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Selecting The Best Helicopter For Your Training
When learning to fly a helicopter, there are a few characteristics that should be prioritized when deciding which aircraft to pursue for your training.

Throughout your career as a helicopter pilot, safety should be of the upmost importance, and safety during your flight training is no exception.  That being said, cost is always a factor for the majority of student pilots, and affordability of the aircraft can be a crucial factor in your decision.  If given the opportunity, almost all students would elect to complete their training on an aircraft with a turbine engine; however, for most students it would prove much too costly.  This is why most flight schools offer flight training on piston-engine aircraft, with the option to receive an endorsement on a turbine aircraft near the end of the flight training.  



In a perfect situation, you would already have employment within the industry and know in advance which aircraft you will be employed to fly. As this usually isn't the case, it is best to choose an aircraft that is versatile enough that it will not limit your job prospects, while still being manageable enough to learn on and also be affordable.


Many pilots attribute the affordability of flight school for the general public to Frank Robinson and his creation of the R22 helicopter. Due to its low cost and prevalence in the job market, the Robinson R22 appears to be dominating the global civilian training market. It is also becoming increasingly common for tour companies to use the Robinson R44, essentially a 4-seat version of the R22 with hydraulics, as their primary aircraft as well.


Consequently, if you wish to build your flight hours as a tour pilot, the Robinson R22 is a good choice because it provides a great foundation for the R44, which you have a high likelihood of flying as a first job. The Robinson R22 is a two-seater aircraft making it cost effective, however, some students find there is not enough space and that it is uncomfortable to be in. The controls are also slightly different to other helicopters including the cyclic, responsible for the attitude of the aircraft and airspeed, as it is on a teetering hinge T-Bar. This is opposed to the traditional joystick style that most other aircraft have.




Many pilots as well have safety concerns about the R22, as it has a low-inertia rotor system amongst other particulars.


What this means is that in the event of an engine failure or an emergency situation, in order to enter a safe "autorotation" in which an upwards airflow manually rotates the main rotor system instead of being driven by the engine, the R22 does not have the same gliding capabilities as other aircrafts. If the pilot does not react quickly enough to enter the authoritative state, the machine can essentially drop from the sky. The R22 also consists of a two-bladed rotor system with a teetering rotor head.


This leaves the R22 much more vulnerable to something called "Mast Bumping" in which the main rotor head, or hub, comes in contact and "bumps" the rotor mast. Ultimately if accompanied by a skilled and experienced flight instructor, the R22 can provide an effective and low-cost training machine, and many pilots firmly believe that due to their twitchy nature, if you can fly a Robinson, you can fly anything!


Another popular aircraft for training amongst flight schools is the Bell 47. As it is another piston engine, the Bell 47 is relatively inexpensive to operate, and provides a great foundation for the Bell JetRanger and Bell LongRanger. Both the Bell JetRanger and Bell LongRanger have many uses commercially, and are prominent aircraft in the industry.


The Bell 47 differs from the Robinson R22 in that it has a higher-level inertia system, meaning it has a longer gliding capacity and can arguably perform safer autorotations as a result. The Bell 47 is also unique in that it is lacking a governor, the device that regulates and marries the rotor and engine rpm, forcing pilots to manually control and regulate the throttle.


Many instructors see this as an advantage, as it helps low time pilots understand the throttle mechanisms and better prepares them for a potential governor failure in the future. In comparison with the R22, the Bell 47 does have a slower cruising airspeed, meaning that it will potentially take students longer to complete cross country trips.



If the R22 can be seen as building towards a job operating an R44 (or the turbine version, the R66) and the Bell 47 as leading up to working with the Bell 206 LongRanger/JetRanger then the Guimbal Cabri G2 can be seen as providing a foundation for the Eurocopter and similar aircraft.  The Cabri G2 has many specifications similar to the Eurocopter series, including the enclosed, fenestron trail rotor and an entirely glass and digital instrument panel. 


As it is relatively new to the aviation industry, only entering the commercial sector in 2008, it is not overly used in the training industry yet, but many aviation professionals can see it monopolizing the training sector in the future.  Some flight instructors, however, feel that all of the bells and whistles associated with the Cabri G2 might make it difficult for students to transition to a less modern aircraft.


Other training aircraft popular with students include the Enstrom series, a lightweight aircraft consisting of a high inertia rotor system, and the Sikorsky S-300 family of aircraft, formerly known as the Schweizer 300 and Hughes 300.  Enstrom’s piston and turbine models are fully supported in North and South America, and various countries worldwide. Sikorsky Helicopters were one of the first manufactured for civilian and military use and are in broad usage today.


Ultimately you train on machine that corresponds to your financial situation and is best going to prepare you to safely enter the aviation workforce as an effective and employable helicopter pilot.  Always think safety first in your training and choice of machine and that will lead to a successful career as a helicopter pilot.