The work of a helicopter pilot can be exciting, whether you fly for the military or for a commercial operation, like a hospital. To become a helicopter pilot, you must enroll in a flight training program, complete a certain number of flight hours and pass a licensing exam. You can begin preparing for this training while you're still in high school by taking classes that will give you the foundation you need for success.
Helicopter pilots need a strong understanding of physics in order to maneuver their aircraft. High-school physics classes can teach students fundamental principles such as velocity, atmospheric dynamics, thrust, drag and lift. Learning how these principles apply to flight and the mechanics of the aircraft can prepare students for classroom instruction and hands-on training in flight school. An understanding of physics can also help students understand how to adapt to unexpected conditions such as high winds or atmospheric changes.
Math is an integral part of the job of a helicopter pilot. It is used to determine fuel needs, flight coordinates, weight capacity for passengers and cargo, and the adjustments needed for speed and elevation. Classes in algebra, trigonometry and calculus provide this foundation. Basic addition, subtraction and multiplication are also important for operating the basic flight controls and monitoring elevation, distance and speed.
A thorough understanding of geography and topography are necessary for a helicopter pilot to navigate terrain. Geography classes help students understand the characteristics of masses they may have to navigate, such as mountains, glaciers and oceans, and how they may impact flight through changes in the atmosphere, storm formation and more. This information is also important in the event that an emergency landing is needed. A class in geography can also give students the language to describe these features for communicating with air control or writing up flight reports.
English courses teach students how to communicate well in speech and writing. Helicopter pilots need to be able to communicate well with co-pilots, air-traffic controllers, passengers and supervisors. They must also be able to write comprehensive flight reports that communicate information clearly and effectively. Take an English course that focuses on writing and developing a strong argument. Work on strengthening your vocabulary and learning the rules of grammar and syntax for strong communication.
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