If your business is going well, and you’re enjoying life generally, a helicopter is the essential accessory.
Make the most of your exciting hobby by flying to meetings and site visits, with scope to go on holidays, trips, expeditions and safaris to exotic locations.
When to buy
You could buy a machine before you start your training course, and save a load of money on the cost of your PPL(H) course. If you’re training towards a Commercial Helicopter Licence, it’s almost worth buying one just for the money you’ll save on the hours you have to fly to get there. Or you can wait till you have your licence, by which time you’ll be more familiar with the issues in play.
The R22 is a great training aircraft, and the entry level. Buy a secondhand one, with expert advice and a good survey from a maintenance organisation you trust for as little as £50,000. The R22 is the most popular training helicopter in the civilian world. The Beta II is the latest and most powerful model of the Robinson two seat helicopter. The Robinson Helicopter Company has built over 4000 R22s in the Torrance,CA factory since their certification in 1979. It is agile and responsive, and great fun to fly. You’ll hear some detractors (mainly people who don’t pay for their own flying) saying that it has weird controls and that it’s twitchy, but the reality is, if you are properly trained on an R22 you you’ll find the transition to any other type very straightforward. Most people who train on an R22 move on next to the slightly larger R44.
The R44 is the entry point if you want the power and speed to get places. Four seats, and 120mph plus, and said by many to be the perfect private owner’s machine. You can buy one new from Robinson Helicopters in California, or used in the UK from around £100,000. The early models, the Astro, are now extremely good value, though if you want to rent your helicopter to a flying school to cover some of your fixed costs like insurance, you may find that some renters are a little sniffy about the lack of hydraulics. The bang up to date ones are the Raven II models. A dream to fly.
The recently launched R66 is slightly larger again, with a 5th seat and a turbine engine. Quite serious money at £600,000, but you get the ride of your life. Note, they are not eligible for registration in Europe yet, so there will be the most almighty rush when that comes along. There’s already a queue.
Currency Hedging for Helicopter Purchase
If you’re buying a machine new from the USA, you’ll need to change some currency. The new kind of online exchange can can save you loads on the transaction, compared to using your bank. Make sure you choose one covered by the FSA, so you know your money is safe.
You can save money, as these exchanges offer better-than-bank currency exchange rates by securing rates directly with the market. They can also reduce, and sometimes eliminate, bank charges.
By hedging, you can protect your helicopter purchase from adverse exchange rates. This can help you to reserve and fix an exchange rate from the moment when you place your order to the moment when your aircraft comes off the production line. This avoids the risk of the price of the helicopter going up as a result of currency fluctuations. It’s a competitive market, but try Smart Currency, and ask for Alex Willson who specialises in the helicopter side of things.
Before you buy a used machine, you’ll need a survey. This is done by an engineer unconnected with the aircraft and its owner. Might cost a few grand, but worth every penny, as the hidden parts that are a few microns beyond their wear limit can cost you a lot more. Don’t assume that because it’s a heicopter, and the maintenance is supposed to be done as per the manufacturer’s schedule, that it will all therefore be perfect. “Just do the minimum, ‘cos I’m selling it next year” as the former owner may have been telling his engineer. The survey will also confirm which parts need replacing soon, so what the cost horizon looks like.
Authorised Robinson Dealers in the UK
If you want a new machine, go to one of the main dealers, and haggle. HeliAir and Sloane Helicopters are the authorised dealers here in the UK. It can help to bring along your flying instructor, to give you another pilot’s perspective on your prospective purchase.
Professional Advice for a helicopter purchse.
Ask your accountant for the best “Benefit in Kind”, VAT, and depreciation advice money can buy. It can all bite later.
Similarly, it’s worth involving your solicitor in the purchase, to help guard against fraud. There are several internet scams around, and you need to be very clear that the vendor has good clean title to the machine you are buying.
Renting your helicopter to a flight school
This can help defray some of the standing costs, such as insurance. Be very clear who is insuring what, who is entitled to fly, and who is liable for what.