buying a helicopter for personal use

Looking at Buying A Helicopter For Personal Use? Let’s discuss what it takes to get the best small helicopter for private use and the private helicopter price list. Initial visions for helicopter ownership may include room for a pilot, family, luggage for a big trip and perhaps a dog. High-value decisions and long-term commitments like these can be daunting and require more than just scanning the internet and going it alone in the hope of acquiring the best helicopter available. If you’ve never purchased a helicopter before there’s much to understand. If you currently own one and are seeking to upgrade, you may be facing some similar challenges. The following tips help ensure you get the value you want from a helicopter you plan to purchase. 

best small helicopter for private use

Buying A Helicopter For Personal Use

1. Does a single- or twin-engine helicopter meet your interest, needs and budget?

Determine which helicopter makes/models offer the cabin size, performance and weather capabilities that best meet your interests and needs. A range of attractively-priced used Airbus, Bell, Leonardo and MD single-engine turbine helicopters ($350,000-$2,000,000) are available (new models cost between $3,000,000-$4,000,000) and may prove attractive to private buyers interested in flying under Visual-Flight Rules (VFR), and with their families, friends and business associates. Airbus, Bell, Leonardo and Sikorsky twin-engine helicopters offer extra cabin seating, are faster, carry more cargo, and can fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) or in adverse metrological conditions, but they require a seasoned IFR-capable pilot, maintenance service center support, and a budget substantially greater than for single-engine turbine helicopters. There are a variety of late-model and legacy corporate-configured twin-engine helicopter models available at lower prices ($350,000-$3,500,000) than new models ($5,000,000-$10,000,000) that may require varying degrees of refurbishment, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and avionics updates (usually between $100,000-$1,500,000).

You could also consider reconfiguring available utility, offshore or law enforcement and commercial helicopters for private use, likely requiring similar MRO, refurbishment, reconfiguration and avionics updates. Though it may be a challenge to envision converting a former commercial helicopter into a private/corporate role, great deals are often available on late-model and legacy commercial helicopters. Once complete, the helicopter will enter its ‘second life’ custom-configured, ready to provide years of comfortable, safe and reliable service. You may want to create a helicopter capability, performance, maintenance, reconfiguration update and cost-benefit analysis matrix. This will take some effort and we recommend you obtain the help of an experienced helicopter sales agent and service center to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding on the right helicopter.  

2. Model Year, Total Time, Optional Equipment, Maintenance Status, History, Condition and Asking Price matter…

Once you’ve selected your ideal make and model, you can begin your search of available helicopters ‘For Sale’. They’ll be advertised in various industry digital and print publications and aircraft sales websites by owners, exclusive and non-exclusive brokers, agents or dealers, and at domestic and international helicopter trade shows. Keep in mind that some sellers are more informed than others, and none represent the buyers’ interests. Gather initial helicopter specifications including a list of installed optional equipment, maintenance status summary and photos, and inquire if a prospective helicopter is actively being flown or run. You should also determine if there has been any damage history and, if so, who performed the repair and returned the aircraft to service. What airframe and engine service centers provide the maintenance support? How long has the helicopter been ‘For Sale’, and has the asking price changed since it was placed on the market. This information will help narrow the field of prospective helicopters.  

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3. Understand equitable comparisons

Too often we see private buyers “price shopping” for helicopters as though they are commodities, seemingly unaware of how to make equitable comparisons. The devil of helicopter value is in the component detail. Buyers are advised to develop an analytical comparison process to assess the major component values. Buyers should request the full maintenance tracking report from sellers. Substantial value may be excluded from your consideration if you only utilize the summary. Create a spreadsheet of line-items of retirement, overhaul and calendar components, and major inspections for the airframe and engine(s). This process is involved, and your helicopter agent and service center will help you understand the current values and costs. There are also direct maintenance cost software programs available to assist in developing your analytical process. In addition, future component costs can be projected in your spreadsheet analysis, based on anticipated hourly/annual utilization.  

4. Hire the right helicopter maintenance service center mechanic or engineer

Selecting the right helicopter maintenance service center or mechanic/engineer is one of the most important aspects of purchasing a helicopter. A trusted service center mechanic experienced in maintaining the particular make/model helicopter you intend to purchase will assist you in identifying minor and substantial issues during a Pre-Purchase Inspection, provide estimates for any MRO, refurbishment, reconfiguration and avionics updates, and ensure continuous helicopter airworthiness on your behalf. Create an itemized budget for these categories and consider how an anticipated workscope schedule coordinates with the commencement of your flight operations.  

5. Domestic and international acquisitions differ

Helicopters purchased domestically or regionally within one airworthiness authority, are less complicated and easier to relocate, but do not always provide the best acquisition opportunity. Sometimes, the most favorable helicopter acquisition is located oceans away, where governmental airworthiness authority bi-lateral agreements may not exist, but where installed optional equipment may not have Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), thus requiring removal prior to obtaining airworthiness approval in your country. These hurdles and challenges can be worth the effort, but you may need some assistance. Your service center should be able to help. You may also need to locate an independent designated airworthiness representative able to guide you and perform an acceptable aircraft inspection and issue a civil-standard airworthiness certificate, prior to the helicopter being exported or following import to your home country.  

6. Make sure you buy the helicopter correctly

Once you have collected data on all available helicopters of interest; completed your analytical assessment of installed equipment; determined current component values and projected component costs; estimated any anticipated MRO, reconfiguration, refurbishment and relocation expenses; made helicopter valuation assessments and comparisons; and decided on the most interesting helicopter, you’re ready to commence owner or owner-agent negotiations. The more informed and prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate a favorable price. The next step is drafting the Helicopter Purchase Agreement (HPA) which can be complicated without a helicopter sales agent or broker and/or an aviation attorney to guide you as they are generally written by sellers. HPAs typically range between 8-50 pages, cover a wide range of terms and conditions, and can be one of the most challenging aspects of buying a helicopter. Once a mutually-acceptable HPA is approved you are on your way to the helicopter inspection.  

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7. Be thorough with the Pre-Purchase Inspection

Typically, once a written agreement is reached with a seller and a refundable escrow deposit is placed in escrow, a helicopter Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) is performed with your experienced mechanic and helicopter sales agent at the seller’s location. A PPI typically requires one to two days depending if the helicopter is a single or twin-engine model, and on its age (older helicopters have more data to review). One day is typically spent reviewing and assessing the log books, records and documents and the second day is generally required to perform a physical aircraft inspection and flight test. You may also want to perform an engine borescope inspection and may need to hire an engine service center with the correct equipment and training to complete the engine inspection correctly, determining if there are any issues that must be addressed. A flight test is performed with the seller’s pilot to verify helicopter functionality and engine performance as they need to meet OEM maintenance manual criteria. Upon conclusion of the PPI, there could be major or minor airworthiness issues that need addressing. Your service center mechanic will identify the important issues to be resolved by either you or the seller. 

 8. Relocate the helicopter using professional ferry flight pilot/freight forwarders

Once you have completed the helicopter inspection and acceptance, it’s time to decide on how to relocate the helicopter to your facility or service center. If you will be flying the helicopter over a substantial distance, you should consider engaging a professional ferry flight pilot experienced in international air operations. If you will be shipping the helicopter, obtain a quote from the seller’s service center to properly dismantle and prepare the helicopter for land/sea or air freight shipment. You will also need an experienced international freight-forwarder with good knowledge of the export/import process, and a load master to ensure proper loading and unloading of your helicopter. Helicopter ferry flights can cost $800 per day, plus expenses. Helicopter service center shipping preparations can cost $5,000-$10,000, and freight shipping charges typically range from $25,000-$100,000 depending on the helicopter, location, shipping method, distances and other circumstances. (Note that most aircraft insurance policies do not cover ground/sea/air freight shipping, so be sure to include this with your helicopter shipping.)  

9. Take advantage of the ‘professional agent difference’

In an increasingly changeable market, and to assist you in selecting the right helicopter, assemble a team of support professionals to help navigate the process. You may wish to engage the services of an experienced helicopter sales agent committed solely to representing your acquisition interests. The right professional helicopter buyer agent has: In-depth knowledge of the various helicopter markets; unique knowledge of the makes and models being purchased; maintains fleet data, aircraft ‘For Sale’ and historical sales databases; is able to identify on- and off-market helicopters ‘For Sale’; performs detailed valuations; can offer recent sales insight; prepares buyer-oriented HPAs; is experienced with international transactions; and offers extensive experience for the clients’ exclusive benefit. Helicopter buyer agents work similarly to seller agents, but exclusively represent the buyer’s interests, saving clients a multiple of their earned commission ensuring their clients buy wisely, and update and customize their helicopter seamlessly. They provide a trusted team of support professionals that will guide the buyer during their term of ownership.  

10. Enjoy the buying process

Buyers love to buy but hate to be sold to. Buying your own private helicopter correctly is especially important. High-value assets like helicopters can be a challenge and are complicated to acquire, especially internationally. By identifying all helicopters available on the market, implementing an analytical comparative assessment and cost projection process, and by securing a trusted support team you are certain to identify, acquire and begin enjoying the best value helicopter anywhere as expeditiously and smoothly as possible.

private helicopter price list

What is the most dangerous helicopter?

According to various sources, some of the world’s best, and most dangerous, attack helicopters include, but are not limited to: 

  1. The Russian Ka-52 “Alligator”
  2. The American AH-64 “Apache”
  3. The Russian Mi-28N “Havoc”
  4. The European Eurocopter (Airbus) Tiger
  5. The Chinese CAIC Z-10
  6. The Italian/Turkish TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK
  7. The Russian Mi-24 Hind
  8. The American AH-1Z Viper

What is the newest attack helicopter?

There are various new attack helicopters in development, but some of the most interesting are the Lockheed Martin “RAIDER” and the Sikorsky-Boeing “Defiant”

We’ll talk more about the “Defiant” a little later in this article, so for now, we’ll focus on the “RAIDER”.

interesting helicopter Raider
Source: Lockheed Martin

Touted as a “next-generation light tactical prototype helicopter”, the RAIDER has been designed to carry up to six personnel, and carries a range of external weapons that will “redefine helicopter flight during the 21st century”.

This chopper is based on the Sikorsky’s Collier Award-winning X2 Technology, and features advances in fly-by-wire, flight controls, vehicle management systems, and systems integration.

Such innovations enable the “RAIDER” to operate at high speeds and also maintain low-speed handling qualities and maneuverability of conventional single main rotor helicopters. The prototype has been clocked at 222 knots (407 km/h) and can operate at a ceiling of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters)

Designed to meet and exceed the requirements of the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), the “RAIDER” could potentially be applied to U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps missions.

According to Lockheed Martin, “the X2 Technology at the heart of the Raider helicopter is scalable to a variety of military missions including light assault, light attack, armed reconnaissance, close-air support, combat search and rescue, and unmanned applications.”

interesting helicopters Raider
Source: Lockheed Martin

What are some of the most interesting helicopters?

And so, without further ado, here are some of the most interesting helicopters ever designed. Trust us when we say this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is one of a kind

interesting helicopters chinook
RAF CH-47 Chinook. Source: Airwolfhound/Flickr

One of the most iconic helicopters of all time is the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. First flown in 1961, this tandem rotor helicopter is a true workhorse of the skies. 

Designed as a heavy-lifter chopper, each of its 60-foot (18.3 m) rotor blades rotate in opposite directions, providing counter-acting torque and eliminating the need for a tail rotor.

The Chinook is specially designed to be able to independently adjust each rotor to enable it to adapt to the weight of different cargos. She was a development of the older Model 107 (CH-46) and saw service in Vietnam transporting troops, heavy artillery, and other supplies where needed. 

Since then, this helicopter has proved to be an invaluable asset to many militaries around the world. She also happens to hold the record as the third-fastest chopper around — the lastest CH-47F can reach a top speed of just over 195 mph (315 km per hour)

2. The Sikorsky H-60 “Black Hawk” Helicopter is an icon of American airpower

interesting helicopters black hawk
Source: Lockheed Martin

First flown in 1974, the Sikorsky H-60 “Black Hawk” is another iconic helicopter. It also happens to be a pretty mean looking machine. Named after a Native American warrior, it officially entered service in 1979 as the U.S. Army’s latest assault/utility chopper.

Since then, more than 4,000 units have been produced and they operate for various armed forces around the world including Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Columbia, to name but a few. The helicopter became world-famous after the 2001 blockbuster film “Black Hawk Down”. 

3. The Russian Mil Mi-24 “Hind” is possibly one of the best military helicopters ever built

interesting helicopters hind
Source: Airwolfhound/Flickr

Built during the Soviet-era, the Mil Mi-24 “Hind” is one of the coolest-looking helicopters ever built. She was designed to meet the Soviet requirement for a heavily armed and armored transporter helicopter and has become one of the most iconic choppers of all time.

The “Hind” first flew in 1969 and entered service in 1972. It went on to serve in various combat arenas over the following decades. The Mil Mi-24 is powered by 2 Isotov TV3-117 series turbine engines, each pumping out an incredible 2,200 hp.

Her armaments can vary, but typically a “Hind” is equipped with a four-barreled 12.7mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B gatling gun improved through the installation of a 30mm GSh-30K twin-barrel, fixed cannon. Depending on mission needs, she can be fitted with a 23mm GSh-23L cannon in a powered turret. She can also be armed with machine gun pods, anti-tank missiles, and rocket pods. 

4. The Bell 222A was the helicopter used in Airwolf

interesting helicopters airwolf
Still from the 1980s series Airwolf. Source: IMDB

The Bell 222A might seem like an odd choice, given some of the earlier listings, but bear with us. For any American child of the 1980s, the Bell 222A is probably one of the most recognizable helicopters of all for one reason — It was the helicopter used in the highly-popular series Airwolf

It is sleek, dare we say sexy, and really is a lovely-looking helicopter. Designed for civilian use, the Bell 222A is powered by 2 Honeywell LTS-1010-650 engines. This helicopter has a range of 230 nautical miles (425 km) and a service ceiling of 12,800 feet (3,900 mt). It can carry a crew of 2 and has seating occupancy for up to 5 passengers.

5. The Soviet V-12 is often cited as the biggest helicopter to ever have been built

interesting helicopters homer
Mil V-12 at Groningen Airport circa 1971. Source: GFDL/Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet-era Mil V-12 (Mi-12) is probably the world’s biggest-ever helicopter. Known to NATO as “Homer”, this helicopter was designed, among other things, to transport ICBMs. 

Unfortunately for the V-12, by the time it was ready for service, its main purpose was redundant and it never went into production. The idea behind this monster-chopper was to transport missiles in secret to remote bases wherever and whenever needed.

She first flew in 1968, and was longer than a Boeing 737 and could carry more people. It could also carry somewhere in the region of 88,000 pounds (almost 40,000 kg) of cargo. 

As US satellites become more advanced, and ICBMs became lighter, the Soviets found it more cost-effective to transport them by truck instead. 

6. The Focke-Wulf FW-61 was the world’s first

interesting helicopters fw
Source: Born2flie/Wikimedia Commons

First taking to the air in 1936, the Focke-Wulf FW-61 is generally regarded as the world’s first-ever helicopter. Designs for it began in the early 1930s and were inspired by autogyros developed by the British company Cierva Autogiro. 

A working model was produced in the mid-1930s, exploring the use of twin-rotors with articulated rotor blades. Each rotor had three blades that employed cyclic pitch — a key feature of helicopter control.

Two full-scale prototypes were built and showcased but the vehicle never went into production. No known originals exist today, but a replica can be found on display a the Hubschraubermuseum in Bückeburg, Germany.

7. The Bell 47 was the first helicopter certified for civilian use

interesting helicopters bell 47
Source: Peter Bakema/Wikimedia

First taking to the air in 1945, the Bell 47 was the first helicopter ever certified for use by civilians. The chopper became a workhorse of the Korean war and beyond, and was made famous by the T.V. series M.A.S.H.

Based on the design for the earlier Bell Model 30, the Bell 47 was first approved for civil use by the CAA in 1946. It was powered by a single Lycoming six-cylinder piston engine, and 18 variants of the helicopter were designed and built over the years. 

Today, thousands of them are still airworthy. 

8. The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne could have been an excellent helicopter 

interesting helicopters ah-56
Source: Hohum/Wikimedia Commons

Another fascinating helicopter is the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. Widely considered to have been a masterful piece of helicopter design, it never actually saw combat.

A revolutionary attack helicopter, it was once thought that it would revolutionize warfare forever. Sadly that was never to be.

She was developed to meet the United States Army’s desire for an advanced helicopter and was born out of a ten-year contract for Lockheed to prototype choppers. It made its first flight in 1967 and proved to have impressive performance and power. It had a top speed of somewhere in the region of just over 244 mph (394 km/h) and could be armed with an XM-140 30 mm cannon, various anti-tank missiles, and missile pods. 

A fatal crash, technical issues, excessive weight, and cost overruns, as well as a change in military planning, eventually led to the program being canceled. 

9. The Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant is another very fast helicopter

interesting helicopters defiant
The SB-1 is very fast indeed. Source: Boeing-Sikorsky/YouTube

On the cards to replace the aging UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, the SB-1 Defiant is one hell of a helicopter. Currently in its prototype stage, the SB-1 Defiant recently hit a major speed milestone by reaching 236 mph (380 km/h).

A compound coaxial helicopter, this impressive speed was made using only 50% of the chopper’s potential power. In the following months, it is hoped to really push the helicopter to its limits. 

Its manufacturers are confident it should be able to reach a speed of 290 mph (466km/h). This is well above the U.S. Army’s cruise speed requirements for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. The Defiant is currently in competition with Bell’s new V-2380 Valor advanced tiltrotor, which has reached eye-watering speeds of 345 mph (555 km/h). 

10. The first jet-powered helicopter was the Aerospatiale SA-313 Alouette II

interesting helicopters SA-313
Source: Airwolfhound/Wikimedia Commons

Taking its first flight in 1955, the Aerospatiale SA-313 is a very interesting helicopter indeed. Developed by the then French state-owned Sud Aviation, various rotary designs were trialed before settling on the design used in the SA-313.

Although a very capable and fast helicopter, Sud Aviation decided to include a single shaft turbine from another design, the X.301G. This resulted in the Alouette II becoming the world’s first production jet-powered helicopter.

Adding to this interesting design choice, the helicopter immediately began setting records. It managed to reach an altitude of 26,392 feet (8 km) in June of 1956, when it was used to perform a mountain rescue in the Alps. 

The helicopter would go on to serve in many armed forces around the world, and more than 1,500 were built. It also became the first helicopter to be equipped with anti-tank munitions. 

11. The Bell AH-1 Cobra was the world’s first dedicated attack helicopter

interesting helicopters cobra
Source: + -/Wikimedia Commons

Nothing symbolizes pure aggression more than this, first-ever dedicated attack helicopter. The Bell AH-1 Cobra first flew in 1965 and would set the standard for all attack helicopters that would follow.

It was born out of the U.S. Army’s desire for a heavily armored and fast helicopter as part of its Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFS). With its narrow forward fuselage, stub wings, and fighter jet-like stepped-up tandem seating, it was like nothing ever seen before.

Quite a few of its components were borrowed from the UH-1 Huey, like its main rotor, engine, and tail boom. The “Cobra” would first see action in the 1968 Tet offensive, where it performed perfectly.

The AH-1 is still in service for the U.S. Marine Corps today along with its younger sibling the Viper

12. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8 is the first fully autonomous helicopter

interesting helicopters mq-8
Source: Northrop Grumman

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 first flew in 2002, and it is the first autonomous helicopter deployed en masse. First used aboard the US Navy frigate, McInerney, the MQ-8 is an autonomous, unmanned, rotary-wing scout aircraft.

Arising from the need to replace the aging RQ-2 Pioneer fixed-wing UAV, the Navy required similar capabilities in a larger, unmanned, vertical takeoff launch and recovery scout. The Navy chose Northrop Grumman’s design, as it met the Navy’s need for range, endurance, and payload (125 NM/3 hours/200 lbs).

The MQ-8, also known as the Fire Scout/Sea Scout, has seen action in Afghanistan and Africa, and been launched from Frigates, Littoral Combat Ships, and Coast Guard cutters. A single Fire Scout set a world record in 2012 when it provided intelligence, surveillance, recon (ISR) coverage for 24-hours over the course of ten flights. 

13. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) is one of the most iconic of all time

interesting helicopter huey
Source: Museum of Flight

First flying in 1956, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) is probably one of the world’s best-known helicopters. Cementing its place in history during the Vietnam war, when people think of helicopters, the “Huey” is probably the first to spring to mind.

It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 16,000 military (UH-1Y) and civilian (Bell 412) craft have been built to date, and it is still in production.

Initially called the Bell 204, this two-blade main rotor, single shaft turbine-powered helicopter was designed to meet the Army’s need for a medical evacuation/instrument trainer/general utility helicopter.

While officially called the “Iroquois”, the moniker “Huey” came from its early HU-1 designation. Throughout its history, the “Huey” has seen action in many parts of the world, performing firefighting missions, humanitarian aid efforts, research operations, and search and rescue duties.

14. The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is awesome

interesting helicpters osprey
Source: FOX 52/Wikimedia Commons

First flying in the late-1980s and entering service in 2007, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is another very interesting helicopter. Combining the vertical lift capabilities of a helicopter, with the fast-cruise forward flight efficiencies of a fixed-wing turboprop aircraft, the V-22 Osprey officially went into development in the mid-1980s.

By 1989, six prototypes had been built, but the program had a serious setback in the early-1990s when the fourth prototype crashed. The Osprey was approved for full production in 2005, and by 2012, between 24 to 48 were being built each year.

The V-22 has greater speed, range, and lift capability over more conventional helicopters, and can operate easily from ships. This craft is very versatile and carries troops, supplies, weapons, and vehicles wherever they are needed.

It comes armed with 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns and can have a 7.62 mm minigun mounted on its ramp. Plans are in place to put a Gatling gun in the nose of future models, as well as, adding the capacity to carry air-to-ground missile launchers. 

The Osprey has seen action all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also regularly used for humanitarian missions and has been used in Haiti and Nepal. 

15. The Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe is a very funny looking helicopter

interesting helicopters skycrane
Source: Mark Holloway/Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting, but perhaps lesser-known helicopter is the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe. Also known as the Skycrane or flying insect, the CH-54 was a heavy load cargo carrier.

First entering service in 1962, its unusual design made it a very versatile helicopter that had various uses, including recovery, rescue, infantry transport, medical supply, and even armored transport operations.

Powered by a pair of Pratt and Whitney T73-P-700 turboshaft engines, the helicopter also came with a crane in the center of its fuselage. The helicopter cut its teeth in the Vietnam war and was widely considered one of the safest to fly. 

It was capable of transporting heavy ground vehicles, as well as containers, and parts for engineering projects like bridges and fortifications with its maximum payload of 12 tonnes. The Skycrane was officially retired from military service in 1991, but continues to be used for government and civilian operations. 

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