Helicopter training session -- Nay or YAYYYYY?
December 5, 2012 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Would a helicopter training session be hella cool?

Looking for something super-exciting for my b/f to do while he's stuck in a rural area with, well, not a lot of activities. There is no skydiving, which I know he'd like to do, but there is fixed wing and helicopter instruction. It's not cheap, but one guy said the helicopter instruction is super-exciting. Do you think this is something an adventure-seeking guy would enjoy doing, even if it's not part of some grand certification plan? He is the thrillseeking sort.

The guy at the airport said the helicopter instruction is easily three times more fun and awesome than the fixed wing instruction. True or False?

Posting anonymously because it's going to be a Christmas gift and I don't want the old man seeing it on my Ask Mefi if he cyberstalks me.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming this is a one-time thing?

You mentioned that he'd be in a rural area. If that's the case, I'd recommend going the fixed-wing route. My dad has been a private pilot for nearly 20 years and aviation has been a cornerstone of most of my childhood and adult life. Helicopters would undoubtedly be more fantastic in a scenic place-- some kind of metropolis, island, what have you. No point in hovering to see a lot of nothing. If it's his first time in a single engine fixed-wing plane, I guarantee you it will be an adrenaline rush no matter what. He'll be able to get more elevation in a fixed-wing and rural will suddenly look very picturesque and bucolic from 10,000 ft.+.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 3:04 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

any kind of aircraft piloting is pretty damn cool, compared to not-flying. And if he's in a rural area, getting time in a plane is not out of the realm of possibility. To put it another way: He is probably not going to buy a plane. He is definitely not going to buy a helicopter. If it were me, I'd prefer the one I could at least imagine pursuing further.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:08 PM on December 5, 2012

I've done both and each aircraft experience has its advantages. The helicopter was a blast, but it's a little like rubbing your tummy and patting your head, so they make you spend a lot of time learning how to hold a hover over the tarmac. With fixed wing, due to its nature, you get up and out faster and so the experience is closer to what it is actually like to know how to fly a plane.
posted by carmicha at 3:40 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to be really coordinated to fly a helicopter--both hands and both feet work independently--I think gliding or fixed wing would be more satisfying as a one-time event.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2012

posted by bebrave! at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thought of fixed-wing instruction is enough to make my nuts retract, so I vote nay to the added expense of helicopter instruction. Fixed-wing is something he could follow up on learning, rather than just a one time thing.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:21 PM on December 5, 2012

What is your end game here? If you are getting him a lesson, just for fun, the helicopter would be interesting, but he probably won't have any success. Learning to fly a helicopter is a lot like skiing, texting on your phone, and doing your taxes. With a fixed wing lesson, he could actually handle the aircraft on the first night.

If you are talking about actually obtaining a license, I would still recommend a fix wing, unless he is really, really interested in helicopters. A private pilots license is obtainable for about $5k. A helicopter license is much more expensive, both up front and in use after.

All of that said, I personally would love the helicopter lesson. I just know you want to what you are getting in to.
posted by Silvertree at 4:35 PM on December 5, 2012

Yes, it's fun! However, for a one-time thing he'll do little more than work each control for a short period of time as sort of a novelty "I'm flying a chopper!" thing and it's VERY difficult to do and he'll fly all over the place and think he's going to crash and the instructor will calmly resume controlling it. In a fixed wing, he'll actually be able to control it almost from the beginning and really feel like he's flying it. So, if he wants to learn a bit about flying in 30 minutes, a fixed wing might be better.

Then again, helicopters are pretty damn neat and getting to ride in one is a treat. You probably won't get to do this (slyt self link) in a Cessna. I have a video of the entire flight too if you want to see how it looks when a novice is controlling it. Spoiler alert: It's scary as hell.

My wife set me up on the helicopter lesson and I asked for a few minutes of stick time and for the rest I just asked the instructor to take me on a ride. The instructors are building time so they don't really care how they spend it.

She found a Groupon, so you might want to look around there.
posted by bondcliff at 4:42 PM on December 5, 2012

I'd go with fixed wing as well. Fixed wing craft are more accessible and easier to pick up the basics, plus cheaper to continue with if it really sparks an interest.

Also, there's the fun factor. When I was younger I took a couple of lessons in an ultralight and on the first flight I was able to fly the craft for about half the time we were in the air. I can't imagine the instructor would be able to hand the control of a helicopter over to a new trainee in a similar amount of time, there's WAY more to deal with in a chopper than a plane when airborne. For example in a plane if you're at altitude and you want the trainee to just fly straight and then gently turn in a bank they can take care of that easily with only the stick/wheel, even using the pedals would be optional. In a chopper, using the stick, pedals and collective are all mandatory pretty much all the time.
posted by barc0001 at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2012

When I had an an opportunity to try flying a helicopter for half an hour, I made absolutely no progress towards being able to control the thing. My pilot said that's totally normal, and that early lessons aim at trying to stay inside an area at least the size of an airfield.

A fixed-wing experience is much less frustrating.
posted by anadem at 9:12 PM on December 5, 2012

In high school I got to do a one day apprentice trip to a flight school, and ended up doing most of my work that day with the helicopter students. It was a blast, certainly, but what everyone has said here - you won't get much accomplished in one lesson.

Now, all that aside, there is a helicopter company in my area that specializes in this sort of "adventure class." They developed a course built around just the fun parts of doing a simulator and getting up to fly a helicopter for one day. If this guy has a setup like that, I can definitely see helicopter as the way to go.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2012

If it's a one-time thing, do the helo flight. If it's something he may spark and want to do professionally later, the fixed-wing flight is more accessible.

Choppers are 30,000 parts flying in loose formation. And they're super-duper cool. But once you're moving forward past 35-40 knots, they handle just like airplanes, more or less.

Getting a private pilot license these days is going to run more like $7K-10K USD. Getting a helo private is going to be more like $12-15K. These are MINIMUMS, FYI.
posted by Thistledown at 6:50 AM on December 7, 2012

« Older Is there such a thing as an unbaptism?   |   Dad, my Headphones don't work...again Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.