What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

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Always_Upright
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What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Always_Upright » Sun May 12 2013, 00:59

Hi Slappers

As I am new to the forum I applogise for asking a question already asked.

I am looking to buy a helicopter for private use and cross hire for commercial charter from time to time. As a pilot of a few hundred hours, and last flown as R44 time, I am looking to get a suitable chopper for the 5 in my family (including myself as the pilot)
I will need to do a turbine rating and would prefer to do it in the one I purchase.
I have been talking to sales persons all over the world and they all seem to be very bias to their brand or what ever they have in stock as a second hand sale depot! One did mention to ask industry professionals, hence Bladeslapper seems a good start.
I am not in a hurry and the market appears to be in the favour of the buyer at this time.
Keen to be cost savvy in operating costs but want a good looking machine, hence the R44/R66 wont get a look in, although nil issues flying 44's so far. Lets face it they are f@#&ing ugly and are the Aldi of helicopters (in my opinion)! I do enjoy flying them and sorry for offending the R44 fans! Not my intention.

Bell 206 long or jet, I am unsure of, due to rumours of no further production. Is this true? There is a military trainer on the Qld Sunshine Coast rumoured to be buying up any available to keep his fleet going! This would support my theory? Any operators flying them ATM?

MD520N or 600N? I like the look of them but know nothing about them. There appears to be a lot for sale in NZ or from there?? Have Hughes300 time so like the feel of how that flies.
Not many in Aus, why is this? Are they too cramped for charter. My family are quite tall like me!

AS350 This is a good looking chopper. Are parts easy to get? Too expensive to operate? Enough power? The 120 series I have been told to leave alone. Any other models I should look at?

Is there any other models that private or commercial operators would recommend.

My check list
1. good looking and classy (lets face it, its my toy so I want a nice chopper!)
2. reasonable running costs
3. available servicing and parts (dont want 6 weeks + wait for minor parts)
4. Private use 60%, cross hire 40% (to help with costs)
5. storage and or plenty of performance with max load, mostly coastal regions.
6. Floats and NVFR single pilot.
7. hold its value

Its time to reward myself for a lifetime of working hard. Could probably invest but bugger it, you only live once! I cant fly a bank statement!
I would appreciate any and all advice based on your experiences, good, bad or indifferent! What could I expect as dry hire rates for those machines?

I understand I will be putting my hand in pocket a lot but not a problem if I can do it before the missus!!

Great forum, look forward to your advice.

AU
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Nev » Sun May 12 2013, 01:22

Easy, B2 squirrel.
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wheatbix
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby wheatbix » Sun May 12 2013, 01:25

Welcome to the forum.

The 206 is a great aircraft, despite having been discontinued (although bell still support them for spares). Although with 5 of you in there it's going to be cramped, potentially range limited and most likely power limited. Little bit more room with the longranger but in my books the club seating is a disadvantage. Depending on what model you get may be performance limited.

500's - not an ideal family machine. The back of a 520 is noisy and cramped. Not sure about the 600 but don't think there are many, if any, in australia. Could be a bit too much hassle if you are a private owner.

The machine that comes to mind would be an as350b2 (or SD2). They are relatively fast, smooth, perform well, all forward facing seats and lots of room for bags etc. Plus if it's a family of 5 a spare seat often goes a long way. It will be slightly more expensive to operate then other machines types, eurocopter can be a pain to deal with sometimes, but they are an amazing aircraft. They can be a handful for a low time pilot, and your insurance premium will most likely reflect this until you get a bit of time on type (100 hrs +).

What do you define as reasonable running costs?
Always_Upright
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Always_Upright » Sun May 12 2013, 01:43

Thanks WB
Yes you are right not many 600's. Shame. Would like to look through one.

Reasonable costs as the operator.........$600 dry? Less would be good. What would be the minimum ?
There seems to be a large year range for the B2, any particular year I should be looking for. Anything real issues with that model to look out for?


"It will be slightly more expensive to operate then other machines types, eurocopter can be a pain to deal with sometimes," trouble getting parts in Aus?

Ta

AU
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Dauphin » Sun May 12 2013, 01:48

Forget the 520N - you have obviously never flown in the back of one. Uncomfortable and poor visibility (from the back) and not in demand for cross hire. Not much fun to fly either IMHO. The AS350 is a great all purpose machine, but unless you have a big budget I'd suggest the BA rather than the B2. A BA will do everything you want as far as family transport is concerned and still has plenty of potential for cross hire. B2 may be an overkill.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Mike Becker » Sun May 12 2013, 01:59

Bell 407.
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wheatbix
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby wheatbix » Sun May 12 2013, 02:00

Whilst having never owned one myself, I think $600/hr could be a little slim (especially if insurance is factored in). I'd imagine closer to $800-900/hr to be on the safe side, although I'm sure other people may be able to be a little more informative. If you're looking for a a bit cheaper, then consider a BA (or if cheaper still 206L / 206). No real year model to look for, the newer machines have a semi-glass cockpit (engine instrumentation displayed on VEMD screen - google this if unsure). I'd be keeping my eye out for one with an AFS Barrier filter - this will help protect the engine against salt if operating in coastal regions. Lots of machines out there, the biggest thing is a solid pre-purchase inspection by an independent engineer that has lots of experience on AS350's.

As for eurocopter being a pain, they just have a slightly different mentality then bell. Spares can sometimes be tricky if not ordered in advance. A lot of this can be reduced with a knowledgeable engineer looking after your machine
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Twistgrip » Sun May 12 2013, 02:41

What's your budget? If its mainly private, for a first turbine I'd recommend either the 206 or 206L3 or 4.

If budget is out the window look at a AS350 B2 or a 407.
The squirrel and 407 will cost you (due to no turbine time) around $1200-1400 hr to operate plus fuel. Jet ranger and long ranger circa 700-1000 hr plus fuel.

Eurocopter equipment is expensive to operate and spares support is lacking but they are a perfect platform for commercial ops.

If you don't have any turbine time id highly recommend you find a good instructor on type to sit with you and mentor you for at least the first 25-50 hrs.

You cant beat the reliability and cost effectiveness of a light Bell product though. Good luck either way.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby CYHeli » Sun May 12 2013, 03:09

Talk to an operator who flies a B206L and an AS350 and pay to go for a ride in each.
Of course, they may be different operators.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby helicopspeeder » Sun May 12 2013, 03:51

Hey AU,
Mate you are in an enviable position and asking the right questions. You need to ask a couple more of yourself and the organisation you plan to cross-hire to. Your requirements really point to a B2 or SD2 or B3 Squirrel or an EC130 but you might find that a BA squirrel is much cheaper to acquire and sell to your local operator for cross hire. As mentioned Eurocopter and Aerospatial can be difficult to deal with although I think that reputation came from the boom years when they had a hard time supplying parts to all the machines they sold. The Super "D" or SD2 are AS350s with Honeywell (lycoming) LTS-101 engine conversions, they are excellent machines, quieter, burn on average 30% less fuel than their Arriel powered cousins and are much easier to get parts for but the conversion can be very expensive and is usually only done to older machines when their Arriel engines come due for major overhaul.
Have a really good talk with your cross-hire client, find out what they need and if it fits your requirements, I know a few people who have bought sexy looking machines with the intention of cross-hiring them but they sit in a hangar out of sight because they don't fit anyone's requirements for a $$ making machine.
How big are your family members? Do you have three 100kg sons or three kids under 10? These things and planning for the future are all going to be important considerations. The EC120 is actually a great machine if you use it as it was intended which is to fly yourself and your girlfriend to your condo at a ski resort (it even has a ski locker). A large family of five will limit it's potential but it is a fast, sexy machine. I've got about 1000 hours in them and I have no problems with them, I don't think I'd want to use one for longline ops but that is not what it's built for!
As mentioned previously and as you said, it is a buyer's market, go and test-fly all the options, maybe lease an AS350 for a while, see how you like it. Anyone who wants to sell you a machine should let you test-fly it.
Good luck, I hope you get the perfect machine. The last piece of advice I would give you is to get yourself a commercial license, the extra experience will keep you and your family safer, consider hiring an experienced, left seat qualified pilot to ride with you until you have complete confidence in yourself and your new, complex machine, particularly if you plan on flying at night or over water, that may also make your insurance company happier.
I hope this helps.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Devils Cut » Sun May 12 2013, 05:12

My first choice for what you're looking for is A119ke....the new ones come with glass cockpit...plenty of power...plenty of room...plenty of redundancy systems...plenty of speed...
...failing that AS350 or Bell 407...

Good luck, let us know what you end up with.

DC
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby wheatbix » Sun May 12 2013, 06:04

Not too sure how many people would say a 119 has reasonable running costs...
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Jabberwocky
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Jabberwocky » Sun May 12 2013, 06:37

Which one are you getting Weaties?? :p
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hand in pants
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby hand in pants » Sun May 12 2013, 06:48

407 each and every time.
My check list
1. good looking and classy (lets face it, its my toy so I want a nice chopper!)
2. reasonable running costs
3. available servicing and parts (don't want 6 weeks + wait for minor parts)
4. Private use 60%, cross hire 40% (to help with costs)
5. storage and or plenty of performance with max load, mostly coastal regions.
6. Floats and NVFR single pilot.
7. hold its value
As per your check list:
1. they look good
2. reasonable running costs
3. beat the hell out of dealing with EC
4. will be good for both personal and commercial use
5. big boot even with the auxiliary fuel tank (a must have) and has the power to lift off at 5000lbs
6. will take pop out floats and they are more often than not well equipped for NVFR
7. will hold their value
Hand in Pants, I'm thinking, my god, that IS huge!!!!!!!!
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby cassidy_copter » Sun May 12 2013, 07:11

Always_Upright_I hope so flying and in business . . .
I am looking to buy a helicopter for private use and cross hire for commercial charter from time to time. As a pilot of a few hundred hours, and last flas R44 time, I am looking to get a suitable chopper for the 5 in my family (including myself as the pilot)
I will need to do a turbine rating and would prefer to do it in the one I purchase.


I speak from a reference point of more than 34 years experience, earning my living as a pilot. See the highlighted portion above.

Do not short cut training. Study and learn everything there is to know about the aircraft you will purchase, including maintenance procedures.

The operator you mentioned on here scooping up the available Jet Rangers is Becker Helicopters. I would highly recommend him. Firstly, he is teaching to a military standard . . . discipline, professionalism and resource management. Pilots he has produced have gone on to become Chief Pilots and Check Airmen with other operators.

If you acquired a Bell Jet Ranger III or a Long Ranger, likely he would be the guy to see to maintain it, as well.

The successor to the Bell Jet Ranger is the Bell 407. Consider it a long term investment.

I consider anything Bell from the X-1 rocket plane that set the speed of sound record to the latest iteration of the Huey equivalent to flying a Boeing, comfortable, stable, designed and built to last. The Bell 47 has been around since 1946, and you will see them flying around the world, for example.

Also, look into "Trade-A-Plane", also online, you could likely find a Bell 407, in the USA. Considering the strong Australian dollar on a purchase negotiated on that scale, you could save at least a couple hundred thousand dollars, which could go toward spares, paint, amenities, import duty, et al.

Whatever you buy from overseas, regardless if it is from the USA or elsewhere, you MUST SEE all the aircraft's records, maintenance history, FAA form 337 for field modification or minor repair. As you know, in helicopters, components have time limits, before overhaul or replacement. So, try to buy an aircraft equipped with new components or very low time components and NO ACCIDENT HISTORY. Try to buy a complete set of Maintenance Manuals for your aircraft, a spare Aircraft Flight Manual, spare Checklist. Be sure it comes with engine covers/exhaust plugs/rotor tiedowns, cargo/baggage retention straps, dual set of controls, control locks. If you can afford to have a Radar Altimeter installed and basic IFR instrument package (get some training), then you will remain Always_Upright.

I would suggest giving Mike Becker a call. Get a couple traffic patterns with him or Eric Hunt, in one of their aircraft . . . sit down and see if you can come up with a complete package, purchase, training, maintenance, etc. I have personally known and worked with two pilots he has produced and they were very skilled Aviators.

Becker Helicopters Pty Ltd
3 Friendship Avenue
Sunshine Coast Airport
Queensland 4564
Phone: +61 7 5457 0066

That is my best advice, anything less you will be wasting your time and hard earned money.

Good luck with it all.

PS . . . budget for maintenance and insurance . . . suggest during training no touchdown autorotations in your aircraft, but termination to a hover is close enough . . . And, you might get a reduction in your insurance premium if it is stipulated so. Going for either an Instrument Rating or a Commerial or ATPL, with a Night Rating would also be a long term wise investment. When hiring an Instructor, do not hire some light weight, low time, nil experience kid who will be building hours for his next job at your expense.

http://www.trade-a-plane.com/search?s-type=aircraft&s-seq=1&s-lvl=3&category=Turbine+Helicopter&make=Bell&model=407&s-page_size=25&s-page=1
http://www.controller.com/list/list.aspx?manu=BELL&mdltxt=407
http://www.controller.com/list/list.aspx?ETID=1&catid=7&Manu=EUROCOPTER&MDLGrp=BK+117&setype=1
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Heli » Sun May 12 2013, 07:37

Always_Upright wrote:My check list
1. good looking and classy (lets face it, its my toy so I want a nice chopper!)
2. reasonable running costs
3. available servicing and parts (dont want 6 weeks + wait for minor parts)
4. Private use 60%, cross hire 40% (to help with costs)
5. storage and or plenty of performance with max load, mostly coastal regions.
6. Floats and NVFR single pilot.
7. hold its value


1. Squirrel or 407, followed by the LongRanger
2 & 3. Bell. Excellent spares support, too. Eurocopter can be tricky but a 350B2 with an LTS101 would be a close second. Run a mile if anyone tells you Turbomeca have the customer in mind when it comes to support.
4. If you want 40% crosshire then you need to check the local market and then factor that in to your decision. Also, do you want your machine used for training or aerial work, or 'just' charter and sightseeing stuff?
5. With a family of five you must factor in cargo space. The AS350 has much better cargo capacity than the 206 series, for instance.
6. Floats (pop outs?) will rob you of performance, both cruise speed and disposable load: either fuel or freight or pax. NVFR will be part of the spec when you purchase or be an added post purchase expense, pus a continuing annual cost in maintenance.
7. Most machines should hold their value if looked after and even increase in value if bought wisely. I made on all my machines on resale 8)
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Always_Upright » Sun May 12 2013, 07:58

Hi Guys

Will look into the 407!
I currently hold a commercial Heli and my few hours is approx 900! I believe it is still pretty junior!
Plenty of touchdown autos so comfortable with the occasional problem (had a few already, nil injury, nil damage, so will take the kids anytime with safety). Thanks for the support its all great advice! Always keen for more training. Kids are pre teen so not heavy, but if its a long term investment will need to account my lads will be 100kg like me!

What are the operating costs for the 407? Any running in Aus for charter.
Will not offer it for any other aerial work such as lifting etc, charter only. Really its for private use more so.

Is there any aircraft I "SHOULD NOT TOUCH".

Yes, plenty of storage when the five on board. its got to be useable.
For those that are still married, you know how many bloody shoes your missus will take for a week end! As long as I have known mine, she wont travel light? Might look at a chinook! Keen to get golf clubs in as well.

Please keep up this great feedback

AU
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Twistgrip » Sun May 12 2013, 09:38

What are the operating costs for the 407?

If you have a look at my post above, a 407 will cost you appx $1400 hr just to operate dry. As HIP says they are a great machine I love them. If budget wasn't an issue for a single I'd go the 407.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Heli » Sun May 12 2013, 10:06

Always_Upright wrote:Yes, plenty of storage when the five on board. its got to be useable.
For those that are still married, you know how many bloody shoes your missus will take for a week end! As long as I have known mine, she wont travel light? Might look at a chinook! Keen to get golf clubs in as well.


You may have to leave some of the shoes behind, and a boot extender or use the spare seats for the golf bats:

Image
Last edited by Heli on Sun May 12 2013, 12:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the best chopper for passenger transport?

Postby Devils Cut » Sun May 12 2013, 12:06

Just to put my two cents in again, especially after I just saw the operating costs for the 407, may I suggest a look into the A119? We have a operating cost that is $1400 and that is very conservative. We operate it in Indonesia.
I do admit the initial acquisition cost is a bit more than the 407/350.
Maybe speak with Beckers as I think they have one.

DC

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