Can an Airplane pilot fly a helicopter??


So, I’m a helicopter pilot, but I keep getting questions from people asking if I can fly Airplanes as well!!, or my friends flying Airplanes keep getting questions like, how is it to fly a helicopter!!

The simple answer is

an airplane pilot cannot fly a helicopter and vice versa, ofcourse  there are a few exceptions which I will explain later in this post.

Definitions of a helicopter and airplane

Helicopter:  a type of aircraft which derives both lift and propulsion from one or more sets of horizontally revolving overhead rotors. It is capable of moving vertically and horizontally, the direction of motion being controlled by the pitch of the rotor blades.

Airplane:  A powered heavier-than-air aircraft with fixed wings from which it derives most of its lift.  Its propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller or rocket engine.

Lets first look at the control surfaces of an airplane and helicopter.
Flight control surfaces are aerodynamic devices allowing a pilot to adjust and control the aircraft’s flight attitude.

In case of Airplanes

  • a control yoke , centre stick or side-stick (also known as a control or joystick).
    It governs the aircraft’s roll and pitch by moving the ailerons when turned or deflected left and right. It moves the elevators when moved backwards or forwards
  • rudder pedals, to control yaw, or helps to change the directions of the nose of the airplane.
  • throttle, controls to control engine speed or thrust for powered aircraft.

In case of Helicopters

  • Cyclic, To move the helicopter forward and back (pitch) or sideways (roll).
  • Collective, the helicopter increases or decreases its total lift derived from the rotor, which means the pilot uses this control to climb or descent.
  • Rudder pedals, Now only the rudders serve the same purpose as that of airplanes. They control the direction that the nose of the aircraft points.

So basically if you see the controls of a helicopter and that of an airplane is different, so how can you possibly fly it, unless trained separately on both!!

Regulatory authorities on pilot training

The FAA, EASA, DGCA etc are the aviation regulatory authorities of various countries. As you know, and they have set training requirements which is different in case of helicopters as that from airplanes. For example in DGCA, India, 200 hours of flying training time is required in case of Airplanes and 150 hours incase of Helicopters. So lets just imagine, if you have flown 200 hours on an airplane, how will you be able to fly a helicopter??. Now regarding the exception I was talking about. There are pilots who train on both, but this case is very few, as the training is very expensive and it takes a lot of time as well. But those who train on both eventually end up only working on either Airplanes or Helicopters, but not on both.


So I hope you have got the gist of things and I have been able to clear at least one doubt in your mind, if not feel free to send me a query, either you can go to the contact page or send an email on

Further Information for pilot training on

132 thoughts on “Can an Airplane pilot fly a helicopter??”

    1. As a heoicopter and fixed wing pilot i believe, in a pinch, a helicopter pilot could fly an airplane but not so easy the other way around.

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