Rotary-wing aircraft save time on that last stretch on a business trip.
When companies need to optimize time for their executives, they often turn to the best time machines available – business aircraft.
And when they need to replace a laborious car ride with a short sprint, a helicopter is the best tool. Depending on the size of the company and the budget available, the choice of size, interior and speed is quite varied.
When this writer started in aviation more than 40 years ago, there was only one real VIP transport helicopter that held the high bar – the Sikorsky S-76. Since then, several major players have joined the market, offering very distinctive aircraft with some luxury car manufacturers putting their names on elegant interiors. Today, it would be hard to say who holds the prize of best helicopter for VIP/executive passengers given all the options, but let’s take a look.
Airbus Corporate Helicopters
An executive helicopter need not have 2 engines and bristle with an astounding entertainment system to be included here.
The Airbus H130 is a light single-engine helicopter with a signature interior designed and inspired by Aston Martin sports cars.
Airbus offers the aircraft complete with the famous car maker’s logo and an amazing leather finish to complete the experience.
If the Aston Martin H130 is too small, Airbus also offers the H145 light twin with VIP seating for 7–8 pax.
Not to be outdone by the H130, a Mercedes-Benz interior is available for the H145, offering the passengers an unparalleled executive experience in the helicopter.
Airbus offers an even larger cabin with the H175, with an almost living room-sized cabin with multiple seating configurations for up to 12 pax who enjoy more legroom, more refinement – more everything.
Bell is still at the cutting edge of helicopter production, providing sleek, modern helicopters that can perform well in all roles. As a matter of fact, on March 8, 1946, Bell received certification for the very first helicopter certified for civilian use – the Bell 47.
The company later designed the Bell 47J, the world’s first executive transport helicopter. In 1957, 2 Bell 47J helicopters were purchased by the US Air Force as presidential transports. On July 13, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower was the first POTUS to be carried from the White House in an executive helicopter.
Fast forward to today, Bell’s line up of multi-role aircraft continues with the Bell 407, 429, and the cavernous Bell 525 Relentless.
The 407 is a single-engine, 4-bladed helicopter which can be outfitted to pamper its passengers. And the Bell 429 is a sleek, larger executive model which can easily provide fast and luxurious transportation.
With a cruise speed of 150 kts, the Bell 429 passengers can be whisked along while being treated to a variety of cabin designs with multi-functional seats, fold down trays and a smooth and quiet ride.
The 429 comes in either standard skid gear for utility roles, or retractable landing gear which allows for increased speed due to less drag, with the side benefit of an absolutely perfect and aesthetically pleasing sleek profile.
When bigger is better, the Bell 525 has a cavernous cabin, which, if you were going for the most seats, then you could fill the helicopter with 16 passengers. But since we are talking executive transports, the Relentless can be configured with VIP interiors by companies that specialize in VVIP completions. Bell 525 interior options include a circular conference style, folding seats, and unbelievable luxury from front to back. The 525 cruises at 160 kts and provides a smooth and quiet flight with an advanced glass cockpit for the front office.
Leonardo has a long list of aircraft available for executive customers. Not only are multiple helicopters available, from light single-engine to larger twins, Leonardo is the only company with the revolutionary tilt rotor nearing certification – the AW609.
The AW609 combines the speed and comfort of a turboprop with all the advantages a helicopter enjoys. It will be able to take off vertically, transition to airplane mode, cruise at 270 kts in pressurized comfort, and land almost anywhere in helicopter mode.
The AW family of helicopters includes the AW169, AW139 and the larger AW189 – all available with exceptionally personalized interiors and the latest technological advancements.
The sleek AW109 provides VIP seating from 4 to 6 comfortable seats with a sliding door for entry and a retractable step for easy cabin access.
Since 1977, the Sikorsky S-76 has been a workhorse in the helicopter industry, and was originally designed for the tough offshore oil and gas demands. This aircraft performs a multitude of roles, including search and rescue (SAR), emergency medical services (EMS), and, of course, executive transport.
The S-76 offers a large and quiet cabin with Sikorsky’s active vibration control and Quiet Zone transmission technology, which provides an extraordinarily smooth ride. Clients can create a personalized work space as an extension of the office, or a relaxing environment to unwind during the flight.
The interior designers can develop a customized interior with the airy cabin from a wide variety of cabinetry for 5 to 8 passengers. Large limousine-like doors and electrically extendable steps make entry and exit safe and easy.
Normally a utility workhorse, the Sikorsky S-92 was selected to replace all of the US Presidential helicopters in 2014 by the US Navy. This no doubt will be a very impressive executive interior that only a few will be able to enjoy. Dubbed the VH-92, it is scheduled to go into active service in 2024.
Helicopters will always provide transportation for those who need to avoid the traffic jams below. Even smaller aircraft like the Robinson R66 and Enstrom 480B are light single-engine turbine helicopters that can save time and money to get people where they need to go, sometimes where a helicopter is the only answer.
But if your budget can afford more space and comfort, then your options are endless, and the interiors will rival the most elegant business jet. The sky’s the limit!