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Bell 206 for Scenic Tours


chriso
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Hello,

 

From those of you who've been there and done that, what is your impression of passenger satisafction from scenic tours in Jetrangers? I have a small boat tour company and am thinking of branching out. A used 206 seems like a pretty good match for me in all other ways. I'd hate to find out after the fact that what I think may be an option to help defray some operating costs was limited by virtue of its design / visibility or something. Thanks, Chris

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Well there is an operator in the Grand Canyon, that pretty much invented the helitour business. They been doing rides there for 40 years now. They pretty much have an all bell 206 fleet. There is one helicopter tour operation on the Northern Oregen Coast, they seem to do real well with a b-3. The 206 is a good aircraft to start with. And better yet you can make money with one.

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The 206 is a lot more roomy than the R44, especially in the back seat. The view out is about the same in both. At max cruise, most R44s I've flown are smoother than most 206's I've flown. With the same load (say 650 lbs and fuel for 1.5 hours), the R44 loses most of its speed advantage. The doors on the R44 are MUCH easier to close from the inside. The center-mounted cyclic in the R44 is easy for a passenger to grab. The chin bubble in the 206 is really cool. You can buy a brand-new R44 Raven II for the price of a servicable used 206BIII.

 

In the end, it's personal choice. The 206 is a tough and willing workhorse - roomy and a solid ride. The R44 is economical, reliable, and push-button easy.

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I guess the comparison I'm more able to understand is looking at the 206 as compared to an A-Star or Eco-Star from the passenger experience point of view. I have no personal observations regarding a 206 in this light, but have firsthand knowledge of the passenger reactions following tours in the Eurocopters. However, the obvious increased expense would put me in a position where I'd really have to succeed in this venture or give up the ship should it flop, as opposed to a 206 where I could possibly justify keeping it for personal use... or, if it takes a few years to develope the tour thing, it'd be more easily affordable to hang onto the 206. Either way it's a big financial commitment for a guy like me. I just don't want to go out on a limb and purchase a 206 having the thought in the back of my mind that using it in this fashion is a real possibility and will really catch on with all our local booking venues, then find out after the fact that it was foolishness to even hope for it. Where we operate our other tour business (boats), there is truly spectacular, breathtaking scenery, and only one other heli operator in the area. Our normal group size we find ourselves booking for the boats is groups of 2 or 4, so I think we could fill a 206 up for the flights, (am I right in thinking the R-44 only hauls 3 passengers?) Starting out, I wonder about being able to consistently fill an A-Star to capacity with paying passengers. We have a far superior roadside visibility location on a hugely traveled highway compared to the other heli guy being several miles off the beaten path. With the built in booking mechanism we already possess, and our location, I think we can drum up some real business for heli's if I have the nerve to tackle it. Anyway, I appreciate all the great info to digest here. Could I get the name of that outfit flying the 206's in the Grand Canyon? Thanks again, Chris

Edited by chriso
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You know, I really appreciate your guys insight on this topic, you've got some great advice... I did as you suggested and started running some numbers and got some ballpark insurance numbers... as you well know, its pretty much a gamble and takes a lot of cash to ante in. I actually wound up visiting with one of the local 135 operators and am starting to think I might best test the waters on this idea by contracting him... If my booking mechanism comes through as I hope, I can easily afford to pay him, if not, the amount invested up front is actually significantly less. (And it's much easier to walk away from if I'm all off base somehow) The bummer of the whole thing is that if I go this way, I don't wind up owning a helicopter and get to fly a bunch for at least another year! (almost unacceptable!) Anyway, I'll keep you posted. (unless I come up with a host of more questions first!) Thanks again, Chris

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