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So many questions


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Hello everyone,

I have been mulling over this idea for quite some time. I have many questions and would appreciate as much feedback as possible.

Here’s the deal:

I am looking to start a tourism company in either Central America or South America. Location yet to be decided. I have always wanted to move somewhere and start my own business. A hostel, restaurant or bar just seems boring and well, not for me. I think this could be a great fit.

My current set up:

I work a decent job and make decent pay in an unrelated field. I’d like to get lessons and learn how to fly slowly over the next few years. ~3 years.


1) Honest opinion —> Is a small fixed wing plane better suited for this (learning, cost, ease of use). FYI I am asking the same questions in a fixed-wing forum to see the differing opinions. :D

2) What type of lessons do I need? Most training courses offer private and commercial lessons. Given the low key nature of this "commercial" enterprise do I really need the commercial lessons or would private acceptable?

3) Does anyone know how insurance would work on a commercial vehicle in a different country?

4) Keeping the chopper on the property. Is that a bad idea? Should I keep it at a hanger? This was also a factor for me considering chopper > fixed wing


5) What haven’t I thought of? I’m sure there’s LOTS. I’m at an information gathering stage right now so please let me know ALL your questions, opinions, concerns.

Thanks in advance!


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1. Fixed wing will be cheaper and easier to learn. Just won't be as good to do tours in (My opinion)


2. It would be advisable to get your commercial license. The extra practice will make you a more competent pilot. As for the legality of running a commercial enterprise without a commercial license, that'll be a matter for whatever country's legal system to interpret.


3. No idea.


4. Depends on where you keep it I suppose. I'd imagine you should have a hangar nearby for maintenance if nothing else.


5. If I were you I'd try to get in touch with some lower end tour companies here in the states and try to pick their brain about running a 1 helicopter tour business. What issues did they run into, what were the true operating costs of their helicopter. Get a real idea of what you're getting into.

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Ask the manufacturers of potential types (R44, R66, Airbus Helicopters, Bell) for their "operating costs" and add a fudge factor. Decide if you want piston or turbine, new or used. R44, JetRanger, Astar, EC120, S76, whatever.

Get a commercial licence, don't try to cut costs on the quality of your training.

Taking 3 years to train will add a lot to your costs, as you won't have continuity to help brain retention.

Allow for having an unusual type in a weird country where parts support and nearby maintenance might be a bit hard to find. This will increase your on-ground time, where the costs of owning continue but there is no income incoming.

Allow for ridiculous insurance costs to cover a zero-time pilot in a weird country.

Allow for costs of getting it there. And getting you and family there, and living there. Medical costs for sick kids.


Why not stay in your comfort zone, but learn to fly anyway and then hire a machine whenever you get the urge. You might find that it isn't your forte and you will be glad you didn't jump into the deep end wearing a weight belt.

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I am looking to start a tourism company in either Central America or South America. Location yet to be decided. I have always wanted to move somewhere and start my own business. A hostel, restaurant or bar just seems boring and well, not for me. I think this could be a great fit.


As sexy and exciting as aviation may look, don’t get too emotional, take a step back and take a better look. It may not be what it appears to be. Concentrate on the business, the failure to do so, is the reason for many failures. Some forget, business first, pilot second. Answers to some of your questions will become clearer as you progress in the process.


How are you going to be any better than the companies already there? You’ll need to spend lots of time in Central and South America, if you haven’t already, getting familiar with that market in depth. You’ll also need to think about maintaining your aircraft. Since you don’t hold an A&P, who’s doing your general maintenance and inspections?


Some aspiring new pilots, hopefully not you, looking for light at the end of the tunnel, often see that they won’t be able to easily get a job, think they’ll just start their own business as a kind of shortcut to a career in aviation.


If you think that starting your own air tour business is a quick and easy, money-saving way to build a career as a pilot, think again. It’s a pitfall that many have fallen into. Again, you’ll need to concentrate on building a business first not piloting. There’s a whole gaggle of pilots out there for hire willing to work for minimum wage to do the piloting.


Now, the reality. The days of casually starting a tour operation on the basis of walk-in charters is no longer realistic. Fixed costs have become increasingly high along with increased regulations, staffing, and facility requirements. Without some type of fixed contract, the business soon become unsustainable.


What does this all mean? To continue on, you’ll need to put more-and-more cash into the business. Many endeavors you see and think are successful, have a deep-pocket partner or somebody continually infusing cash to keep the business going as a tax write-off or money laundering schemes.


That’s another avenue, the dark-side, individuals are known to have made millions of dollars as participants in money laundry schemes in connection with helicopter operations in Central & South America. Cartels are looking for people just like you. However, you can’t be faint of heart, Once you're in you're in.


It’s going to be a rough road unless you identify and fit yourself into a niche markets or win some type of contract that provides stable cash flow to cover fixed costs and hopefully enough leftover for-profit.

Edited by iChris
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