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Business Aviation & The Boardroom - Rotorcraft Considerations

If the requirement at your company is for truly ‘point-to-point’ travel- and the cost/benefit equation makes sense- then a rotorcraft may satisfy the need. The challenge facing a Chief Executive is how to select the appropriate helicopter for the mission- says Jeremy Cox.

AvBuyer   |   1st March 2011
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Rotorcraft Considerations:
Selecting the right helicopter for you... a CEO’s Guide.

If the requirement at your company is for truly ‘point-to-point’ travel- and the cost/benefit equation makes sense- then a rotorcraft may satisfy the need. The challenge facing a Chief Executive is how to select the appropriate helicopter for the mission- says Jeremy Cox.

Mobility and response- put in simple terms- should read thus: The ability to travel to places that are not normally accessible by public methods of transportation such as the airlines or rail services; the need to make such journeys quickly before your competitor arrives; or to help one of your best customers. These are the main reasons that Business Aviation exists.

The major advantage of a helicopter over a fixedwing aircraft is its capacity for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) as well as its ability to hover. This advantage enables helicopters to take-off and land from locations that are simply not accessible by other aircraft (purpose-built roof-top pads atop office buildings- factories and the like). This advantage often makes a helicopter a viable alternative to land-based travel- thus avoiding the congestion found during rush-hour in most of the world’s commercial centers.

Business use of helicopters is not all milk and honey- however- because their ‘cost per mile’ is about three times that of a fixed-wing aircraft and their operations can often be restricted by weather conditions including ice- heavy rain and high winds.

If- however- the requirement is to achieve truly ‘point-to-point’ travel- and the cost/benefit equation makes sense- you will need to answer the following questions to begin the process of selecting the correct helicopter for your specific requirement. The primary decisions that a prospective buying CEO must make are:
• How many people do you require for your helicopter to carry?
• How far do you wish to travel in the helicopter?
• How much do you want to spend?

Once you have these rudimentary questions answered- it will be necessary to subscribe to one or more of the valuable reference guides available. These include the Aircraft Price Digest– Bluebook (a source of flight performance and price figures for all commercially available new and used civilian helicopters); Conklin & deDecker’s Cost Evaluator software (this tool specifically lays out operating costs and budgeting requirements for all helicopters); and a reputable source for ‘aircraft for sale listings’- (either print or online).

Now you are informed and ready to decide on which make and model to target for further research.

The final step in the completion of your research and selection process is to narrow down your shortlist of models by either chartering or taking a manufacturer’s demonstration flight in the specific helicopters that you have yet to cull from your list of desirable aircraft.

All helicopters are suitable for business operations; however they come in a variety of sizes- configurations and performance capabilities. Some are sparsely and spartanly furnished (usually for weight savings and performance gains)- and many only offer tight and compact interior spaces (again- for performance gains). Some of the larger machines are furnished rather more opulently - like a luxury automobile- while others might be configured like a commuter aircraft with lightweight seats.

Regardless of the mission- all helicopters are either powered by a reciprocating piston engine or a gas turbine engine. Some have more than one engine for safety and also for power reserve- both engines delivering their power into a single gearbox. LENGTHY ORDER BACKLOGS Unlike the fixed-wing market for new aircraft- helicopters have ridden relatively unscathed through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). There are relatively few helicopter makers in existence (ten in-total worldwide: AgustaWestland- Bell Helicopter- Brantly International- EADS-Eurocopter- Enstrom- Kaman Aerospace- MD Helicopters- Robinson- Sikorsky and Vertical Aviation Technologies)- and all are filling order books created in a much smaller market arena than is normally found in the fixed-wing world.

Therefore there is often a long wait between order placement and delivery of any new helicopter. Thus the used market is where many companies turn when looking to purchase a helicopter suitable to their needs - either as a permanent solution- or to fill the wait between order placement for a new helicopter and eventual delivery.

As of this writing- worldwide there were 729 singleengine helicopters and 423 multi-engine helicopters of various makes and models available for purchase in a used condition. This was against a worldwide fleet total of 15-617 active helicopters. I wish you luck- and advise prudence in your search for the helicopter that best suits your company needs.

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