Helicopters—the only choice when it has to be point-to-point transportation
Safety enhancements, payload, range, speed and comfort are at the forefront when considering a V/STOL purchase.
The 407 has upgraded features such as a FADEC controlled Rolls-Royce 250-C47B turbine, noted for hot-and-high performance. On top of an upgraded engine, Bell gave the 407 a 4-bladed main rotor that can carry the machine 251 nm with an internal load of 1142 lbs. An 8-inch-wider cabin (compared with the 206L4) also increases passenger comfort.
Adding value and technology to the previous Bell 212, the 412 introduced various improvements such as a 4-bladed composite main rotor.
The pilot will also notice improvements in technologies such as single-pilot IFR capability and dual digital automatic flight control system allowing automatic approach to hover and automatic hover capabilities.
Operators who fly the 412 will enjoy wider cabin doors (7 ft 8 in wide, according to Bell), twin PT6T-3D engines for improved reliability and power, and an extended 279-nm range while carrying 1814 lbs of payload.
Still a multimission machine, the Bell 429 has found a service niche particularly in the EMS community. A big selling point in this market is that the Bell 429 offers speed, a slightly increased payload (882 lbs) over the 206, and a much larger cabin, which gives EMS technicians a functional and versatile workspace.
The 429 offers reduced noise with swept main rotor tips and a 4-bladed tail rotor. This is appealing to operators who fly in hospital environments and high-density cities. Pilots will appreciate a state-of-the-art cockpit with single-pilot IFR and WAAS precision approach capability. With its 307-nm range, the 429 has endurance to complete long-range missions in remote locations.
With an extended tail boom, the MD530F has more stability and better handling than ever before.
MD Helicopters has developed and introduced designs and technologies for mission profiles such as law enforcement, utility, military, SAR and surveillance.
The company developed the MD530F to have better hot-and-high performance while maintaining its lifting capabilities. Built around the Rolls-Royce (Allison) 250-C30 engine (650 shp derated to 425 shp for safety and reliability per the manufacturer), MD equipped the 530F with main rotor blades that are 6 inches longer than those of the 500E.
These, coupled with a tail boom that is 8 inches longer than its predecessor, give the 530F more stability and better handling characteristics at high altitude. Speed, payload and range were not sacrificed with 494 lbs of payload flying 173 nm at 135 KTAS.
Perhaps the most recognized technology that MD introduced—NOTAR (no tail rotor)—is incorporated into the MD520N, decreasing noise and increasing safety by eliminating tail rotor hazards while on the ground.
In addition to a quieter, safer ride, the MD520N has a fully articulated 5-blade rotor system that increases maneuverability and control. It also allows an increase in payload to 750 lbs. The egg-shaped fuselage provides better aerodynamics, giving the 520N better range and speed—173 nm at 135 KTAS.
While MD helicopters are a mainstay in military and law enforcement roles, they continue to provide agile and rapid configuration capabilities to other corners of the industry. A wide array of options are available including night vision goggle (NVG) capability and FLIR.
Equipped with a turbine engine, the R66 adds a 5th seat and improved altitude performance.
Robinson has been a staple of the helicopter community since the late 1970s. With 3 different models in its portfolio, Robinson helicopters are capable of multiple mission profiles ranging, as the company claims, "from flight training to livestock mustering to patrolling pipelines."
The R22B Beta II is a popular training platform for new rotary-wing pilots. Light controls and pushrod construction contribute to a capable platform that prepares students for larger, heavier helicopters in the future with little in the way of transition.
The 2-seat configuration along with a 220-lb payload and 161-nm range (full fuel) is well suited for dual flight instruction or recreational flying.
Although the R22 saw upgrades from earlier versions of the Lycoming O320 (Robinson outfitted the R22 with the O320-A2C initially and upgraded to the B2C), Robinson has upgraded the engine to a horizontally mounted Lycoming O360-J2A that delivers 145 hp (derated to 131 hp for 5 min at takeoff and 124 hp for continuous operation).
Robinson's R44 series, with its more powerful engine and multiple configuration options, competes in the light to medium helicopter market. The R44 Raven I is equipped with a Lycoming O540 and can carry 774 lbs of baggage and/or passengers up to 350 nm with a full fuel tank.
In addition to the added payload, the pilot has a reduced workload in regard to adjusting carburetor heat—Raven I automatically adjusts with changes in power throughout all phases of flight.
Robinson's more powerful R44 Raven II introduced a Lycoming IO540 fuel-injected engine which eliminates the need for carburetor heat. Along with wider blades, this combination increased the Raven II's payload capacity to 816 lbs with full fuel while flying up to 350 nm.
Recently, Robinson introduced the R66 Turbine.
Equipped with a Rolls-Royce RR300 power plant, it can haul 927 lbs of payload 325 nm. Robinson also touts multiple upgrades and differences when compared to the R44 Raven including a 5th seat, improved altitude performance, leather seats and optional Xenon HID landing lights.
Helicopters are unique machines that defy the typical standards of normal transportation. When it comes time to purchase a helicopter to meet your specific requirements, keep in mind that, while all aircraft require extensive analysis and consideration, helicopters demand a different type of mindset, particularly with regard to mission profiles.
Ken Baylor is lead dispatcher at The Flight Department USA, specializing in fractional ownership and charter aircraft consultation/operations. He has been working in corporate aviation for 10 years.