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New Commercial PTS - Helicopter

by Darren Smith
PocketLearning, October 2006
Helicopter Navigation:  Why Learn Helicopters | Costs | Private Pilot Helicopter | Commercial Pilot Helicopter | Glossary | Helicopter Lesson Guides | Helicopter Ground School | SFAR73 | Accelerated IFR Rating 

A detailed analysis of the new Commercial Helicopter Pilot PTS was owed to the faithful readers of this website.  Finally its completed.  This PTS offers very little in terms of major changes or new maneuvers.  What it does do is tighten the requirements for Commercial Helicopter Pilot candidates.

Special Emphasis Areas
Long written here has been a discussion of the special emphasis areas which are all encompassing skills that thread their way through all maneuvers in the PTS.  An example of this is collision avoidance skills. 
Clearing the area before any maneuver has long been expected of checkride candidates.  Momentary lapses in this regard resulted in a stern lecture and everything got back on track.  Those days are over.  The FAA has given clear direction that a failure in the special emphasis areas is unsatisfactory and results in a deficiency for the area of operation and task. In addition, all applicants must “demonstrate sound judgment and Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM); and demonstrate single-pilot competence if the aircraft is type certificated for single-pilot operations.”

Spend a little time with me and review these special emphasis areas.  This list has been developed by reviewing all of the PTS documents in my collection
as well as the the Examiner Test Guide (FAA Order 8710.3E).  I consider it my master list of special emphasis areas. 

  1. Preflight
    1. Aircraft manuals & documentation
    2. Pilot & medical certificates
    3. Weather
    4. Airport area & surroundings
  2. Pre-flight inspection
    1. Landing gear
    2. Engine(s)
    3. Adequacy of fuel supply on board the aircraft
    4. ATC communications & airspace considerations
  3. Clearances
    1. Instructions
    2. Operations to/from/within/near Class A, B, C, D, E airspace
    3. Land And Hold Short Operations (LAHSO)
  4. Proper use of flight controls/brakes on the ground - crosswind landings
  5. Positive exchange of flight controls
  6. Collision Avoidance, avoidance of objects in the air & on the ground
  7. Maintenance of adequate flying speed  - spatial disorientation
  8. Operations to/from/on suitable terrain for takeoff/approach/landing configurations & procedures
  9. Observation of minimum safe altitudes - congested & non-congested areas
  10. Use of stabilized approach/flight path procedures
    1. Wake turbulence avoidance
    2. Low level wind shear
    3. Landing flare
  11. Forced landings (emergency procedures)
  12. ADM & risk management
  13. Checklist usage
  14. Temporary Flight Restrictions, Special Use Airspace, Aviation Security
  15. Single-pilot competence if the aircraft is type certificated for single-pilot operations


Area of Operation: I. Preflight Preparation B. Task: Airworthiness Requirements
As helicopters inherently have a trickier mix of equipment, its an awefully good idea to spend some time reading 91.213 and getting to know 91.215 intimately.  Now this PTS codifies the requirement that applicants will know their instruments and equipment in the day/night VFR environment.  You'll have to be able to determine the airworthiness of the helicopter
with inoperative instruments and equipment with and without a Minimum Equipment List (MEL).  Since most training helicopters do not have an MEL, you'll need to spend time with the Master Equipment List usually at the back of the RFM.  Consider this document the packing list for the helicopter when it left the factory.  And if their is something checkmarked, consider it required (unless denoted optional).  If that item isn't working, then the aircraft isn't airworthy and you'll need a special flight permit.

Other Changes
This PTS continues to standardize the english language requirement across the whole collection of PTS documents.  There is an advisory circular available to those who are concerned about their abilities in this regard.  Do a websearch to find Advisory Circular 60-28, English Language Skill Standards

If you're doing this checkride in a multiengine helicopter (not likely), you'll probably be expected to perform an Approach and Landing With Simulated Engine Failure as per Area of Operation: VI. Performance Maneuvers Task D.

If you're doing an add-on rating to your commerical pilot - airplane certificate, consult the Additional Rating Task Table towards the front of the PTS.  There are a few changes in both the helicopter and gyroplane additional ratings.

Please let me know what you think.

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