So How Much is a Helicopter ?
The question – How much does a helicopter cost? – is a fairly common question among certain readers, particular those who have a new found interest or love of helicopters. One might also like to know how much is a helicopter in comparison to a fixed wing airplane of similar size.
Helicopters are more expensive than airplanes when compared on a seat by seat basis. But how much a helicopter is going to costs depends on a multitude of factors such as how old the helicopter is, how many seats, piston or turbine engine, how much time is on the components such as blades, transmission, engine, tail rotor, etc., and of course what type of systems are on the helicopter such as electronics, auto pilot, and so on.
A small two seat piston engine helicopter such as the 2004 Robinson R-22 Beta II pictured here can cost as little as $120,000. While that may seem like a high cost for a helicopter, it is fairly inexpensive when compared to a more luxurious, 7 seat, turbine engine helicopter such as this 2011 Bell 407 below that was listed on controller.com for over $3 million.
Now compare how much a helicopter cost with a fixed wing airplane. Above we see a 2 seat 2004 Robinson R-22 with a cost of $120,000. I wonder how much airplane we can buy for the same amount of money.
I found this 2010 Cessna 162 Skycatcher, 2 seat airplane, for sale on Aerotrader.com for $69,500, almost half the cost of what you would pay for a 2 seat helicopter that is 6 years older. One has to begin to really consider how much is a helicopter really worth, simply for the ability to hover or fly low and slow.
The primary reason that helicopters cost so much more than airplanes (seat for seat) is that helicopters have many more moving parts than an airplane – in their power & control systems – and more moving parts that are critical to the safety of the helicopter in flight. These critical components include things such as the rotor blades, tail rotor blades, engine & engine parts, transmission, fuel control systems, fuel governor, and the list goes on.
To give you an example of how a helicopter is much more expensive than an airplane; a single new replacement main rotor blade for a bell 407 cost over $100,000. And there are four of these main rotor blades on the Bell 407. So you can imagine that if a piece of metal or some other foreign object flew into the rotor blades of a Bell 407 damaging just 2 of the blades beyond repair, it will likely cost the owner over $200,000 to get the helicopter back in flying condition.
Another example of a high cost helicopter is this Sikorsky S-76+ which is a twin turbine engine and can carry up to 12 passengers depending on how the seating is configured. Helicopters similar to the one pictured above can cost as much as $6 million - $7 million and even more.
If all of this is making your head spin, you might be happy to know that a 4 seat turbine helicopters such as this MD500D can cost as little as $300,000 or as much as $600,000 for an older but well cared for machine.
One of my all time favorite small helicopters, that is affordable to some helicopter pilots, is the piston powered, 2seat - Schweizer 300 (also known as the Hughes 269 and now the Sikorsky S- 300). This little helicopter is very forgiving and has been billed as having the best safety record of any training helicopter in history.
The reason for so many different names for what is essentially the same helicopter, is because it was originally designed by Hughes Tool Company but over the years the manufacturing rights were sold off to Schweizer and more recently Sikorsky.
So how much does a helicopter like this cost? I found this 1976 Hughes 269C for sale for $115,000 at steveweaver.com. If I was in the market for a small piston powered helicopter, the Hughes 269 / Schweizer 300 would be at the top of my list. In fact I flew just such a helicopter in training at Civic Helicopters in Carlsbad California in 2007.
But if you really want to fly your own helicopter and are still suffering from sticker shock, there may be one more option for you. That would be to consider the cost of a home built helicopter.
Not everyone has the time, money, patience or skills to build a helicopter. A helicopter is a complex flying machine and there is little room for error in the build process, or in flying it for that matter. But still, building your own helicopter from a kit is an option for some people.
Rotorway International has a long history of manufacturing quality helicopter kits built for the home builder - over 48 years to be exact. Originally founded in 1961, Rotorway currently offers the A600 Talon kit helicopter for $89,730 which includes the engine and everything needed to get in the air. They also recently introduced the RW7 which will come with a Lycoming IO-320 for a base price of $117,790.
The costs of the RW7 kit is certainly approaching the costs of a factory built Hughes 269C such as the one pictured above. One would probably have to have a strong interest in building their own helicopter to choose the kit over a ready to fly, but older, Hughes or Schweizer.
Still, another option would be to purchase an older - used Rotorway helicopter. One of the most inexpensive helicopters I have found so far is this 1989 Rotorway Exec 152/162, with a total of 240 hours on the frame and engine, for a cost of only $33,500. But there are quite a handful of used – flying Rotorway helicopters for sale in the $50,000 range.
Rotorway International is not the only kit helicopter manufacturer that puts out a quality helicopter for a reasonable cost.
Safari Helicopter of Marianna Florida manufacturer the Safari 400 kit, also offers a ready to fly version - built from your kit, for $168,000 out the door. Formerly known as Canadian Home Rotors the Safari was sold as the “Baby Bell” because of its similarities to the Bell 47 design. Around 1999 the name was changed to Safari after Bell Helicopters threatened legal action.
After a quick search I found two Safari helicopters for sale on Barnstormers.com with a cost of $138,000 and $86,995 respectively. The more expensive Safari was built in 2013 while the one priced at $86,995 was built in 2000. Both helicopters were advertised as current and ready to fly.
There are numerous other experimental helicopter kits one can purchase, such as the Mosquito, most of which are single seat helicopters. Used Mosquito helicopters can be found in the $30,000 range.
At some point one might want to consider whether a Gyrocopter or AutoGyro would be the better way to go as a way to control costs. While the Gyrocopter looks much like a helicopter, after all it is a rotor wing aircraft so it has a main rotor blade, they do not hover like a helicopter. Thus, many of the expensive – moving components of the helicopter are not needed. The cost of a Gyrocopter is significantly less than a helicopter for those reasons.
Some would argue that Gyrocopters are safer than helicopters since they are not as complex, which is very true, but then do not have the ability to lift vertically as a helicopter does. The main rotor blades on a Gyrocopter are in a constant state of auto-rotation, driven by the wind, while the aircraft is pushed through the air by a propeller.
While there are many models of Gyrocopters to choose from, the RAF 2000 is one of the more popular versions. The RAF 2000 pictured here was found on Barnstormers.com for a cost of $26,500 - significantly cheaper than just about any helicopter.
You should now have a good idea about why helicopters are so much more expensive than airplanes. Helicopters are a lot of fun to fly, and they are a valuable tool that fills a very specific need. But they are by no means the cheapest way to get from point A to point B.
I hope you enjoyed this page on how much a helicopter cost. Thanks for stopping by!