Owning a helicopter is either the greatest experience of your life, or the worst. I guess that depends on how much capital you have and how expensive of a helicopter you purchase.
Where do I start? Well, that’s complicated. There are a lot of “Cheap” helicopters out there, and some of them are very good as far as performance and safety characteristics are concerned. However, most people want to buy a helicopter to share their abilities with passengers, or want one to build time. The problem with a lot of the “cheap” helicopters is that they are one seat configurations.
A lot of people want to simply purchase an ultralight helicopter and skip out on training. If this is you. . . stop. We would invite you to quickly purchase the book Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots by Greg Whyte. Emphasis on the word fatal. Let me level with you. Helicopters are inherently. . . well they don’t want to fly. Rather they beat the earth into submission. Defy the laws of physics. . .the earth rejects them or whatever else people say. Everything in a helicopter effects everything. It’s essentially a mass suspended in the air with a giant fan blade of death above it. Not to discourage anyone. So be realistic. Get some real training, learn how to fly, then get one. Period. There’s a reason most of those ultralights either have hardly any time on them or are wadded up somewhere, or worse. I’ll put it into even simpler terms. Would you walk into a cage full of rattlesnakes to pick one up if you’ve never picked up a snake before in your life?
Next up. . . you have money to purchase one, as well as proper training. What should you get?
Really this boils down to a money/preference issue. If money is no object, get whatever you want. If you can afford to purchase the helicopter you also need to think of a number of other things such as:
Insurance – There are pretty much two underwriters.
Maintenance – you have inspections that aren’t cheap.
Hangar Space – Best part about a helicopter is, you can land it in some pretty cool places. Sometimes your backyard which is obviously the coolest and best place to keep it if it’s for personal use. (Or if you live close enough to the airport you want to do flight training out of) An R22 has two blades and a slim profile and can squeeze into some small spaces. Jet Rangers too. MD500’s Schweizers and anything with more than two blades needs some more width, but you still want something with enough space to do maintenance in.
Fuel Consumption – helicopters are thirsty. Look at Gallons per Hour x 100LL or JetA Fuel (and most people calculate the maintenance fees into the cost per hour so they aren’t surprised at the end of the year) which leads me to my next question
Are you going to work the aircraft? If so are you doing commercial work, or Flight Instruction. Flight Instruction is more expensive. For obvious reasons.
Paperwork – The FAA has lots of it. Especially if it’s for profit. Pick up a FAR/AIM manual and read through. . . all of it. Why is this under cost? Because it costs you time, and if you’re smart, money. Sure you can write up Part 135 Applications, and you’ll learn a lot. Trust me. We suggest you try to do that. There are a lot of companies that will set it all up for you, and they charge for this. When they do it, it’s usually done right a lot faster than if you did it.
Ok Now that we go that out of the way… Choosing a helicopter is like picking out a car.
Do you want a big engine or a little one? (turbines = way better power to weight ratio)
1 seat? two seat? 4 seat? maybe you need a Chinook to throw an air party in?
Instruments or VFR?
How many hours?
What kind of components have a life limit on them? We can go on and on
Frank Robinson made his helicopter under the goal of making a safe helicopter that is affordable to the masses.
Point being there are a lot of choices as to what is going to best suit your needs. We wanted to give you a few things to think about. Let that digest and we’ll be back with a few follow ups soon.