Boston Helicopter School - Helicopter Training Costs Explained
You are serious about learning to fly a helicopter. You are here for one of two reasons. You want to get your private pilot license for recreation/personal use, or you are looking to start/change careers and become a professional helicopter pilot. Regardless of your goals, finances should weigh heavily in your choice of schools. It shouldnt be the sole factor, but it certainly is an important consideration. Read more about saving money while training in helicopters.
For a complete cost breakdown of learning to fly a helicopter, read our cost breakdown page.
There are many good schools to choose from in the area, and you have probably read our article on how to choose a flight school. We will now break down the costs of attaining your helicopter rating using different helicopters from local flight schools.
As you read the helicopter descriptions, we are not touting one as better than the other. It is a matter of personal preference and has been the subject of many heated debates especially between the 300 and the R22 camps. Where there is no debate is when comparing the 300 and R22 with the R44. The production history of the R44 speaks for itself. The Robinson R-44 is a superior design all around.
If you are learning to fly for fun, choosing the type of machine for your helicopter flight training is important based upon your needs after attaining your license. If you are planning on renting to go places after you get your license (most people), then the R22 and R44 should be your choice. If you are planning on bringing friends places, and if you plan on bringing more than one friend at a time, then the only choice is the R44. If you learn in a Schweizer, you may not be able to rent from other helicopter schools which utilize the Robinson helicopters - at a minimum you may be required to do 10 hours for a checkout in an R22 or R44.
If you are training to become a professional pilot, more than likely your first job will be as a CFI. It should be important to you that you are trained in the helicopter which will be starting your career (for at least a good portion of your training). Most schools train in Robinsons, which is probably your best choice. Many jobs which require lower total hours utilize the R44 and have certain R44 minimums.
The Schweizer 300 is the oldest helicopter design currently used for helicopter training. It is an honest, hard working machine that makes a good trainer. But thats where it ends. It is slow, costly to maintain and operate, has low production figures, and is not widely used. It is also a 2 place helicopter, so if you are looking to rent/build hours, this is definitely not the machine for you. It also has no governor, so the throttle is controlled manually. Though not extremely difficult, this does cause problems for many students, especially during the maneuvers required for checkrides, and usually increases the number of hours for training. It also has a cruise speed of 65 knots (almost half the speed of the R44). Since the number of helicopter flight schools utilizing the Schweizer is much less than those flying Robinson helicopters, if your goal is to become a CFI, either try to get an employment guarantee from the school (not likely), or do most of your training in a Robinson. We operate Robinson helicopters, and prefer that our instructors have mostly Robinson experience.
The R22 is a 28 year old design, modern by Schweizer standards. It is a fast, nimble machine with a lightweight rotor system. It is a true pilots helicopter in its performance and abilities. But it is a smaller helicopter which can be easily overloaded and underperform on a hot, high density altitude day. It is unforgiving of poor pilot technique, but when handled correctly is a great trainer. I have had high time pilots and examiners tell me that if a pilot can fly an R-22, he is well prepared to fly much larger helicopters.
Anyone that flies this helicopter will tell you this is the machine that defines the piston helicopter. It is, without a doubt, the best piston helicopter in the world. This design is the reason it is a record holder in production figures (around 800 yearly compared to 12 Schweizer 300s). It is large, roomy, 4 place, fast, and handles very well. It has a much heavier main rotor which equates to better autorotation performance and safety. It is used worldwide for many roles including reporting and law enforcement. As a trainer it is fast, powerful, roomy, and handles extremely well.
If you are interested in training in the Robinson R-44, the initial cost may appear to be high compared to the other helicopters. The R44 is a machine which is not in the same league as the R22 or Schweizer 300. The best analogy can be found in the fixed wing training world. There are not many schools that still train in the 2 seat Cessna 152. Almost all fixed wing schools now use 4 place trainers. They are roomier, perform better, and are more similar to the aircraft one will fly after getting their license.
If you take the FAA minimums, using local helicopter flight school rates, here is a cost breakdown between the 3 helicopters:
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Using the FAA minimums, there is a $4800 difference between the lowest cost helicopter (the R22) and the R44. The Schweizer is in the middle. Not many people train in the FAA minimum amount of time. In fact, generally speaking, between the Robinson helicopters and the Schweizer, most students usually take more time in the Schweizer to solo and attain their Private license, due to the nature of the manual throttle. Not a factor for experienced pilots, but something for the novice to consider. Here is an adjusted chart which reflects a real world assessment:
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When choosing a helicopter flight school in the Boston Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire area, we recommend visiting all the schools, looking over their equipment, instructors, maintenance facilities, and scheduling. Choose the school that's right for you!