What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a helicopter?
The main advantage of using a helicopter is that you’re able to depart via a helipad versus a full runway. This means you can fly in and out of tighter spaces, and land closer to your destination. For example, you can depart from the South Street Seaport helipad in New York City without using a landing strip.
But there are disadvantages, too. Helicopters hold very few passengers and little luggage. Plus, helicopters are highly dependent on weather. High winds and rain can ground a helicopter, which means you’ll have to wait until the weather clears before you can fly. Conversely, jets and turboprops can usually take off and land in such conditions without issues.
Helicopters also require roughly three times as much maintenance as a jet or turboprop, and these mechanical problems tend to occur more frequently. Helicopters also aren’t cheap; a Sikorsky S76 C++ usually runs at a cost of about $4,000 per hour, equivalent to chartering a brand-new midsize jet.
Helicopters also have a shorter operational range and they’re slower. This means you spend more billable time in the air than you would on a plane. Many people think that flying a helicopter is going to be cheaper than a jet, but this isn’t the case. Smaller doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper.
However, helicopters can be cost effective. For example, a small four-seat helicopter with a seat next to the pilot and two more behind costs around $2,000 per hour. That said, you’ll still have to deal with other factors such as limited range, speed and luggage capacity.
Executive helicopters are rare in comparison to jets and props. For example, helicopters are not readily available for charter in California as most in the state are used for firefighting. This means they do not have executive configurations, so luxury flying can sometimes be easier on a jet or turboprop.