Charity Helicopter Lesson in a Robinson R44

with Philip Greenspun of East Coast Aero Club; updated March 2010

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This page explains the offer of a introductory helicopter flying lesson in a Robinson R44 with Philip Greenspun, to be auctioned for charity.

Why do it?

If you haven't learned anything new for a few years, aviation will exercise all of the dusty corners of your brain. Flying is a tremendous challenge. After your lesson you'll be one of only a handful of people in the world who can say "I flew a helicopter."

The Pilot

That would be you. You'll have your hands on the controls most of the time. Hovering is too difficult for the average beginner, but most people are able to control an airborne helicopter in climbs, descents, and turns.

The Instructor

Your teacher is Philip Greenspun, who holds an FAA Airline Transport Pilot certificate with multi-engine airplane, single-engine seaplane, and helicopter ratings. Greenspun has more than 3500 hours of flying experience, including flying 50-seat regional jets for a U.S. airline. Born in 1963, Greenspun studied engineering at MIT, receiving bachelor's, master's, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from that school. Greenspun is an FAA-certified flight instructor and, since 2005, has been teaching airplane flying, instrument flying, and helicopter flying at East Coast Aero Club at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts.

The Helicopter

We will be flying in a Robinson R44 helicopter. This is a simple modern 4-seat helicopter with excellent visibility through a large Plexiglas bubble. This is the world's best-selling helicopter right now, with hundreds coming off the assembly line in Torrance, California every year. The particular R44s that you'll fly were purchased factory-new in 2008 and 2009.

The School

East Coast Aero Club was established in 1985 and has more than 35 aircraft. About 20 flight instructors are active at the club, and most of us are experienced pilots who enjoy teaching.

Starting Airports

Greenspun, the helicopters, and East Coast Aero Club are based at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts. This is near the intersection of Rt. 128 (I-95) and Rt. 2, about 15 miles NW of downtown Boston.

How it works

I'll email you some material to read prior to your first lesson. We'll do about one hour of ground school and then run the helicopter about 20 minutes on the ground and in the air.

How many people can fly

Passengers don't usually appreciate a first-time pilot's efforts at aircraft control, so we'll fly with the back seats empty (i.e., it will be just you and the instructor).


helicopter accidents are due to bad weather, night flying, flying low and hitting power lines, or trying to land in a friend's backyard where there are a lot of trees and power lines obstructing the approaches. We will be flying during the daytime in good weather and taking off and landing only at Hanscom Field, which is a vast open space that is kept clear of all obstacles.

To the charity

If the underbid is at least $700, feel free to "split the donation" and sell a second ride to the underbidder. (To be concrete, if Joe Smith is the highest bidder at $750 and Mary Jones is the next highest bidder at $700, you take $750 from Joe and $700 from Mary and I give both of them rides.)

East Coast Aero Club charges between $225 and $400 for an intro lesson, so you can put that down as the value of the donation.

Winners can contact me directly via the email address at the bottom of this page or by calling 617-864-6832.

Text and photos Copyright 2006-2010 Philip Greenspun.