How Much Does a Helicopter Cost? | Ultimate Breakdown Guide

 September 16, 2019

Are you in the market for a corporate helicopter, private helicopter, or luxury helicopter? Then you’ll want to know “How much does a helicopter cost?” In this article, we’ll answer the question, “How much does a helicopter cost?” in terms of price and upkeep. Next, we’ll touch on how to finance a helicopter and four examples of private helicopter costs. Finally, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions and provide concluding remarks about the cost of owning a helicopter.

How Much Does a Helicopter Cost?

There is no doubt about it: Helicopters are a convenient form of point-to-point transportation. Naturally, a private helicopter ride is much faster than driving, especially between cities and airports. Furthermore, when you choose a luxury helicopter as your personal or business helicopter, you travel in style. Surprisingly, private helicopter cost profiles can start quite low – below $2 million even. However, a luxury helicopter’s price can quickly ascend to tens of millions. Read on to learn more about business helicopter price points and all-in private helicopter costs.

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Questions to Ask

To know how much to budget for the initial purchase of a helicopter, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much helicopter do I need?

Most helicopters have either one or two engines. Logically, two-engine helicopters are bigger, with more generous cabins, better performance, and superior weather capabilities. If traveling recreationally with family and friends, a single-engine helicopter can suffice. A twin-engine model might make a better choice for a business helicopter. Twin-engine helicopters are larger and faster, with substantially more passenger and cargo space and Instrument Flight Rules capability.

2. What are the particulars to research?

The primary considerations include:

  • Make
  • Model year
  • Condition
  • Optional equipment
  • Total flying time
  • History
  • Maintenance status
  • Price

Of course, when it comes to price, a new model will cost more than the same model used. Furthermore, the overall condition of a used helicopter will greatly impact the price. Specifically, you need to know whether it needs repairs, updates, and cosmetic treatments. When examining a used helicopter, make sure to always review the damage and repair history report. Also, find out if the used helicopter is in active use or sitting in mothballs. Additionally, identify which engine and airframe service centers will maintain your unit.

Making Equitable Comparisons

While price is important, it’s equally important to make equitable comparisons among different models. Clearly, price can be misleading if you don’t understand the condition and configuration of each purchase candidate. Seemingly, you’ll need an analytical methodology to help you compare business helicopters and their components. This includes reviewing a pre-owned unit’s full maintenance tracking report, not just the summary. Use a spreadsheet to calculate each model’s required maintenance, including conducting full inspections, and replacing components. Alternatively, use one of the available direct maintenance cost software programs that support your analytical methodology. And of course, you can always hire a pro!

If you’re interested, here’s a simple but helpful guide to helicopter inspections, as well as a sample inspection checklist for rotary-wing aircraft.

Helicopter Purchase Price and Upfront Costs

The price of helicopters can range from under $1 million to more than $50 million. Your bid should take into account the results of your analysis, including:

  • Assessment of installed equipment and component values
  • New or replacement component costs
  • Cost of maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO)
  • Cost of refurbishing, reconfiguring, and relocating the helicopter
  • Third-party valuation assessments and comparisons
  • Subjective feelings about each candidate helicopter

Of course, you might want to customize and upgrade your luxury helicopter, whether a single-engine or a multi-engine. But it’s essential that you bring the condition of a used helicopter up to date with modern components/systems.

Helicopter Purchase Agreement (HPA)

Normally, you negotiate a favorable helicopter price with the seller and sign a detailed HPA, which might run 50+ pages. If you’re interested, here is a simple sample aircraft purchase agreement. For example, your initial costs can include:

  • Retaining a purchasing agent
  • Professional HPA negotiation support from a sales broker and/or aviation attorney
  • Pre-purchase physical inspection and review of records, documents, and logbooks. Must include an engine borescope inspection.
  • Repairing, refurbishing, reconfiguring, and upgrading the unit, including the cost of optional add-on equipment
  • Flight tests
  • Purchase price
  • Professional helicopter relocation
  • Registration, licenses, permits, and insurance
  • Prepaid hangar/storage arrangements
  • Pre-paid service and maintenance contracts
  • If necessary, establishing a contract with a pilot or pilot service. Alternatively, a larger company might hire a pilot as an employee
  • Closing costs, including down payment, origination fees, broker’s fees, title search, escrow service, legal fees, taxes, and other costs

Obviously, for a new unit, many of these costs will be either unneeded or wrapped into the purchase price. However, you should figure separate costs when purchasing a used helicopter. The HPA and closing documents will enumerate some of these costs. Other costs involve separate agreements with third-parties.

Cost to Operate a Helicopter

In order to fully understand “How much does a helicopter cost?”, you need to know the on-going costs of owning a helicopter. For example, these costs include:

  • Pilot costs if you don’t act as the pilot yourself
  • Routine maintenance and repair costs, including replacement parts. This also includes responses to airworthiness directives, service bulletins, and service letters.
  • Fuel and oil
  • Ongoing insurance costs
  • Ongoing hangar/storage costs
  • Periodic updates and upgrades

Some of these costs vary by the number of service miles you log. Others are fixed costs even if you seldom use the aircraft.

Annual Cost of Owning a Helicopter

In addition to the ongoing costs of using and maintaining your helicopter, you must also budget debt service costs. For a helicopter mortgage, look for a term of up to 10 years along with an interest rate in the range of 5% to 7% depending on your credit score of course. You can also arrange a sale leaseback if you desire to lease a helicopter as opposed to owning a helicopter. That completes our general breakdown of “How much does a helicopter cost?”. Read on for information concerning helicopter financing and specific examples for “How much does a helicopter cost?”.

Financing for a Luxury Helicopter

Assets America® can provide helicopter financing with minimum financing starting at $10 million and more. We can offer a simple mortgage or any other arrangement you require. We also provide refinancing, including sale leasebacks and mezzanine loans. Without a doubt, our network of private lenders and banks will provide you with competitive terms quickly and efficiently. Frankly, when you finance with us, the typical delays that many banks impose upon applicants can be a thing of the past.

How Much Does a Helicopter Cost – Specific Examples

Cost of Owning a Hermès EC135

Airbus produces the EC135 helicopter, available as the Hermes EC135, EC135 T3 and EC135 T2e. The first unit went into operation in 1996, and approximately 1,200 units currently fly. Typically, EC135 buyers include airborne law enforcement, executives, charter services, search and rescue operations, offshore operators, and EMS. The EC135 is a twin-engine unit with a starting list price of approximately $4.2 million, before upgrades and add-ons that is. The maximum range is 342 nautical miles, and it can reach a speed of 155 knots. The EC135 weighs in at 3,208 pounds empty and 6,415 pounds fully loaded. In addition, it can accommodate up to seven passengers plus a pilot. Finally, the typical delivery time for a new EC135 is only three to five days.

Cost of Owning a Eurocopter Mercedes-Benz EC145

This twin-engine midsize helicopter is a French import selling for $5.5 million. It also packs 738 horsepower capable of a top speed of 133 knots and a range of 367 nautical miles. The EC145 can operate at a ceiling of 17,200 feet with a 1,600 feet/minute rate of climb. It tips the scales at 3,951 pounds and can lift off at up to 7,903 pounds. This multi-purpose copter can seat 11 and features advanced avionics, electrical systems, and cockpit designs. It is the quietest helicopter in its class with a roomy cabin, easy loading capability, and a flat floor. Furthermore, the EC145 offers many options, including a rescue hoist, emergency floats, cargo hook and SX16 searchlight.

Cost of Owning a Sikorsky S-76D

The venerable Sikorsky S-76 comes in the D variation with two Pratt & Whitney engines packing 1,050 hp. Additionally, it features a Thales Topdeck avionics suite, active vibration control and composite rotors. This helicopter ranges in price from $9.1 to $15 million for this model, capable of 155 knots at 15,000 feet. It has a travel range of 441 nautical miles and can seat 12. The 205-cubic-foot cabin measures 7.91 x 6.33 x 4.43 feet, with an exterior length of 52.49 feet.

Video: Sikorsky S-76D Luxurious Helicopter For Business Travels

Cost of Owning an AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP

This luxury helicopter features ample space and an upscale cabin, exactly as you would expect for a price of $21 million per helicopter! It also has a range of 810 nautical miles at 150 knots, powered by twin turbine engines. Specifically, the craft is approximately 75 long, 22 feet wide, with a maximum gross weight is 34,390 pounds. The glass cockpit features NVG-compatible avionics. The service ceiling on this unit is 15,000 feet. The AW101 operates in both military and civilian arenas, including the armed forces of the UK, Italy, and Denmark. As a business helicopter, it is an upscale transporter of up to 25 VIPs and passengers, plus two-to-four crew. Finally, the AW101 can stay aloft for up to 6 hours, 50 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a helicopter cost to fly in per hour?

On average, you can expect to pay $150 to $200 per hour to take flying lessons in a helicopter. However, a police helicopter costs on average about $400/hour to fly. Naturally, larger choppers cost more to fly.

What are some pros and cons of owning a corporate helicopter?

The biggest pro of owning a corporate helicopter is convenience. In other words, you can go where you want with minimal notice. However, you face a high private helicopter cost to own one and it may not be cost-effective.

Is it better to lease or own a luxury helicopter?

The answer depends entirely upon how frequently you use the helicopter. If you need one occasionally, then it’s far cheaper and easier to charter a helicopter or use a scheduled service. Owning a luxury helicopter makes sense if you’re very wealthy and if you live far off the beaten path.

What is a sale leaseback?

A sale leaseback is an arrangement where you sell an asset and then lease it back from the buyer. You can refinance a helicopter by executing a sale leaseback transaction. Importantly, this type of transaction can remove the helicopter from your balance sheet and give you up to 100% financing. You should check with your CPA for further verification.

Helicopter Loans and Lending

Helicopters are useful in many situations. A helicopter price is lower than that of a corporate jet, and in many ways the chopper is more versatile. If you are interested in owning a helicopter with a value of $10 million or greater, then please contact us at Assets America®. We can also arrange a sale leaseback if you prefer to lease your aircraft/helicopter.

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