When looking to book a helicopter flight for a gift, a trip, or begin flight training, knowing how much a helicopter costs is one of the first questions most customers wish to know. Helicopters are not cheap, but once the cost is known and how far the helicopter can travel in that time, can really make renting one seem very affordable.
A small two-seat helicopter with a pilot will cost around $300 per flight hour to rent. For 4-6 seats between $500-$3,000. For 6-12 seats between $2,000 – $10,000. The bigger the helicopter, the more it costs per hour. Tour helicopters usually sell at a set price, per seat for a given tour route.
Here is a rough pricing guide for some of the worlds most popular chartered helicopters:
Most Popular Helicopters Hourly Charter Rate:
|Helicopter||# of Passengers||# of Engines||Average Hourly Rate|
|Robinson R22||Pilot + 1 Passenger||Single Engine|
|$260 – $290|
|Robinson R44||Pilot + 3 Passengers||Single Engine|
|$470 – $540|
|Robinson R66||Pilot + 4 Passengers||Single Engine|
|$990 – $1100|
|Cabri Guimbal G2||Pilot + 1 Passenger||Single Engine|
|$300 – $350|
|Bell 206 Jet Ranger||Pilot + 4 Passengers||Single Engine|
|$1,200 – $1,300|
|Bell 407||Pilot + 6 Passengers||Single Engine|
|Airbus AS350/H125 Astar||Pilot + 6 Passengers||Single Engine|
|$1,700 – $2,100|
|Airbus EC120/H120||Pilot + 4 Passengers||Single Engine|
|$1,100 – $1,200|
|Airbus EC130/H130||Pilot + 5/6 Passengers*||Single Engine|
|$1,800 – $2,100|
|Airbus AS355 Twinstar||Pilot + 6 Passengers||Twin Engine|
|$2,100 – $2,600|
|Airbus EC135/H135||1/2Pilots + 5/6 Passengers*||Twin Engine|
|$2,100 – $3,000|
|Leonardo A109||1/2Pilots + 6/7 Passengers*||Twin Engine|
|$2,100 – $3,000|
|Sikorsky SK76||1/2Pilots + 5/12 Passengers*||Twin Engine|
|$5,200 – $6,000|
The hourly rates listed above are based on the aircraft rental with a pilot and is per hour of time in the air. Once the helicopter lifts off the clock starts ticking. Once the helicopter lands the clock stops and this is known as ‘Air Time’. Some companies charge for something called ‘Flight Time’ which is slightly different and is covered further on in this article. This is one thing you will want to enquire about at the time of booking the flight.
Can You Rent A Helicopter By The Hour or By The Day?
Helicopters are mainly charged by the hour when someone charters them or if they are on a tour helicopter it is usually a set price for that tour route. When you are privately chartering a helicopter the helicopter operator will most likely be charging you by 1/10s of an hour, with a minimum charge that varies from company to company.
For instance, if you rented a helicopter and the trip there and back took 1 hour 40 minutes, that would be a flight of 1.7 hours. If the helicopter rental cost was $800 per hour, then you will be looking at a final bill of $1360.
If you plan to take a helicopter in the morning, have it wait for you all day, and then return you home in the evening, the helicopter company may charge a loiter or daily fee on top of the flight time cost. This can range anywhere from zero to a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth asking if this is a trip you plan to do.
The same goes for staying away from base overnight. Expenses for the pilot’s hotel, meals, and aircraft parking will be passed on to the customer just as any loiter fees.
What Factors Affect Helicopter Rental Cost?
When you are looking to rent a helicopter there are a few factors that can significantly bump up the rental cost and if you only wish to take a simple tour flight of your home then a smaller, cheaper helicopter, like those towards the top of my list above will usually be best.
Here are a few things to be aware of when looking to rent a helicopter:
One Engine or Two
This is by far the biggest cost-increasing factor on a helicopter. When renting a helicopter for learning to fly, taking a scenic tour, or a simple charter to go for lunch at a fancy restaurant, then a single-engine helicopter is perfect and keeps the hourly rental cost down.
Most single-engine helicopters are either piston-powered or gas-turbine powered, with the pistons being a lot cheaper to rent. Most single-engine helicopters will take anywhere from 1 – 5 passengers plus the pilot, so if you wish to fly more passengers then you will be heading into a helicopter with two engines.
Twin-engine helicopters have lots more power and therefore most of the bigger helicopters have two gas turbine engines onboard. This allows passengers from 5 – 20 to be flown depending on the size of the helicopter used.
The second benefit of a twin-engine helicopter is that they are able to fly in poor weather and have a second engine in case a problem develops with the other. Having a second engine though dramatically increases the rental cost, but maybe your only option, especially if you need to land on a rooftop helipad in a downtown location.
The helicopter charter company will be able to fit the best helicopter type for your rental requirements.
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One Pilot or Two
Many of the larger, twin-engine helicopters may or can come with two pilots. When the charter is to be flown at night or in poor weather the helicopter company may mandate that two pilots be sat upfront. This increases safety but can also increase the cost.
We all heard the story of the tragic Koby Bryant helicopter accident and by having a second pilot on board the poor decisions made by the single pilot on that flight may have been avoided. Having a second pilot may increase the hourly cost, but the cost of safety really is a no-brainer.
Some states in the U.S. have no sales tax and if you live close to the border of one of these states, renting a helicopter from a company based in this state can save you some money. Taxes added on to a bill of several thousand dollars can sting, but if a helicopter company is located close by in the other state then definitely give them a call.
Helicopters are not bound to state lines, they are free to fly anywhere in the country. If you wish to cross the international border then this is something you will have to discuss with the helicopter company as the necessary paperwork will have to be filed and this may incur an additional fee.
Wet Rate Vs. Dry Rate
Wet Rate is the hourly rental cost with fuel included. Dry Rate is the hourly cost without fuel included. If you are unaware of this it could come as a nasty surprise when the visa card machine gets handed to you.
At the time of writing this the average cost of jet fuel, for example, is around $1.65 per liter. If you rent an Astar that burns 180l/hr you can have an additional $300 on your bill for each hour you fly.
This is how helicopter companies may seem to be able to rent you a helicopter for cheaper than everyone else, so be aware and ask if it’s a wet or dry rate!
Air Time Vs. Flight Time
Briefly mentioned earlier Air Time is when the billing clock starts when the helicopter lifts off the ground to when it lands back on the ground.
Flight Time billing starts as soon as the engine/s starts to when the engines stop.
This may not seem a lot but it can add up especially if the helicopter is at a bust airport and has to ground taxi on its wheels for some distance before taking off, or is delayed because of air traffic control.
The difference in billing could be substantial, especially if you are sitting in a Sikorsky S76 that is costing you $100 for every minute the clock ticks!
Landing & Parking Fees
Many airports and heliports charge the helicopter companies every time one of their helicopters lands there. Again, this could not be much but it’s a fee that is usually always passed on to the customer, especially if it’s not at the helicopter’s home location.
Charges can range anywhere from free, to $50, to several hundred dollars, so another question to ask at the time of booking if your destination is another airport or helipad.
Loiter & Overnight Fees
Depending on the company, a fee may be charged for having their helicopter and pilot/s spend the day/night waiting for you. This may be a set daily rate or may be based on the amount of time they have to wait for you. Taking a helicopter to a river fishing for the day, for example, may have no fee, especially if the helicopter owner loves fishing and joins in!
Another question to ask at the time of booking.
Can You Rent a Helicopter For Prom?
I have flown many groups of young ladies, gentlemen, and couples into their prom, and it’s always a fantastic experience, especially for those who have never flown in a helicopter before. I remember one young lady had made her entire dress out of Duct Tape! It was incredible and had taken her days to create!
The most popular helicopter rented for prom is a Robinson R44. It is a 4 seat helicopter costing around $500 per flight hour and is able to fly the pilot and 3 passengers. If there are 4 passengers, then a Bell 206 Jet Ranger is a great option but will cost around $1200 per hour.
Depending on where the prom is taking place will dictate if a helicopter is able to land close enough to ensure the entrance pizazz that many prom goers wish to seek. Some venues will prevent a helicopter from landing at all so a simple phone call with the helicopter charter company will start the planning.
Here are a few tips you will need to be aware of when planning your prom flight:
- Prepare the helicopter booking weeks ahead of time
- Schools and venues are usually private property and may require the helicopter company to get permission to land there – If you have any contact details for the school or venue you can pass them onto the helicopter company to assist them
- Some venues or the local aviation authority may not grant the helicopter permission to land there, so be prepared
- Ensure you have someone to take photos of you with the helicopter – It’s a memorable occasion
- If you wish to have drone footage of your landing, ensure the videographer liaises with the pilot before the flight commences
- Pick a helicopter company close to the event’s location to save flight time
- The rental cost will include the flight there AND back to the hanger
- See if any other friends wish to fly to prom and see if you can strike a deal with the charter company. Some helicopter companies have a minimum flight time rental cost
- Plan for an alternate means of transport to prom in case the weather is too poor to fly
- If you have an extravagant dress, have a practice session with the helicopter in the hanger before the event for getting in and out of the machine gracefully!
- Liaise with the helicopter company and venue staff about where to land the helicopter. Walking across a muddy field is not the entrance many passengers wish to have!
- Allow plenty of time before your scheduled arrival time at prom. A safety brief from the pilot will be required before the flight commences
Flying to prom is a great way to increase the memories of such a special event and with a little forward planning, a helicopter ride is a great option. Many of the prom flights I have done have been arranged by parents and have come as a complete surprise to the young guests, just be sure none of them have a terrifying fear of flying before booking!
The helicopter company will take care of all the aviation permissions but if you have the contact details of the landowner this can save them time and working with the company weeks in advance will ensure there are no last minute hiccups before the big day!
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* Can Helicopters Fly at Night? A Pilot Tells All!
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Can You Rent a Helicopter For a Wedding?
When that extra special touch or that extra mile is required for the big day then a ride to the alter in a helicopter is a great solution! Whether the helicopter ride is to be used before the wedding ceremony, after the ceremony, or a combination of, there is a helicopter that can meet those requirements.
The most popular helicopter rented for weddings is a Robinson R44. It is a 4 seat helicopter costing around $500 per flight hour and is able to fly the pilot and 3 passengers. For more passengers, helicopters start to cost from $1000 per flight hour and up. The more seats, the more it costs.
Some of the most common scenarios that helicopters are used for weddings are:
- Moving passengers to the wedding venue before the ceremony. The bride, bride’s father, and maid of honor are typical passengers.
- Used to ferry the bride and groom away to a separate location for the celebrations or to begin their honeymoon.
- Passenger ferrying. For the ultimate luxury, a helicopter or helicopters can be chartered to fly guests from A to B. This is especially popular if the wedding venue is on an island!
Flying in a helicopter to a wedding is a fantastic memory to add to that special day but like a prom, there are a few things you need to be aware of to ensure the special day goes without a hitch:
- Get planning the helicopter ride weeks in advance to allow enough time for all the details to be arranged
- If you have property, a helicopter can be arranged to pick up passengers there and take them to the ceremony
- Ensure the wedding location will allow a helicopter to land and park for however long you require
- Many venues have had a helicopter land there before and may have a designated area that helicopters can land at
- Have the helicopter company inspect the proposed landing area/s before the wedding day to look for potential hazards
- Helicopters create ALOT of wind. Tables, chairs, flowers, decorations, and gazebos can be ruined by the presence of a helicopter – Ensure the landing area is far enough away!
- If the ground is soft or mushy see about getting a walkway placed so the passengers can walk from the helicopter and remain pristine
- Ensure the landing area is not dusty. Parking lots, yards, and fields can turn your guest’s perfect attire and hairstyles into sand and grass-filled disasters.
- Connect the pilot with the photographers’ details. A keen photographer can cause so many problems to the pilot!
- If the brides’ dress has lots of volume, be sure to have a trial run at getting into and out of the helicopter at the hanger before the big day – A dress may be too big or awkward to fit!
- Ask the pilot to dress in a suit and look like a wedding guest – Dirty jeans and a T-shirt are not appropriate!
- Have a backup on how to get to the venue in case the weather turns poor at the last moment and the helicopter cannot fly
- Leave lots of time before the helicopter is due to lift off to ensure there is no rush and the flight is as memorable as the rest of the day!
I have flown many guests into weddings and these are some of the best tips I have found to help the day go as planned and to not have the helicopters’ rotorwash destroy the immaculate venue! Also, keep the uncle Dave and his ‘wig that everyone knows he wears’, away from the helicopter – I have seen more than one hairpiece dislodged on approach, and it’s always an histerical moment for everyone but the poor fella!
I was going to have my best man fly my wife and her father into our wedding at a beautiful golf course, but the course manager would only let him land in the driving range and not on the course. Because he was my best man it would have meant leaving the helicopter in the driving range and the course manager would not keep the range closed for the ceremony. Because of this, we had to scrap that idea!
Just like the example for my own wedding, sometimes a helicopter ride to a wedding is just not meant to be. If it can be worked into the day then perfect, if not, then other modes of transport can be just as memorable.
Renting a helicopter can cost as little as $250-$300 an hour which makes this great for training. The cheaper the helicopter the more basic it is, the fewer people it can carry and the slower it flies, but you get to experience the thrill of flying.
Depending on your needs and budget you will always be able to find a helicopter to suit. They are not cheap, but they serve a purpose and when time or no other means are available then renting a helicopter may be the better option.