Purchasing Your First Helicopter

Deciding to invest in a helicopter of your own is a big step for anyone, and especially if you’re a new pilot. But if you’ve got the means to do so, it also means freedom. No longer will you be subject to flight school schedules or rental schedules in order to fly-you’ll be able to lift off any time you want! Of course, there are a few factors you’ll need to take into account first, which are covered below.

First, you’ll need to decide on the model of helicopter you want. A common beginner’s helicopter is a Robinson R-22 (2 seater) or R-44 (4 seater), both of which can be bought for less than $500,000. These are piston engine helicopters; Robinson also makes a turbine, the R-66, which starts at $895,000. Another common aircraft is the Eurocopter EC-135, a four seater, or the McDonnell Douglas MD530, both turbine powered and relatively ($1.2m) inexpensive beginner-friendly aircraft.

You’ll need to register your helicopter with the FAA, and receive a ‘N’ number. Helicopter registration fees are different than fixed wing aircraft registration fees, and they change year to year and are based on the helicopter’s characteristics. Visit www.faa.gov/registration for more information and to fill out the application. In order to register, you’ll need the serial number of the aircraft and transponder information- all of this is found on your purchase forms.

You’ll also need insurance. Would you drive a $500,000 car without insurance? Neither should you fly a half million dollar, or more, helicopter without insurance. Common brokers include Lloyds, Farmers, and AFAS, though other carriers exist. You should ensure that your policy is valid in all situations that you intend to fly in, and in all locations you intend to fly to.

You’ll need somewhere to park your helicopter when not in use. Most commercial airports have hangers available for rent, or ground tethers, which are cheaper than covered hanger space. Not all commercial airports rent space for helicopters though, so check with your airport authority for details and prices.

Finally, you’ll need a helicopter license from the FAA. A Helicopter Pilots License (Rotorcraft) is just that- a license to fly a helicopter. There are whole blogs written on getting your license, so I won’t go into details here, but more information can be found at www.faa.gov/licensure. You should keep a copy of this on your person at all times while operating your helicopter.

Congratulations, purchasing your own helicopter is a big step, and I wish you the very best of luck with your new aircraft. Just remember, don’t try and cut costs at the expense of safety. Parking your helicopter at the local grocery store park lot, instead of a hanger, might land you in jail!