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What kind of helicopter ?


It all depends on your priorities. A single piston engined two seater will not do the same job as a twin jet engined all-weather capable 200mph helicopter, but you may find it will do exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost. Every helicopter type is a compromise of size, capacity, costs (both initial and running), comfort, speed and versatility.

For example, the Robinson R22 or Schweizer 300 are excellent low cost introductions to helicopter flying, which will enable you to fly yourself and a companion around the country in fairly basic comfort, taking advantage of all the time-saving capabilities of the helicopter. They should not, however, be compared with say...

The Bell Jet Ranger or Eurocopter Squirrel , five place single turbine-engined helicopters which are popular choices for charter flying and filming work. They are fast, nimble and comfortable, but restricted to fair weather flying, unlike...

The Eurocopter Dauphin 2 or Sikorsky S76 , for instance. These fully instrument capable machines can fly up to 14 people in twin-engined safety and comfort at speeds approaching 200mph.

Each of these helicopters has its competitors, and you may find that an Enstrom Shark, McDonnell-Douglas 500, an Agusta 109A or a Twin Squirrel has a better combination of advantages for your circumstances. Salesmen will obviously try and convince you that their product is best, but in the end you must decide for yourself.

Having said that, helicopters do fit into certain classifications, which can give you some idea of which group you should start with.

Light Piston-engined Types - Helicopters such as the Enstrom, Schweizer 300 and Robinson fall into this category having 2 or 3 seats, low initial costs and an 80-110mph speed range. Perhaps surprisingly, the fuel they use for their piston engines is more expensive than the kerosene based product in turbine engines, but they do use less of it. It is the restricted seating capacity which often leads to their being outgrown by the private flyer, and they are less viable as corporate and charter machines. However they remain very popular for training and private use, and are excellent introductions to the world of helicopter travel.

Light turbine helicopters - Aircraft such as the Eurocopter Squirrel, McDonnell Douglas 500E and the Bell (or Agusta-Bell) Jet Ranger are widely flown in the world. While The Jet Ranger continues to be the most popular light turbine helicopter, the Squirrel has sold very well in the last few years, and both are suitable for charter. The MD500E on the other hand has found a firm niche with private owners who like its sporty looks and nippy performance.

Twin Engined Helicopters - When you move into the world of twin engines (modern designs are all turbine driven these days), you enter a different market and price bracket. For the extra you get a faster, safer machine (in the event of one engine failing the other can cope in most circumstances), which can fly to places forbidden to its smaller brothers.

Twins such as the Agusta 109, the Sikorsky S-76 or the Eurocopter Twin Squirrel and Dauphin are chiefly used as corporate and charter machines, although a few are privately owned. They can fly in bad weather (see All-Weather Capability ), join the airways with the big boys (if suitably equipped), fly over city centres and even use roof-top helipads in specific cases but of course they are obviously more expensive: expect to pay over a million pounds for a new one.

Your own circumstances and requirements will usually dictate the type of helicopter you require. After that it is down to advice from fellow users and other pilots, your personal preferences and the salesman.

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