If the stops are of only a single night most crews will stay on their regular timezone clock to help minimise the jet lag.

5. Sleeping on the Plane

Whether you fly in the same time zone or across the continents, it is normal to feel fatigued during the flight due to the low oxygen supply. When you are flying at 35,000 or 39,000 feet above sea level, the amount of oxygen in the cabin’s air is way less than at sea level. This affects both you and the flight crew.

While passengers can rest their eyes or doze off, pilots most often cannot afford that luxury. However, to allow the pilots to help avoid fatigue buildup on long-haul flights, a controlled rest procedure is officially in place in most airlines.

Crew Bunks onboard a Boeing 747 – Source: Artem Katranzhi

According to the protocol, only one pilot may take a limited amount of rest during the flight, while others monitor the cockpit. For crews on very-long flights the aircraft may be equipped with integrated bunks to allow a rotating crew the chance to rest.

6. Avoid Alcohol

As a pilot, they are aware that they cannot drink in the cockpit or anywhere else on the plane, for that matter. The effects of alcohol decrease their brain’s ability to use oxygen properly. However, according to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) guidelines for pilots, drinking alcohol at a higher altitude magnifies its adverse effects.

The FAA has issued the follig guidelines that all pilots must adhere to: 14 CFR Part 91.17
This states that a pilot must not drink alcohol at least 8 hours before the flight, they also have to be aware that cosuming large volumes of alcohol before flying requires longer than 8 hours for the body to process.

For this reason the FAA also stipulates that any pilot must be fit for duty. This gray area relies on the pilots to be repsonsible and give the neccessary time period before boarding their aircraft.

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How Long Does Jet Lag Last?

Typically, it takes one to two days for your body to adjust to an hour change in your circadian rhythm. For large changes in time zone it can take the body up to a week or two to full recover and adapt to the new time zone. During this time jet lag can cause nausea, tiredness, dizziness, loss of appetite

Due to the nature of their jobs, pilots do not have the luxury of sleeping off the exhaustion caused due to jet lag. Therefore, it is important they learn to handle it because being a pilot is not a 9 to 5 job but more like a lifestyle.

When pilots first move onto a flight line that really disrupts their circadian rythym it can take several months for them to learn how their body reacts and what they can do to minimise the effects of jet lag. By using some or all of the tips mentioned above pilots can recover from jetlag far quicker than their passengers.

To Finish

Being a pilot is a dream job for many. However, it requires serious lifestyle adjustments and compliance with personal and professional codes. If you are a pilot, try and get some sleep once you arrive at your destination; the sooner, the better.

Apart from that, get some fresh air, walk around, and eat healthy meals. However, you must follow the local day and night schedule for eating and going to bed. Following the above-mentioned tips will certainly help pilots avoid jet lag.

What is the Difference Between a Helicopter and a Gyrocopter?

A friend of mine was recently at an airshow and noticed an aicraft that looked like a helicopter but took off like an airplane. Knowing I was a helicopter pilot he asked me what it was. I answered “It was a Gyrocopter!”.

Gyrocopters have an unpowered, free-spinning main rotor that creates lift as it is propelled through the air by a pusher prop. Helicopters create lift by an engine turning a main rotor system. This allows helicopters to hover and complete very slow flight whereas gyrocopters are unable.

A gyrocopter, also known as a gyroplane or autogyro, is an aircraft with freely rotating rotors and a propeller that propels the aircraft through the air. As the vertical propellor moves the aircraft forward through the air, this rotates the blades of the main rotor reating downward lift. A helicopter, on the other hand, uses an engine to power its main rotors. 

How Does a Gyrocopter Work?

If you look closely, you’ll notice that a gyrocopter is a hybrid of a fixed-wing and a helicopter. Many gyrocopter designs have the traditional tail and control surfaces of an airplane, but a free-spinning rotor, which replaces the wings of the airplane.

Gyrocopters are propelled through the air via a propellor mounted on the rear of the aircraft. The forward airspeed causes its main rotor system to ‘Windmill’ allowing the rotorblades to create lift. No power is sent from the engine to the main rotor system so this aircraft is unable to hover.

When the idea of the gyrocopter was initially developed it was to build a safer aircraft that could compete with fixed-wing aircraft that required higher flying speeds to prevent stalling. An autogyro creates lift with by rotating it’s main rotor blades, whereas a fixed-wing aircraft generates lift by diverting airflow over the wings.

As previously stated, the source of rotation of the main rotor system is the key difference between helicopters and gyrocopters.

Helicopter rotors are powered by the engine/s, gyrocopter rotors are powered by forward flight.

Some gyrocopters are fitted with a simple tube-drive off the engine to help get the rotor up to speed while sationary allowing for shorter take-off distances. The drive does not provide enough rotational power to the main rotor to lift it vertically off the ground. 

As the propellor pushes the gyrcopter through the air, the airflow begins to ‘Windmill’ the main rotor system and allow it to create lift.

The gyrocopters rotor’s are made of airfoil-shaped blades, just like on a regular helicopter. When they travel through the air, each blade deflects air downwards. This provides lift to allow the gyrocopter to fly.

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How is a Gyrocopter is Different From a Helicopter?

The main difference between a helicopter and a gyrocopter is that gyrocopters cannot hover. This is because a gyrocopter requires forward propulsion to create rotor movement, and thus lift.

A helicopter’s rotor generates both lift and propulsion and is rotated by a shaft attached to a transmission which is driven by an engine or engines.

Gyrocopters Have No Tail Rotor System

Another main difference is the lack of tail rotor on an autogyro. On a regular helicopter the engine that drives the main rotor system creates torque on the fuselage based on Newtons Third Law of “Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction”.

Because an autogyro has no engine driving the main rotor system there is no torque being imparted onto the fuselage, instead it uses a rudder similar to an airplane to control yaw while in forward flight.

Do You Need A License to Fly a Gyrocopter in the US?

To fly a gyrocopter you need to onbtain a Private Pilot Certificate with Rotorcraft category and Gyroplane class rating, pass the written examination for the Private Pilot Certificate and obtain at least a Thrid Class Aviation Medical Certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner.

According to the FAA from CFR Part 61.107, a pilot must complete at least the following to meet the requirements to apply for the pilot certificate pilto flight test (Checkride):

  • You must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes
    • at least 20 hours of flight training from a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and
    • 10 hours of solo flight training. 

Is a Gyrocopter Easy to Fly?

Modern gyrocopters are easier to fly and manage than helicopters because of their free-rotating rotors and simplified flight controls. They’re a good choice for pleasurable, smooth low-altitude flying because of their low-speed characteristics, and are much cheaper to purchase and operate compared to a helicopter.

In a helicopter, learning to hover is by far the hardest part of learning to fly. Helicopters act like a pendulum causing any pilot-induced sway to amplify until the helicopter is in very uncomfortable attitudes.

Add to that the slight control delays between the pilot initiating a control input and the reaction taking place, it can really make for a wild ride in the first 10-20 hours of learning to fly a helicopter!

Because a gyrocopter has to be propelled through the air like an airplane, the pilot does not have to learn the art of hovering and this allows a gyrocopter to be learned far easier and quicker then a helicopter.

Gyrocopters are very popular in Europe and North America allowing many people to experience the thrill of flight that cannot afford to do so in a traditional airplane or helicopter.

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Is a Gyrocopter Safer Than a Helicopter?

As a light aircraft an autogyro is susceptible to increased passenger injury during an accident due to the lack of structure surrounding them. To keep gyrocopters as light as possible the cabin surrounding the passengers is removed or is very minimal, this prevents exposure during an accident.

Autogyros have great low-speed flight characteristics but the ability to come to a stop and hover can prevent issues especially if the pilot has misjudged their landing and take off locations or they suddenly find the ground over which they are rolling suddenly becomes uneven.

Both gyrocopters and helicopters has the ability to enter into autorotation in the event the engine stops working. Autorotation is a maneuver that allows the upflowing air as the aircraft descends to keep turning the main rotor system. This is storing potential energy.

As the aircraft glides closer to the ground the pilot will pitch the nose of the aircraft up and turn that stored potential energy into lift to cusion the landing. Done correctly both a helicopter and an autogyro can touchdown at practically zero forwrad airspeed.

For Autogyros with only 2 main rotor blades they are susceptible to Mast-Bumping just like any two bladed helicopters. If that aircraft enters into a Low-G flight regime the unloading of the main rotor can cause it to seperate from its mast – Always a fatal outcome.

With good training, piloting technique and adherance to the aircrafts limitations an autogyro can be as safe as any helicopter.

What do Helicopters Spray on Crops and Fields?

Aircraft, including helicopters, have been used to spray or drop various substances over crops and fields for decades. Aerial chemical application in various settings, whether it be for spreading insecticides over crops or fertilizers over fields, is considered one of the most cost-effective methods of ensuring the health and wellbeing of dozens of crop types, especially when the terrain prevents the use of regular farm application machines.

Helicopters are used for aerial application in rugged, mountainous, inaccessible, or smaller fields due to their slower flight speed and accurate delivery capabilities. They commonly apply seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides in liquid or pellet form.

In the United States alone, there are over 1,500 aerial application businesses and around 3,400 agricultural pilots. The most common types of helicopters used to spray crops range from small Hiller’s and Robinson R44’s up to the Bell 206 Jet Ranger and Eurocopter AS315 Lama.

So below, we’ll look more into why helicopters are used by industry and farmers to spray crops, as well as what particular chemicals are released on agricultural fields.

Why are Helicopters Used for Crop Spraying?

Using helicopters is one of the quickest ways to apply chemicals to fields and crops. When very large, relatively flat fields require application then an airplane is a much better option, but when the application areas are small, rugged, or in mountainous terrain, the helicopter is the better choice.

Here is why helicopters are extremely practicable:


Helicopters are able to access crops directly from the sky and can fly very low to the ground. They’re able to maneuver over particular areas of the field with almost pinpoint accuracy, providing a much more useful alternative to fixed-wing aircraft which are not as maneuverable, especially at low speed and low altitude.

Each product has a designated application method and because of the adjustable speed and maneuverability of a helicopter, the pilot can fly at the correct height and speed to apply the exact amount of product leading to the most efficient coverage of the application area.

This prevents excess chemical usage which costs the farmer.

Less Ferrying Time

One of the best reasons why helicopters make great aerial application tools is that helicopters can resupply from a truck next to the field, unlike a fixed-wing aircraft which must use at an airstrip or suitable dirt road or clearing to resupply which may be quite some distance from the application area.

Can’t Get Much Closer! – Source: Carl Wycoff

Airplanes also need to fly back to the landing strip to reload with fuel before taking off again, whereas a helicopter can also do that from the truck. Having the reload site right next to the application area makes the whole process cheaper, as using helicopters decreases the amount of ‘ferry time’.

When an. application cycle can be as short as 5 minutes, flying back and forth to an airstrip dramatically extends the application time, and having only small windows when the weather conditions are perfect can lead to more days being on site costing the farmer more money.


When trees, hedgerows, powerlines, or obstacles present themselves the pilot is able to stop the product release, maneuver around the obstacle, and then continue applying with minimal effort. This keeps the application time to a minimum, thus keeping the costs low for the farmer.

Helicopters can also fly much slower than an airplane. Airplanes generally can only operate as slow as 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) whereas helicopters can fly at speeds all the way down to zero. When application areas are irregularly shaped or prevent complex application the pilot can adjust the product’s application rate, altitude, and airspeed to ensure maximum product coverage much easier with a helicopter than with an airplane.

Airplanes may be unable to apply product in such conditions.

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What Chemicals do Helicopters Spray on Crops and Fields?

Helicopters typically apply pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in liquid form using a tank, pump, and spray bar attached to the underside of the helicopter. Seeds and fertilizers are usually in pellet form and are spread using seeding hoppers slung from the belly hook of the helicopter.

The agricultural industry applies various types of chemicals to their fields to ensure the health and wellbeing of their crops for maximum harvest yield or to control invasive species within the area.

Below are some of the different types of chemicals that helicopters will spray on fields, cut blocks, utility corridors, or forest areas.


Spreading insecticides, also known as pesticides on crops is integral to ensuring a crop lives a healthy and long life. Insecticides are the substances used to kill insects and pests which pose a risk of destroying crops, ranging from aphids and mealybugs to bollworms and berry borers.

Usually, the pesticide is designed to attack only the intended pest and today’s chemicals are highly advanced to ensure environmental impact is minimal.

Some Aerial Application Helicopters can be Transported Right to the Worksite to Save on Flying Costs.


Herbicides are chemicals used to spray crops so that unwanted vegetation, typically weeds, dies. Just like the insecticides, these chemicals are highly toxic to specific types of plants and are often used in row-crop farming or reforestation where the landowners only want new trees to grow and not invasive species.

By killing off the unwanted plants the crop will be able to consume the required nutrients from the soil without having to compete with the weeds. This leads to a better, healthier, and increased coverage of the required crop.

Case Study: The risks of spraying herbicides by helicopter

There are risks involved with aerial application and below is an example of where pilot negligence can really affect many people.

It is extremely important that herbicides (and all chemicals) are sprayed with precision and in the right locations. Spraying accidents such as ‘Chemical Drift’ are very possible with helicopters. It is for this reason that most agricultural staying is done at first light when there is no wind.

In October 2013, a Bell OH-58A helicopter in Oregon was alleged to have affected members of the public while releasing herbicides over logging clear cuts, leading to 20 different complaints from Curry County. A baby was reported vomiting for 24 hours, suffering headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and sinus problems.

The FAA suspended the pilot’s license for a year, as was his company’s application license. He was made to pay $1,100 in penalties by the Environmental Protection Agency but reportedly managed to avoid a potential fine of $20,000.

This case highlights the importance of avoiding ‘drift’ when spraying chemicals for a helicopter. Pilots can achieve this by using larger spray droplets with a low level of pressure, while only releasing the herbicides at low altitudes and when the wind speed is low.


Fungicides are the chemicals used to destroy fungi and any spores they produce. Fungi have significant potential to damage plants and crops under the right conditions causing mold and mildew on the crop itself.

A notable example of a fungicide that can be sprayed by a helicopter is Headline, which contains the Group 11 fungicides Pyraclostrobin and Metconazole. This product is marketed to address over 50 diseases that threaten crop quality and can be effectively sprayed by helicopter.

“I had two farms with soybeans that were heavily damaged by hail … and I wanted to get Headline applied to ward off any disease. My crop representative recommended aerial application as an option and I was impressed to see how close the helicopter pilot got to the crop … he didn’t have his boom any higher than a typical Ro Gator would and he was very precise!”

Kris Martin, Martin Farming (Brant County, Ontario, Canada)


Helicopters may also apply various fertilizers over crops and fields. These are substances designed to make crops more fertile by providing them with the correct nutrients required for them to stay productive. Aerial application is typically considered a very quick way to deliver nutrients to crops at the perfect time in the growing cycle.

AgroLiquid, for example, is a fertilizer commonly used on a range of crops such as sugar beets, rangeland, alfalfa, corn, and wheat. The company states that applying AgroLiquid by air can help to quickly get nutrients to crops in the middle of growing season, and has been specifically designed for ‘slow release’ and ‘high efficiency’ so the farmers are able to less fertilizer while achieving better outcomes.

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