• www.jetbox.aero

Training for the CPL (H) – Part 1

Post written by Capt. David Harwood CPL (H).

I’ve  just finished my Commercial Helicopter Pilot’s License – CPL(H) and I have to say it’s been a long road. For other pilots thinking of embarking on the CPL (H) training, it’s important you understand what you’re signing up for.

I passed my PPL (H) in March last year and for months I flew around on my own or with friends. My opinion at the time was that my flying ability wasn’t sufficiently acceptable to me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I believe when you get your PPL, it’s a licence to start learning and doesn’t mean you’re a good pilot. It just means you’re capable of flying a helicopter without killing yourself!!! So last July I had time on my hands, a new PPL licence and a hunger for all information heli related (yes, my names David and I’m a self-confessed heli-holic!!).

I decided, if I’m going to read all the books and learn about helicopters, as well as doing a lot of flying to improve my skills, I might as well get the qualification and do the CPL (H).

This is my story and I hope it helps others who are considering the modular route, which is the route I followed.


First of all, before enrolling with a training provider, it’s important to get a Class 1 medical. The initial examination can only be done at the CAA, Gatwick, but subsequent medicals can be done with an AME locally. I phoned the CAA, reserved my medical appointment for 2 weeks later and started eating healthy for the 2 weeks thinking it would make a difference!!  I can highly recommend using the train to get to Gatwick, as you arrive into the airport, get a free bus to the CAA building and you’re relaxed and ready for the medical. There are also numerous hotels in the area if an overnight stay is required.

The medical itself takes about 4 hours and there are various rooms and experts to see. They check your eyes, ears, blood (haemoglobin & cholesterol), urine (blood sugar), blood pressure, reflexes and also your heart with an ECG. After all the tests are complete, you then sit down with the GP who goes through all the results and asks questions about your lifestyle and history. If all goes well, as in my case, you’re issued with a new Class 1 medical certificate immediately and you’re on your way back to the train station. Insert the new certificate into your licence and the jobs done.

Theory Training

Next task on the list was to find a training provider that would allow me to work at my own pace. You have the choice of joining an integrated course which is full-time study, 5 days a week, or a modular distance learning course. I personally prefer to sit in my own home, relax in my armchair and study at my own pace. I am self-motivated so don’t have a problem doing the studying, but if I’m in a class of other people I feel the pace is either too slow or it’s too fast and I don’t understand everything. At least if I’m at home and don’t understand a certain point, I can re-read it as many times as I like until I’m happy. So it’s a modular distance learning course for me.

Searching through the internet, I didn’t find so many companies offering CPL courses. I’m not sure if that was just me not finding them, as I am aware for a few more now. Some companies do offer the ATPL course, but as I had no plans for an IR to work offshore, I decided to go down the CPL route rather than ATPL. Having now completed the CPL, I think I may have made a mistake there. The study material for the CPL includes almost everything you need to do the full ATPL exams and on reflection I may have been better doing the 14 ATPL exams ,rather than 9 CPL exams, but it’s no major problem.

The company I finally decided to go with was Atlantic Flight Training (AFT) based at Coventry Airport. They offer the modular CPL(H) course and provide all the study material needed. However, it’s important to understand that this is a “CPL(H) Interim” course. Basically it means that except for the Principles of Flight technical paper which is based on helicopters, many of the other subjects will be based on fixed wing planes (usually Boeing 737). That said, I have absolutely no experience with fixed wing but didn’t have a problem following the material, so don’t be put off. I can highly recommend AFT. They’re very helpful and answer any questions fast and precisely.  I’d would strongly suggest that you ask around for advice, as I’ve seen other companies recommended recently too.

Once you’ve enrolled and paid your money (about £1600 from memory), you’ll receive the folders of study material by courier to get started. Make sure you have a huge book-shelf available for these, as there’s a lot of reading to do!!! I’d estimate about 10 times the PPL study material!!! Stock up on Tea/Coffee/Sugar/Milk!!

The AFT course was split into 2 modules. The first module had 5 subjects and the second had 4 subjects (9 in total). The subjects in each module will vary between providers, but with AFT it was split as follows :-

Module 1 contains :

  • Aviation Law
  • Human Performance
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation
  • VFR Communications

Module 2 contains :

  • Principles of Flight (H)
  • Operational Procedures
  • Flight Planning and Mass & Balance
  • Aircraft General Knowledge

The study guide you receive details how you should split your time between the subjects rather than concentrate on one subject at a time. This helps you digest the material and stops you getting bored of one subject. I wasn’t convinced with this system at first, but it does work!! At regular intervals you answer question sheets. Some of these you can mark yourself to see how you’re progressing, others you email to AFT so they can mark and assess your progress. This was a good system and worked well for me. You can then go back and re-study any weak areas.

Part 2 will be published on 7th November 2009

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: