People ask, Can A Normal Person Buy A Helicopter? A private owner in the United Kingdom can fly to Devon and back to London without stopping to refuel. A pub in Oxford, the Manson’s Arms, has a helipad. The photographs of helicopters that visit adorn the walls of the pub. It is a thrilling and bizarre place to visit. So how much does a helicopter cost?
Modern helicopters have engines that are quieter and more efficient with advanced glass cockpits that offer fewer distractions for pilots. Airbus Helicopters’ Ed Sale responded to GQ at the Elite London event giving insight into what to consider when buying a private helicopter.
how much does a helicopter cost
Can A Normal Person Buy A Helicopter?
Things to tick before you buy your own helicopter.
1. Will You Be the Pilot or the Passenger?
The majority of helicopter owners are pilots so they can fly themselves. Private pilots and those who own a helicopter and fly themselves prefer hands-on, less bulky designs.
Bigger helicopters are usually reserved for professional pilots while the owners sit in the back. The big shots use this as their executive means of transport. Midrange helicopters have administrative abilities too but are fun to handle.
The bigger the aircraft, the more experience a pilot requires. A well-trained amateur can fly any of the Robinson chopper models. The same applies to the B3 and B4 Eurocopter Ecureuil, AgustaWestland Koala and Bell 407. If you are looking at bigger models, like the AgustaWestland A109 with more sophisticated instrumentation, you will need a professional pilot.
If planning to become a pilot, next choose a flying school. Lots of flying schools will issue Private Pilot Licenses PPLs(H). Ask friends with helicopters to recommend a good flying school.
It helps if the flying school is local to you as you need a minimum of 45 hours of training over 12 months. Training costs vary from school to school but expect it to cost around $26,200 (around £20,000). This covers your tests, exams, flying hours, medicals, equipment, and airfield fees.
Training at Heli Air, one of the UK’s largest Robinson helicopter distributors, will cost you $10,500 (around £8,000). This covers theory in subjects like meteorology, air law, and flight planning. A Class 2 medical is compulsory.
After qualifying, you need an annual review to renew your license. You can opt to expand your qualification to include formation flying and night flying. The choice is yours.
2. Predetermine Your Budget
Design, capacity, and the manufacturer determines a helicopter’s price. Set your budget right from the start. It helps narrow your search.
Just like cars, you will have a range of options. Sloane Helicopters marketing director, Giorgio Bendoni, says first-time buyers can choose from the two-seater, single-piston Robinson R22 to the twin-turbine, eight-seater AgustaWestland Grand. It depends on budget flexibility.
While helicopters are expensive, some are cheaper than a Lamborghini. The Robinson R44, the world’s most famous helicopter, costs only $350,000 (around £313,500) and half that second-hand.
When setting your budget, add maintenance costs too. Some helicopter’s cost more to maintain than others. Lower priced helicopters can cost more in maintenance over the long run.
The AgustaWestland Grand and the AgustaWestland A109 are great in sophistication and space, but with an annual depreciation of five to 10 percent, you may want to weigh your options.
You should also consider the cost of insurance, capital investment, and depreciation.
3. How Far Will You Travel?
Aircraft manufacturers offer similar models with a small tweak in design and performance. Cheaper helicopters are smaller. And this limits the number of people it can carry, fuel capacity, and distance it can travel.
So, you need to decide how many people need to travel in your helicopter regularly. Also look at the distance it can travel before needing to refuel. The H125 is a midrange helicopter that guarantees 300 to 350 miles (ca. 563 km) or 2½ hours without refueling.
4. Other Considerations
The Airbus H160 is a new sleek design marketed to business and private customers, while the H125 has strong competition from the Bell 407. The cabin is separate from the cockpit and is luxurious. It has two seats facing each other and is a great option if you have a pilot. In contrast, an Airbus is a better option with you as the pilot as there is no separation from your passengers.
The choice of interior should reflect the helicopter’s purpose. Some people ignore carpets as it is a lot of work to keep clean. Leather seats are an attractive option as are seats with twin leather stitching which are currently in vogue.
Landing Space is Limited
Landing spaces in London are limited due to their tight restrictions on noise control, which limits helicopter paths. Battersea Heliport is the best place to land and continue your journey using other means. Places you can land outside London include Elstree, Denham, Biggin Hill, and Northolt.
Grab a helicopter landing guide to find somewhere to land in London. It has a list of landing sites around the UK and their phone numbers. This allows you to request landing permission before leaving for your destination. They may let you land for free or for a small fee (around $50).
Terms You Should Know
There are terms you should know if you intend to own a helicopter:
- VFR (Visual Flying Rules) means you have to keep sight of the ground.
- IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) means you can fly above or in the clouds.
- A two-seat piston engine VFR is a basic helicopter.
- ILS (Instrument Landing System) is what you dial into to get to the ground.
- You use a noise-canceling headset for communication.
- Autopilot allows you to control the aircraft without moving the controls and is not available in all helicopters.
Best Places for a Helicopter Tour
February 18, 2019
It may seem excessive, but some places in the world are simply best explored by scenic flight. At many sights and cities of great scale and magnitude, the view from the ground just doesn’t reveal the full picture! Take it from us, each of the following 10 once-in-a-lifetime flights are worth the splurge. Just be sure to grab a window seat.
Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
This two-kilometre sheet of falling water forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the Zambezi River plunges into a deep gorge. Seen from the ground, it’s one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls – the water’s mist and rainbows can be seen from over 20 kilometres away – and the view from the air, where the full scale of the falls is apparent, is even more astounding. Entry-level scenic flights concentrate on the falls themselves, but an upgrade gets you further downstream to the Batoka Gorges and a couple of minutes of game spotting in the Zambezi National Park, where elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and giraffes roam.
Who Flies There: United Air Charters operates from Livingstone on Zambia’s side of the falls and offers both long and short flights.
Denali National Park, USA
This remote national park in the far reaches of the Alaska is home to the country’s tallest peak – Mt. McKinley – plus glacial rivers, gorges, taiga forests and alpine tundra environments. Oh, and moose, caribou, grizzly bears and wolves. There’s just one road that winds around the park’s six million acres, so it’s no wonder why many tourists take to the air to cover the most ground. Helicopter or fixed-wing airplane tours allow explorers to see Mt. McKinley and other Alaska Range peaks up close, and most flights include a landing on a glacier for a quick snowball fight.
Who Flies There: Fly Denali is the only company with a permit to land on glaciers within the borders of the national park – other companies land on ice outside of the park’s boundaries.
The Grand Canyon, USA
This famous piece of carved land stretches for 277 river miles as the Colorado River winds through the deserts of Arizona, eroding the earth away up to one mile deep and 18 miles across as it flows along. Most visitors to the Canyon don’t make it past the South Rim, where a road allows for easy access – and crowds. But an airborne trip over the canyon can also include aerial views of the Vegas Strip, the Hoover Dam and the Mojave Desert, and some helicopter companies have permission to land in the canyon for a riverboat ride or a stroll on the adrenaline-rush-inducing Skywalk.
Who Flies There: Sundance Helicopter Tours takes off from Las Vegas and has a special relationship with the canyon’s local Native American tribe.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The world’s largest coral reef stretches for 2300 kilometres along the coast of Queensland, and there are plenty of tour companies operating from different points on the mainland to visit sites like the outer reaches of the reef, Green Island, the Low Isles, Whitehaven Beach and the Heart Reef. Sharks, turtles and rays can even sometimes be spotted from the air, and some companies include snorkel or dive stops on anchored pontoons. Longer flight paths can also pass over the Daintree Rainforest, the Mossman and Baron gorges and the Cairns Highlands.
Who Flies There: GBRHelicopters offers short scenic flights from Cairns and Port Douglas, reef experiences and personalized tours.
New York City, USA
There may be no better way to get your mind around New York than from the air. The Big Apple can take tourists days to criss-cross and cover, but from above, the city’s grid pattern and distinct neighborhoods become clear. Helicopter tours leave from almost the very southern tip of Manhattan Island and whiz past, at the very least, the iconic Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and views of Lower Manhattan’s skyline which includes the new One World Trade Center building. Longer trips can include the Manhattan, Brooklyn, George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows bridges, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Yankee Stadium and New Jersey’s Palisades cliffs.
Who Flies There: New York Helicopter offers a 25-minute tour that ticks off all of the above NYC must-sees.
Glacier Country, New Zealand
On the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are uniquely positioned between snow-covered mountain tops and sea-level rainforests. The Franz Josef Glacier extends for 12 miles and is one of the fastest moving glaciers on earth, but has been on the retreat for the last several years and is now most easily accessed by helicopter. Heli-tours will include snow landings on either of the glaciers, and some flights will take in both the Fox and the Franz Josef. Upgrades include trips to New Zealand’s highest peak – Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Who Flies There: Alpine Adventures has locations at both the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, and offers tours or either or both glaciers, as well as both Cook and Tasman mountains with landings in Westland National Park.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The granite mountains that surround Rio’s Corcovado Bay, including the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado with its famous Christ the Redeemer statue, just beg to be seen from above. Not to mention that a flight is the perfect way to survey the in-the-works Olympic Village and the Maracana Stadium where the 2016 Opening Ceremonies will be held. The white strips of the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches just don’t seem that crowded from the air, though the city’s biggest slum – the Rocinha Favela – does.
Who Flies There: Helisight offers tours from six to 60 minutes long leaving from two sites in the city.
The oldest of Hawaii’s islands also hosts one of the state’s most inaccessible interiors – the key to unlocking Kauai’s most beautiful sights lies in the skies above. Flights generally circle most of the island to take in the rugged and remote cliffs of the Na Pali coast, the famous Waimea Canyon (often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) and the Waialeale Crater with its 5000-foot walls and matching wispy waterfalls. Other popular sites include the Manawaiopuna waterfall which became famous for its appearance in Jurassic Park, and Hanalei Bay.
Who Flies There: Jack Harter Helicopters has been flying around the island since 1962 and offers 60- and 90-minute tours that depart from the Lihue Heliport.
Cape Town, South Africa
Similar to Rio’s geographic propensity for a good helicopter ride, Cape Town’s mountainous coast and striking natural features are the perfect backdrop for a scenic flight. While short itineraries take in views of the city, the flat-topped Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles and the historic Robben Island, longer trips head south to Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Fish Hoek suburbs, the Cape Point Nature Reserve and Cape Point itself – the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula.
Who Flies There: NAC Helicopters offers four different tour itineraries focusing on the immediate and greater city, the area’s major bays and the further reaches of the Cape Peninsula.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Some of Australia’s most iconic natural attractions – the Great Ocean Road and its famous rock formations – come alive for those who tackle the cliffy coast from the top down. From land, visitors can drive to a succession of parking lots to view small parts of the coast at a time; the landscape’s jagged erosion makes it impossible to see beyond nearby cliffs in parts. But by air, all becomes apparent. The over 250 kilometres of the road host islands, rainforests, gorges and beaches – typical flights can cover the legendary Twelve Apostles, the Shipwreck Coast, Port Campbell National Park, London Bridge and the Bay of Islands, Cape Otway and the Loch Ard Gorge.