Calling All Rotorheads

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Calling All Rotorheads

Postby GAHorn » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:26 pm

If you had it to do all over again... what rotorcraft/aircraft would you suggest for initial trainer (keeping costs in-mind.)
And your reasoning, please.

My thinking is to obtain a fling-wing rating just for a continuing-education purpose, so it’d be an add-on.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby Jim Collins » Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:24 am

George,

In my rotorcraft experience, I always viewed the Bell 47 as kind of the piper cub of the rotorcraft world. The blades have enough momentum that learning auto-rotations is not too hard and fairly forgiving. Also, the response time (stick moment to rotor movement) is kind of in the middle range for helicopters so transitioning to other helicopters is not too bad. The only bad thing is that most bell 47's could use a little more power.

Having said that, almost every helicopter flight school uses Robinson R22's which is okay if that is what is in your area.

Have fun

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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby ghostflyer » Sat Dec 07, 2019 1:13 pm

Say how about the Enstrom helicopters. They are a tough aircraft and built in the USA. I am very biased but that’s life . One thing I have run into in my aviation training is cost . Cheaper is not always the best . So learning to fly a Robinson R22 is like learning to fly a ultra light . So when the training is over what aircraft are you going to fly? Hiring a helicopter for private use is very hard. Good luck in your endeavours.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby bsdunek » Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:09 pm

They're getting kind of old now (so are our 170's) but I always liked the Hughs 300. I have ridden in several - never flew one or took instruction. I would call that the "Piper Cub" of helicopters.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby Ryan Smith » Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:37 pm

Hughes 269/300 seems to be a solid platform. My sim partner got through his CFI-I rotorwing before coming to his senses.

R22 seems popular and economical, but the low inertia rotor system is scary to me...not much reaction time.

Helicopters are a goal of mine, but I have some more fixed wing flying to do. Just added MEI, so that kicked the CFI renewal can down the road another two years. ATP ASEL will be the next, and some fellows that I ferried a 185 for have invited me to come get my seaplane rating in the airplane. If I can find some time to do some seaplane instruction, once I hit 50 hours, I would like to pursue ATP ASES. A captain friend of mine used to fly Twin Otters on floats in the islands and has ATP AMES. Not sure I’d ever be able to top that. When we were doing our “how’d you end up here?” schpeal the first time we flew together, my voyage to the airlines fueled by my love for a certain 1952 170B seemed rather uninteresting by comparison!
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby flyboy122 » Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:14 am

Hi George,

Full disclosure: My day job is selling helicopters for Enstrom. As Enstrom does not sponsor TIC170A or the forum, I'll try to keep this from becoming an ad.

Obviously I'm going to second Ghostflyer's recommendation to try an Enstrom. If the Bell 47 is the Piper Cub of helicopters, the Enstrom is the Aeronca Champ, in that it is a more modern, refined aircraft but still a good basic aircraft that does a superb job rewarding the fundamentals. I'm not sure what the Hughes/Schweizer 300 would be analogous too, but it's a solid training aircraft as well. I can give you all kinds of reasons why the Enstrom is the best, but you really can't go wrong with any of the 3. They are all safe (most important part), they are all easy to fly, they are all fun (heh, it's important), and they will all give you a good solid education that will serve you well when you transition to bigger aircraft.

Basically what you want to avoid is a Robinson. This hard because they are about as ubiquitous as 172's. Odds are if you go down to your local helicopter flight school, they'll have Robbies. There are lots of reasons for this, but their suitability as a training helicopter is not one of them. They are probably the most difficult helicopter you'll ever fly (dirty little secret of helicopters, the bigger they are the easier they fly), they don't fly like other helicopters and have their own procedures and FARS (which makes transitions harder), and they have a terrible safety record. Their accident rates are not out of line, but the percentage of those accidents that are fatal unfortunately are. It's just not a forgiving aircraft.

One of the never ending debates in helicopter training is governors. The Bells/Hughes/Enstrom use manual or mechanical throttle correlation. This means the pilot has to adjust the throttle manually to maintain RPM. The Robbies and the new Cabri G2 have electronic governors that do this automatically, as well as all the turbine helicopters. Some pilots contend that aircraft without governors are hard to fly. These are usually pilots that learned in a governed helicopter. Pilots that learn in manual aircraft generally don't know the difference. Some instructors contend that the manual aircraft are better because they teach you the relationship between throttle and tail rotor. If this sounds similar to the nosewheel/tailwheel debate, it's almost exactly the same thing. Again, to avoid this being an ad I won't pick a dog in this fight other than to say that a manual helicopter is no harder to fly than a J3 is vs. a Cherokee.

Helicopter training is not like airplane training in that quality training (and training aircraft) is not always available at your local airport. You most likely will have to travel. That being said, you have a built in advantage in that you are already a pilot. Some old school helicopter guys will say they'd rather train someone from scratch than transition an airplane pilot. These guys are wrong. You are SO much farther ahead. You know weather, how to navigate, how to talk on the radio, how airports work, etc... This allows you to concentrate totally on the flying. Since you are a tailwheel pilot, you also know how to use your feet! Finally, you can fly for hours and not get tired. All of these means that it is possible for you to travel somewhere and do an accelerated training course. The first few days will be an hour or two a day, but very quickly you'll be doing hours per flight. When I did mine I had done a few hours at work, and then decided to knock it out. I went to one of our dealers and did 26 hours in 9 days and took a checkride. This included a 5 hour first solo (I landed twice for fuel!).

Cost wise the numbers can really vary depending on location. (Another reason to consider traveling.) You'll probably find the Bells/Hughes/Enstroms to be similar. You might find a good deal on an R22, but because they are so much harder to fly the training typically takes a lot longer so your final bill may not save so much. For a reasonably experienced, middle aged or above, tailwheel pilot plan on about 40 hours for the private pilot transition in one of the 3 I recommended (the minimum is 30, and if you are 18 you might hit that). Plan on 70 in a Robbie.

Fair warning: Helicopters are very addicting! If they ruin your marriage, don't blame me. (There is, however, a club comprised of spouses who's life I've ruined. If your spouse would like to join, have her contact my wife.) Good luck!

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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby Bruce Fenstermacher » Mon Dec 09, 2019 1:17 pm

I can find very little to disagree with Dennis. I have flown all 3 of his recommendations and even a R22.

I was trained to fly in a TH-55 (Hughes 269) in the Army. At age 27 I was an old guy, still we all solo'd in 12-15 hours. I had an advantage over most as I had flown model airplanes and helicopters before I ever stepped into a full size aircraft. I soloed in 12 hours.

Dennis is right, Roby's are a little special. If I had all 4 he mentioned sitting on a ramp and a Hiller, all being equally maintained with a competent instructor for each, the Roby would be my last choice. 3rd, no matter how cool they are, would be the Hiller and Bell 47. The Enstrom would be 2nd behind the Hughs which has a special place in my heart. The Enstrom and Hughs have a slightly quicker response from the rotor head with 3 blades over the Hiller and Bell 47 which have a lot of latency. Though thousands of military pilots learned in the Hiller and Bell, I think the Enstrom and Hughes better for training. The Roby has a different somewhat unnatural cyclic stick and of course the low inertia rotor system you must train on and understand.

Truth is if all 5 where sitting on the ramp and we can add a Brantley to that mix, I'd want to fly them all. I've never flown a Brantley, it is about the only medium or light certified helicopter I haven't flown in the last 33 years. So I'd go in the Brantley first. But we are not talking training.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby n2582d » Mon Dec 09, 2019 1:49 pm

ghostflyer wrote:Say how about the Enstrom helicopters. They are a tough aircraft and built in the USA. ...
Like Brantly though, they are Chinese owned. Maybe that’s better than being owned by F. Lee Bailey, a former owner. Sadly, Enstrom has a lot of company here. This is from a Rand report.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby GAHorn » Mon Dec 09, 2019 4:14 pm

While Chinese investments in U.S. Aviation is concerning, it is widespread and almost unavoidable for my purpose so does not have any influence on my decision. An Enstrom is of particular interest to me because there are several which are in my price-range to purchase for purposes of training for the rating, then selling to recover a portion of my expenses.
Bruce gave me some excellent off-forum advice to consider 1- the experience/qualifications of my CFI (and what particular make/model he/she might be able to properly train) and 2- the availability of qualified maintenance providers in my area.
That second matter really brought to mind the very issues that I am least qualified to judge: What mx requirements would I likely encounter in a used, currently-licensed and mid-time critical-items Enstrom 280 within, say, 50 hrs of operation other than fuel/oil? (Enstrom-experienced participants are welcome to “sell” me on an Enstrom.) :wink:
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby hilltop170 » Mon Dec 09, 2019 5:29 pm

George-
If you buy a helicopter and want to offset some costs by renting it to other "worthy" student candidates, add my name to the list for consideration. That is, if you are still talking to me after I "stole" your present at the Christmas party Chinese gift exchange! :lol: (I wanted to discuss helicopters with you at the Christmas party but never got a good opportunity)

Don't know which makes they work on but I have flown with other owner/pilots in Robinsons several times to a maintenance shop in Bulverde.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby GAHorn » Mon Dec 09, 2019 7:56 pm

hilltop170 wrote:George-
If you buy a helicopter and want to offset some costs by renting it to other "worthy" student candidates, add my name to the list for consideration. That is, if you are still talking to me after I "stole" your present at the Christmas party Chinese gift exchange! :lol: (I wanted to discuss helicopters with you at the Christmas party but never got a good opportunity)

Don't know which makes they work on but I have flown with other owner/pilots in Robinsons several times to a maintenance shop in Bulverde.


Richard, I don’t think I’d “rent” anything I own to you. (Frankly, if you needed to use any of my stuff, you are one of the extremely few people I’d let use it at your pleasure!)

As for the Christmas present... I never realized how “tight lipped” our group was when it comes to “outing” our co-conspirators.... until just now, I had no idea who stole it from my table while I was replenishing my refreshments! Grrr. :lol:

Generally speaking, I don’t know of too many instances where renting-out equipment actually covers the costs involved. I can barely break even with what I charge my own son rental on the 172 we bought for his training... and the local flight school has a later model with better avionics renting at a price slightly lower! 8O
I am thinking of buying a helicopter for getting the rating then selling it (hopefully) for what I paid for it. Jamie is not yet on-board with this fantastic idea. :?
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby ghostflyer » Tue Dec 10, 2019 12:50 am

WOW, I,didn’t realise that I was in such presence with such learned gentlemen. I spent 9 years in the army playing around with helicopters and and on my discharged for about 4 years looked after 4 enstrom helicopters for the police . They crashed and and abused these aircraft [enstroms] and they still kept flying. One of the enstroms came back and the pilot reported that he had a bird strike . Carefully inspection carried out and found the green vegetable matter impregnated in the leading edge of the rotor blades . I asked him was the bird sitting in the trees when he had hit him.? But seriously that airframe is extremely well designed and tough.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby Bruce Fenstermacher » Wed Dec 11, 2019 12:46 am

George, read again what you wrote
gahorn wrote:Generally speaking, I don’t know of too many instances where renting-out equipment actually covers the costs involved. I can barely break even with what I charge my own son rental on the 172 we bought for his training... and the local flight school has a later model with better avionics renting at a price slightly lower! 8O


In the first sentence you say in most cases you know of, if you rent equipment you are not even paying what it cost. And then you go on to say that what you could rent, not covering cost, may actually be nicer than what you might buy.

Or in other words you are thinking of buying and paying more money so you can fly a machine that may not be as nice as the one you could have rented and not had the headache of ownership. If you buy of course you are going to have an annual inspection done. You are going to hope none of the million parts flying in formation decide to break formation while you are the owner. You are going to shop for and purchase insurance. When you are done, you are then going to have to find some one who is as smart as you who wants to buy their own helicopter rather than rent one.

If you want to rise to the level of a rotorhead, you have to be smarter than this.

gahorn wrote: I am thinking of buying a helicopter for getting the rating then selling it (hopefully) for what I paid for it. Jamie is not yet on-board with this fantastic idea.


Now Jamie sounds like she would make an excellent rotorhead.
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby GAHorn » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:57 am

The point I was attempting to make (in response to Richard’s offer to rent any helicopter I might buy) was that, in my experience, I could not in good conscience charge Richard what would be necessary to recover the costs of his operating it. (Renting it out adds inspection/mx/insurance costs not incurred for personal use. It’d be better to simply let him cover his fuel expenses than to create a lease/rental relationship. Also, besides Richard, there is only one time and only one other person I’ve ever considered allowing the use of my airplane without any reservation, and that was in Galveston.)
As for the C-172 comparison, I do not know how much the local rental outfit has invested in their machine, or how their accounting allows them to charge less than what I believe my own machine’s operating costs are. (It’s possible they are using a lease-back. It’s possible they are taking depreciation I do not consider on my own machine. It’s possible their accountant does not properly consider mx reserves. It’s also possible they’re losing their rear-ends and don’t know it.)
The reason my ownership of a machine makes more sense to me than renting the locally-available machine is because of scheduling, convenience, and perceived-reliability ... (real or not.). I also expect to fully recover most of my owner-operator expenses when I sell our 172, but any rental I might have paid out to the local outfit would be unrecoverable.
These are similar considerations if I buy a used, fresh-annual Enstrom with good mx/component reserves, put 100 hrs on it, and then sell it for my acquisition cost. My operating expenses would hopefully be fuel/oil/insurance if I have no unforeseen mechanical issues.

Jamie does not see how a fling-wing rating is needed for a guy who will no longer have a fling-wing aircraft to use once the rating is acquired. She sees $150K placed at-risk for no more benefit than a printed-line added to my pilot cert. (I’ve tried to explain to her that I didn’t marry her because I thought it was a practical venture.... ). 8)
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Re: Calling All Rotorheads

Postby Bruce Fenstermacher » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:13 am

George, I can't say in 33 years of operating helicopters, I've seen many operate 100 hours with no unforeseen mechanical issues. And I was glad I wasn't paying the maintenance bill. I'd otherwise follow your logical plan without hesitation.

I think we could agree, Teresa and Jamie are Saints. Aren't we lucky. :)
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