This week’s project: Fly a helicopter from Los Angeles to Boston

I’ve completed the paperwork and registration for my new Robinson R22 helicopter.  I’m picking up the ship at Silver State Helicopters in Long Beach, California, right near the factory in Torrance, CA, on Tuesday morning.  I will fly it around Southern California on Tuesday to make sure that there aren’t any teething problems (the ship will have been test-flown for about 4 hours by Robinson and then another 1-2 hours by Silver State, the dealer).  On Wednesday morning, I plan to depart for Blythe, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces, El Paso, and onward towards northern Georgia then up the East Coast.  The route is designed to stay at low altitudes across the Western mountains and to avoid snow storms in the Midwest and East.  Helicopters that cost less than $2 million don’t typically have autopilots, so this will be about 30 hours of hand flying.  I expect to have a 125 lb. helicopter flight instructor with me for most of the trip and therefore won’t have to be on the controls the whole time.  We might stop for a day of sightseeing in Tucson, but otherwise are going to try to make it to Boston fairly quickly.

20 thoughts on “This week’s project: Fly a helicopter from Los Angeles to Boston

  1. It seems not a lot of recreational pilots own helicopters. Is flying one that much fun? It somehow seems like a more utilitarian device than an airplane: expensive to operate, too loud for passengers to enjoy, and requires more constant effort to keep flying.

    Of course, I’m just a glider pilot, so I don’t know what thrills rotorcraft might have in store!

  2. IMO you’re nuts!
    Do you know that the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for helicopters is very low (typically single-digit hours)? And that’s for only the critical components! Those figures are for military helicopters which are far better built and maintained than civilian craft.

    You shouldn’t use helicopters for cross-country trips. You use them for excursions – short runs. You hire a mechanic who is constantly checking over the craft while you’re not flying and you pay for a secure hangar so that no one tampers with the damn thing. If you want to fly some distance, get a fixed-wing craft.

  3. Laurel: Your idea of using helicopters only for short excursions runs afoul of the fact that there are no helicopter factories in the Boston area and a Sikorsky S-76 made in Connecticut is about $8 million more than I want to spend. I don’t think that all of the folks who purchase the 800 helicopters that Robinson manufactures every year are going to move to Greater Los Angeles and settle down for the rest of their flying lives. So somebody has to ferry the ships (trucking over the road is considered too hard on the components). As far as maintenance is concerned, the Robinsons don’t seem to require much in between their 100-hour service intervals. About 90 percent of accidents in Robinson helicopters are due to pilot error or bad judgement, so making the ship 100 percent reliable would only bring the accident rate down about 10 percent.

    EDZ: Passengers certainly enjoy riding in helicopters in Hawaii and Alaska enough to pay $200+ per person per hour, so apparently the noise, with a headset on, isn’t so bad. You fly helicopters if you have a need to land somewhere other than an airport, or if you enjoy the view out the open doors, or if you like a challenge.

  4. … or if you were wrongly commited of a crime you didn’t commit and promptly escaped to the Los Angeles underground where you reside as soliders of fortune. Oh, wait— nevermind.

  5. I got a kick out of the fact that the R22 model name is Beta II. Not exactly one that inspires confidence in the internet era, but it sounds like a pretty solid entry level helicopter otherwise. Hope you enjoy yourself immensely and have a safe trip back home. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more about your helicopter piloting experiences and I imagine a lot of other people are as well.

  6. A helicopter school just relocated to the airport I’m based at. They fly R22’s and the hourly rate is not that bad. How many hours did it take to get your Commerical Heli license? I already have Commercial Airplane. Just curious what real world flight time it would take to get the add-on. Enjoy your new heli.

  7. I’m curious how fast it’ll depreciate in the event you decide to upgrade…since you once wrote of saving for a turbine powered model.

  8. I’ve been a bit suspicious of R22’s since two of my collegues and friends died in one.

    for details, see:

    http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001211X14028&key=1

    They were both highly regarded CFII’s (in the report one is listed as a rated student pilot because he was fixed-wing only). They were decapitated by the main rotor.

    I hope that as a CFI, Philip recognizes that pilot-error as a probable cause on a NTSB report can mean a lot of things. If the engine fails and a successful auto to a good conclusion doesn’t happen, that accident may be listed as pilot error, with the engine failure as a contributing factor.

    for an example, see:

    http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001212X22205&key=1

    Sure, there are always the stupid pilot tricks variety, but many pilot error “caused” accidents are pilots better than most performing at a level that, probably, most pilots would.

  9. Hey dude, I’m in LA! Would you mind giving me a short ride? For free though. Rent in Santa Monica is painful and has not room left for helicopter joy rides. 🙂

  10. The helicopter seems to be working great so far. One controller complained about our COM1 radio, but this ship has a COM2. Mechanically the cosmetically the ship seems just about perfect. We leave very early in the morning for Blythe, Phoenix, and Tucson.

  11. Jim: Robinson helicopters depreciate more or less linearly from $180k to $30k or $40k over 2200 hours, the point at which they must be overhauled. This ship will probably burn through its 2200 hours in the next three or four years because, in addition to my private use, it will be used as a trainer/rental aircraft at East Coast Aero Club and will be the only rental helicopter at Hanscom Air Force Base, a very popular airport. I’m not actually going to buy a turbine-powered helicopter and spend $500/hour to run it! A R44 Raven II with air conditioning is tempting, though.

  12. The new toy looks fun! Using your R22 as a rental and a trainer seems prudent. It should offset some of the costs. Good luck and enjoy.

  13. i have no idea whats going on with all this blogs but i would like to gain back links can someone explain me how to use those tools?

  14. Hello,

    I have been looking for some more information on Silver State Helicopters..

    I have gone to the seminar in Lakeland Fl.
    I have also gone to the interview and was accepted to become a professional heli pilot.

    I am a 33 year old single mother of a 15 year old daughter and a 5 year old daughter. I am currently a real estate agent here in Fl. As you all know the market is not doing so well and I was looking into a new career.

    In my excitement I sent out emails telling friends and family what I was doing and I was also the first female at the new Lakeland school..

    To my surprise I received an email from a friend who has a private lic. and he told me there were many issues with the owner and the company.

    So, in my investigative journey through the internet I found this link.
    I was hoping to get as much information on this company as I can..
    If there are any past students now pilots or just past students or someone who knows of someone involved with this school.
    Before I jump into the 70k price tag I would like to know all the info good and bad…

    Thanks for your help in advance.
    Leah
    leah325@tampabay.rr.com

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