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Want to do a surprise helicopter proposal - but scared of inherent risks!?


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Hi Guys

 

I have planned to hire a LA helicopter charter company to do a helicopter proposal. They mainly use Robinson R44s and I think a Bell for larger group.

 

Anyhow, the basic idea is the helicopter will carry her and 2 friends to a rooftop. There, I will be waiting for her to do the proposal.

 

My concern is the safety of the Robinson R44, reliability, and the risks in general. The company doesn't seem to have much issues but I can't help but think about all those accidents I read world-wide, especially with the bad reputation of the R44.

 

Should I fork over the money and just ask them to upgrade us to the Bell helicopter? Is that going to be any safer?

 

I guess I just can't live with the idea that I'm putting three young girls in a chopper 500 feet in the idea and anything that occurs is something I will have to live with for the rest of the darkest days of my life.

 

The surprising factors are that statistically, flying in a helicopter is 8X more likely to die than driving an automobile. If that is true, that is a risk I really don't like.

 

What are your thoughts people?

 

I have asked her girlfriends and they said it is a great idea and are willing to assume the risk for that wow factor. But still, money aside, how big of a risk are we talking about?

 

The other part that bothers me the most is that, there is only one pillot right?

 

I use to fly nitromethanol model helicopters. They were great and I could do aerobatic stuff. But even 4 foot long, they take a high degree of skill, focus, and concentration to hover and fly. So I understand for a pilot, the risk is even greater?

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The R44 is perfectly safe. It does not have a bad reputation. The low time people, who by default can only afford to fly Robinsons, either fly beyond their limitations, or the limitations of the aircraft, thereby crashing them. Most of the accidents you see in Robinsons are training accidents. Makes sense since Robinson owns the market when it comes to civil helicopter training . . . plus training flights have more inherent risk. Good helicopters rarely just fall out of the sky.

 

 

My credentials. ATP/CFII. 6000 hour career pilot. I have 1100 hours teaching in Robinsons. I have owned 3 myself and have flown my family in them. I say go for it.

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I don't have a lot of time in Robinsons, maybe about 10 hours. But from that brief time it felt every bit as solid as any other helicopter I have flown. They have their quirks. One is low "G". But for the most part that is pilot induced and can be easily avoided.

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Helicopters in general have a bad reputation in the eyes of the general public and on google depending on your search data. The R44 has a good reputation within the helicopter industry and they are bring utilized all over the world for many purposes that are much more intense and risky than what you are asking it to do.

 

The risks are low if the flight is planned and executed professionaly. If you are ok with putting your loved one on a helicopter then you shouldn't worry about it being a 44. I would be more concerned with the person flying the machine. Ask to meet the pilot and to see the aircraft. Most helicopters are single pilot aircraft. An experienced commercial helicopter pilot can easily handle the physical skills to pilot the aircraft and the concentration level is actually pretty low but I would inquire about how many hours he or she has and if they have ever landed on a rooftop. Usually new pilots build time in Robinson helicopters so just ask him what the experience level is. Something like 500 hours will show that there is at least some experience.

 

Is it a big high rise in the city with other tall buildings around it or a house? Is it in a neighborhood with power lines? Can the rooftop hold 2,500 pounds? There are some things to consider when making such a landing. Does the company land on rooftops often?

 

If the pilot is experienced and professional I would not worry about it.

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Hi Guys

 

I have planned to hire a LA helicopter charter company to do a helicopter proposal. They mainly use Robinson R44s and I think a Bell for larger group.

 

Anyhow, the basic idea is the helicopter will carry her and 2 friends to a rooftop. There, I will be waiting for her to do the proposal.

 

My concern is the safety of the Robinson R44, reliability, and the risks in general. The company doesn't seem to have much issues but I can't help but think about all those accidents I read world-wide, especially with the bad reputation of the R44.

 

Should I fork over the money and just ask them to upgrade us to the Bell helicopter? Is that going to be any safer?

 

I guess I just can't live with the idea that I'm putting three young girls in a chopper 500 feet in the idea and anything that occurs is something I will have to live with for the rest of the darkest days of my life.

 

The surprising factors are that statistically, flying in a helicopter is 8X more likely to die than driving an automobile. If that is true, that is a risk I really don't like.

 

What are your thoughts people?

 

I have asked her girlfriends and they said it is a great idea and are willing to assume the risk for that wow factor. But still, money aside, how big of a risk are we talking about?

 

The other part that bothers me the most is that, there is only one pillot right?

 

I use to fly nitromethanol model helicopters. They were great and I could do aerobatic stuff. But even 4 foot long, they take a high degree of skill, focus, and concentration to hover and fly. So I understand for a pilot, the risk is even greater?

 

Fly them to a rooftop? Is there a helipad? If not, what's the plan? I wouldn't hover over a non-helipad roof, much less land on one (11,000+ hours, flown since 1968).

Is everybody proficient in "signing"? Helos aren't as loud as public perception, but too loud for normal conversation between occupants and you on the roof. Even with a proper helipad, you'll want to leave the immediate vicinity or have the aircraft shutdown, or start your marriage hollering at each other.

How about a tour operator that uses pads at scenic locations? Even if you're in good sized city dusk and/or dawn are, in my opinion, beautiful times when the lights stand out, buildings and a good sky providing nice natural light...

 

If you've picked a reputable operator, I wouldn't worry about using an R44 or a single pilot being an excessive risk. How does she feel about helicopters? Lots of people, including my ex-wife and my current wife do not like riding in them.

Edited by Wally
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Hi Everyone

 

thanks for the responses.

It is a popular LA charter company, Orbic Air. I've called a lot of LA Hotels and they all say they contract out their helipad services and charter services to them.

 

They have an exclusive package to land on a rooftop building in LA with a helipad for several minutes. Allows me to do my proposal and have some champagne. They also have ones where they land on mountain hill tops in Malibu.

 

From the pictures of the building that I can see, I do not see major power lines or anything. There is no structures around that large building that they are planning to land.

 

My concern is not just my fiance. It's also the two girls that I'm asking to go on with her.

 

I know it really just comes down to the pilot's skills. But how safe, dangerous, or how risky is this kind of charter?

 

All I'm asking them to do is fly them from the airport and they'll take a tour around santa monica and then head to downtown where the rooftop drop will be. The ride should be no more than 30-40 minutes.

 

My girlfriend has more balls than me. I don't think she will mind a chopper because she said she would love to go on hot air balloon. But I think that's probably even more dangerous. I've seen where the hot air balloon catches fire, and it's game over. For a helicopter, I guess you still got autorotation. Between a hot air balloon or chopper, I'd choose the chopper. But then between a cessna and chopper, I'm also not too sure. We have lots of cessna crashes here in LA too.

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I wouldnt sweat the safety issue....... honestly what you are doing is pretty common and pretty "routine" .... at least routine for a pilot. But definitely bring up your concerns with Orbic. Helicopters charter operators are used to working with customers who don't fly often, or at all. A lot of us working pilots tend to forget its a big deal to a lot of people. I fly planes and helicopters for living.... If I had to chose an engine failure in one or the other... Id take an engine failure in a helicopter any day over an airplane.

Edited by Flying Pig
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Interesting that you'd come on a helicopter board to ask if helicopters are safe.

More interesting that the administrator would be the first to reply and then say that "the R44 is PERFECTLY safe".... and that "it does not have a bad reputation"

 

Flying in a helicopter does have a higher risk than driving in a car. Flying in a Robinson R44 has a higher risk than some other helicopters. I guess I'm the only one who agrees the Robinson has a bad reputation.

 

How big of a risk is sending her in that R44 with her friends? I guess based on your stats it would be like sending her down the 405, east on the 10, north east on the 110, northwest on the 5, west on the 134, north on the 170, northwest on the 5, west on the 118 and south again on the 405... repeat that 8 times without having an accident.

 

As far as having only one pilot... very few helicopter operations will have 2 pilots. These are risks you could mitigate by talking more with the helicopter operator personally. If you chose the Bell helicopter they could possibly have 2 pilots and still have room for the 3 girls.

 

Good luck.

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I guess I just can't live with the idea that I'm putting three young girls in a chopper 500 feet in the idea and anything that occurs is something I will have to live with for the rest of the darkest days of my life.

 

If flying helicopters was so dangerous, why would pilots do it?

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Hi Everyone

 

thanks for the responses.

It is a popular LA charter company, Orbic Air. I've called a lot of LA Hotels and they all say they contract out their helipad services and charter services to them.

 

They have an exclusive package to land on a rooftop building in LA with a helipad for several minutes. Allows me to do my proposal and have some champagne. They also have ones where they land on mountain hill tops in Malibu.

 

From the pictures of the building that I can see, I do not see major power lines or anything. There is no structures around that large building that they are planning to land.

 

My concern is not just my fiance. It's also the two girls that I'm asking to go on with her.

 

I know it really just comes down to the pilot's skills. But how safe, dangerous, or how risky is this kind of charter?

 

All I'm asking them to do is fly them from the airport and they'll take a tour around santa monica and then head to downtown where the rooftop drop will be. The ride should be no more than 30-40 minutes.

 

My girlfriend has more balls than me. I don't think she will mind a chopper because she said she would love to go on hot air balloon. But I think that's probably even more dangerous. I've seen where the hot air balloon catches fire, and it's game over. For a helicopter, I guess you still got autorotation. Between a hot air balloon or chopper, I'd choose the chopper. But then between a cessna and chopper, I'm also not too sure. We have lots of cessna crashes here in LA too.

 

If there is a helipad, there is usually a safe way in and out. Any pilot can land and takeoff from a rooftop. Shoot, even I've done it tens of thousands of time.

Like "Flying Pig" said, I'd rather have an engine failure in a helicopter than an airplane. Autorotation is a pre-solo maneuver. Not crazy about having an engine failure over a city...

One of the things that has an adverse effect on helicopter safety stats is the way they are used- to go to places without other transportation options. That often means no big, long, flat, landing areas designed particularly for aviation (airports). Helicopters are for landing in unimproved places- streets, fields, mountaintops, pretty much anywhere you can put a skid(s) with clearance for the rotor. Training pilots exposes them to those scenarios, as well.

A heli-tour around town and a landing on a rooftop pad has it's particular hazards, but it's much less risky than some other phases of the industry, the ones that make it, as you said "eight times more dangerous than cars".

Don't over-think it and hire a reputable pro.

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I'd be more worried about the passengers getting so excited and distracted by the helicopter flight and rooftop landing that they forget to follow the pilot's instructions on exiting the helicopter. The R44 is safe and reliable, passengers are not. Review crew safety around helicopters.

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My concern is the safety of the Robinson R44, reliability, and the risks in general. The company doesn't seem to have much issues but I can't help but think about all those accidents I read world-wide, especially with the bad reputation of the R44.

 

Should I fork over the money and just ask them to upgrade us to the Bell helicopter? Is that going to be any safer?

 

I guess I just can't live with the idea that I'm putting three young girls in a chopper 500 feet in the idea and anything that occurs is something I will have to live with for the rest of the darkest days of my life.

 

 

 

My concern is not just my fiance. It's also the two girls that I'm asking to go on with her.

 

I know it really just comes down to the pilot's skills. But how safe, dangerous, or how risky is this kind of charter?

 

 

The R44 with an experienced pilot surely has the capability to safely complete that simple rooftop landing. However, the Bell would be a much nicer experience over the R44, if you were willing to pay the extra cost.

 

ScreenShot2014-10-31at40705PM_zpsdf69abd

 

A NASA study of rotorcraft accidents was conducted to identify safety issues and research areas that might lead to a reduction in rotorcraft accidents and fatalities. The primary source of data was summaries of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports.

 

From 1990 to 1996, the NTSB documented 1396 civil rotorcraft accidents in the United States in which 491 people were killed. The rotorcraft data were compared to airline and general aviation data to determine the relative safety of rotorcraft compared to other segments of the aviation industry.

 

In depth analysis of the rotorcraft data addressed demographics, mission, and operational factors. Rotorcrafts were found to have an accident rate about ten times that of commercial airliners and about the same as that of general aviation.

 

The likelihood that an accident would be fatal was about equal for all three classes of operation. The most dramatic division in rotorcraft accidents is between flights flown by private pilots versus professional pilots.

 

Private pilots, flying low cost aircraft in benign environments, have accidents that are due, in large part, to their own errors. Professional pilots, in contrast, are more likely to have accidents that are a result of exacting missions or use of specialized equipment. For both groups judgment error is more likely to lead to a fatal accident than are other types of causes.

 

There are three factors that might determine the helicopter accident rate: pilot, equipment and control environment. To break these out we examine different categories of helicopters. As we move from lower cost helicopters to higher cost helicopters, the equipment becomes more sophisticated and the pilots "more highly trained and experienced. Control environment, on the other hand, is relatively constant, regardless of aircraft cost.

 

Using these numbers as estimates of total usage in each category, the accident rate for the low cost was more than five times that for the very high cost category. The difference in accident rate between low cost and very high cost helicopters is not attributable to environment since both groups fly mostly uncontrolled and mostly VFR. Rather the difference can be attributed to differences in pilots and equipment.

 

NASA U.S. Civil Rotorcraft Accidents, 1963 Through 1997

NASA An Analysis of U.S. Civil Rotorcraft Accidents by Cost and Injury

The Implications of Handling Qualities in Civil Helicopter Accidents Involving Hover and Low Speed Flight

Edited by iChris
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