A helicopter engineer is responsible for the maintenance and repair of helicopters. These roles are usually based at airports or at flight service centres. You could work on helicopters used for transport, by the emergency services, for private use, or by the military.
You will need a license to work as a helicopter engineer and different licences allow you to work on different parts of an aircraft. For example, B1 licensed engineers will work on the structure and mechanics of an aircraft. B2 licensed engineers work on communications and navigation systems.
This job is sometimes on a shift basis. You may be required to work during the evenings or even at the weekend. You are also likely to have call-out duties.
If you are practical, have a technical mind, and have an interest in the aviation industry, a career as a helicopter engineer could be for you.
What does a helicopter engineer do?
Your day-to-day responsibilities might include:
- Routinely inspecting aircraft
- Diagnosing faults with aircraft and deciding how best to repair them
- Carrying out any necessary repairs or replacing parts
- Testing repairs and measuring the general performance of the aircraft
- Ensuring that the aircraft meets all safety regulations
- Keeping records of all work carried out on specific aircraft
- Being available on-call for any emergency repairs
- Providing clients with technical advice
What qualifications do I need to become a helicopter engineer?
To work as a helicopter engineer, you’ll need a Part-66 licence which is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There are different sub-categories to the licence depending on the parts of an aircraft you want to work on.
A B1 licence will allow you to carry out work that is largely mechanical. You will work on the structure of an aircraft, as well as the electrical and mechanical systems.
A B2 licence will enable you to work on avionics systems. You will work on the instruments and electrical systems that are linked to communications and navigation.
There are two routes to getting a licence. You can either study for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) exams relevant to your licence. This is known as the self-starter route. The other option is to take an EASA Part-147 approved course.
If you follow the self-starter route, you will need a minimum of five years’ maintenance experience in addition to passing all of the examinations before you can apply for a licence. A benefit of the EASA Part-147 route is that you only need two years’ experience to qualify for a licence.
What skills do I need to become a helicopter engineer?
- The ability to work in a team – You will need good teamwork skills to work alongside other engineers, diagnosing and fixing problems.
- An eye for detail – This is important for finding faults with aircraft and for making complex repairs.
- Problem solving ability – This will help when deciding how best to solve a fault.
- Communication skills – These are important for giving technical advice to clients and for giving instructions to fellow engineers.
- A technical mindset – You will need to be able to understand complex systems and how they work together to control the aircraft.
How much does a helicopter engineer earn?
Starting salary: £30,000 – £35,000
Experienced: £35,000 – £45,000
(These are intended as a rough guide and can vary depending between employers.)
What are your career prospects as a helicopter engineer?
As you gain experience, you could take on a senior role as an engineering manager and supervise other engineers. You could also progress to become a design engineer and work on enhancing the design of an aircraft.
You could also do further training to work on other types of aircraft, such as commercial planes.