Military Rotary to Civilian Rotary


There are plenty of ways to achieve your licence but we have set out below what we believe is the easiest and cheapest route.


Medical - For a CPL (ATPL) you need a CLASS 1 medical. It is best to do this after your exams, unless you think you might encounter problems, in which case check you can pass your medical first before investing. Initial medical must be done by a CAA approved centre and there can be a long wait.

Exams - Now it's time to start ATPL groundschool. 14 exams in various subjects. You have 18 months from the first sitting to the last sitting to complete the exams. You have 6 sittings in total and can take any 1 exam up to 4 times before having to start again. You can use ELCAS for this if you're registered for them. I recommend Bristol Ground School. They supply the books, exam materials and online material. As a military pilot you don't need to complete the course, just pass the exams. The best way is to use the Bristol Ground School courseware, crammer sessions and 14000 actual questions. Break this down into 3 or 4 exam sittings and it's easily manageable. Click here for more info.

Once you've passed the exams you need to complete a CPL and Instrument Rating course. You also need a Class 1 medical and a MCC certificate. 

CPL – As a QMP(H) with over 70hrs PIC (Captain) you are credited the CPL course and just need to pass the test. This is fine if you fly a military helicopter type that has a civilian equivalent type and you have access to a CAA examiner who can fly with you on a test following the EASA test profile. For most people this is not the case and you will need to use a civilian flying school. If you use a civilian type for the CPL then you must complete a Type Rating (TR) course for that aircraft first.

It now depends if you require a Single Engine (SE) or Multi-engine (ME) rating. Due to the very high costs of ME helicopters it is recommended to complete as much, if not all, of your training on a SE helicopter. If you are looking for future employment, then your employer will probably fund the TR onto the new ME aircraft and as you have a CV with military ME helicopter time, that should make you competitive for the position regardless of which civilian rating you hold. Most jobs require you to have a CPL and IR before starting, it rarely matters on what type you gained this. This may not be the case for civilians wanting to become commercial helicopter pilots, they will need to prove themselves and gain a ME rating with IR, however the cheaper route is still via a SE IR.

First step is to enrol on a QMP CPL course.  This single course will have 2 elements;

Firstly you will complete a TR course (not including the test). This is usually 5hrs on a SE helicopter and 8hrs on a ME helicopter. If you fly a similar military type then this may be reduced, e.g. Gazelle / Squirrel pilots could fly a 2hr TR course.

Secondly, now you have completed the TR syllabus you’ll need to complete CPL training as required to pass the CPL skills test. This isn’t defined but you will normally require enough training to be competent with the low level IP-to-tgt navigation, EOLs etc. This training is usually between 3-10hrs on top of the TR but depends heavily on your previous experience. The average is 5hrs for the TR and 5hrs for the CPL, making 10hrs of training before the combined CPL TR skills test.

Step Two is to add an IR (if required). There are 3 starting positions, no military IRT, Restricted Green IRT (non-procedural) and Unrestricted Green IRT.

No military IRT.

2 options, SE or ME.

SE – 35hr sim, 10hrs aircraft, SEIR test (at the point of licence application must hold the test pass for  PPL with night rating or CPL)

ME – 40hrs sim, 10hrs aircraft, MEIR test (at the point of licence application must hold the test pass for PPL with night rating or a CPL)

(to add a MEIR to a SEIR – 3hrs MEIR sim, 2hrs MEIR aircraft, test)

Restricted Green IRT

Training as required, but this is what the CAA wants:

10hrs sim


ME – 5hrs aircraft and test


SE 2hrs aircraft and test

Unrestricted Green IRT

Trg as required before test, depends on your military experience.

UKFlying recommends Vantage Aviation for rotary conversions.

More details and course prices can be found here.

Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) course - If you flew a military Multi-pilot (MP) helicopter then you may be credited the MCC providing the type is listed in CAP804. If not and you want an ATPL(H) to fly Multi-pilot helicopters, then you will require a MCC. This is an 8 day course covering MP flying. It is a mix of classroom and simulator training. UKFlying is currently seeking a MCC provide to recommend and we will update you soon.

After spending the time and money on all of the items above you want to make sure you get a job as quickly as possible. You will need to create a professional CV and you need to be prepared for the job selection process. It really is worth spending a few extra pounds getting this right as you may only get one shot.

I strongly recommend you get in touch with Andrew at flightdeckwingman who is ex-Navy and now works for BA. Further details on flightdeckwingman can be found here,