By Douglas Williams
Those who live in North Bucharest will probably have noticed the odd helicopter or six flying above them. Kinda noisy but also kinda cool, it’s hard not to love a helicopter. And this got OZB thinking and investigating which led us to Becker Aviation, out by Balotești, run by Cristian Becker, where wannabe helicopter pilots can turn their dreams into reality.
Not surprisingly, and perhaps reassuringly, first off those wishing to pilot one of these incredible machines must visit the docs. Yup, is your body up to it, your eyes? And then after that there’s the psychological profiling to ensure that there are no problems “in the top croft” before you take to the skies.
Only it’s not quite as simple as that. There’s the small matter of the “theory” which occurs in conjunction with flying lessons. That’ll be 180 hours of theory covering the various subjects necessary to successfully piloting a helicopter – navigation, meteorology, principles of flight etc. This is done in a combination of online and at the centre classes and takes somewhere in the vicinity of 4-5 months. This is for a Private Pilot Licence (PPL). Before the candidate sits the Federal Aviation Authority PPL exam, they must have completed the theory and have 45-50 hours of flying time under their belt. This is generally achieved in 6 months with four 90 minute lessons per week undertaken at the centre. The cost to study, fly and sit the PPL exam with Becker Aviation is 16,500 euros.
The PPL allows the pilot to fly helicopters but not commercially, ie. remuneration is not allowed. To qualify as a commercial pilot candidates need, you’ve guessed it, a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). This is an altogether different and more difficult proposition requiring a further 280 hours of flying with 35 of those being examined and five of those examined at night. The theory is much more difficult and the cost – mainly due to the extra flying hours required – is substantially greater. Becker Aviation charges students 300 euro per hour for flying and taking the CPL exam costs in the region of 50,000 euro. To make matters worse, even upon qualifying with a CPL it is very difficult to find paid work until the pilot has logged over 500 hours flying because of those pesky insurance critters who simply won’t entertain commercial pilots with less – no dice. Wannabe commercial pilots bolster their flight hours doing crop spraying, banner towing and pipeline work.
So, once you’ve learned to drive the next step is to get a car and it’s the same with helicopters and Becker can help in this department too. He is the main local dealer for Robinson helicopters, one of the main producers of civil helicopters in the world.
For more information see: www.becker-aviation.ro/en