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MD500 vs BH206 vs R44

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Having about 2300 TT in mostly MEL fixed wing and just over 100 TT in an Enstrom 280FX I have decided that fixed wing cross-country flying is too darn boring and I am going to devote my time to the helicopter world and move up to a 4 place helicopter with more speed and power. (Plus my flying missions have changed from lots of business trips to both coasts with several people to mostly local or short flights. The utility of the helicopter is great for my wife's ranching family and some good friends of mine in the banking world.)

 

Budget constrains me to the 70's era MD500 or BH206 in the turbine world or a relatively new R44 staying with pistons. I normally fly by myself, love long cross-country flying low and slow (I flew the Enstrom from Nebraska to Las Vegas and back across the mountains and had a great time) and love to introduce people to the wonderful world of helicopters.

 

I would love something that can do 110 knots or more, has enough power to lift 3 or 4 people from a 3300' airport that gets to 6000' DA in the summer, is fun to fly and has as low as maintenance as possible.

 

I am not a total newbie to the helicopter world - I was a FE on Chinooks in the Army and owned the Enstrom for a year+. I have also owned several different business twin and single fixed wing airplanes.

 

While not timid in heart I have become a lot wiser in the head and would like to get the opinion of those of you who have the experience.

 

Namely:

 

There are several 70's MD500s for sale in the 300k to 400k range. Some actually seem to have pretty good times. The 70's BH206 birds have a lot more TT and usually worse component times than the MDs. But I owned a 65 Beech 18 that had the the not so low TT of 7700 hours that was absolutely the best, most reliable airplane I have ever owned. So - does the same hold true for helicopters? Is a 206 with 10,000 TT or more but with decent times still a good bird? How does it compare to a MD500 with 4000 TT and pretty good remaining times?

 

From a flying standpoint - Would you suggest the MD or the Bell for my first turbine? Which has lower maintenance and operational costs?

 

A near new R44 is not to be overlooked but I really feel the need to smell some JP4 at dawn again. However there are actually a few minutes per day that I actually think with my upper brain which tells me that the R44 is probably the best answer. Anybody have any thoughts on this?

 

I have a good day job right now but a dream of mine is to fly tours in my golden years somplace close to where my daughter decides to go to college or settle down. (I love to take people up and show them the world from 300 or 500'.) It seems to me that getting some turbine time while I have a day job would be better for this goal but the R44 is getting more and more popular with the tour people. However it seems that the MD and 206 series are still the market leader. Which do you think would be better to build several hundred hours in - a turbine or a R44?

 

Insurance is a real PITA but seems to be relatively equal for all three. The R44 would probably be far less maintenance. The MD is the fastest and appears to offer the greatest turbine bang for the buck in my price range. The Bell appears to be the more mainstream choice.

 

What would you do?

 

Many thanks,

 

Kevin

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my biased opinion is for the 206, being an old huey mechanic i'm quite partial to the bells.

that being said, the 206 has a very long history of safety and reliability, with plenty of parts available (when the military is not scarfing them up) the are lots of 206's out there with 10k, 20k, & 30k hour on the airframe.

that are still flying safely today.

 

fly safe

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:) Well TD1, I think if your going to spend time around the 6,000' da altitudes, you would be eliminating the R44 right away. You have to look at variables also in speed and comfort. The 500 is an overall faster aircraft, but as far as comfort and elbow room, it is sorly lacking. And with out a belly pod, cargo capacity is limited. You will find that as the C-20B has little deration, it starts to temp out at 5000'+. DOC will be higher, and make sure you look for maintenance and parts support where you may operate the aircraft. And trust me, as I have 4,900 hours in 500's, I have a real love for the aircraft, in a utility role. 67N is bang on with his assesment of the 206. For flat out reliability, and reasonable DOC, the 206 is hard to beat. Passenger comfort and visibility is also hard to over look. Have you also looked at an older Astar perhaps?

 

Any ways, hope this gives you some "food for thought", good luck and happy (and safe) flying.....

Cheers, H56

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Well an aircraft with 10000 hours on the frame should not worry you to much, after all in order to get to that point, the aircraft needed to be taken good care of. While I would take a 206 anyday of the week over the two others that was mentioned, the bottom line is going to be what machine will do what you want to do most of the time, how much the costs are going to be to operate and how much the insruance is going to cost you. Its going to be the insurance that is going to be the kicker, 100 hours of helicopter time while better than no time is still a little low on the scale for the insurance people. That is just a fact of life. I think you should keep flying that Enstrom for a while, at least for another year or two. This way you get your time up some what, and having a few years track record with insurance will make the price quote a little less of sticker shock. Bell has way better support than MD and a first rate factory school for check outs and recurrent training.

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If you are at all funds-limited, this is a no-brainer - the R44 will take quite a bit more time to make you broke than any turbine alternative.

 

I am sooo with you on smelling Jet-A (for me, it's actually the spooling-up sound of a turbine - nothing else gets my attention quicker), and I'd be a very happy guy if I could do an MD500E, but sanity and practicality and most importantly budget reduces the list to the R44, and a Raven I at that. (It is still something that will remain a dream for me for quite a while or perhaps forever, unless that rich uncle that I never knew but adored me dies and leaves me his estate. I have done a lot of family tree research at ancestry.com and his name has still not popped up...)

 

If you are well-off enough to absorb the worst that a 100 hour or annual inspection or the latest AD can dish out, then maybe you can justify the Kerosene Vibe. If not, the Robbies have a pretty good record of going from 100hr to 100hr without an undue amount of wallet pain - at least based on what I've read and vicariously experienced via the R44 operators that I know.

 

best of luck,

 

Dave Blevins

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Look at an Alouette.

bossman

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:) Well TD1, I think if your going to spend time around the 6,000' da altitudes, you would be eliminating the R44 right away. You have to look at variables also in speed and comfort. The 500 is an overall faster aircraft, but as far as comfort and elbow room, it is sorly lacking. And with out a belly pod, cargo capacity is limited. You will find that as the C-20B has little deration, it starts to temp out at 5000'+. DOC will be higher, and make sure you look for maintenance and parts support where you may operate the aircraft. And trust me, as I have 4,900 hours in 500's, I have a real love for the aircraft, in a utility role. 67N is bang on with his assesment of the 206. For flat out reliability, and reasonable DOC, the 206 is hard to beat. Passenger comfort and visibility is also hard to over look. Have you also looked at an older Astar perhaps?

 

Any ways, hope this gives you some "food for thought", good luck and happy (and safe) flying.....

Cheers, H56

 

I completely disagree with this post. Why would he be eliminating the R-44?? I trained at 5000' up in Prescott, AZ and I never had any power issues at all. As a matter of fact, I did an IFR XC flight up to the Grand Canyon at 10,000', 100KIAS, and had no problems. For the money you can get a fully loaded, brand new R-44 instead of a 30 yr old 500 or 206. Anyway, there's my 2 cents...

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IMHO, a R44 Raven II would be the best bird to go with. I operated one at high altitude, 6,200' field elevation, with DA's approaching 10,000' in the summertime and was quite impressed with the performance. We could load all seats and while we did not take on full fuel, we had plenty of power to carry 90 minutes of fuel without a problem. We were doing tours and pulled 19-20 inches of manifold pressure to cruise at 75-80 knots. Something to remember, just because a helicopter has a turbine engine, it doesn't mean that it has good hot/high altitude capabilities.

 

While I too love the smell of kerosene in the morning, the cost of maintaining a 30 year old aircraft can be quite substantial. And, as you pointed out, insurance can be quite a pain in the posterior. Insurance through Pathfinder for the R44 with a hull of $300,000 was about $14k per year. A flight school owner that I know gave up on his B206 and one of the main reasons was the $60k per year the insurance was costing him.

 

So, unless you have a pretty large piggy bank, which you may have...the R44 Raven II would be what I would go with.

 

Just my two-cents.

 

Doug

Edited by HH60Pilot

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You are going to have a VERY tough time finding [affordable] insurance on a turbine helicopter. Most will require that you have 200-500 hours turbine time. If you have time in fixed-wing turbines, that might count.

 

Like the other poster said, you're looking a $50k a year minimum before you take into account that you're a low-timer.

 

The R44RII will work just fine for you. Last year I flew an Raven II around Mt. Charles in Nevada at 11,000 ft with 3 people and nearly full fuel.....no problems. I've never flown at altitudes that high in a helicopter before, so I don't have much to compare it to. However, at the lower altitudes I'm used to, it had tons of power.

 

I flew and maintained an R44 on a single pilot 135 operation for about 5 years. Maintenance cost was next to nothing. About the only thing I had to do on the airframe was about every 500 hrs replace TR pitch links, TR teeter bearings, track & balance, and change the GBs' oil. We had an old Astro, so I did have to adjust that stupid automatic trim system about every 50 hrs. Thank god they rid of that for the hydraulics.

 

The only real, somewhat heavy maintenance I ever did on that helicopter was on the engine. Cylinder replacement, valve guide reaming, mag rebuiling, countless alternator replacements, etc. I had the same experience on the 10+ R22s we had over the years.

 

Because of all that, the good news is that your local A&P will be able to maintain this machine for you. Go to the maintenance school to learn what to look for on inspections and you'll be set. There are some special tools you may need, but there's only about 25 total, and you just buy them as you need them. Not like Bell's 400+ page book of special tools.

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Thank you for all of the great input.

 

Insurance for the turbines is more expensive, according to the quotes I have received, but not as horrible as I feared. I have been quoted 16-20K for a 300C piston worth 175k; 22-25k for a R44 worth 300k; and 26-32k for either a MD500 or BH206 worth 375k. Interestingly enough the quote for the MD was slightly less than the 206. I would have guessed the other way. I would need to get 25 hours of dual in the turbines and take a transition course. I have to take the factory R44 course and 20 hours of dual in the R44.

 

For curiosity sakes I inquired what it would cost to do part 91 tours in the turbine and was quoted 68-80k!!! I sincerely feel for you who run helicopters on commercial operations! (I do have a couple hundred of hours in a turboprop fixed wing and I have been with the insurance agent for a lot of years which may have helped reduce the delta to going to a turbine.)

 

I have spent a great deal of time reading through the forums and it appears that I may not need turbine time to one day fly tours, especially if I get over 1000 TT in helicopters. That would definitely lean things towards the R44 as I know it will be, by far, the cheapest aircraft to own and run.

 

I have done some looking at the Alouette II and III. It seems a bit too good to be true. It appears as if you can buy one for 100 - 250k with decent times and the III has great high and hot specs. However I have learned that there usually is a reason for an airplane type to be much cheaper than their popular counterparts - I assume the same is true here.

 

Why are they so cheap? Hard to find or expensive parts? Poor safety record? Poor performance? My research so far seems OK in the safety and performance areas though. There has to be something I am missing.

 

Kevin

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TechDev-

 

I would encourage you to consider contacting a resource that specializes in this type of subject - personally, I recommend Ron or Shannon Bower (512) 345-1292 @ Bower Helicopters. The purchase of a helicopter, even for personal use, is a very major investment. I agree with many of the posts - some technical, some opinion - but ultimately, you will be the one to spend the money and bear the operating costs. IMHO, it would be worth the call just to discuss some of your desires and concerns that have been discussed here.

 

-WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

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Even though I am a 500 owner and pilot I think arotrhd is correct you have to think long and hard about the use you are buying the machine fore!

The 500 is not the most practical if you are flying people for sightseeing the forward vision from the rear is not good, but a lot of people use them, if you want speed, (some customers just want to get there quick) good survivability in an accident it could be the way to go.

Personally I love the thing tried the 206 nice floor plan, tried a 44 Lycasorus just did not like it,could be it kept reminding me of a 22.

Any way I like more than 2 blades on my fan.

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Thank you for all of the great input.

 

Insurance for the turbines is more expensive, according to the quotes I have received, but not as horrible as I feared. I have been quoted 16-20K for a 300C piston worth 175k; 22-25k for a R44 worth 300k; and 26-32k for either a MD500 or BH206 worth 375k. Interestingly enough the quote for the MD was slightly less than the 206. I would have guessed the other way. I would need to get 25 hours of dual in the turbines and take a transition course. I have to take the factory R44 course and 20 hours of dual in the R44.

 

For curiosity sakes I inquired what it would cost to do part 91 tours in the turbine and was quoted 68-80k!!! I sincerely feel for you who run helicopters on commercial operations! (I do have a couple hundred of hours in a turboprop fixed wing and I have been with the insurance agent for a lot of years which may have helped reduce the delta to going to a turbine.)

 

I have spent a great deal of time reading through the forums and it appears that I may not need turbine time to one day fly tours, especially if I get over 1000 TT in helicopters. That would definitely lean things towards the R44 as I know it will be, by far, the cheapest aircraft to own and run.

 

I have done some looking at the Alouette II and III. It seems a bit too good to be true. It appears as if you can buy one for 100 - 250k with decent times and the III has great high and hot specs. However I have learned that there usually is a reason for an airplane type to be much cheaper than their popular counterparts - I assume the same is true here.

 

Why are they so cheap? Hard to find or expensive parts? Poor safety record? Poor performance? My research so far seems OK in the safety and performance areas though. There has to be something I am missing.

 

Kevin

The Alouette's have a great performance and safety record. The parts are not hard to find, it just takes a little longer if you have to get something from France. Eurocopter still supports most of the parts. Bell has launched a political campaign to keep them out of standard category. They did the same with the MI-2 helicopter. The ones that are in standard now, will probably be the last. You can still get them in experimental or restricted. As far as I am concerned, they are one of the finest ships out there. There were many built. There are still many flying. We teach in the Alouette ll 3130. It burns a little more fuel, but you'll not find a more reliable engine in the industry. The only drawback is it takes a little more time to get parts from overseas. We are learning what to keep in stock.

bossman

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IMHO, a R44 Raven II would be the best bird to go with. I operated one at high altitude, 6,200' field elevation, with DA's approaching 10,000' in the summertime and was quite impressed with the performance. We could load all seats and while we did not take on full fuel, we had plenty of power to carry 90 minutes of fuel without a problem. We were doing tours and pulled 19-20 inches of manifold pressure to cruise at 75-80 knots. Something to remember, just because a helicopter has a turbine engine, it doesn't mean that it has good hot/high altitude capabilities.

 

While I too love the smell of kerosene in the morning, the cost of maintaining a 30 year old aircraft can be quite substantial. And, as you pointed out, insurance can be quite a pain in the posterior. Insurance through Pathfinder for the R44 with a hull of $300,000 was about $14k per year. A flight school owner that I know gave up on his B206 and one of the main reasons was the $60k per year the insurance was costing him.

 

So, unless you have a pretty large piggy bank, which you may have...the R44 Raven II would be what I would go with.

 

Just my two-cents.

 

Doug

Well I guess if your flying airport to airport it is probably fine. We tried to use one as a support ship in the mountains around the 5,000 to 6,000 ft range (logging support) and it was pathetic. The pilot had to cut back to two passengers and sometimes one, depending on how much gear was along, and/or if the pilot had to vertical in and out through tall trees to some of the helipads. The aircraft definitely demonstrated poor OGE capabilities. Some of the slinging required a 250' longline, and if winds were unfavourable, payloads were poor.

The same pilot, of whom we have used quite often returned with a 206 to finish the job, with little problems I guess my point is, as a private and or small corporate aircraft it's fine. As a working commercial ship, we were far from impressed.

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Well I guess if your flying airport to airport it is probably fine. We tried to use one as a support ship in the mountains around the 5,000 to 6,000 ft range (logging support) and it was pathetic. The pilot had to cut back to two passengers and sometimes one, depending on how much gear was along, and/or if the pilot had to vertical in and out through tall trees to some of the helipads. The aircraft definitely demonstrated poor OGE capabilities. Some of the slinging required a 250' longline, and if winds were unfavourable, payloads were poor.

The same pilot, of whom we have used quite often returned with a 206 to finish the job, with little problems I guess my point is, as a private and or small corporate aircraft it's fine. As a working commercial ship, we were far from impressed.

There's a reason why recips no longer hold the light helicopter altitude record...

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Any way I like more than 2 blades on my fan.

 

Yeah - me too.

 

The 500E is my dream helicopter. Someday....

 

I bounced maintaining a MD or Bell turbine off of our local A&P and he just gulped. After a short conversation it became pretty clear that he doesn't really want to do so. He has heard a lot of tales about how complex they are. Oh well - As Dirty Harry said "A man has to know his limitations."

 

The R44 perked him up though. He thought it would be fun to maintain one of those.

 

I am beginning to believe that the turbine is just not in the cars right now. Because of budgetary issues I need to get a pretty old one which would be harder to maintain. I don't have experienced maintenance on the field or even within a couple of hundred miles. Insurance is 50 to 100% more and it burns twice the fuel. So any fool can see that the turbine is the right helicopter! No, No - I mean the piston.

 

JP4 in the morning will have to wait awhile longer or I guess I could always join the Army again. :o

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Well I guess if your flying airport to airport it is probably fine. We tried to use one as a support ship in the mountains around the 5,000 to 6,000 ft range (logging support) and it was pathetic. The pilot had to cut back to two passengers and sometimes one, depending on how much gear was along, and/or if the pilot had to vertical in and out through tall trees to some of the helipads. The aircraft definitely demonstrated poor OGE capabilities. Some of the slinging required a 250' longline, and if winds were unfavourable, payloads were poor.

The same pilot, of whom we have used quite often returned with a 206 to finish the job, with little problems I guess my point is, as a private and or small corporate aircraft it's fine. As a working commercial ship, we were far from impressed.

 

If you look at what the intented use of the helo is for, than the R44 would be a great ship to use. I don't seem to remember the original poster asking what ship to use for logging support. Most every ship has a mission that it is best suited for, and IMHO, the R44 is probably the best ship for the mission in question by the original poster, especially when factoring in DOC and fixed costs.

 

Just me and my two-cents again.

 

Doug

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Have you considered an Enstrom 480. I operate one in the U.K. it has the same Rolls Royce engine as the 206 and is an excellent turbine machine. I have some articles on them in pdf format if you would like them.

 

Joel Tobias

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Have you considered an Enstrom 480.

 

Yes I have and I really liked the 280FX I had. Enstroms are good birds. Unfortunately I have never seen one for sale for less than the 550k which I can't afford. I have also considered the S330/333. A 330 that had been upgraded with the 333 blades and transmission was for sale last month for 330k which was tempting but it appears to have sold.

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