WHY SHOULD (MUST) YOUR FIRST HELICOPTER BE A SINGLE PLACE?
Having been around since the very beginning of the sport helicopter movement, I have had the opportunity to evaluate numerous successes and failures with this equipment.
During the 23 years I managed Rotorway, we sold between 2,500 & 2,800 ships and trained about 1200 pilots at our "Sky Center." I was fortunate to be personally involved with scores of these customers. Every instructor knows that the real thrill in doing something well is in sharing it with someone else and this has been my Personal pleasure as well.
I could easily write a book filled with examples of the experiences of past customers, but we don't have space within this answer. I'll confine my comments to some very basic observations, and then conclude with 3 solid reasons why your first helicopter must be a single place machine.
1. An individual who purchases a kit helicopter and fails to have the kind of experience that he visualized, will be lost to this market forever. You're 99.9% certain to have one shot at success in this area. Get all the facts that you can up front.
2. Very few potential purchasers have the correct vision of what the kit helicopter is or isn't and what it's capabilities are. They view all helicopters alike, with little thought given to the huge differences between a certified Jet Ranger and their choice of a kit helicopter. They mistakenly expect equal capability and performance to be the helicopter norm.
3. The majority of kit helicopter customers have no previous helicopter instruction. In their mind, they visualize themselves and their wife, or a buddy out flying over the countryside and having a ball. They do not understand helicopter complexity or cost and a two place machine is their only logical thought.
4. Good looks are and have always been the number one reason for kit helicopter purchase. Unfortunately, good looks have almost nothing to do with performance, reliability or longevity. I spent the first 10 years of my helicopter design and flight test career learning how to build a good looking, flight worthy machine. I then spent the next 25 learning how to make the helicopter last.
There are three major important reasons why your first Helicopter should be a single place.
I. It will take 200 or more hours logged to become a truly proficient helicopter pilot. During the first 50-100 hours the new student becomes more and more familiar with the machine. Instead of wondering whether he's in control of the machine, or whether the machine is in control of him, he begins to feel like he has finally become the master of this beast.
After 50-75 hours this tremendous feeling of mastery turns into a hint of cockiness. The student starts trying maneuvers that are further and further out, sooner or later the machine bites back. Usually, most early flight errors are minor, unfortunately it can be otherwise. In any case, this period is no time for the student to be carrying passengers.
After 150-200 hours the student begins to come of age, he's learning his limitations and the limitations of his machine. He's becoming a much more experienced and safer pilot. We should point out that commercial operators require 1000-1500 hours of experience for new hires. It takes a lot of hours to prove that you're insurable.
II. You may not have realized it before, but all helicopters have a cost to gross weight ratio. The ratio is greater in the commercial field, but in the kit market it's still over 2 to 1. The HELICYCLE© is the best example since it's the lowest priced quality single place. The top two, 2-place kit helicopters are both 2.3 times it's price.
The point is, why pay twice as much to gain the experience you need when you're statistically 70% certain to be moving on to a new hobby or venture in the next 3 or 4 years. If you're one of the 30% still involved, sell your HELICYCLE and buy a 2 seater. Past kit helicopters have had a poor resale value, just check the classifieds. The HELICYCLES© longevity is several times that of previous kits and should have a much better resale value than past equipment.
III. The overriding reason for your first helicopter being a single place is safety, both your safety and the safety of your passenger. I shudder to remember the times I watched legal but inexperienced pilots take off with a friend in one of my past designs, I don't plan to relive those scenarios this time around. Consider these facts:
A. The 2nd person is a 100% load increase not counting fuel and the helicopter feels like it's stuck in cement, pilot reactions must be quick as lightening in an emergency.
B. Fully loaded aircraft require much higher power settings. In a helicopter, loss of power at the higher power settings requires serious pilot finesse to insure a happy outcome. There is no substitute for experience.
C. Highly loaded components need careful monitoring. The pilot must have time to get to know his machine. There's going to be lots of mechanical stuff to learn and this is no time to have the added distraction of a passenger.
We know most newcomers think two-place and as the old saying goes, "the customer is always right." This is true for tennis shoes and TV's, but when it comes to aircraft, critical thinking can save your life.
NOTE: Pilot training and how it is to be acquired will be explained separately.