Do you have a car driver's license? Then it is always normal for you not only to drive your own car, but also that of your partner. Which is then not a VW Golf Diesel with manual transmission, but a BMW 3-series petrol engine with automatic. We don't even think about whether we can drive the BMW with our driver's license, it's that normal to switch. On the other hand, we know intuitively that larger vehicles have their own driver's license depending on the weight of the vehicle, for example for trucks or buses if we want to transport a large number of passengers - keyword passenger transport ticket. This applies to motorcycles anyway. They are very different from cars, so it makes a lot of sense to force the authorities to have their own driver's license.

In aviation, this is regulated even more precisely and very precisely: Except for the exact pattern that you drive - oh pardon - want to fly. What exactly a pattern is and what counts as the same pattern is also precisely defined. So if you have been driving a Golf Diesel up to now and then (are allowed to) drive a BMW automatic, then that would be a different pattern when applied to aviation. But now finally about helicopter flying.

Training on a specific pattern

Suppose you decide to complete a private pilot training course (PPL-H - Private Pilot License for Helicopters). At least 45 hours of flight are required for these and you usually fly them on the same helicopter - or, depending on the equipment at the flight school, on different helicopters of the same type - for example on the Robinson R44, currently the world's best-selling helicopter. The Robinson R44 is available in three different versions: Astro, Raven I and Raven II. There is only one type rating for the R44. This means that a pilot must also understand and master the other two variants. Admittedly - the differences are very small. But still there. After completing the training, you will receive your license with R44 authorization and can then fly exactly this model - the Robinson R44 with all variants. You are familiar with this machine due to your training - you have mastered the start-up and shutdown processes, know the flight behavior and, most importantly, the emergency procedures. So what you as a pilot have to do if something happens that shouldn't happen, for example a warning lamp in flight signals danger, the controls don't want the controls the way you do or, in the worst case, the engine fails. By the way, they don't fall “down like a stone” - as I sometimes hear from customers wrongly. However, the pilot has to do everything right to get safely to the ground via autorotation. But more on the subject of autorotation in another post. How the machine behaves in such cases and what the pilot then has to do to bring the aircraft safely to the ground is very pattern-specific. So if a different type of helicopter would like to be flown, the starting procedures, flight behavior and of course the emergency measures are correspondingly different. In order to get to know these differences, so that the pilot can land the helicopter safely even in extreme special situations, he must acquire a type rating. This means that the pilot has been properly instructed in the type and knows and masters the emergency procedures.

For this purpose, he is usually trained and theoretically instructed by a flight instructor for at least 5 prescribed flight hours. At the end of this training there is a written test and a practical test. This means that the examiner flies with the pilot on the new model for about an hour and checks whether the pilot really masters the helicopter in special situations. After the successful completion of the test flight, the pilot is then issued a new license by the authorities, in which it is stated that, in addition to the previous ones, he can now officially fly this type.

helicopter r44 robinson helicopter bubble windows

Who you need everything for

At least 3 people are actively involved in flying to obtain a new type rating:

  1. The helicopter pilot (or formally German “aircraft pilot”) who already has a license on a certain type and would like to fly on another type - that is, wants to acquire a type rating.
  2. The flight instructor who explains the new pattern to the pilot and is allowed to do it (Type Rating Instructor or TRI for short)
  3. The examiner who tests the pilot's skills on the new model (Type Rating Examiner or TRE). and someone other than the flight instructor must be. Oh yes: and that too.

The TRI must also be part of an approved training company. This can be a flight school that is allowed to train people to become pilots (Approved Training Organization - ATO) or an organization that only specializes in type ratings (Type Rating Training Organization - TRTO). Let's leave it at that, it's complex and bureaucratically complicated. If you don't want to know everything exactly, it's terrible.

Time limit

Anyone who thinks that a pilot's type ratings are forever valid once acquired is wrong. Almost all of the authorizations are limited in time, including the type authorizations. The pilot has to prove his skills on each type every year by means of another costly check flight. After passing this check flight, the type rating is extended by handwritten entry by the examiner in the license and expires automatically if no extension is made. A log of the inspection flight is sent to the authorities. If the pilot has several type ratings on very similar but different types, there may be some relief here.


Since helicopter flying is itself quite expensive, it is of course also the training as well as the acquisition and maintenance of type ratings. During the training for both license and type ratings, there is no paying customer behind it, as with check flights and other checks. These costs must be borne by the pilot or his employer. Wherever particularly expensive, training sessions are carried out on simulators wherever possible and as useful as possible. Simulators are not only less expensive, but also less dangerous. The prerequisite is, of course, that the simulator can realistically map the flight and thus deliver a real training effect. This is also checked by the authorities and confirmed by a corresponding approval for such training. Of course, with costs.

In my opinion, however, collecting numerous type ratings makes little sense if, as a pilot, I don't really fly these types and only do the annual check flights to maintain type ratings. For this reason, I personally let authorizations for even two types expire, which I am currently not actively flying and which would only have incurred costs for obtaining the authorization - but would still not have made me a safe pilot on these types due to insufficient practice. Training to refresh the type rating is more costly, but also safer. More like my thing.  

Some terms:

Pilot in command - Pilot in Command (PIC)
Pattern: Type
Type rating: Type rating
Flight instructor: Flight Instructor (FI)
Pilot / flight instructor with authorization to instruct on a model: Type rating Instructor (TRI)
Pilot / flight instructor who can test a pilot with regard to type rating: Type rating Examiner (TRE)
Approved Training Organization (ATO)
Approved Type Rating Organization (TRTO)