Selecting the right helicopter based on flight ops missions

Making the decision to acquire rotary-wing assets requires clear performance metrics and efficient selection criteria.

Demarcated business helicopter segments are in many respects arbitrary, inevitably separating competing aircraft. This accepted, the performance and specifications of more than 60 turbine helicopters were used to segment current aircraft by MTOW, as indicated in the lower table on p 86.

Once several candidate aircraft are identified, the aircraft and needs-based criteria listed in the table on p 89 may be useful in ranking the helicopter for final selection.

The helicopter selection process concludes with analysis and choice of operating and ownership structures. Small businesses and even individual travelers logging few flying hours per year can find models to suit their travel budgets.

As the chart on this page illustrates, helicopter per-hour costs decrease dramatically as annual utilization increases. At low activity levels, ad hoc charter may be the best option. As utilization (demand) increases further, fractional (shared) ownership becomes more attractive. At even higher levels, whole ownership may be warranted.

Ownership structuring embodies liability protection planning, economic and cost-sharing arrangements, regulatory compliance, income tax treatment of operating expenses, depreciation, excise taxes and a host of other considerations.

Although the table on p 89 offers broad guidelines, this is a highly specialized area in which prospective owners are advised to seek qualified assistance.


For most business aviation users, private air travel is an essential tool designed to extend corporate reach, broaden commercial influence and enhance situational awareness over long distances.

The capacity of a helicopter as an enabler and accelerator of business enterprise is recognized and leveraged in direct support of commercial enterprise.

For companies not yet convinced, the opportunity cost of time is still a vague concept. For them, it must be appreciated that waves of innovation allow early movers to dominate the market and earn substantial profits. It has been said that time can never be saved—it can only be spent wisely.

It is here that business aviation's support of time management may be most critically important.

The strategy presented aims to make helicopter selection a more informed, more efficient activity that considers all aspects in an impartial manner. The benefits will fall on companies and, ultimately, econom­ies within which they operate.

Don Van Dyke is an 18,000-hr TT pilot and instructor with extensive experience in charter, business and airline operations. A former IATA ops director, he has served on several ICAO expert panels and is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.


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